Name: Road Warriors
Year Inducted: 2011
Oh whatta rushhh it was seeing the Road Warriors in their prime, storming the ring, and disposing of their foes in minutes, thrashing and humiliating them in the process. The Road Warriors, Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) and Animal (Joe Laurinaitis), with their evangelical need to break bones, were the epitome of the selfish 1980s “Me Generation”—take what you can for yourself when you can and others be damned. They were heavy metal music brought to life, armed with chains, spikes, makeup and loads and loads of attitude.
They were the perfect tag team, with their “size, speed, agility and hostility.” They were the best known—and marketed—tag team in history, and stand today as a turning point in the history of the business.
“Still to this day people want to see good guy, bad guy, and they want to see heroes. It was definitely revolutionary,” said Road Warrior Animal. “You had Hogan in the one area and Hawk and I in the other area, and we changed the face of, definitely, tag team wrestling and of wrestling, period.”
Their manager was Paul Ellering, a Minnesotan powerlifter who had had success as a mid-card wrestler. He became wrestling's first super agent. “I balanced their force with patience, and was able to deal with promoters. They could be the bullies and I could be the straight guy,” said Ellering.
Hegstrand and Laurinaitis were two weightlifting enthusiasts born in Chicago and raised in Minneapolis. They ended up working together as bouncers and, on the advice of Jesse Ventura, tried to convince a retired wrestler named Eddie Sharkey to train them.
On June 11, 1983, the Warriors, with Ellering, debuted in Georgia Championship Wrestling, announced as having won the vacant Georgia National tag titles. Booker Ole Anderson pushed the heck out of them, having them run to the ring and absolutely demolish their opponents without selling a move. With their buzzed, Mohawk haircuts, face paint and Black Sabbath's Iron Man as their entrance music, it was a duo unlike any other in wrestling.
The Road Warriors were superstars in the wrestling magazines too, battling Hulk Hogan and the Von Erichs for covers. Success followed in the NWA, the AWA, Japan, and, finally, the WWF. Animal retired in 1992. Hawk went to Japan and teamed with Kensuke Sasaki as the Hell Raisers until 1996, when the Warriors reformed and had runs through WCW and WWF in the late 1990s.
While on tour in Australia, doctors discovered that Hawk had a life-threatening heart ailment called dilated cardiomyopathy. He spent 11 months getting healthy before resuming wrestling. Then on October 19, 2003, after packing up to move out of his Florida condo with his wife, he went to sleep and never woke up. He was 45.
Laurinaitis has enjoyed some newfound celebrity as the father of James Laurinaitis, a linebacker with the St. Louis Rams.
— Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson