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Book Review: The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling.

Many tag teams have graced the squared circle of wrestling, many great, many merely good, many bad. In the recent history of wrestling, no team made more of an impact than Hawk and Animal, The Road Warriors.

Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling is Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis' foray into the literary world. It is his account of the lives and careers of the legendary Road Warriors. You may be surprised here...this book is actually pretty great. I know a whole slew of people malign Animal for trying to prostitute the Road Warriors name in the days since Hawk's death, but if you read the book, you will find that is not the case.

The book starts in Minnesota, where both Joe Laurinaitis and Mike Hegstrand originated from. They were both gym rats and bouncers at local bars, both known for their impressive physiques and take no shit attitude in bouncing. One of the bars they worked at was run by a gentleman by the name of Eddie Sharkey, who had some pro wrestling ties. Sharkey took one look at his motley misfit bouncers and decided that maybe he should start training some guys for wrestling. With that thought, Sharkey enrolled one of the most impressive wrestling classes ever: John Nord, Mike Hegstrand, Joe Laurinaitis, Rick Rood, Barry Darsow. That is like a who's who of wrestling in the 80's and early 90's, and further testament to my theory that the greatest pipeline for wrestling talent EVER was Minnesota in the 70's and 80's. The training sessions were grueling, but all of the guys toughed it out, and it was Rood and Joe who were almost immediately invited to wrestle for Ole Anderson and Georgia Championship Wrestling.

Ole wanted to bring Joe in and saddle him with a gimmick he had developed after seeing a certain Mel Gibson movie of the time: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Joe initially dressed in some leather and denim with a silly YMCA reject leather cap, and was supposed to tear through the GCW roster. However, Georgia was experiencing some promotional turmoil at the time, and the newly christened Road Warrior was transferred to Jim Barnett's territory, where he served basically as a jobber. Joe was not thrilled, and decided to quit the business, and he made no bones about bad mouthing his experience to all who would listen on his trip back to Minnesota from the deep South.

Rick Martel changed Joe's viewpoint. He explained to him what it was he was doing wrong, burning bridges and all. Ole Anderson, whose mother lived in Minnesota, once again showed up in Joe's life, and upon his return to Eddie Sharkey's bar, laid eyes on a promotional shot of another up and coming wrestler: Mike Hegstrand. He was floored, and wanted to pair Joe and Mike together. Joe, burned by the business initially, cautiously agreed to go back with Ole. Upon Joe and Mike's debut in GCW, they were given the NWA National Tag Team Titles. Read: They were GIVEN the NWA National Tag Team Titles. No match necessary, as the last champs, Arn Anderson and Matt Bourne, had to be stripped of the titles because of a rape charge against Bourne. So The Road Warriors, now named Hawk and Animal, debuted in GCW as the tag champs, and rampaged through the territory, to the point where, in their initial year in wrestling, they were named PWI Tag Team of the Year. An auspicious start, for sure.

The Road Warriors phenomenon was up and running. Hawk and Animal's timing of when to jump ship was something to behold as well. When Black Saturday happened, with Vince McMahon basically buying the TBS TV time slot where GCW was featured, the Road Warriors had already brokered a deal with the AWA, as well as lucrative appearances in Japan. The Road Warriors were a powderkeg, over wherever they went, buzzsawing their way through opponents. They won the AWA Tag straps in fairly short order from the Fabulous Ones, a match kind of famous for its squash qualities. Animal addresses a long held smark belief in the book, that Jerry Blackwell and Larry "The Ax" Hennig stiffed them in retaliation for the Warriors stiffing opponents. He said it never happened, but that Hennig and the Warriors always had very stiff matches. Take that with several scoops of salt, but, hey, at least Animal addresses it.

Hawk and Animal ran roughshod through the AWA, but saw the writing on the wall of the dying organization. They decided to attempt to ply their trade in Jim Crockett promotions instead. This leads to two funny stories in the book.

The first is this: Animal is attempting to explain the mindset of the Gagne's. While he doesn't totally bury them, he does indirectly. But it leads to a funny story. Jimmy Snuka was wrestling for the AWA at the time, and at one particular show, Greg Gagne was complaining that Jimmy was in no condition to wrestle, and was hamleting on about it. Snuka gained wind of these accusations, and confronted Gagne. Basically, what he said, in synopsis, was this: "You think I am too fucked up bruddah? FUCK THAT. I will show you FUCKED UP bruddah." Snuka then retreated into the bathroom, snorted a giant line of coke, swilled down a couple of beers, then re-emerged into Greg's face, stating "NOW!! NOW I AM FUCKED UP BRUDDAH!"

The second story is up to you to read.

Anyway, the Road Warriors dropped the AWA Tag straps to Steve Regal (not that one) and Jimmy Garvin on the way out of the organization, with assistance from the Freebirds. They showed up in the NWA and Dusty Rhodes booked them to the moon. These are the best parts of the book, the Road Warriors NWA exploits, because many, myself included, reminisce fondly on their run in the NWA. These sections include The Crockett Cup, Bunkhouse Stampede, Night of the Skywalkers, and War Games. Animal states that he thinks War Games was Dusty Rhodes greatest idea (I agree) and that was the height of the Road Warriors. Along the way, they went from ass kicking heels to ass kicking faces, courtesy of Ivan Koloff and Krusher Khurshev, also known as Barry Darsow. The Russians. Nikita Koloff was also part of that formidable triumvirate. In reality, Nikita, born Scott Simpson, was a college football teammate of Joe Laurinaitis, Animal, so they had a strong bond. War Games was one of the greatest ideas in wrestling history, in my opinion, and Hawk and Animal were a big part of it. I have not mentioned Paul Ellering yet, and he was involved in that initial War Games. Basically, Ellering was paired with the Warriors at the end of his active in ring career in Georgia in 1983, and was figuratively and QUITE literally the Road Warriors manager. He booked the flights, hotels, et al. He was also instrumental in the process of the Road Warriors becoming an in ring threat, mapping out their matches for them. Anyway, the first War Games match is a classic revered by most long time wrestling fans, and it concluded with the Warriors giving JJ Dillon their newly created finisher: The Doomsday Device. Most fans know that move, it is a truly terrifying proposition for all involved. And in this case, in War Games, it reared its ugly head. The cage was too low to allow for proper execution, and JJ ended up separating his shoulder.

The Road Warriors ran roughshod through JCP for most of their tenure there, winning the NWA Tag Team titles by destroying the Midnight Express. They won the first Crockett Cup. While there, Animal, the artist of the group, developed the teams' trademark spiked shoulder pads. The Warriors, the LOD, eventually lost the NWA Tag straps to the Varsity Club on the greatest fast three count in wrestling history, and were poised to become big heels thanks to the machinations of Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes had the Warriors turn on him in a tag match on WCW Saturday Night, and Animal rammed a shoulder pad spike into Rhodes head, resulting in a five alarm blade job. This was shortly after Turner had purchased the product from Jim Crockett, and the order from on high was no blood. Add in the fact this occurred at Saturday dinner hour, and Dusty's goose was cooked. Big Dust was fired, and the Road Warriors quickly grew weary of the WCW grind. They sought greener the WWF.

Now, The Road Warriors had actually had a face to face with Vince McMahon in 1985...where Animal astutely pointed out to the man himself that he was on the "Deca" diet. Animal makes no bones about the Warriors steroid use. Animal and Hawk were looking for guaranteed contracts in 1985 to counter Jim Crockett's offer back then. None were forthcoming. In 1990, Vince still wasn't offering guaranteed contracts, so the Road Warriors settled for a per appearance deal where merchandising would help pad their bank accounts. Vince, in his infinite wisdom, also wanted the Road Warriors to change their name. He had Ultimate Warrior headlining the promotion, and didn't want too many warriors, even if Hawk and Animal were the original warriors...Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden were Road Warrior clones, as were the Powers of Pain (Animal basically trained Terry Szopinski, Warlord) and Demolition. The Warriors chose their alternate name: The Legion of Doom. And the LOD ran through the WWF like a buzzsaw, first helping the Hart Foundation win the WWF Tag Team Championship from Demolition at SummerSlam 1990 (one of this writers favorite wrestling memories). From there, LOD destroyed everything in their path, which lead to a match with Power and Glory at Mania 7. Hawk's promo for that match is still priceless, to me. "Sour and Gory." They proceeded to destroy Power and Glory there, and won the WWF Tag straps at SummerSlam 1991 from the Nasty Boys.

However, shit was about to get a little too real.

Hawk, by this point, had a massive drug problem. He was wholly unreliable, and it resulted in multiple drug suspensions. Animal was not thrilled by this. The second drug suspension led to the LOD losing the Tag Titles in a match that never happened, according to Animal, against Money Inc. Paul Ellering soon joined the troop again, but with a bad idea: Rocco. Hawk hated Rocco (as did I as a 12 year old) and soon the angle was treading water, and Hawk was in a bad way. Hawk and Animal wrestled Money Inc at SummerSlam 1992 at Wembley Stadium, but Hawk was so fucked up during the match that Vince McMahon, on commentary, was cursing him out off mic and off camera. Hawk decided that night to stick it to his employer, and his friend of years, and walked out and started hanging out with a London group of the Hells Angels.

Animal, in the meantime, had some lingering health issues. Herniated discs. He underwent spinal fusion surgery and was sidelined for two years. Meanwhile, Hawk resurrected the Road Warriors with Kensuke Sasaki as the Hellraisers, and Animal was none too pleased. They eventually patched up their differences, and in 1996, made their triumphant return to WCW television.

It didn't work.

Sure, they were booked near the top of the card. But it never really caught on. They left WCW after less than a year, and hooked back up with WWF. Their first match? Against the Headbangers. A double count out. The fuck? People were ready to embrace the LOD and WWF fucked it royally up, and their WWF run was just plain bad. Sure, they put over the New Age Outlaws, but damn man, Hawk became a drunk, PUKE became an LOD was a period to forget.

Animal is not a dummy when it comes to all of this shit. He seems to recognize all of the issues the LOD was going through, and makes no bones about it. It was around this time that Animal, no stranger to the wrestling partying lifestyle himself, found Jesus. Hawk was there as well, and in one case of Jesus' miraculous power, Hawk, Animal, and Shawn Michaels became born again. Must of had a happy hour discount on salvation that day.

October 19, 2003. Just a few months after the Road Warriors made their final appearance in a WWE ring, where Hawk was accused of not selling long enough, the long inevitable truth occurred: Mike "Hawk" Hegstrand died. It was a sad coda for the greatest tag team ever. But Animal pushed on, to mixing results.

Animal formed a sort of "New" Road Warriors with Heidenreich. Bad idea. It was tasteless, senseless, and stupid. Animal agrees to these points, even saying that rapist Heidenreich shared some of the same demons Hawk suffered from. Kinda heady damning with faint praise.

In the end, Animal has proven to be a good man and a good father. His son, James, has proven himself as a hell of a middle line backer for the Rams. Animal is a wrestler who seems to be, at last, at peace with himself. While we all mourn the loss of Hawk, the more colorful member of the team, it should not be lost on what Animal, Joe Laurinaitis, has done with his family.

What a Rush.


  1. The Ghost of Faffner HallMay 27, 2013 at 12:32 AM


    "WWF @ Denver, CO - Coliseum - February 7, 1992 (4,500)

    Ted Dibiase (w/ Sensational Sherri) & IRS defeated WWF Tag Team
    Champions the Legion of Doom to win the titles at 11:49 when Dibiase pinned Road
    Warrior Hawk after the Natural Disasters came ringside and Typhoon hit Hawk with
    a steel chair while he prepared to hit the Doomsday Device on Dibiase as Sherri
    distracted the referee"
    It was on a house show, but yeah, apparently it did happen.


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