RIP Road Warrior Animal

I’m a few days late but Joe Laurinaitis, better known to pro wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal, has died at the age of 60, according to the WWE. Along with Road Warrior Hawk, he was one half of the tag team The Road Warriors/The Legion of Doom. He headlined multiple pay-per-view events for the WWF and WCW, competing for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at 2001’s Sin. Laurinaitis was born in Philadelphia on September 12, 1960 to Lithuanian parents. He grew up in Minnesota, having to work for a living from a very early age. He worked as a bouncer at Grandma B’s in the Twin Cities where he caught the eye of Eddie Sharkey, a well-known wrestling trainer. Sharkey thought that Laurinaitis and Mike Hegstrand, Richard Rood, and Barry Darsow could make it big in professional wrestling, and trained all four of them.

Laurinaitis made his debut in November 1982, competing as The Road Warrior using a biker gimmick. After only a few matches as a singles competitor, his career and life would change thanks to an idea by Paul Ellering. When Paul Ellering was looking to put together a stable of heels in Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) called “The Legion of Doom”, it was decided to put Laurinaitis together with his good friend Mike Hegstrand and change their names to “Animal” and “Hawk” respectively. Thus, the Road Warriors were born. Known for their rough and tough, take-no-prisoners personas, as well as their face paint and spikes, Laurinaitis and Hegstrand were dominant, particularly in the 1980s, becoming tag-team champions in the AWA, NWA, WCW and WWE. The Road Warriors were a popular team both stateside and in Japan, where they were often featured attractions. The Road Warriors were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011 and received tag team of the year honors from Pro Wrestling Illustrated from 1983 to 1985 and in 1988.

To look more intimidating, the two shaved their heads into Mohawks and started wearing studded dog collars, spiked shoulder pads, and face paint. The look and name were taken from The Road Warrior, helping to paint the two as no-mercy monsters. Their interview style was vicious, yet charismatic and a bit humorous. From the iconic face paint to metal spikes to the feeling one got when hearing, “What a rush,” Animal and Hawk brought the crowds to their feet around the world. They led the tag team landscape in multiple promotions, winning titles in multiple organizations and ultimately being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Laurinaitis made some non-wrestling appearances in WCW in 1993. On August 18, at the Clash of the Champions XXIV, Animal made his appearance, getting out of a black Camaro Z28 indicating his partner Hawk was Dustin Rhodes’ mystery partner against Rick Rude and The Equalizer. On September 19, at Fall Brawl, Animal was the advisor for Sting’s team.

In January 2001 Animal returned with a prominent position in WCW as the “enforcer” of the stable known as The Magnificent Seven with the objective to protect WCW World Champion Scott Steiner. Laurinaitis released an autobiography with William Andrew Wright titled The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling on March 1, 2011 published by Medallion Press, Inc. The book talks about the rise of The Road Warriors, shares funny stories of life on the road, and offers behind-the-scenes accounts of professional wrestling. Animal made his mark not only in the ring, but backstage as well and as the news came of his passing, wrestlers took to social media to reflect on their friend and his influence. Animal was inducted with Hawk and their manager Paul Ellering into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.

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