Tag team wrestling is much like a marriage. Most marriages end in divorce; this a sad but true fact. People will split up for a variety of reasons. For some the chemistry just fades away. For others it could be that one will move on to bigger and better things.
There are rare occasions where marriages do work though. It usually takes hard work and a lot of love for this to happen. You will have your good times and bad, but in the end it will make the pair so much stronger.
Much of this same theory applies to tag team wrestling. Sure we have seen many fun and exciting teams shoot out of the works. In tag team wrestling's heyday there were many great teams to step in the squared circle. You had teams like the Harts, the Bulldogs, the Freebirds, the Rock and Roll Express, and the Rockers, just to name a few.
There is only one team that I can think of that truly changed the face of pro wrestling, and that team is the Road Warriors.
During Hawk and Animal's almost 20 years in pro wrestling, the Road Warriors went on to win several titles and awards. What I remember the most about them though was the intimidating look and style that they brought to the ring every time they wrestled.
The Road Warriors would go on to become one of wrestling's most prominent tag teams. Like in most cases, fame came at a costly price. That price often includes pain, heartache, and misery.
Today, I will look at the highs and lows in the lives of possibly the greatest tag team ever in pro wrestling history. I am pointing out both ends of the spectrum in order to show you how strong they were as not only a team, but also as friends.
I hope you enjoy my Creature vs. Creature entry. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
The Road Warriors
The Road Warriors
Michael Hegstrand and Joseph Laurinaitis met at the age of eight in Chicago. The two would go on to become a inseparable pair. At the age of 15, their friendship would be tested when the Laurinaitis family moved to Minnesota for work reasons.
A little later the Hegstrand family would follow suit. The two would not be reunited until much later in life, though. As if by fate, they would run into each other at a local gym. After that they would resume their childhood friendship.
They both were body builders, and they would both wind up working bars and restaurants to make ends meet. It wasn't too long before they would gain a reputation as tough guys in the local area. With body builders' frames and the willingness to throw down, it just seemed natural that they would get involved in wrestling.
They were spotted by Ed Sharkey at a local restaurant. It was then that they were recruited and trained in the art of pro wrestling. Hawk and Animal wouldn't start as tag specialists, though. In fact they wound up being separated again, as they were as kids.
Animal went to Georgia to wrestle. There, he was named the Road Warrior. This idea was based off of the Mel Gibson movie. As the Road Warrior he would have mild success.
Hawk, on the other hand, didn't fare as well. Hawk started his carrier as part of the Traveling All-Stars. He was billed as "Crusher Von Haig" and wrestled in Vancouver. Not only was he considered small at the time, but people also felt he lacked the skill to make it in the business.
"I originally had my first three matches in Vancouver and puked after each one. I was not in wrestling shape," Hawk told Mike Parker of WrestlingEye.com in September 2001.
Hawk soon grew weary of the road and would get homesick. He traveled back home with another Sharkey trainee, Rick Rude. In 1983 fate struck these two again. Animal's partner for the night would find himself in legal trouble. Needing a quick replacement, Ole Anderson gave Hawk a call.
They would be paired together again, this time as tag team partners. Anderson gave them the name the Road Warriors. Neither man knew at the time that they would make wrestling history that day.
After the team was formed they were given a manager. "Precious" Paul Ellering would not only manage but would also help push these two into the spotlight. A stable would be formed around the two, and they were called the Legion of Doom. This stable consisted of Jake Roberts, King Kong Bundy, the Road Warriors, and the Spoiler.
With their brutal style in the ring and their rough looks, the Road Warriors became an instant success. Hawk and Animal won a tournament shortly after and became WCWG Tag Team Champions. This would be the first of many title wins for these two.
The Legion of Doom broke apart soon after that. This didn't stop the Road Warriors from winning the tag belts a couple more times, though. Hawk and Animal soon took their careers to a new level. They jumped ship and made their way to the AWA in 1984.
At first this was a dream come true for both men. They were excited at the possibility of wrestling with some of their heroes.
In the end their time with the AWA would turn out bittersweet. They would outshine all of the veterans in the locker room. This wound up building a lot of resentment from the old guys on the cards.
After less than a year's stay, they would go on to take the tag titles away from Van Raschke and the Crusher, the AWA's biggest draw. After that they moved quickly through most of the roster.
During this time the Road Warriors were also touring Japan. They became a big draw overseas and were on their way to stardom. Hawk and Animal wrestled all of the AWA's and CWA's top names. They fought the likes of Jerry Lawler, King Kong Bundy, and Rick Rude, along with Curt and Larry Henning.
The problems were only getting worse, though, with the boys in the locker room. Many felt that not only did the Road Warriors not pay their dues, but they also were not selling their opponents' offense.
This feud finally reached a boiling point. During a match with Larry Henning and Crusher Blackwell, in order to teach Hawk and Animal a lesson, they refused to sell a single move. This turned out to be a painful yet valuable lesson for the two. It would not only clear the air a bit, but it also taught them proper ring manners.
Things between the AWA and the Road Warriors wouldn't stay peaceful for too long though. The Road Warriors were feuding with the Fabulous Ones. Verrne Gane wanted them to job out to them and lose the titles. For reasons not known at the time, the Road Warriors refused. This would cause a major blowout between the two.
Hawk and Animal refusing to job would be the straw that broke the camel's back, and the Road Warriors wrestled their last match for the AWA in 1986 against Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes at WrestleRock. They got the win.
They were the hottest tag team in the area, and they were free agents.
The Crockets were fighting for their lives and didn't want the WWF to have them. They offered the Road Warriors a very nice contract to get their services. It would wind up being a very smart move.
Hawk and Animal were feuding with WCW's top tag team, the Koloffs, as soon as they got there. This would turn out to be a classic feud. These two teams would go on to have violent and brutal matches that are still talked about today amongst the WCW fans.
The Road Warriors also had epic battles with the Four Horsemen and the Midnight Express. My personal favorite was the Scaffold Match where Hawk wrestled with a broken leg.
The Road Warriors also held the Six-Man Tag belts a couple times. In fact they were the last team to hold them before they were disbanded. Hawk and Animal wouldn't hit pay dirt until 1988, though, when they beat the Midnight Express and finally became the WCW champs that year.
During the Road Warriors' time in the WCW they went on to fight some of the greatest tag teams ever. They fought the likes of the Steiner Brothers, Doom, SST, and the Midnight Express.
Around the year 1990 Hawk and Animal were getting fed up with the booking and politics in the back. That year they would quit WCW and make their way to the biggest stage of all, the WWF.
It was also roughly around this time that people first took notice of Hawk's substance abuse problems. When the Road Warriors arrived in the WWE Vince would change their names to "The Legion of Doom." This was mainly because Hawk and Animal had rights to the name "The Road Warriors."
They were quickly thrown into a feud with a team the fans were clamoring for at the time, Demolition. Many people in the business felt Demolition were cheap knock-offs of the Road Warriors.
Demolition grew to be very popular, and the big question was: Who would win between the two teams? Sadly, this feud would never pan out because Ax's health was bad at the time. It would end in a sub-par Six-Man Tag Match that left a empty feeling.
In 1991 they had their sights set on the tag team titles. They would get their chance when they fought the Nasty Boys at Summerslam. In a hard-fought battle they would beat the Nasty Boys and become the champs. The Road Warriors were the first-ever team to win tag gold in all three major promotions.
This was a short-lived celebration, as Hawk would get worse and have a hard time controlling his problems. They dropped the titles a little later to Money Inc. and shortly after would take a leave of absence. No reason was ever given, but people had their speculations.
They would come back again, though, and this time they brought Paul Ellering with them. Vince gave them a really bad gimmick with a wooden puppet named Roco. They were still popular with the fans but were looked at as clowns.
Whether it was the gimmick or personal problems, Hawk had had enough. He left the WWE and his partner in 1992. Not only did this raise a lot of questions, but it also caused a lot of friction between him and Animal. Animal stayed with the WWE to fulfill his contract.
Later that year he ended up on the shelf after he hurt his back against the Beverly Brothers. To make matters worse, Hawk went to Japan and formed another team with the Power Warrior. They were called the Hell Raisers.
Hawk didn't even have the decency to tell his injured partner. This put a strain on their friendship for years. Animal forgave him, though. In fact after his injury Animal joined them and all three were called the Road Warriors.
They came back to WCW in 1995. Their return to WCW was a short one, but they did go on to have a few good feuds. Their most noticeable matches were with Harlem Heat, Sting and Lex Lugar, and the Steiner Brothers.
A contract dispute would end their tenure there. According to Hawk and Animal they were promised the second-highest paid contract on the roster. Bischoff denied this, so the Road Warriors left WCW again.
In 1997 they returned to the WWE. This visit was short as well, because in 1998, after a Monday night taping, the two disappeared again.
At this point in time Hawk had a serious substance abuse problem. They made one last return to the WWE in the year 2000, this time as LOD 2000.
Their storyline was considered by many as one of the most distasteful things Vince has ever done. They ran a story where Hawk was struggling with some personal demons in life. What made this so distasteful was that at the time Hawk was still dealing with his problem.
Hawk had finally had it when Vince asked him to do a skit where he attempts to commit suicide. The Road Warriors left the WWE for the final time.
After their last run with the WWE, they moved around on the Indie circuit and Japan. They attempted one last comeback to the WWE in 2003. Nothing would ever happen with this though.
The wrestling gods struck us hard again. Michael Hegstrand died of a heart attack at the age of 45. He left behind his wife, friends, family, and millions of fans worldwide.
Over the 18-plus years the Road Warriors became the champs over 20 times. They won took many awards, including being named Tag Team of the Year seven times.
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