Wrestling icon Joe ‘Road Warrior Animal’ Laurinait dead at 60

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The other half of what many consider to be the greatest tag team in professional wrestling history is gone.Joe Laurinaitis – better known as the Road Warrior Animal – has died aged 60, his family announced on Tuesday.

Teaming up with Mike “Road Warrior Hawk” Hegstrand, who died in 2003, as Road Warriors / Legion of Doom, Laurinaitis won championships around the world in a career that spanned more than three decades. . The popularity of the Road Warriors has spawned the creation of several imitation teams in federations around the world.

Both men were known for their face paint and spiked epaulettes, and used Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” as entry music for much of their careers. They finished the matches with their Doomsday Device finisher in which Laurinaitis placed an opponent on his shoulders and Hegstrand knocked him down with a clothesline flying from the top rope.

“With their intimidating face paint, their outfits covered in metallic spikes and their impressive range of powerful movements, the duo have captured titles and destroyed opponents wherever they are,” World Wrestling Entertainment said in a statement Tuesday. “Their dominance made them so popular that the phrase ‘Road Warrior pop’ has been used in locker rooms to describe the particularly deafening reactions from the crowd ever since. ”

Based in Minneapolis, Laurinaitis began training in the early 1980s under the direction of legendary wrestling trainer Eddie Sharkey alongside Hegstrand and two others who would continue their legendary careers in Barry “Demolition Smash” Darsow and Richard Rood. , who found fame as “Ravishing” Rick Rude. ”

Originally a singles wrestler, Laurinaitis was paired with his friend Hegstrand in Georgia Championship Wrestling by Paul Ellering, as Road Warriors. Initially, the couple worked under a biker gadget until they added face paint, signature hairstyles, and shoulder pads. Their intense promos, delivered with a grunt and witty, quickly became a calling card.

Even though the Road Warriors were reserved as heels, they quickly became fan favorites at the end of the Territory Days in places like Verne Gagné’s American Wrestling Association, winning the National Wrestling Alliance National Tag Team Championship. four times. The team also became a special attraction in Japan, wrestling with Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling.

Joining Jim Crockett Promotions in the late 1980s, the Road Warriors engaged in memorable feuds with the Four Horseman and the Powers of Pain.

In 1990, the duo joined Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation where they adopted the name LOD and began wearing orange epaulettes instead of their black signature. Their first feud in the business was against Demolition, a team that was obviously Road Warriors inspired at best and a shameless rip-off at worst. The duo would win the WWF Tag Team Championship at SummerSlam 1991, beating the Nasty Boys of Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags.

LOD’s WWF run was hampered by a poor booking and a serious back injury from Laurinaitis that kept him from playing in the ring for several years. The couple finally reunited in World Championship Wrestling in late 1995. They would spend the following year in WCW in rivalry with teams like the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat.

They returned to WWF in 1997 and won tag titles for the second time from the Godwinns. Laurinaitis and Hegstrand would undergo a name change as Legion of Doom 2000 later that year, adding Tammy “Sunny” Sytch as the team’s manager.

The following year, the duo became part of what is widely considered to be one of the most insipid wrestling angles of the modern age. Playing on Hegstrand’s real-life addiction issues, Hawk would show up on TV drunk and very clearly unable to compete. It will be revealed later that Darren Drozdov, the former NFL player who joined LOD as a third member, was allowing Hawk’s abuse. The angle culminated with Hawk falling from the massive Titan Tron video screen in what was billed as a suicide attempt. Neither Hegstrand nor Laurinaitis were comfortable with the angle and the pair left the company soon after and effectively ended their team run. The couple would make sporadic appearances with various companies before Hegstrand’s death.

After a brief solo run with WCW in 2001, Laurinaitis returned to WWE in 2005 and teamed up with John Heidenreich, briefly winning tag team titles. He was released by WWE in 2006 after another short singles run.

The Road Warriors were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.

His last televised WWE match was in 2012 when he returned to take on Heath Slater as part of an angle in which Slater continued to go against the Hall of Famers.

Laurinaitis’ brother, John “Johnny Ace” Laurinaitis, was also a longtime wrestler and served as a WWE official for several years and had a role on camera in 2011 and 2012. Marcus Laurinaitis, another younger brother , was also a wrestler and had a brief stint in WCW in the mid-1990s.

One of Laurinaitis’ three children, James Laurinaitis, played at Ohio State as a linebacker before becoming a second round pick for the St. Louis Rams in 2009. Laurinaitis spent eight seasons in the NFL with the Rams and the New Orleans Saints.

Tributes to Laurinaitis are pouring in from all over the wrestling world.

“I am more than saddened to learn of the loss of my good friend and great opponent, Joe Laurinaitis of the legendary Road Warriors,” Ric Flair wrote. “They were iconic! The Road Warriors and Four Horsemen attracted more money and had more fun entertaining fans around the world at the highest level. RIP. “

“My heart goes out to the family and friends of half of the biggest tag team in the history of this company, Joseph Laurinaitis / Animal of LOD,” wrote Devon “D-Von Dudley” Hughes. “Thank you for showing the world how team wrestling is done. You will be missed and you will never be forgotten. RIP my friend. “



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