Joseph Michael Laurinaitis, better known as Road Warrior Animal, passed away Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at the age of 60 at the Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri.
WWE released the following statement:
“WWE is saddened to learn that Joe Laurinaitis, known to WWE fans as Road Warrior Animal, has passed away at the age of 60. One of the most intense Superstars to ever step into the squared circle, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Animal spent the majority of his career alongside his tag team partner, Hawk. Together, they formed what was arguably the most successful, popular and feared tandem of all time — The Road Warriors. With their intimidating face paint, outfits covered in metal spikes and impressive array of power moves, the duo captured titles and destroyed opponents wherever they roamed. Their dominance made them so popular that the phrase “Road Warrior pop” has been used in locker rooms to describe particularly deafening reactions from the crowd ever since. The Road Warriors thrived in multiple stints with WWE, where they were known as The Legion of Doom. The team won the World Tag Team Titles on two occasions and were eventually enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE extends its condolences to Laurinaitis’ family, friends and fans.”
Road Warrior Animal (Animal from here on) is known as one-half of one of the most famous tag teams in pro wrestling history, The Road Warriors/Legion of Doom (LOD from here on). Born and raised in Philly, due to his size he was an obvious discovery for Eddie Sharkey, a known wrestling trainer in the area at the time. Animal made his wrestling debut as The Road Warrior, with a biker gimmick, keeping basically the same name throughout his entire career, something that’s virtually unheard of these days.
Animal only wrestled a few singles matches before Paul Ellering had an idea. They went to Georgia Championship Wrestling where Ellering paired him up with Michael Hegstrand, who he named Road Warrior Hawk, and called them Legion of Doom, keeping with the biker theme for the two. Animal wasn’t completely sure of it all, but they were an instant hit, revolutionizing tag team wrestling forever. They quickly won both AWA and NJPW Tag Team Championships.
They spent years split between AWA and NWA Jim Crockett Promotions where they worked well for a couple of years until personal issues with Jim Herd (someone widely criticized for not having enough knowledge of pro wrestling to be an executive, though he worked for a number of promotions for many years) caused Teddy long to fast-count three, screwing LOD out of the Tag Team Championship they had been holding.
LOD then bounced between WWE and WCW, as numerous wrestlers did in the 90s. After WCW closed, the LOD bounced between indies TNA/Impact Wrestling, and WWE. It was their last run in WWE that Hawk’s personal demons were obviously getting the best of him. In 1998 they brought Hawk’s problems into the storyline and added
In 1998, the Legion of Doom became involved in their most controversial angle; playing off Hegstrand’s real-life drug and alcohol problems. Hawk started to show up drunk or “unable to perform” on TV. As Hawk proved more and more erratic and unreliable, a third L.O.D. member, Puke, was introduced to team with Animal while Hawk dealt with his personal issues. The storyline ended with accusations that Puke had been the “enabler” of Hawk’s problems, exploiting them to take Hawk’s place in the team. During the controversial segment, Hawk was shown to have fallen off the Titan Tron. Neither Hegstrand nor Laurinaitis approved of the WWF exploiting Hegstrand’s personal problems, which caused them to subsequently leave the WWF.
While the Road Warriors never officially broke up, Animal started making an increasing number of solo appearances after they left the WWF as Hegstrand struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. They brought in Darren Adrian Drozdov, otherwise known as Puke or Droz (Droz from here on) forming LOD 2000 with Sunny as their manager. This storyline didn’t last long because neither Hawk nor Aminal were happy with how they were being used by WWE and soon left the company. From there Animal continued to work the indie scene, WCW, and TNA as simply Animal on his own.
Animal’s most recent appearances in WWE were when he defeated Heath Slater in a squash match to promote Raw 1,000. Animal returned to Raw for the 1,000th episode where he helped Lita take down Slater.
No cause of death has been announced as of yet, and his Twitter account confirms his death, stating that the family will be releasing a statement soon and to please keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers. With Covid-19 running so rampant worldwide, that was an automatic first thought, but Animal has been posting on Twitter all along, advertising LOD masks, indie wrestling companies, and even a lovely tweet to him from his wife celebrating their anniversary, the same day as his death.
Like so many other legendary wrestlers, Animal made an appearance in AEW. Animal started the opening show to All In on September 1, 2018.
QD – A couple of people came to me, asking to be part of my posting about Animal, so I’m using the rest of the space here to let them get it off their chests. All of us at WR send our love and prayers to Animals family, friends. and fans.
News broke this morning about Road Warrior Animal passing, and I have to say I am stunned and shocked more than I would suspect. I grew up during the NWA, AWA, WWF eras and my first introduction to the Road Warriors, their entrance music, the modified Iron Man song “WE ARE IRON MAN, IRON MAN, IRON MAN” hooked me from the moment go.
Animal has been one of my favourites for decades, and even when his partner was going through his issues backstage, Animal kept the L.O.D alive, and together they made the most dominant team in wrestling history.
Say what you will about the Dudley Boys, the Hardy Boys, Edge and Christian. Or any team that has come down the pike in the last decade. Hawk and Animal tore through those promotions, at a time a decade before that included, The Horseman, The Midnight Express, Rock and Roll Express, The Steiner brothers. The Samoan Swat Team. HECK, The Varsity Club, and left them all in a heap under their boots.
Toast to you Animal, you will live on, with me, (rolls eyes, Thunder crackles, bell tolls) now tag in your partner, and rule the Underworld.
I am deeply saddened to find out that we have lost one of my all-time favourite tag team wrestlers. The Road Warriors were one of two of the best teams of all time, I could never decide between them and Rick Steiner (ok I like the slightly offbeat wrestlers who are not pretty boys). They had charisma and they delivered in the ring as well as on the mic. I loved watching them on WCW (and yes WWF too) I will hold him and his family in my thoughts and prayers.
Today we lost the engine of the train
LOD. Animal was a partner, warrior, and friend. He will be welcomed home by a waiting Hawk. pic.twitter.com/pJ3BSYRSnQ
— Paul Ellering (@PaulElleringWWE) September 23, 2020