ROAD WARRIORS DVD DELIVERS GREAT IN-RING ACTION BUT FAILS TO PROBE THE AMAZING STORY BEHIND THE SCENES
ROAD WARRIORS: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE MOST DOMINANT TAG-TEAM IN WRESTLING HISTORY
Review by Mike Rickard II
Walking out on another stage
Another town, another place
Sometimes I don't feel right
Nerves wound up too damn tight
People keep telling me it's bad for my health
But kicking back don't make it
Out of control, I play the ultimate role
But that's what lights my fire
- Hellraiser by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister
Regardless of your feelings on WWE’s creative team, one has to admire the superb job they’ve done of utilizing their tremendously deep video library to produce some true must-have DVD collections. Whether it’s The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection, Hulk Still Rules, or Hard Knocks: the Chris Benoit Story, the WWE knows how to use its top notch production team to put together wrestling collections that every wrestling fan will want to have in their home library. The Road Warriors: The Life and Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Wrestling History (a title rivaled perhaps only by Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King..., continues the trend of must-have match collections. The only drawback is that the WWE has set their production team to cruise control when it comes to telling the story of the subjects featured on their DVD. In this case, the Road Warriors’ biography fails to fully explore their subject matter, making for a bland and incomplete product.
World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Road Warriors DVD covers the life and death of arguably the greatest tag team in professional wrestling. The 1980’s was a golden age for tag teams. Every promotion big and small had their share of tag team specialists such as the Midnight Express, Rock and Roll Express, British Bulldogs, the Fantastics, and the Hart Foundation. These teams dazzled fans with their combination moves, speed, and flash. However when it came to tag teams, the Road Warriors were head and shoulders above the rest in terms of both popularity and their effect on the industry To better gauge how highly regarded the Warriors were one need look no further than to their championship record. Hawk and Animal built up enough confidence in promoters that they were given the tag team championship of all three national promotions of the 80’s- the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), an accomplishment unmatched by any tag team in wrestling history.
Another way of illustrating the Road Warriors’ importance in professional wrestling is to state that they were to tag team wrestling what Hulk Hogan was to singles competition. While the similarities in drawing power are a no-brainer, there are several other parallels between them and Hogan. Both were known for their physiques as opposed as for their wrestling skills. Both were known for their incredible charisma and fan reaction (in the Road Warriors’ instance, fans initially bought tickets to see competitors beat them but they usually ended up loving their style). Both spawned countless imitators who failed to measure up to the originals and both wrestled styles that were met with disgust by traditionalists but with delight by fans. Most importantly, both had many rivals but few equals when it came to selling tickets.
After watching many of the WWE DVD’s it’s pretty clear to see the formula that they use: Throw in a little bit of behind the scenes facts , cover the major storylines the wrestler was involved in, throw in comments from wrestlers and wrestling officials, and take advantage of the tremendous video library the WWE now owns.. In nearly every case, this has translated into the DVD’s major selling point being the collection of matches assembled which showcase the wrestler’s career and the “biography” being a distant second. If you’ve followed a wrestler’s career, it’s a sure thing that you’re not going to learn anything new watching Hulk Still Rules or Hard Knocks: the Chris Benoit Story. Chances are though, that you’ll enjoy the matches featured on the DVD (Ironically, The Rise and Fall of ECW is the closest the WWE has come to giving a warts and all account of their subject matter while the matches contained on the DVD were lackluster).
Simply put, there was nothing to learn from the Road Warriors’ profile for anyone who has followed their career. To make matters worse, the DVD continues the WWE’s pattern of featuring sterile biographies that make A&E’s Biography, look like VH1’s Behind the Music. For example, little is mentioned about Hawk’s drug abuse and when it is mentioned, the WWE makes sure to have Jim Ross and Michael Hayes point out that Hawk’s substance abuse problem was one he chose for himself and that the wrestling business did nothing to contribute to it. Obviously, the WWE doesn’t want to dwell on how Hawk’s use of steroids which gave him the incredible look partially responsible for his success or how Hawk abused drugs to help him work while injured and to cope with wrestling’s incredibly strenuous road schedule.
Max Lerner’s said it best, “The so-called lessons of history are for the most part the rationalizations of the victors. History is written by the survivors.” No doubt Vince McMahon is a firm believer in this. Anyone who doubts that McMahon will twist history to suit his purpose merely needs to watch his recent promos cut before the ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view where he rewrote the history of the Monday Night War in just a few sentences. It’s clear that Vince McMahon likes to present wrestling fans with his own set of facts, regardless of whether or not they have any similarities to reality.
That being said, I realize that WWE DVD’s are going to present the facts as Vince sees fit to show them. Fans are going to see sanitized versions of wrestling history which fit history as Vince McMahon believes (or wants to believe) happened. That doesn’t mean fans should have to accept it because it really shortchanges the fans appreciation for the wrestlers who have provided them with so much entertainment. There’s no reason why a biography can’t include a critical look at wrestlers’ careers and personal lives. Personally, the greatest biographies are the ones that showcase a person’s foibles as well as their strengths. It’s enlightening to see how one’s heroes have struggled with adversity and what obstacles they have had to overcome. As discussed earlier, the Road Warriors’ DVD tiptoes around the causes of Hawk’s drug abuse. The reasons why are understandable if not acceptable. However when it comes to showing how Hawk conquered his personal demons, the main biography is just as barren of facts. What’s really frustrating about this is that the DVD features a profile on Hawk from WWE: Confidential which has a ton of great interviews with wrestlers discussing Hawk’s influence on their lives. The Confidential piece includes several wrestlers talking about how Hawk turned his life around after converting to Christianity as well as Animal’s children recalling how Hawk treated them as his own family. It’s just sloppy not to include the material in the biography.
Taking things one step further, even if the WWE wants to go so far as to exclude a wrestler’s personal life from deep analysis, it shortchanges its fans when it fails to make a critical analysis of a wrestler’s career. The Road Warriors’ impact on the world of tag team wrestling and wrestling itself is truly amazing but it can only be understood if it is analyzed in its entirely. Instead of providing such an analysis, the DVD provides a slipshod whitewashed version of the Warriors career which prevents fans from fully appreciating Hawk and Animal’s contribution to the world of professional wrestling.
Just to give you an idea of the kind of things that were left out of the Road Warriors DVD, I’ve included additional information in italics which were not mentioned in the DVD’s biography piece on the Warriors.
The DVD starts with the life-long friendship between Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) and Animal’s (Joseph Laurinaitis) which started in school and moved to their time together serving as bouncers at biker bars in Minnesota (along with future wrestlers Rick Rude and Barry Darsow). It discusses their passion for bodybuilding and their fondness for a good scrap leading them to consider careers as professional wrestlers. Hegstrand and Laurinaitis soon found themselves under the tutelage of former wrestler Ed Sharkey. After being discovered by Ole Anderson while he visited the bar they bounced at, Hawk and Animal were asked to wrestle for World Championship Wrestling from Georgia. In reality, Hawk and Animal started off in singles competition before being signed as a tag team. Animal wrestled alone as “The Road Warrior” before teaming with Hawk and at one point, Hawk and Animal were almost paired up against each other on separate teams. While Hawk and Animal didn’t set the world on fire with their technical skills, their impressive physiques and set of power moves made a quick impression on fans. After changing their look from that of bikers to characters from Mel Gibson’s post apocalyptic action film,
The Road Warrior, Hawk and Animal quickly became the top team in Georgia, winning the Georgia National Tag Team titles. With the help of former wrestler “Precious” Paul Ellering (the Warriors’ behind the scenes as well as on camera manager), Hawk and Animal soon began to capitalize on their increasing popularity.
The Road Warriors entered the business right before Vince McMahon Jr’s national expansion of WWF sparked a boom in the wrestling industry. The Warriors couldn’t have picked a better time to have started wrestling as McMahon’s war with the AWA and the NWA made for lucrative contracts for wrestlers who could draw. Verne Gagne was delighted to sign the Warriors after having lost Hulk Hogan and others to the WWF. For Hawk and Animal, this was their chance to work with many of the wrestlers they had grown up idolizing such as Dick the Bruiser, the Crusher, and Baron Von Raschke. The hero worship was mixed with the reality of the Warriors seeing their heroes’ overshadowed by the Warriors. While the Warriors were supposed to play heels, they were often cheered by fans who appreciated their brutal style, cool look and entrance music (Black Sabbath’s Iron Man) which contrasted sharply with the AWA’s roster of babyfaces who looked old (Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, and Verne Gagne) and were anything but hip (the Crusher and Dick the Bruiser’s entrance theme was the
Beer Barrel Polka).
It didn’t take the Warriors’ long to win the AWA Tag Team titles from Von Raschke and the Crusher. Their popularity continued to soar as they tore through all competitors. Animal discusses how the Warriors were resented by other teams because of their quick success. Part of the resentment was due to the Road Warriors not selling for other teams. This lessened a bit after Larry Hennig and Crusher Blackwell worked a match against the Road Warriors where they refused to sell a move. Given the toughness of Blackwell and Hennig, there was nothing Animal and Hawk could do. It wasn’t until the Warriors defied the orders of promoter Verne Gagne to do a job to the Fabulous Ones before they earned the respect of their fellow wrestlers. In the Warriors’ minds, their days in the AWA were numbered once they defied Gagne and they began exploring other options. Given their success in the industry, it didn’t take long for them to find work. By now, the Warriors had become wrestling’s equivalent of free agents, working in Japan and for the NWA.
Jim Crockett Promotions’ World Championship Wrestling (WCW) quickly signed the Road Warriors, putting them into a promotion with their top team of Nikita Koloff and Ivan Koloff. This was a dream match for the fans as the Koloffs were unquestionably the toughest team in WCW and the Road Warriors seemed like natural opponents. Although the Warriors wrestled in the same brutal power-based style they had employed as heels, fans cheered them wildly against the much hated Koloffs. After feuding with the Koloffs, Hawk and Animal battled with the other top heel teams in WCW such as the Four Horsemen and the Midnight Express (including the famous scaffold match at Starcade where Hawk wrestled with a broken leg atop a 30 feet scaffold and Jim Cornette blew out both of his knees after falling off the scaffold). The Warriors’ dominance in WCW was recognized with World Tag Team Championship gold as well as their becoming the first team to win the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup tag team tournament. Jim Crockett Promotions also explored splitting the Warriors up and making singles stars out of them, especially Hawk.
After growing tired of the direction WCW was taking when Jim Herd took it over, the Warriors moved to the one national promotion they had never wrestled in, the WWF. After working a short program with Demolition (a Road Warriors copycat team the WWF created after the Warriors didn’t sign with them and one that gained a good deal of popularity on their own), the Warriors went on to win the WWF Tag Team titles. The DVD then goes into how Hawk’s personal problems began to get the better of him. Animal discusses how bad influences like Jake “the Snake” Roberts Jake “the Snake” Roberts turned Hawk against his closest friends. Eventually, Hawk quit WWF without notice, leaving Animal to wrestle on his own. Animal blew out his back in match with the Beverly Brothers which sidelined him for quite a while. Meanwhile, Hawk formed a new team in Japan with Kensuski Sasaki (known as the Power Warrior) without consulting Animal. This led to feelings of betrayal on Animal’s part putting both men odds for years.
Eventually, Animal was cleared to wrestle, and he and Hawk reconciled. During the beginning of the Monday Night Wars, they showed up on WCW’s Monday Night Nitro. However after being promised the 2nd biggest contract in WCW by Eric Bischoff (a claim Bischoff denies was ever made), they returned to the WWF as LOD 2000, a team managed by Sunny. Former manager Paul Ellering returned only to turn on his former team for a feud with his new team the Disciples of the Apocalypse. Concerned that Hawk might walk out on them again, the WWF added newcomer Droz as a member of the Legion of Doom. In a storyline that hit close to home, the WWE showed Hawk struggling with “personal demons” which led to Droz replacing Hawk as Animal’s tag team partner.
The DVD closes out with Hawk confronting his real-life demons and the Road Warriors working on making a comeback into the WWE before Hawk died unexpectedly from a heart attack. While Hawk had conquered his personal demons, the damage they caused to his body had taken their toll. Animal and other WWE stars discuss Hawk’s generous side and how much he meant to them.
Some of the other things not covered on the DVD which surely would be of interest to fans include:
The effect of the Road Warriors on wrestling. Part of the Warriors’ mystique was their look, especially their physiques. The look of the Warriors and Hulk Hogan led to many aspiring wrestlers taking up bodybuilding (and oftentimes steroids) as their entrée into wrestling. Hawk and Animal’s use of makeup and exotic ring wear was copied by other teams such as the Powers of Pain, Demolition and the Blade Runners to name a few. What’s really funny is that the DVD skirts the issue of Demolition, the team Vince McMahon created after Hawk and Animal signed with Jim Crockett Promotions instead of the WWF. Demolition started off as Road Warrior rip-offs but developed into something more after the fans took a liking to them. It would have been interesting to get Animal’s thoughts on Demolition and how he felt wrestling the team Vince McMahon had created as his Road Warriors substitute.
The incredible push that the Road Warriors got as heels and the effect on the babyfaces they wrestled. The Road Warriors went over just about every team thrown against them, whether they were babyfaces or heels. Hawk and Animal were tremendous draws but this often came at the expense of the babyfaces they wrestled. As a result, babyfaces looked weak and fans sometimes lost respect for them, killing their drawing ability. Animal mentions how the Road Warriors refused to drop the AWA tag team titles to the Fabulous Ones but fails to mention that this led to the Fabulous Ones leaving the AWA. He also fails to mention how wrestlers Crusher Blackwell and Larry Hennig roughed up the Warriors in the ring to remind them of how to do business after other wrestlers got tired of the Warriors refusing to sell moves for anyone in the AWA.
By now it’s obvious how I feel about the biography but what about the matches included in the DVD? The DVD definitely features some key matches in the Road Warriors’ history such as all three of the World Tag Team title victories from the AWA, NWA, and WWF as well as the final round match in the first Crockett Cup. It also features the infamous scaffold match with the Midnight Express, one of their matches with the Koloffs, and one of their matches against Demolition. Also included is a Texas Tornado match early on in the Road Warriors’ career between them and the NWA World tag team champions at that time- Jack and Jerry Brisco. There is also an interesting match from Japan between the Warriors and Hulk Hogan/Genichiro Tenryu. Two of the matches feature commentary with Animal and Jim Ross which provides insight from Animal. The WWE’s use of alternate commentary is a welcome feature since it gives fans an opportunity to hear how the parties involved felt about a particular match. Unfortunately there are also way too many squash matches from World Championship Wrestling from Georgia which could have been replaced with one of the Warriors’ National Championship wins, any of their War Games matches from The Great American Bash, or their power battles with Doom or the Skyscrapers. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see perennial jobber Mike Jackson finally get the DVD exposure he deserves, but one squash match is all you need to get an idea of the impression the Road Warriors made on fans when they wrestled preliminary bums.
In the end, you can probably find better match collections on the black market and get more insider information from a Road Warriors shoot interview. What you won’t get is the video quality and slick production values associated with WWE Home Video or the bonus features like the WWE Confidential pieces on Hawk, the behind the scenes look at Animal’s collection of Road Warriors’ memorabilia, or the truly god-awful Road Warriors’ music video. How much you want the DVD really depends on whether or not you own these matches and how important video quality is (chances are, bootlegs will pale in terms of video and sound quality to this product).
NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling (11/06/83) vs. Joe Young & Randy Barber
NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling (07/08/83} vs. Arn Anderson & Paul Jones
NWA World Championship Wrestling Omni (28/08/83) Texas Tornado Match vs. The
Brisco Brothers (Commentary by: Jim Ross & Animal)
NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling (03/01/83) vs. Mike Jackson & Stone
AWA All Star Wrestling (25/08/84) AWA World Tag Title Championship vs. Baron
von Raschke & The Crusher (Commentary by: Jim Ross & Animal)
Promos:- NWA Georgia Championship Wrestling (27/08/83), AWA All Star Wrestling (28/07/84), AWA ESPN Championship Wrestling (15/10/85), NWA World Championship Wrestling (03/10/87), NWA World Championship Wrestling (10/10/87), NWA World Championship Wrestling (28/01/89), WCW Wrestle War (25/02/90) Brutus the Barber Beefcake's Barbershop Wrestling Challenge (28/09/91), Royal Rumble (21/01/92) and In Your House: Degeneration X (07/12/97)
Hawk Tribute Part 1 Confidential (08/11/03)
Hawk Tribute Part 2 Confidential (08/11/03)
Paul Ellering "Go For It"
Michaels Hayes "A Lesson in Striving for Success"
Road Warriors Music Video
AWA All Star Wrestling (21/08/85) vs. Larry 'the Axe' & Curt Hennig
Superclash (28/09/85) AWA World Tag Team Title Match vs. The Fabulous Freebirds
Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Tag Team Tournament Cup (19/04/86) vs. Magnum TA &
Ronnie Garvin (Commentary by: Jim Ross & Animal)
Great American Bash (05/07/86) Russian Chain Match vs. Ivan & Nikita Koloff
Starcade (27/11/86) Scaffold Match vs. Midnight Express
Starcade (29/11/87) NWA Tag Team Championship vs. Tully Blanchard & Arn
New Orleans (29/10/88) NWA World Tag Team Championship vs. Midnight Express
Challenge (09/02/91) vs. Demolition
Wrestlefest (12/03/91) vs. Hart Foundation
Tokyo Egg Dome (30/03/91) vs. Hulk Hogan & Genichiro Tenryu
Japanese Commentary (Commentary by: Jim Ross & Animal)
Summerslam (26/08/91) WWE Tag Team Championship vs. Nasty Boys
Summerslam (29/08/92) vs. Money Inc.
Superbrawl (02/11/96) WCW Tag Team Championship Match vs. Sting & Lex Luger
RAW (13/10/97) WWE Tag Team Championship vs. The Godwinns
If you would like to purchase this Road Warriors DVD,
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.