The Road Warriors are certainly one of the most decorated tag teams in pro wrestling history. Joe Laurinaitis, popularly known as Road Warrior Animal, started competing in 1982 primarily for the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Georgia Championship Wrestling promotions as a singles wrestler. Michael Hegstrand, popularly known as Road Warrior Hawk, started competing full-time in 1983 after appearances for promotions in Indianapolis, Indiana and Vancouver, British Columbia. Hawk and Animal started their career trained by Eddie Sharkey, who also recruited Barry Darsow — would known as Krusher Kruschev and Demolition Smash — and Rick Rude.
In 1983, The Road Warriors formed in Georgia Championship Wrestling after Animal needed a replacement following news breaking that his partner could not compete. GCW booker Ole Anderson paired the two together, and they made an immediate impression by becoming NWA National Tag Team Champions.
This was the beginning of a WWE Hall of Fame career, which is something that was achieved 28 years later. In addition to their physical dominance, wrestling fans also know the Road Warriors’ finishing move, The Doomsday Device.
Known for coming to the ring with spiked shoulder pads and intimidating face paint, Hawk and Animal joined the Legion of Doom faction in GCW, which included Jake “The Snake Roberts” and The Spoiler, and was managed by Paul Ellering. This faction was short-lived, but the Legion of Doom name stuck with Hawk and Animal, as they were called this along with the Road Warriors in NWA, as well as simply called the Legion of Doom (LOD) while in the WWF.
The Road Warriors, billed from Chicago, Illinois, continued their road to becoming the most dominant tag team in pro wrestling history, as they left GCW for the American Wrestling Association (AWA). Living up to their dominance, Hawk and Animal won the AWA Tag Team Championship just a little over a month after their debut, defeating Baron von Raschke & The Crusher and retained the tag team titles for over a year. The two spent the next few years continuing their tag team dominance in promotions such as All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW), and Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF).
NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions is where the Road Warriors found even bigger national popularity, winning the NWA World Tag Team Titles from the Midnight Express in 1988. While in NWA, the Road Warriors both teamed and feuded with Dusty Rhodes, and was in other notable feuds against Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen. These men were all a part of the inaugural WarGames match at the 1987 Great American Bash as The Legion of Doom (Hawk, Animal, Paul Ellering) teamed with Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff to defeat the Four Horsemen stable of Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson and their advisor, J.J. Dillon.
The Road Warriors were also a part of another memorable NWA moment, winning a scaffold match against the Midnight Express at Starrcade 1986.
Being successful in every pro wrestling promotion they stepped in, the Road Warriors (now being called the Legion of Doom) made their WWE debut in 1990, and commenced a winning streak that lasted for several months, including a win at the 1990 Survivor Series, teaming with The Ultimate Warrior and The Texas Tornado against Demolition (Ax, Smash, Crush) and Mr. Perfect. This momentum led to them winning their first WWE Tag Team Championship, defeating The Nasty Boys at the 1991 SummerSlam pay-per-view.
Hawk expanded his title collection, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Kensuke Sasaki in New Japan Pro Wrestling when he left WWE in 1992. Hawk explained in a 1992 interview with Wade Keller of PW Torch why he made the decision to leave the company.
“The way I was being treated. The fact that I was on the road 10 years, 250 days a year. And I know what I’m worth and I wasn’t getting paid what I was worth. I do believe that Animal and I were and have been top proven talent – I don’t mean to sound big-headed – but we’re good. And you’ve got guys, more power to them, that make all the money, who can’t wrestle a lick and I could out-interview them in a coma. So he (Ultimate Warrior) is getting paid all this money.
“He held Vince McMahon up for money before, I never did anything like that before. We went in and bi***ed about money before. And Vince made promises to me. He’s very good at making promises, but he didn’t keep them. And I got disgusted. Another thing is I wanted to do my own gig, which I’m doing now.”
With the landscape of pro wrestling changing to more edgier content, including the advent of the Monday Night Wars, D-Generation X, and the New World Order, the Road Warriors were believed to be overlooked by both World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and WWE during their returns to both companies, each for a short period of time.
WWE even tried to repackage Hawk and Animal as LOD 2000, managed by Sunny, by it was unfortunately not successful. Although they did win at WrestleMania XIV to become #1 contenders to the tag team titles, and defeated The Godwinns in 1997 to win the WWE Tag Team Championships again, they only kept it for less than two months, losing them to the New Age Outlaws.
Sadly, Road Warrior Hawk died in 2003. Eight years later, the Legion of Doom (Hawk, Animal, Paul Ellering), cemented their legacy by entering the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Road Warriors have proven from their list of achievements and memorable gimmick to be the greatest tag team in professional wrestling history. Holding tag team championships in NWA, AWA, and WCW, Hawk and Animal are two of the most dominant superstars ever to form a tag team.
During an interview I had with Road Warrior Animal for the Pancakes and Powerslams Show, he accurately explained how his team with Hawk was one-of-a-kind, and there will never be another like them. “Bruno is Bruno. The Rock’s, The Rock. They’ll never be another Rock. They’ll never be another Road Warriors ever.”