The 1980s wrestling scene was filled with tag teams. Granted tag team wrestling was not new in the decade; wrestling had many tag teams events and stars before the 1980s, but the turn of the decade moved newer fans to wrestling, thanks to cable television and the ending of some of the territories. With newer fans, wrestlers and promoters had to create something different and make it more exciting. Teams like The Midnight Express, The Rock N Roll Express, and The Fantastics all were stars in the 1980s. However, the biggest tag team had to been The Road Warriors.
Joe “Animal” Laurinaitis ‘ book The Road Warriors: Danger, Death and The Rush of Wrestling ( Medallion Press, 2011) takes the reader through his career as one half of the legendary team, telling great road stories, along with his relationship with tag partner Hawk ( Michael Hegstrand).
One of the enjoyable parts of the book is that there are not a lot of chapters detailing the childhood of Laurinatitis before his wrestling career. He sums up his high school days and pre-wrestling days all in one short chapter. Sometimes writers of biographies or autobiographies tend to spend 5-7 chapters on their early childhood, when the reader wants to just get to the stories of how they got their break. This is not to say the background of the person does not help in the storytelling, but this book was refreshing in the fact that things were summed up quickly, which separates this from other wrestling titles.
From starting his gimmick after the Mel Gibson movie Mad Max: The Road Warrior, and knowing several future wrestlers like Scott Simpson (Nikita Koloff) and future partner Hawk at local gyms and bars in Minnesota (at one bar the bouncers were Animal, Hawk, Rick Rude, and Barry Darsow), former wrestler Eddie Sharkey trains the gang and gets Animal a shot in Georgia with booker Ole Anderson. After Anderson has a fight with Jim Barnett, Animal actually quits wrestling for a while, along with Hawk (who was being booked in Canada as a German heel). Ole comes calling later and puts together Hawk and Animal and gives them the Georgia Tag Titles (they kayfabe the win- they never even had a match for the belts).
The book then soars , just like the Road Warriors success, with great tales of them being the top tag teams in the NWA and AWA, including when AWA promoter Verne Gagne wanted the Warriors to lose the belts to The Fabulous Ones in a way where the Warriors decided to change the ending. Tales of the team winning over Japan is also included, along with the early (and eventual problematic) ways Hawk started living a party lifestyle that caused him to miss dates , where Animal had to cover for his partner, which got worse when they started working for Vince McMahon Jr. in the WWF.
Animal tells the reader about how he first thought when he witnessed Road Warrior imitators through the various promotions via the wrestling magazines, including The Blade Runners in Bill Watts’ Mid South (who later became Sting and The Ultimate Warrior), to when Hawk went to Japan and was wrestling in his own version of the Warriors without Animal knowing about it.
The honesty in the book towards Hawk’s lifestyle choices throughout his career makes the writing more than just a typical wrestling book, especially towards the end of the book, where the relationship between the two were strained. Hawk’s failed drug tests in the WWF (WWE) is detailed, where many fans may not have known about, along with the time Jake Roberts was in the WWF as an agent, along with Animal being approached to be one as well. Newer fans may not know all of the names that Animal writes about in the book; he tends to mention their names without most background stories, assuming that the reader knows who the wrestler is, but that also shows an appeal to us fans who have followed it for years.
The overall book is a easy read and is a must for those that were fans of the Jim Crockett era territories before it went worldwide when Ted Turner bought it and renamed it WCW. There were many parts of the book that I forgot about ,including when Animal was in the match (sort of) when Sid Vicious broke his leg at WCW Sin, to the hatred between Hawk and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Another enjoyable part is at the end of the book, several wrestlers detail their thoughts on the Warriors, from Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, and Bret Hart. I read this book years ago on my Kindle, but recently found a hard copy at a local book sale. I enjoyed reading this book even more the second time I read it, and is one of the better wrestling books that I have come across.
The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and The Rush of Wrestling by Joe Laurinaitis with Andrew William Wright (Medallion Press, 2011) can be found at Amazon.
Geared For: 13 and up
For Fans Of: Wrestling, Sports Biographies,