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The Man, the Myth, the Legend Vol. 6: The Road Warriors

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Christopher Scott Wagoner

What a RUUUUSH!

It's hard to describe the feeling of sitting in an arena when the Road Warrior's theme music hit. Similar to the apprehension of awaiting a hurricane landfall mixed with the anticipation of a blistering heavy metal concert, fans would often crane their necks to see the duo burst out of the entrance way and dash to the ring.

When facing enhancement talents--wrestlers whose job it is to make the stars look good--they simply dashed to the ring, pummeled their opponents, and set them up for their dreaded finisher, the Doomsday Device.

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When facing a more noteworthy team, the Road Warriors switched tactics. They arrived wearing menacing spikes, slowly stalking to the ring while Iron Man by Black Sabbath played over the PA. Many wrestlers genuinely feared the Warriors because of their monstrous strength, and on more than one occasion their schedule opponents would grab their bags and flee the arena rather than face them in the ring.

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When people look at the Road Warriors, they KNOW they're seeing professional wrestlers. In fact, the Warriors are like Pro Wrestlers with a little bit of pro wrestler added in! Hyberbolic, massive, face painted, spike wearing marauders who could crush ordinary men with one hand.

And yet, they still had a lot of fun. Hawk was well known for getting hilarious one liners into their interviews, while Animal played the straight man and did the job of telling fans where they were fighting, who they were fighting, and why.

Many critics and fans agree that the Road Warriors were the best tag team of the 1980s, and continued to have influence even today. Here are ten moments from their legendary careers.

#1.The Beginning

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As Animal tells the story, he and Hawk were working as bouncers in a dive bar in the early 1980s when they were discovered by a Georgia Championship Wrestling scout. While the two were not professional athletes, or trained in wrestling, they were gigantic muscle men with uncanny agility. Animal, all three hundred pounds of him, could perform a backflip and Hawk was strong as a rhino.

At first, they were going to be pushed as singles stars, with Animal wrestling as the original Road Warrior, a biker gimmick. Hawk was quickly added to form a tag team, since tag team wrestling was extremely hot during this period.

Along with Precious Paul Ellering--himself a wrestler in his own right--they proved to be brutal and dominant. While most young wrestlers have to spend months or even years 'paying their dues' by losing to established stars, they were such monsters they were pushed to the main event right out of the gate.

#2. Dawn of the face paint.

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The Road Warriors were a sensation, but when the Mel Gibson film The Road Warrior debuted in theaters, they became true icons.

Since they were already calling themselves the Road Warriors, there were no copyright issues to worry about. Hawk and Animal copied the hairstyles and spiked garb of the maniacal roving gangs in the film, and added menacing face paint.

These days wrestlers, particularly in the WWE, have a lot help to design and create their ring gear. But the Warriors had to come up with their look all on their own. They ended up spray painting football pads black and adding metal spikes to them, though eventually, they would upgrade to professionally developed gear.

Now the Warriors had a great look to go with their already burgeoning talent. They moved past the original 'biker' gimmick, which had drawn unflattering comparisons to the Village People.

#3. Winning the tag titles on their debut.

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The NWA National Tag Team championship was meant to be a 'mid card' title for the tag team division of the member regional promotions. It would eventually be replaced in this regard by the NWA United states tag team championship, but the second coming of the title was never as impressive as the first run.

The Road Warriors won the titles on their debut match, and would win them three more times while working for Georgia Championship Wrestling. They met with great success in GCW, but it was obvious that they were akin to a killer whale in captivity; Far too big to be swimming in such a small body of water.

Still, the fact that they were champions right off the bat is impressive in and of itself, even if it did rankle with more established talents who believed the Road Warriors failed to 'pay their dues.'

#4. Brief stable alliance and birth of Legion of Doom.

Jake Roberts with the Warriors and Paul Ellering
Jake Roberts with the Warriors and Paul Ellering

During their stint in Georgia Championship Wrestling, the Road Warriors would join forces with two other big, powerful men with scary personalities. These two men were Jake "the Snake" Roberts--who at the time liked to wrestle barefoot--and veteran grappler Don "The Spoiler" Jardine, a masked persona who was the most experienced of the group.

The new stable called itself the Legion of Doom. In an interview, Hawk claimed to have stolen the name from an early DC comics syndicated cartoon called Super Friends. In the cartoon, the super villain team led by Lex Luthor and the Joker were collectively called the Legion of Doom.

Eventually, the other two members of the group were phased out, with Jake heading to what was still called the WWF at the time. The Warriors soon adopted the Legion of Doom moniker exclusively for themselves, and used it interchangeably with Road Warriors. In fact, many ring announcers chose to introduce them as "The Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors."

#5. Signing with the AWA

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In the 1970s and early 1980s, the American Wrestling Association was one of the biggest, most successful regional promotions. They had television deals, regularly sold out arenas, and had the prestige that went along with their founder and head booker, the legendary Verne Gagne.

Supposedly, the relationship between the AWA and the Warriors was tenuous at best. There were many disagreements about what the Road Warriors' role was to be in the promotion. Verne Gagne thought the Warriors were natural heels, and tried to push them that way. However, Hawk and Animal were quick to point out the massive fan appeal they were garnering with their quick disposal of enhancement talent.

In the end, the Warriors won out, because in the wrestling world the fans cheer for whoever they want to. It comes with the price of a ticket.

The Warriors would defeat Baron Von Rashke and the Crusher for the AWA tag titles soon after their debut.

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#6. Bloody feud with the Fabulous Freebirds

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It was only a matter of time before the Road Warriors face off against another icon of the 1980s, the Fabulous Freebirds.

The trio of Michael PS Hayes--the PS either stood for Purely sexy or purely sadistic depending on the promotion he worked for--Jack Roberts and Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy were one of the biggest draws in the southern wrestling promotions. Their mix of rebel spirit, talent, and the mike skills of Michael Hayes propelled them to the top heel status.

Only Gordy was large enough to match power with the Warriors, but the Freebirds utilized their three man advantage to even the odds a little. The Warriors were the pure babyfaces at this point, facing off against the cheating and villainous Freebirds. The Freebirds mocked the Road Warriors, sometimes even painting their faces to raise the ire of their foes.

The matches are still considered classics from the era. In the end, the Warriors prevailed and are considered the 'winners' of the feud, though of course all the men involved were winners due to the large amounts of money their feud generated.

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#7. Joining Jim Crockett Productions

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During the mid to late 1980s, the regional business model of pro wrestling was upended. Vince McMahon had invaded the territories of other promotions, raising the ire of his rival promotions.

There were no laws being broken, but McMahon had violated a gentleman's agreement that had been in place for decades. In order to combat his growing influence and market share, the AWA and the NWA--much of which was owned by Jim Crockett Productions--agreed to join forces. They co-promoted each other's shows, and shared talent. One of the talents shared were the AWA world tag team champions, the Road Warriors.

Even though they were still the AWA champions, the Warriors were feuded with the top tag teams of the day. They faced NWA champions Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude, engaged in a long battle against the Four Horsemen, and put on dangerous and innovative Scaffold Matches with one of the other top teams of the era, the Midnight Express.

#8. Winning the NWA tag team championship--as heels.

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In 1988, the NWA head booker Dusty Rhodes decided that he wanted to turn the Road Warriors heel.

In spite of being warned that the move might not go over well with fans, Dusty proceeded. When Sting needed time off to heal an injury, he was put into a tag match with the Road Warriors as their partner. The Warriors grew angry at Sting for getting the win by applying his Scorpion Deathlock move after a Doomsday Device, 'stealing' the win from Hawk even though they were on the same side. The Warriors brutalized Sting and hit him with their finisher multiple times.

This wasn't enough to make fans turn on the Warriors, despite Sting's incredible popularity at the time. So Dusty upped the ante by having the Warriors to 'gouge out' his eye with one of their shoulder spikes. The sequence came off much more gruesome than intended, and some NWA network affiliates refused to show the match without blurring the image.

The heel Warriors were booked to face World tag team champions the Midnight Express. They brutally beat down Bobby Eaton before the match even started, forcing Stan Lane to take on both members of the LOD. Which he did, to his credit, fighting off both men and scoring many near pinfalls utilizing his martial arts skills before the Warriors wore him down. Unwisely, Bobby Eaton tagged in, and...well, watch the video.

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#9. Finding stardom in Japan

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The Road Warriors often competed in Japan either between contracts in the United States or with their home promotion's blessing.

The huge, muscled and spiked face painted men were a huge hit with Japanese audiences. Their popularity was such that when Animal was injured, Japanese wrestler Kensuke Sasaki was folded into their team. Kensuke would become known as "Power Warrior," while Hawk was called "Hawk Warrior," and they became the Hell Raisers.

Kensuke Sasaki had been a mid-carder whose career was stagnant when he joined the team. The Road Warriors increased his stock in such a way that when Animal returned from injury Sasaki was pushed to the main event as a singles star.

The Road Warriors were a big draw in Japan, but they have the ignoble legacy of losing the NWA International tag team championship when it was unified with the All Japan tag team championship.

Sasaki would later team with Animal after Hawk's death, and they called themselves the Hell Warriors.

#10. Finally debuting in WWE and destroying their imitators.

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Vince McMahon made a bid for the Road Warriors' services when they were still with Verne Gagne's AWA promotion. However, the longer road schedule and conflicts with their appearances in Japan led to the Road Warriors turning down a WWF contract and joining JC Productions instead.

Miffed, McMahon decided to create his own version of the Road Warriors, Demolition. Demolition became a famous team in their own right, even if the fans knew that their face paint, spiked ring gear, and brutal personas were just carbon copies of the Road Warriors.

Eventually, Hawk and Animal did join the WWE, and ended up facing their likenesses in a series of matches. This would become the Warrior's only 'good' run with the WWE, as afterward they never made it to the tag team title picture.

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Hawk passed away in 2003 from a sudden heart attack, and Animal tried to carry on the legacy of the Road Warriors with other partners, but the magic was gone. Frustrated with the direction modern wrestling was taking, Animal retired and now mainly supports his pro football player son.

However, the Road Warriors would never be forgotten. As the first and only team to hold all three world tag titles in the "Big Three" promotions of the 1980s--namely the WWF, NWA, and AWA--their legacy will never be repeated. The Legion of Doom were truly Men, Myths, and Legends.

Questions or comments? Please leave them below the article and thanks for reading!

Edited by Shiven Sachdeva

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