Full Career Retrospective and Greatest Moments for the Legion of Doom

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Full Career Retrospective and Greatest Moments for the Legion of Doom
Photo Credit: WWE.com

The most imposing tag team in wrestling history, the Road Warriors dominated the sport for nearly 20 years and captivated audiences with their power and brutality.

Whether it was as popular heroes or hated villains, Animal and Hawk earned the reputation for being among the toughest, meanest, most destructive competitors in all of professional wrestling.

Their feuds with the Midnight Express, Dusty Rhodes, the Four Horsemen, the Varsity Club, the Nasty Boys, Demolition, Ted DiBiase and IRS, and the Hart Foundation resulted in some of the most beloved and historic matches in the sport.

Whether it was in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Alliance, Jim Crockett's NWA, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment or Japan, the Road Warriors achieved success in every promotion they competed for.

Amassing 18 different tag team championships and inductions into both the WWE and Wrestling Observer Halls of Fame, the duo is one of the most decorated and celebrated to ever step foot inside a squared circle.

In celebration of one of wrestling's most iconic teams, here is a look back at some of the greatest moments and matches from Hawk and Animal's nearly unrivaled run.

 

The AWA

The Road Warriors broke out as nationally recognized stars with Verne Gagne's AWA in 1984.

Hawk and Animal were the complete opposite of what fans had come to expect from the Minnesota-based promotion. They were huge, physical specimens who attracted fans based on their powerful offense and their sheer brutality.

While in the promotion, they would take on the likes of The Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, Baron von Raschke, a very young Curt Hennig, Greg Gagne and Jerry Blackwell.

They even did battle with future WWF champion, 2004 Hall of Fame inductee and GI Joe spokesman Sgt. Slaughter during his time with Gagne's company.

A difference in booking philosophies, however, and the promise of more money elsewhere resulted in Hawk and Animal leaving for greener pastures.

 

Starrcade 1986: The Night of the Skywalkers

One of the most well-known matches in the long and storied careers of the Road Warriors is their clash with the legendary Midnight Express at Starrcade in 1986.

Prior to the huge, marquee match at NWA's biggest event of the year, Hawk and Animal cut a brilliant promo in which they threw pumpkins off of scaffolding. They taunted Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey, explaining that their heads would be just like the exploded pumpkins when they were done with them at Starrcade.

The match itself was as good as a scaffold match will get, and the Road Warriors picked up a big victory to the delight of the hardcore NWA fans.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the bout came immediately afterward when Jim Cornette fell from the scaffolding and blew out both of his knees. Despite his fear of heights, he delivered the payoff fans had anticipated and made the entire angle as memorable as it was.

 

Heel Turn

In 1988, wrestling fans were shocked when Hawk and Animal turned on Sting during a six-man tag team match against the hated Varsity Club.

The wildly popular team completed a heel turn that saw them leave Sting lying unconscious.

On November 26, they would take their ruthless and vile actions a step further by attacking the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. To the disgust of millions watching across the country, they used a spike on the eye of the former NWA champion, setting up a big match between them and Rhodes and Sting at Starrcade.

The Road Warriors would lose that match by disqualification, and their heel turn was quickly abandoned thanks to fans who still wanted to cheer the face-painted ass-kickers.

By the time the new decade arrived, the duo would ply its craft in the biggest pro wrestling company in the world.

 

WWF Debut and the War with Demolition

With the Road Warriors dominating tag team competition and doing so at the benefit of Jim Crockett Promotions, Vince McMahon introduced his answer to the team in the form of Demolition.

Ax and Smash were a bruising duo that regularly competed against—and defeated—the greatest teams of all time. The Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, Brain Busters, Strike Force and Rougeau Brothers all fell in defeat at the hands of Demolition.

WWF fans dug the act so much that McMahon had no choice but to turn them babyface.

In the summer of 1990, they returned to the heel side when Hawk and Animal, now known as the Legion of Doom, arrived.

The impending, and natural, feud between the two teams never really reached the heights many fans had dreamed it would. For one, Ax was suffering from health issues and was replaced by Crush. That significantly watered down the team, and as a result, the feud was blown off in a few six-man tag matches also involving the Ultimate Warrior.

The LOD and Demolition met in few regular tag matches, and all were won by the former.

Their impressive win-loss streak would lead to Hawk and Animal receiving a shot at the WWF Tag Team Championship in August 1991 at the annual SummerSlam spectacular.

 

SummerSlam and the Tag Team Titles

Animal and Hawk defeated the Nasty Boys at SummerSlam to win their first WWF Tag Team titles in a street fight.

In front of 20,000 fans in the historic Madison Square Garden, the Legion of Doom not only knocked off one of the hardest hitting teams in WWF, but also received a huge pop that made the moment that much more satisfying.

The duo would hold the titles until February 7, 1992, when it would lose them to Earthquake and Typhoon, the Natural Disasters.

Hawk and Animal would never regain the titles during their first stint with the company, but they were constantly in the hunt.

After SummerSlam in August '92, Hawk would go AWOL, and shortly thereafter, Animal would leave the company as well.

Despite their success, it always felt as though McMahon and his company never fully understood the best way to utilize an act like the Legion of Doom. Rather than being the dominant force that it had been in other promotions, McMahon treated it like any other wrestler on the roster, and as a result, he hampered what could have been an even more profitable act for the company.

It would be nearly four years before the team would turn up on national television again.

 

A Brief Stint in WCW and a Return to WWF

The return of the Legion of Doom to WCW in 1996 should have been another blow to WWF, courtesy of Eric Bischoff and his "what is old is new again" philosophy in building a roster.

Instead, it was a short-lived return to glory. A few matches with Sting, Lex Luger and Harlem Heat whetted fans' appetites, but soon, Hawk and Animal were gone.

They would pop up in WWF in early 1997 and join Ahmed Johnson in his battle with the Nation of Domination. That war of attrition would culminate at WrestleMania XIII, when the Legion of Doom and Johnson defeated Faarooq, Crush and Savio Vega in a six-man tag team street fight.

LOD would be a major force in the tag team division throughout the year and, in October, defeated the Godwinns to capture its second WWF Tag Team Championship. The two would only hold the belts for a few weeks, however, as they were controversially defeated by new tag team Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, the New Age Outlaws.

A humiliating attack perpetrated by Shawn Michaels and Triple H in December '97 would instigate a split that would result in a departure from television for nearly two months.

Then came WrestleMania XIV.

At the event that officially ushered in WWF's return to form, Animal and Hawk returned as LOD 2000 and, with the scorching hot Sunny as their manager, won a huge tag team battle royal. They earned a tag team title opportunity as a result of their win but would fail in their quest to regain the gold.

Unfortunately, the win at WrestleMania XIV would be the last real highlight for LOD in World Wrestling Entertainment.

The duo would quickly be shuffled to the bottom of the card and joined by rookie Droz. A storyline emphasizing Hawk's substance abuse created a black cloud over the legendary tag team and a new standard for distasteful storytelling.

By 1999, the team was gone from WWF.

 

The End

In 2003, Hawk and Animal returned to WWE for one night only, challenging WWE Tag Team champions Kane and Rob Van Dam on Monday Night Raw. The match, a solid one, proved that the veterans could still go when necessary.

More importantly, the crowd welcomed them back with open arms, proving that the Legion of Doom was a cross-generational act.

Unfortunately, the wrestling world would be dealt a huge blow when Hawk (real name Michael Hegstrand) passed away at his home in Florida. The cause was determined to be a heart attack.

Wrestlers across the globe, including the Dudley Boyz, paid tribute to the great tag team specialist.

Animal would return to WWE in 2005, teaming with Heidenreich to capture another tag title. Despite the company's attempt to dust of the LOD name once more, the fans were not fooled.

In 2011, the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom, along with longtime manager (and brilliant promo man) Paul Ellering, took their place among the greatest in wrestling history when they were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by former rival Dusty Rhodes.

It was a fitting end for a team that became bigger than tag team wrestling. They were a legitimate draw that was easily merchandised and whose look is immediately recognizable to this day.

There have been, and will be, many teams that follow Animal and Hawk, but there will never be another that captures the imagination and pops a crowd like the spike-wearing best friends from Minnesota.

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