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Ask 411 Wrestling: What Were the Road Warriors’ Greatest Moments?

September 27, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Road Warriors Legion of Doom, Road Warrior Animal

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Night Wolf the Wise is kicking us off on a timely note:

This isn’t a question but more of a request. As a tribute to Road Warrior Animal who just passed yesterday, could you please post the Road Warriors top 10 greatest moments of their careers on please. It can be from any and all promotions they were in.

I can absolutely do that, though I’m going to try to do it relatively quickly because, otherwise, answering this one “request” could easily turn into a column in and of itself. So, here we go:

10. 1986 Great American Bash: I’m giving this the lowest spot on the list because it involves the Road Warriors as individuals, not a tag team. However, it still speaks to how massively popular they were. There are very few dedicated tag teams who, during their run as a team, were popular enough to credibly face the world champion in singles matches for his belt. However, Hawk and Animal made it to that level, as both of them faced Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on separate nights of the 1986 Great American Bash tour.

9. Shooting with the Fabs: It’s October 21, 1984. The Road Warriors have been doing a program with the Fabulous Ones (Steve Keirn and Stan Lane) in the AWA. According to a shoot interview with Keirn and Lane, their team had been putting over he Warriors in every other town, but the booker made the call for the Fabs to emerge victorious in Minneapolis. The Warriors didn’t care for this and tried to change the finish in the ring. This caused things to fall apart with Keirn introducing a chair and taking some legitimate swings at Hawk and Animal in order to clear the ring. It’s a wild-looking finish.

8. Making the NAO: Most people think of the Roadies as constantly winning and never showing any weakness, but one of my favorite moments of theirs actually came in defeat, as they gave a big rub to the New Age Outlaws in the WWF by dropping the tag team titles to them and letting them get the better end of the subsequent feud. Though Billy Gunn and the Road Dogg always had to cheat to win, getting the better of the established team still positioned them for big things.

7. Triple Gold: Most of the Road Warriors’ time in the WWF is pretty forgettable and may have tarnished the legacy they established elsewhere. However, I feel that I have to include Summerslam 1991 on this list, because that show saw Hawk and Animal beat the Nasty Boys to win the WWF Tag Team Titles. This made them the only team in history to hold the primary tag team titles of the AWA, the NWA, and the WWF, the three major North American promotions that existed in that era.

6. The Hell Raisers: I went back and forth on whether to include this one, because the majority of the story only involves one Road Warrior, but it still involves the team’s overall look and persona, so I figured we’d go with it. After the Roadies left the WWF for the first time, Hawk headed back to Japan, where they were major stars in the 80s, and teamed up with a young Kensuke Saski in NJPW. Sasaki was looking for that special something to boost him into the main event, and this worked brilliantly – far better than it did for Heidenreich – turning Kensuke into a legit main eventer for years to come. Not long after the original run of Hawk and Sasaki, Animal joined them to make it a trio for a couple of tours.

5. Facing the Funks: Some in the U.S. may not realize it, but the Road Warriors were just as big in Japan as they were in their home country, mostly working for All Japan Pro Wrestling when they were at their peak. The other top gaijin tag team for AJPW at the time was Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr., and they met the Roadies on two occasions, the longer match occurring on October 20, 1986. It’s one of the Warriors’ better long matches in my opinion and features a bizarrely awesome piledriver no-sell by Terry and a fun schmozz finish that almost makes up for the fact that there’s no real winner.

4. Breaking Jim Cornette: At Starrcade 1986, the Road Warriors faced longstanding rivals the Midnight Express in a dangerous scaffold match that was probably the height of their career in terms of being able to draw a crowd. At the end of the match, Hawk and Animal cornered the Midnights’ manager Jim Cornette on the scaffold, leading to James E. falling feet first and legitimately wrecking both of his knees, in large part because Big Bubba Rogers failed to catch him as planned.

3. Turning on Sting: Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors were the NWA Six Man Tag Team Champions in 1988, though the Warriors got pissed at Dusty when he bailed on a title defense against the Varsity Club to attend a Special Olympics fundraiser. Sting stepped up to fill in for Rhodes, but then he got on the wrong side of Hawk and Animal by trying to hog the spotlight. Next thing you know, Animal is military pressing the Stinger while Hawk drops a top rope elbow on the back of his neck, and they follow that with the Doomsday Device, making the Road Warriors feared heels.

2. The Bench Press: It’s February 1988 in Greensboro, and the Powers of Pain, accompanied by “Number One” Paul Jones and Ivan Koloff, have challenged the Road Warriors to a bench press contest with $50,000.00 on the line. First, it’s worth watching this just to see how wild an old school audience will go for a bench press contest of all things. Second, this turns into a classic angle, as the PoP can’t deal with an impending loss and attack, slamming Animal’s face into an alleged 600 pounds of barbell plates and busting him wide open.

1. Blinding Dusty Rhodes: Following up on that Sting heel turn I mentioned a couple of answers ago, Hawk and Animal next set their sights on the American Dream himself and took him down in a big way in what is legitimately one of my favorite wrestling angles of all time. After being challenged by Big Dust, both Road Warriors answered, with Animal going at the former NWA Champion. When Rhodes got the upper hand, Hawk did something any fan of he Road Warriors had long imagined them doing. He removed a spike from their trademark shoulder pads, and he jabbed it right into Dusty Rhodes’ eye. This kicked off a war between the men, and it prompted a top-level promo by Rhodes, in which he told the Warriors they made a big mistake, because they left him BREATHING, and he was coming back to take an eye for an eye.

Of course, I’m sure that I missed somebody’s favorite Road Warrior moment, so feel free to share those in the comments.

Don is taking us to another Eddie Sharkey trainee:

Was it true that Ravishing Rick Rude was penciled in to dethrone Ron Simmons at Starrcade 1992 for the Heavyweight Championship?

The match was certainly booked for Starrcade and had gotten to the point that the two men were cutting promos on each other, but I’ve not seen anything indicating that Rude was scheduled to win the championship on that evening. It does strike me that it would have been a bit early in his run for such a victory, since he was the United States Champion at the time and appeared to be working his way up the card with that belt.

Even though he may not have been scheduled to win the WCW Title, it is confirmed in Rude’s obituary in the May 3, 1999 Wrestling Observer Newsletter that he WAS scheduled to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title from Ric Flair at Fall Brawl 1993, though WCW scheduled that title change without the NWA’s consent, leading to a falling out between the two organizations. This meant that, even though Rude did beat Flair for a title at the PPV, it was not officially recognized as the NWA Title and was instead referred to as the “WCW International World Heavyweight Title.”

Patrick would get along with Jim Cornette:

This question has been bugging me since I just started watching AEW wresting on TNT. Whats up with the jokey names like Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, the Librarian and The Butcher and others?

I think the answer is “It’s professional wrestling.”

Granted, WWE has seemed to go through a phase in recent years of giving wrestlers names that could plausibly be the names of real people, but keep in mind that I’m writing this the same week that they unveiled wrestlers named T-Bar, Slapjack, and Mace – plus, even before that, we had a few folks with arguably goofy names like Edge, Lince Dorado (translated: “The Golden Lynx”), Rey Misterio (“King of Mystery”), and Short G running around. If you go back even further into the company’s history, we had an Ultimate Warrior, an Undertaker, a Yokozuna, and plenty of other names that were plenty weird if you took them out of context. Heck, I started off this column by writing about two very serious wrestlers who were called “Hawk” and “Animal,” which are really no better or worse than “The Butcher.”

So, I don’t look at the ring names Jungle Boy or a Luchasaurus and think that they’re turning wrestling in to a joke. I think it’s returning wrestling to form. Larger than life characters with wacky names have always been part of the game. Just ask Haystacks Calhoun.

Tyler from Winnipeg is doing the big nasty:

Should fans appreciate The Big Show more?

Honestly, yes.

Don’t get me wrong, Paul Wight has some ups and downs in his career. There were periods where watching him in the ring was painful, like when he was fresh out of wrestling school in WCW or when his weight got way out of hand in the WWF. However, once Wight got some experience under his belt and once he got his size under control, he turned into an incredible performer, and I truly mean that.

It’s true that Big Show wasn’t going to go out there and put on five star classics every night. He wasn’t going to be Kenta Kobashi or Shawn Michaels. However, think about other wrestlers you’ve seen who were Big Show’s size. Were any of them able to move with the agility that he did when he was at his physical peak? Were any of them able to take the big bumps that he occasionally pulled out? Perhaps most importantly and impressively, were they able to do all of those things in and out for a career that spanned twenty years?

No, they weren’t. I cannot think of another seven footer who came anywhere near accomplishing the athletic feats that Show did for as long as he did. Even the super heavyweight wrestlers who may have had a few individual years where they were better wrestlers than Show (e.g. Vader) couldn’t keep things together and consistently perform at that level for as long as he did. Perhaps his only rival in this regard is the Undertaker.

Now, I do understand that the Big Show did get played out at points in WWE. Because of the way that the company is structured, they wouldn’t let him off TV for extended periods unless he just outright let his contract lapse. Because of that, he was overexposed, and the storylines he was involved in got repetitive. However, that’s the fault of the promotion and its creative team, not the fault of Show as a performer.

Mohamed raises the fictional specter of reverse sexism:

Why is it that the WWE make the females look good for PPVs and young men trying to make a name look bad and buried against part timers. Is there a double standards at play?

I think that there are two issues at play here.

The first is that you don’t see a lot of female wrestlers getting beaten by part timers because there aren’t that many part-time female wrestlers. Yes, you’ve got a Trish Stratus or a Lita who might pop up for an occasional match, but, because women’s wrestling wasn’t taken seriously in WWE for decades and there wasn’t even a division for several years at a time in the 1980s and 1990s, there aren’t nearly as many ladies’ “legends” who could come back and try to take a spot from a current performer.

The second is that, as I alluded to above, there is a long history of not taking women’s wrestling seriously in major companies. WWE has been working hard over the last several years to reverse that trend and bring the women’s division to the point where it is the equivalent of the men’s division in terms of popularity and prevalence on major shows. Because they are trying to reverse a decades-long trend and create a new normal in which women’s wrestling is taken seriously, they can’t really treat any of their female performers as jokes. If they do, it will be perceived as women’s wrestling as a whole backsliding to what it used to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. That’s not a perception that the company wants at the moment.

Jeff is the king of questioners:

Why would a Japanese wrestler leave NJPW to come to WWE? Is the money really that much better in the U.S? It seems to me that NJPW offers more creative options and better matches by far than WWE. So why would a wrestler like Shinske Nakamura bother leaving his home to come wrestle for the WWE? Is the global impact of WWE really that huge, and does a wrestler like Nakamura make more in WWE as a mid-card guy than he would in NJPW? Same with someone like Auska, who, since her NXT run and early into her main roster run, has been sorely underutilized.

Let’s start with Asuka and the other Japanese women who have showed up in WWE in recent years, because that’s the easier answer.

For those who are not familiar, in Japan there are typically separate promotions for men’s wrestling and women’s wrestling. There have been some promotions that have mixed the two (most notably FMW) and there have been some occasional instances where a men’s promotion has had a women’s match on their show or even vice versa, but the strong norm is that women wrestle on women’s shows and men wrestle on men’s shows. Though there are a handful of fans out there who for some reason view this as sexist and are pushing for NJPW to establish a women’s division, in my mind this is no different than what we see in the United States with the NBA and the WNBA.

Because of this, asking about Japanese women coming to WWE is quite a bit different than Japanese men coming to WWE. Though, at one point in the history of puroresu, women’s wrestling drew major crowds and television ratings that rivaled the men, the popularity of joshi really crashed in the late 1990s and, since the 2000s, it has really only existed at an independent level. Though promotions like Stardom have started to gather more of a following in recent years and even expand their fanbases more overseas, the reality of the situation is that the biggest Stardom shows are only going to draw about 1,300 fans, and they do not have significant television distribution.

This means that, even though I am not privy to the actual numbers in terms of pay, I would be gobsmacked if somebody like Asuka or even Io Shirai wasn’t making significantly more in the WWE system than they were in joshi.

For the men, it’s a closer call. In the first half of the 2000s, the popularity of men’s wrestling also bottomed out and things looked pretty grim, but New Japan has managed to rebuild nicely and was once again doing business befitting of a major promotion in a pre-pandemic world. They have even managed to improve their television deal. Granted, they’re not back on networks like they used to be in the glory days, but they’re at least on somewhat less obscure cable/satellite stations. Plus, going at least as far back as the 1970s, Japanese promotions have had a reputation of offering compensation that is more generous to the talent than their American counterparts. In fact, as I’ve mentioned in this column before, that’s one of the major reasons Hulk Hogan jumped from the AWA to the WWF. The AWA was aligned with All Japan Pro Wrestling and wanted to stop Hogan from working with New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was making money hand over fist. The WWF would let him continue a relationship with NJPW, and the rest is history.

However, in the modern era, WWE unquestionably has more resources to pay a wrestler. WWE has far hotter television which commands more in the way of rights fees, they draw more fans to major live events, and they monetize quite a bit more secondary content. So, yes, Nakamura could easily make more here in the U.S. assuming WWE is willing to pay him more.

That’s not the entire draw for a Japanese wrestler, though. One of the things that you have to keep in mind is that professional wrestling as we know it is essentially an American invention that was exported to other parts of the world. It gained popularity in Japan after World War II during the American occupation of the country, and American stars were regularly brought over to be major attractions in Japan. Thus, if you grew up in Japan loving wrestling, chances are good that you romanticized the American scene in addition to loving your home country’s product. As a result, many Japanese wrestlers look at having a chance to wrestle in America generally and even WWE specifically as the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Combine that with the fact that many Japanese wrestlers get away with working an easier style in the United States and saving their bodies, and there are plenty of reasons why somebody might want to make the jump from NJPW, even if their position or pay might not be quite as good.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].

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Ask 411 Wrestling, Ryan Byers