Road Warrior Animal Interview
Joe Laurinaitis was a member of one of the greatest and most iconic tag teams ever to step foot inside the squared circle. Better known as Animal, along with Hawk they formed the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom.
No matter where the Road Warriors wrestled from the AWA to WCW to WWE they always won gold. Hawk sadly passed away in 2003 but the Legion of Doom will never be forgotten and were last year inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame.
Joe’s brother John is currently a weekly feature on WWE programming as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and as the Raw General Manager.
We caught up with Road Warrior Animal to talk about getting into the business the iconic Legion of Doom look, the current state of tag team wrestling and going up against his brother, plus much more.
How did you first get into the sport of wrestling?
My brothers and I never really used to watch wrestling to be honest with you, I was an American Football player and I also played baseball and basketball whilst one of my brothers played basketball and the other played American Football. I didn’t really start to watch wrestling until I got into my senior year at high school.
Who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you when you were growing up?
I remember when I started powerlifting, I went once to an AWA show and watched Hulk Hogan v Nick Bockwinkel, and I saw the excitement in the crowd and I thought it was pretty cool.
I then went to work as a bouncer at Grandma B’s where Eddie Sharkey was a bar tender and he had trained Jessie ‘The Body’ Ventura and he said he was going to start a wrestling camp, so I started to follow wrestling a bit more after that and joined Eddies wrestling camp.
You met Michael Hegstand (Road Warrior Hawk), but started out as a singles wrestler, how did that go?
Hawk was at Eddie’s camp with me, but I first went down to Georgia Championship Wrestling then onto the NWA. It was a learning experience, I was wrestling nine times a week but was only making $150 so I was getting the short end of the stick and wasn’t really making any money. Rick Rude and I were there at the same time, not as a tag team but we were there together so at least I knew somebody I had grown up with.
What was it like when you and Hawk eventually became a tag team and made your debut as the Road Warrior’s?
Paul Ellering pulled Mike and I together and said ‘I’m going to make you guys my world champions’, we looked at each other and said ‘yeah right’. We then showed up at Georgia Championship Wrestling and he gave us the tag-team belts and that was it the Road Warriors were born.
You had great success as the Road Warriors in AWA, NWA, WCW, WWF/WWE and Japan and won titles wherever you went – what are some of your personal highlights?
I will tell you what one of the nicest things is about it, even though Hawk has been dead for ten years I’m still getting Road Warrior highlights like the Hall of Fame last year.
Every time we went to a different country it was surreal, for instance I was over in the UK wrestling in the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley stadium. I had only seen pictures of those places in history books but then all of a sudden we were there in the main event in those buildings and it was just so crazy, I would never have thought in a million years I would have been in that situation, but I’ll tell you what I appreciate every bit of it.
I remember at Wembley Stadium when we were there for SummerSlam 1992 out of the 90,000 people probably 50,000 were wearing foam rubber shoulder pads.
What was the reason for the name change to the Leigon of Doom?
When we went to the WWF at the time they already had the Ultimate Warrior and we were the Road Warriors. When we were with our manager Paul Ellering the three of us were always known as the Legion of Doom and Animal and Hawk were the Road Warriors, so we had kind of used that name all along.
In the WWF at the time there were too many Warriors so what you going to do? It was easier to change a tag teams name instead of the Ultimate Warriors, so Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal just became the Legion of Doom, and that is a name we trademarked.
Who was behind the iconic look the Road Warriors had with the face-paint and the spike vests?
Ole Anderson told us to do the face-paint at the very beginning to be like a Mad Max character like Mel Gibson in the movie. We had the freedom to change the look ourselves all of the spike vests and leathers and stuff that was all our idea, most of it was my idea. We had a very synonymous look that people will never forget and never see again because it was so crazy you can’t duplicate it.
The likes of Sting and Ultimate Warrior donned the face paint because of us because at the time we were the hottest thing in professional wrestling.
The Road Warriors were involved in great eras of tag team wrestling with yourselves, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Midnight Express, The Outsiders, Harlem Heat, The Steiner’s, The New Age Outlaws, The Nasty boys and Team 3D etc. What do you make of the state of tag team wrestling today in TNA and WWE?
To be honest with you there are no tag team divisions. I say that with respect to the guys, it has nothing to do with new wrestlers coming up or anything else, its just that we’re in a new business. With things like the Internet, Twitter and Facebook you have to be the guy now, you don’t have time to learn and it’s not the guys fault they just don’t have the luxury of time on their side.
If I had anything to do with either WWE or TNA I would definitely put an emphasis on tag team wrestling. The Road Warriors proved in an era when the wrestling business was at it’s lowest tag team wrestling can be the main event, we sold out venues in the NWA and we did the same for the WWF at the time.
It’s proof tag team wrestling can headline and be the main event if it’s done right. You can’t just throw two people together, the fans like to believe in a family dynamic like the Road Warriors or The Steiners or Harlem Heat, they don’t just want to see guy A and guy B thrown together to form a tag team.
What was it like when you came back to the WWE in 2005 teaming up with Heidenreich and winning the tag team championships?
It was nice winning the tag team belts because it was the only one I won with ‘WWE’ on but I hated every minute of it because Heidenreich was not a good partner. He was not made out for the Legion of Doom. The LoD takes a special person and a certain amount of respect to the heritage and the gimmick , but I’m all about being professional and so was Hawk so I did it because the office asked me to and I did them a favour so that’s why I went ahead with it.
What was it like being inducted into the Hall of Fame last year for the achievements of yourself and Michael?
Being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame is a culmination of what you have achieved throughout your career and I didn’t realise what Hawk and I had achieved until I looked back on it there the night of the Hall of Fame. We literary won almost every tag-team title you could possibly win in wrestling and that’s history because it will never be done again because a lot of those companies will never exist again nor those world titles.
As an achievement I’m very proud of that and even though our business is an entertainment, it does take a lot of years of hard work, being away from your family for long periods of time but Hawk and I achieved something that nobody else will achieve.
It’s been 28-years and no one else has got the standing ovation we got at the Hall of Fame last year.
Having worked for both Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, how would you compare the two in terms of similarities and differences?
They’re both narcissist’s and they both have huge egos, I think Vince was more straight up and Eric was more devious. That was the nature of the time back then and that is what the times called for and the business called for.
Vince impressed me by getting in the ring and dong all of those battles with Stone Cold Steve Austin, he put his body on the line and he became one of the guys as well as a boss.
I found it a lot smoother working for the WWF at the time than it was working for WCW.
What are you making of your brother John’s current role in the WWE as GM of Raw and Executive Vice President of Talent Relations?
When you see John on TV that is him being his natural self, which is making that whole story-line as popular as it is, you may not agree with his methodology, but he is doing what he thinks is right, and he is going to do it despite of what anyone else thinks, but he’s in a no win situation. As well as being on television he also has a company to run, he is an employee too and he has a hundred employees under him. I wouldn’t want to have his job for anything in the world.
Could we see you return in one form or another to television with either WWE or TNA?
Earlier this year I was asked if I wanted to compete in this years Royal Rumble but I didn’t do it because they just didn’t give me enough notice, they called me like two days before and asked if I wanted to do the Royal Rumble and I said they could have at least given me a months notice.
I’m in good enough shape to do it and if wanted to wrestle I could but since Hawk passed away every year that goes by it gets harder and harder for me to even want to do it. I still do personal appearances and charity events around the country for my fans.
In the future I would love to do anything the WWE wanted me to do, they’re doing this big deal with the SmackDown GM against the Raw GM and what a great angle it would be to have me come in as the SmackDown GM and go against my brother as the Raw GM and have a battle between the two companies.
You can follow Joe on Twitter: @RWAnimal