The Life and Death of the Road Warriors(World Wrestling Entertainment, 6.14.2005)
As a kid who grew up on the bright lights and circus glare of the WWF, the idea of The Road Warriors scared the hell out of me. The WWF was the only federation my television picked up so, whenever I read about The Road Warriors in a wrestling fanzine, I honestly thought that one day Hawk and Animal would travel into WWF territory and decapitate my favorite showman-style wrestler, just because they could. Even after I figured out that professional wrestling was a "staged sport" and that I didn't need to worry when one of my favorite wrestlers appeared to have broken ribs or crushed a larynx, The Road Warriors still left me feeling uncomfortable. Something about these guys seemed truly violent.
The funny thing about this DVD is, my suspicions weren't entirely unfounded. It turns out The Road Warriors scared the hell out of a lot of people, namely their opponents, many of whom were afraid to get in the ring with Hawk and Animal. Why? Because the wrestlers playing Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) and Animal (Joseph Laurinaitis) often refused to "sell" their opponents moves, meaning they would jump up, unfazed, after being thrown to the mat or would stand there, unhurt, even as opponents beat on them.
In return, they kicked the hell out of their opponents on a regular basis...for real. Led by mastermind manager Paul Ellering, Hawk and Animal let nothing stand in the way of their bad ass rep, not even disobeying scripted orders or humiliating their peers. If Ellering felt a loss would hurt his tag team's image, The Road Warriors simply didn't let their opponents pin them.
All this might seem like a load of crap, designed to sell DVDs and maintain The Road Warriors' legendary status as the greatest tag team of all time but, somehow, I don't think so. First off, other wrestlers confirm The Road Warriors' reputation for physically hurting their opponents, namely Jerry Brisco and Arn Anderson, the latter of whom says that a week long stint wrestling The Road Warriors every single night was the worst fist fight he's been in his entire life.
Secondly, the constantly blurring line between reality and fantasy that defined Hawk/Hegstrand and Animal/Laurinaitis as professional brawlers began well before they ever debuted as wrestlers. In other words, they liked the idea of beating up people first then learned about the business of professional wrestling.
Growing up together as childhood friends, Hegstrand and Laurinaitis became bouncers at a tough, seedy Minnesota bar in their early twenties, which perhaps planted the idea that pounding on people was an appealing livelihood choice, before starting their wrestling careers in 1983. They quickly became World Tag Team Champions in the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association, before even understanding the ins-and-outs of the business. They were brawlers, who didn't care to learn many more moves than they already knew. As Jim Ross says at one point, "They didn't run many plays, but the ones they did, they ran them very, very well."
This DVD also chronicles The Road Warriors time in the National Wrestling Alliance, as well as in the World Wrestling Federation. Hawk and Animal are the only tag team in professional wrestling history to win World Tag Team titles in every major promotion, a fact which often leads to their being called the greatest tag team in the history of wrestling. This documentary wraps up with a discussion of Hegstrand's death in 2003, at the age of forty-six. By now, premature deaths in professional wrestling is par for the course, but it's still touching to hear wrestlers -- and especially Laurinaitis -- recount Hegstrand's personal demons outside of the ring and the health circumstances, which led to his heart attack.
As for extras, a wrestling fan couldn't ask for much more. We get four-plus hours of matches and interviews in this 2-disc set. The Scaffold Match against The Midnight Express at Starrcade '86 is here, the Russian Chain Match against The Koloffs at The Great American Bash is here, as is The Road Warriors legendary Superclash match against The Fabulous Freebirds in 1985. Even a match against Hulk Hogan and Genichiro Tenryu at Japan's Tokyo Egg Dome is included.
The only glaring omission is the absence of a match versus The Steiner Brothers. These two teams squared off several times and, since The Steiners are often considered the second greatest tag team in wrestling history, one of their match-ups would have been a nice addition to this set.
My only complaint about the production of these WWE discs is that every time you move from one menu screen to another -- and there's a lot of menu screens -- you hear Hawk's trademark expression: "Aaaugghhh, what a rush!" This becomes insufferable very quickly. In its place, I would have liked to hear my favorite Road Warriors psych out phrase: "When we're done with you, it'll look like we set fire to your face and put it out with an axe!" Now that's harsh! -- Jason Woloski