What a shock it was to hear of Joe Laurinaitis – Road Warrior Animal – passing away last week. Together with Hawk, he formed The Road Warriors, who are probably among the most celebrated tag teams in the history of professional wrestling. With their striking face-paint, spiked shoulder pads and dominant presence, you weren’t going to forget this pairing in a hurry. Sure enough, they were stars all over the world, wherever they went.
I vividly remember seeing them for the first time. It was when I was about ten; I used to buy lots of second-hand WWF tapes on the cheap, usually fairly recent pay-per-view events. One day, I plumped for an old one, likely because it was at the bottom of the pile and thus hardest to retrieve. That tape was SummerSlam 1992, which, on buying, I did not know emanated from Wembley Stadium. Animal and Hawk, then known as The Legion of Doom, were featured early in the event. The sight of their entrance, on motorbikes with their golden shoulder pads shining in the afternoon sun, was something special. Of course, the crowd were absolutely crazy for them, too – even more when Animal pinned ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase for the victory. It was hard not to get caught up in it all. Indeed, I was left wishing they had stayed with the WWF long enough to be there when I was a viewer; there were lots of young, up and coming teams around that time, and the Legion of Doom could have made the perfect ‘old guard’ to help them reach the next level.
It is sad to lose yet another guy I used to watch a lot, and young too – he only recently turned sixty. Just last year, I worked on his likeness for RetroMania Wrestling, which was something I never expected to be doing – a shame indeed that he will not see the finished product. Everyone seems to have remarked on how great and approachable he was and, I have to say, I always got that impression, despite the menacing façade. I have no doubt the legacy of the Road Warriors will continue to grow, even more legendary than before, for they made quite a name for themselves while snacking on danger, and dining on death.