The Road Warriors Are Now Officially in the WWE Hall of Fame
On Monday Night RAW, March 28 edition, this writer got goosebumps when the greatest tag team in history was announced as being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
On the night before WrestleMania 27, Paul Ellering, Animal, and the spirit of Hawk, made the speech to formally bring them into the Hall of Fame family.
How fitting it was for the Road Warriors' road to end where it all began: Atlanta.
They were innovators, they had charisma, they had the skills on the microphone; Hawk and Animal had it all.
In today's wrestling, everyone has a theme song, but back in the early 1980s, only a select few made their entrance to music, and the Road Warriors were one of those few.
During the 1980's, wrestlers were either muscle bound with limited in ring skill or small with excellent in ring skill. The Warriors were very capable in the ring and in the gym.
Michael Hegstrand, Joe Laurinaitis, and Paul Ellering became synonymous with the name, Legion of Doom.
Though the stable began in Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW), later known as World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the three became loved, hated, feared, and respected all over the world.
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Their stiff style in the ring made them crowd favorites in every promotion in which they competed.
The Legion of Doom (LOD), taken from the Superfriends, was actually a stable consisting of the likes of King Kong Bundy, Buzz Sawyer, Jake Roberts, the Spoiler, Iron Sheik, original Sheik, and Arn Anderson.
The Road Warriors were just a part of the stable with Precious Paul Ellering as the manager and mouthpiece. As members left, the Warriors and Ellering kept the name of LOD.
Laurinaitis (Animal) began as a member of the group known as the Road Warrior. Eventually, Hegstrand (Hawk) came into the fold and the two teamed to form the Road Warriors.
The face paint added even more to their intimidating aura. Within six months the tandem would capture the National tag team titles.
This offended a few in the back, as others felt the Warriors did not pay their dues to receive such a high push so soon. But what could one say to the Road Warriors.
Adding to their intimidating aura, there is a backstage story which states many of the jobbers coming in to the arena would see their names on the board to face the Warriors and would immediately grab their bags and head towards the exit.
Not many wanted to wrestle the Road Warriors. Not because of carelessness like other wrestlers such as the Ultimate Warrior and Lex Luger, but because of Hawk and Animal's stiff, realistic wrestling style.
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The Road Warriors in ring style was very similar to Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody, many Japanese legends such as Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba.
In Georgia, the Road Warriors ran roughshod over the competition and decided against going to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in favor of Japan and the American Wrestling Association (AWA).
Though AWA boss Verne Gagne preferred more technical wrestlers over musclebound cartoon characters, he saw something special in the Warriors and allowed them to win the AWA World titles and hold them for well over a year.
In the AWA, the Road Warriors started hearing the cheers for the first time. The squash matches and special style of destruction was loved by the AWA faithful. The team won the staps from Baron Von Raschke and Crusher in August 1984.
A few times, Gagne wanted the Warriors to drop the titles to the Fabulous Ones, Steve Keirn and Stan Lane. The Warriors had fun making Verne upset by not doing the job.
The Road Warriors finally dropped the belts to Steve Regal and Jimmy Garvin in September 1985 thanks in part to outside interference from the Fabulous Freebirds.
The Road Warriors did not mind doing the job this time, as they were headed to WCW/NWA exclusively.
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During the Road Warriors' time in WCW, they had memorable feuds against the Russians, Midnight Express, Powers of Pain and Four Horsemen.
When the team first started splitting time between the AWA and NWA/WCW, the whole point was to pit the AWA champions against the NWA champions, Ivan and Nikita Koloff.
The feud also was the typical American heroes vs. the evil foreigners, but the Road Warriors were not the typical flag-bearing good guys.
During this feud, the team met up against an old friend, Barry Darsow, who was portrayed as a Russian sympathizer who had joined up with the Koloffs to be collectively known as the Russians.
The Road Warriors may have won the six-man title with Dusty Rhodes during the Russians feud, but the backstage bookers decided to put the tag team titles on the Rock and Roll Express.
As many fans, this writer wanted to see the Warriors destroy the Express. It would have been fitting to set up the inaugural Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup finals to be the two most popular teams in the NWA/WCW at the time.
Instead, the fans got to see the Road Warriors capture the cup by defeating Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin.
After the cup and a few visits to Japan, the Warriors set their sights on helping friend Dusty Rhodes and former foe Nikita Koloff in battles against the evil Four Horsemen. The foursome competed in the first WarGames match in which the fan favorites were able to win.
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Hawk and Animal had a few singles matches against the great Ric Flair and were able to hold their own against the Nature Boy.
In a match as part of the Great American Bash in Philadelphia, Hawk was able to pin Flair and appeared to be the new World champion. But a Dusty finish was set in motion and the belt was returned to Flair.
After the Horsemen, the Warriors had to face a team of imitators, the Powers of Pain, the Warlord and Barbarian.
Finally, it appeared the Warriors had met their match in power. After a few gruesome incidents and matches, the Warriors were able to send the Powers of Pain packing to the WWF.
Legend has it the Powers of Pain were unwilling to face off against the Warriors in a series of scaffold matches, matches the Warriors fought the Midnight Express in at Starrcade.
The stage was set for the Road Warriors to finally capture the NWA World titles. Once again, a Dusty finish cost the Warriors the gold.
Against Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson at Starrcade 1987, the fans were in a frenzy as the Warriors were finally crowned new NWA World tag team champions. A technicality prevented the Warriors from winning the belts.
The Road Warriors appeared to be turning heel as they started to become more dominating in their matches and focusing less on the crowd.
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A turning point occurred when facing the favorite whipping boys, the Midnight Express, in New Orleans in October 1988. Hawk and Animal totally dominated the Express in a match for the titles. The turn was completed by turning on Sting and by putting a spike in Dusty's eye.
The spike incident, where Dusty decided to go against policy by blading on camera, cost Dusty his job. The Road Warriors lost by disqualification to Sting and Rhodes at Starrcade.
The Road Warriors soon found themselves being cheered once again without doing a thing. The cheers forced the bookers to put them against bad guy teams once again.
The title reign ended at a Clash of the Champions where a quick count by Teddy Long cost the Warriors the belts against the Varsity Club, Mike Rotunda and Steve Williams, led by Kevin Sullivan.
The Road Warriors were still relevant in tag team wrestling, but were relegated to feuds against the Skyscrapers and Samoan Swat Team.
The organization was moving to the direction to place the Freebirds, Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes, and eventually the Steiners, Rick and Scott, as the top tag teams.
The Road Warriors last major accomplishment was winning the Iron Team tournament at Starrcade.
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The next step was a natural one to move to the WWF and complete the triple crown for tag teams. At this time, the Road Warrior name was retired and the team started using LOD exclusively.
Vince McMahon may have also broke up the Powers of Pain, since that feud was done at a competitor and set up for the dream match wrestling fans wanted to see.
Like many dream matches, the Demolition vs. LOD feud did not live up to the hype. Not because the teams did not mesh in the ring, but because of Bill Eadie's failing health.
The teams could have meshed well as Demolition Smash was an old friend and foe of the LOD, Barry Darsow.
Since the WWF had a policy of not acknowledging wrestlers' pasts during this time, the LOD vs. Demolition feud was set up by having Hawk and Animal costing Demolition the belts at Summerslam.
The feud failed to live up to the hype because Ax (Eadie), was not able to perform up to Demolition standards and was replaced in many matches against a 'green' Brian Adams, who was performing as Demolition Crush.
The LOD also teamed up with the Ultimate Warrior for six man matches against Crush, Ax, and Smash. The chemistry just was not present and the feud was short-lived.
Soon the Road Warriors set their sights on the WWF tag team belts. Standing in their way was the Nasty Boys. The LOD completed the triple crown by defeating the Nastys at Summerslam 1991.
They held the belts until a familiar foe, Mike Rotundo, who was teaming with Ted DiBiase as Money Inc., defeated the LOD for the gold.
Just like what occurred in the WCW/NWA, a short title reign and surprising loss, put the team back in the middle of the pack in tag team wrestling.
A ventriloquist dummy, Rocco, was part of the inspiration for the Road Warriors leaving the WWF. The other was Animal was suffering from major back issues. Hawk left first to go to Japan and team with Kensuke Sasaki as the Hell Raisers.
In 1996, Animal was ready to come back 100 percent and the team returned to WCW. After numerous title shots and feuds against Harlem Heat and the Steiners, the team left the organization to head back to the WWF.
The Warriors claim a dispute in contract pay was the reason; Eric Bischoff claims otherwise.
Before going to WWF, the Road Warriors took time to travel back to Japan and work other independent promotions. Upon their return to the WWF, the Warriors aided Stone Cold Steve Austin in his feud against the Hart Foundation.
The duo became two-time WWF tag team champions by beating the Godwinns. As with so many of their title reigns, the run was cut short as the New Age Outlaws, Road Dogg Jesse James and Billy Gunn, were able to dethrone the powerhouses.
The duo appeared to be on a verge of a feud as they brawled against each other after a match on RAW. They left television so this feud, thankfully, did not materialize.
Hawk and Animal returned as LOD 2000 with new ring apparel at Wrestlemania XIV. They even took on Sunny as their manager.
The magic the Road Warriors seemed to have faded into wrestling lore. After a terrible angle exploiting Hegstrand's personal demons, the Warriors disappeared from television.
The duos final WWE television appearance occurred on an episode of Monday Night Raw against champions Kane and Rob Van Dam (RVD).
Hawk finally was able to cure his personal demons, by reaching out for help through Christianity, but after years of chemical abuse, his body had enough.
Hawk, after working to move, laid down for his final slumber. Hegstrand passed away in October 2003.
Road Warrior Animal formed a new LOD with John Heidenreich. The team won the WWE tag team title from Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro (Morrison), known at the time as MNM.
After the win, Laurinaitis looked to the heavens and told Hawk, "This one's for you."
The Road Warriors paved the way for many of the great teams and performers throughout the years.
From the entrance music to the face paint to being muscular wrestlers who could perform in the ring and on the mike, the Road Warriors will always be remembered.
The Hall of Fame induction is the last chapter in their glorious history.
World Wrestling Entertainment production, (2005). Road Warriors: the life and death of the most dominant tag team in history [DVD].
WWE, (2011). Hall of Fame class of 2011: the road warriors and paul ellering. Retrieved from http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/wrestlemaniaxxvii/2011-hall-of-fame-photos-road-warriors
Wikipedia, (2011, March 29). The road warriors. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_warriors
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