Day 005: Oh, What A Rush
For the last 20 years, or for as long as I’ve been a wrestling fan, if you were to ask me who my favorite tag team was, I’d only be able to give one answer. It’s an obvious one and one that is probably on the lips of every other warm-blooded American: The Legion of Doom. Or the Road Warriors. Or LOD. Or LOD 2000. Or LOD 2005. Wait, nobody liked LOD 2005, not even LOD 2005. Even if the memories are distant, Road Warrior Animal and Road Warrior Hawk were two of the meanest, shit kicking sons of guns you’d ever see on TV and they shaped the landscape of tag team wrestling that we know today.
But it always seemed weird to me that they were my favorites. I didn’t start watching wrestling until April of 1999, a mere two weeks after their last real WWF match. My only knowledge of them I would have to learn from renting videotapes. In fact, I would rent anything that featured their names on the back of the boxes. Actually, who am I kidding? I rented them all. And every time a silence was broken by a growling “Oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh…whaaadda ruuush”, I was mystified.
They commanded a presence that other wrestlers at the time just weren’t doing. It was hard to hate them, as power of suggestion is strong in sports entertainment. No matter who they were fighting or how washed up they were, they still got the loudest pop from the crowd. They’d come out in their facepaint and spiked shoulder pads, hypnotizing everyone in the arena to absolutely lose their shit. At Wrestlemania XIV, they came back as the LOD 2000 as a surprise entrant in a battle royale. The pop that they garnered was just as loud as when Mike Tyson knocked out Shawn Michaels. And in their time, they didn’t fight like other tag teams. They were brawlers, through and through, in a time when everyone relied on technical prowess and cheap posturing. Also, their finisher move, The Doomsday Deivce, is still legendary today.
As most wrestlers of that era were, they had their fair share of demons. More specifically, Road Warrior Hawk did, and it hung over the team. Hawk spent most of his career struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. And to make matters worse, it was highly public. At Summerslam 92, in front of 80,000+ roaring fans at Wembley Stadium, they were about to face their biggest match yet. However, Hawk was high as a kite and definitely should not have been operating a motorcycle in their grand entrance. After the match, he went on a bender and was effectively out of the WWF shortly after. When they returned in the late 90’s, instead of getting Hawk the help that he sorely needed, the writers thought it would be a good idea to exploit it. So Hawk was forced to pretend to be whacked out of his mind…while presumably whacked out of his mind. This came to a head on an episode of Raw, where Hawk decided to climb the Titantron and “accidentally” fell off the back of it. The storyline was one of the most disturbing that they’ve done, running alongside Kane raping a corpse, Kane raping Lita and Sgt. Slaughter pledging his allegiance to Iraq. It was a terrible time for everyone and the whole debacle is much better told in the Vice documentary series, Dark Side of the Ring, which I’ll include on the bottom.
Around the turn of the millennium, Road Warrior Animal found Jesus and effectively saved Hawk. For the first time, Hawk was finally clean. But the damage was done. On October 19th, 2003, a heart attack killed him in his sleep. It was part of a cavalcade of wrestler deaths, as we learned the long term effects of steroids, amphetamines and alcohol abuse. Road Warrior Animal carried on, eventually forming the disastrous LOD 2005 with Heidenreich. He quietly retired in 2012.
So why am I talking about the Legion of Doom today? Well, when I woke up this morning, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like motorcycles revving far above my head. I checked Twitter and read the news. At the age of 60, Road Warrior Animal has passed. No further details have been released at the moment. One thing I know for damn sure is that their reunion that’s going on right now is totally epic. Just thinking about it is giving me goosebumps. Oh, what a rush!