Years before the InVasion angle, the 2002 version of the nWo, and the return of Bill Goldberg, Vince McMahon and company screwed up another surefire, can't miss prospect. Funny thing is, I didn't realize it until I watched this DVD.
But Canadian Bulldog, you might protest (assuming you're in the habit of talking to your computer screen), the World Wrestling Federation DIDN'T screw up the careers of Hawk and Animal. They held the WWF tag team belts more than once and even headlined a couple of pay-per-views in the 1990's. True, but after seeing what the Road Warriors are capable of, I'm convinced that they could have accomplished much more during their time with the world's biggest wrestling company.
This DVD set clocks in at about six hours, so instead of covering the entire thing, here's what I'm going to do: I'll run through the biography and then highlight the other disc-and-a-half of matches and extra content.
The DVD is dedicated to Michael Hegstrand (Hawk), which is a classy touch considering the guy didn't pass away while under Vince McMahon's watch or anything. If nothing else, it explains to the viewer immediately why Hegstrand isn't able to tell his side of the story.
Like most WWE releases these days, the disc starts out with the usual gang of DVD suspects (Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, Jim Ross, Brooklyn Brawler, Gerald Brisco, Booker T, Edge, Eric Bischoff – basically everyone except Big Show from that category), as well as some lesser-seen faces (Jim Cornette, Michael Hayes) talking about how great the Road Warriors were and what they meant to the business.
We then cut to Joe Laurinaitis (Animal) talking about how he and Animal both actually grew up in Chicago. A recurring theme I find is how much of their backstory is actually legit, kind of refreshing for a business that has so many lies in it.
They reunited when both families moved to different parts of Minneapolis. As they were finishing up high school (with a group that included grapplers Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, John "The Berserker" Nord and Barry "Krusher Kruschev/Smash/Repo Man/Blacktop Bully/Stupid Golfer Gimmick in WCW" Darsow) both took up power-lifting and bounced at some of the toughest bars in the area.
Animal takes us to one of the bars and explains how he and Hawk would have to use force to establish control over the tough biker crowd. From there, trainer Eddie Sharkey (best known at the time for training Jesse "The Body" Ventura) encouraged some of the group, including both future LOD members, to try wrestling.
We're introduced to present-day Barry "All of the Aforementioned Nicknames" Darsow, looking almost like a normal, pudgy guy in a gym (who doesn't once say "We'll kick yer stinkin' teeth in!") and explains how Animal was the first one chosen by promoter Ole Anderson to make it in the big time, that being Georgia Championship Wrestling.
Animal first debuted as The Road Warrior, essentially capitalizing on the popular Mel Gibson movie of the same name, wearing cheesy biker gear, which he admits "made me look like one of the Village People." Hawk was called up next, and as The Road Warriors, they started creating the image that brought them to fame.
Here's where things start to get interesting. Through a montage of squash matches, Hawk and Animal are shown as the biggest monsters I've ever seen. I cannot overemphasize how huge they look – they tower over the (admittedly smaller) Georgia rings, their scrawny opponents; really, almost the entire wrestling world.
Part of this was timing –- overstuffed goofs weren't a dime a dozen back then in an era dominated by guys like Ric Flair,Bob Backlund and Nick Bockwinkel. But a lot of it was the Road Warriors "look". Hawk was definitely more chiseled and jacked-up than I ever remember seeing them, and their haircuts made them look even scarier. The war paint still hadn't been introduced.
Most of their matches were short, and the key was that neither guy sold anything from their opponents. As their legend evolved, teams were legitimately afraid to get into the ring with the Road Warriors, mostly because of their brutally stiff style. Darsow recalls how he and Arn Anderson were teaming up for the first time ever, and both men were refusing to get into the ring when the match started. And Darsow was one of their friends!
It wasn't long before "Precious" Paul Ellering left active wrestling and became their manager, first as part of a stable that included King Kong Bundy, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and The Spoiler, and eventually just for Hawk and Animal. The "Legion of Doom" nickname was lifted from the old SuperFriends cartoon.
This leads to a looooong segment about how Ellering was the most brilliant mind out there, a legitimate genius. The contrast of having a Wall Street Journal-reading brain behind the LOD's unrefined brawn was what kept the Road Warriors success alive as long as it did, say wrestling personalities as diverse as Cornette, Flair and Hayes. Oh, and Ellering is interviewed for this DVD as well, looking and sounding even creepier than I remember him to be.
Myself, I never really understood why Ellering was part of the act and seemed to follow them into every promotion they went to. Here's the deal: he was ACTUALLY their manager! As in, he'd legitimately make all of Hawk and Animal's travel plans, solve disputes with promoters and take care of their investments. Wow! I'll bet Bobby Heenan never did that for, say, Haku.
Moving right along, the Road Warriors decided it was time to jump to the AWA, where they won that promotion's tag team titles in near-record time (of course, they never mention how they lost those same belts by countout to "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and Steve "No, I'm not the same one as William" Regal, but c'est la vie). A story similar to their GCW tour follows, as the LOD crush everyone from Baron Von Raschke and The Crusher (whom Animal recalls as childhood heroes) to The Fabulous Ones (Steve Keirn and Stan Lane).
This leads into a story about how AWA owner Verne Gagne wanted Hawk and Animal to drop the belts to Keirn and Lane (Keirn is interviewed here in full WWE road agent regalia, and geez is Skinner ever looking old!). Animal recalls that they didn't want to lose the belts to Keirn and Lane, especially in the manner that was laid out for them. So instead of jobbing, they just started kicking the crap out of Keirn and Lane and tossing foreign objects at them (See, that's just what Bret Hart should have done in Montreal).
This, predictably, didn't please the traditionalist Gagne, and soon and Hawk and Animal moved on to the NWA's Jim Crockett Promotions territory. A feud withIvan and Nikita Koloff turned Hawk and Animal face for the first time in their careers (although Animal claims they did nothing differently, it was just because of crowd heat with the Commies). The Warriors also won the Crockett Cup tournament, which was arguably the biggest tag team tournament ever.
Legendary feuds with The Midnight Express (at the time, Bobby Eaton andDennis Condrey, which led to the famous scaffold match), and The Four Horsemen are also detailed at length.After a brutal heel turn on Dusty Rhodes (which was actually one of the first NWA television shows I ever remember watching), Hawk and Animal leave for the greener pastures of the WWF.
Their first feud in "WWE" (even though it wasn't WWE, but revisionist history and all that) was with Demolition (Ax, Smash and Crush) to settle the score once and for all over the Demo's being Road Warrior impersonators. They show footage from an old episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge where Demolition are calling LOD "Demolition rip-offs" which is actually pretty funny considering Hawk and Animal created the act some six years earlier.
Animal gently criticizes WWE for creating such a blatant copycat image. Darsow actually tries to argue that Demolition WASN'T a Road Warriors knockoff group. Yeah, right! And I suppose Renegade wasn't at all inspired by Ultimate Warrior. Save it for that upcoming Demolition DVD, Barry… no one's buying it!
Here's where I have a problem with how WWE… er, WWF… handled Hawk and Animal. When they debuted in 1990, they should have squashed everyone in their path, captured the belts early on and remained undefeated for a long time. See also: WCW's initial handling of Bill Goldberg and, to a lesser extent, WWE's initial handling of Brock Lesnar.
Instead, what happened? They defeated a watered-down version of Demolition (Smash and Crush) and had to enlist Ultimate Warrior in a series of awful six-man tag team bouts. They took over a year to win the belts from The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags), and struggled with teams such as Power & Glory along the way.
They lost the titles under bizarre circumstances (something about losing to the previously-unranked team of Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster at a non-televised house show, if memory serves me correctly), then returned several months later with Ellering and his stupid ventriloquist dummy Rocko in tow, feuding with The Beverly Brothers(Blake and Beau) until Hawk finally gave up and quit. Hawk had heat with McMahon at the time, claims Animal.
Vince McMahon had the most dominant tag team in wrestling history (it says so on the DVD jacket) on his payroll and yet, in roughly the same period of time, La Resistance have captured the tag titles way more times than The Legion of Doom. Something is seriously wrong with that picture.
Anyways, that's my rant. Getting back to the DVD, Animal explains that Hawk, who had always been a major partier, couldn't keep his personal demons aside and legitimately split with Animal when he left the WWF. Hawk teamed with Kensuki Sasaki in Japan as a kind of Road Warriors knock-off, while Animal teamed with Crush for a brief spell. This created a rift between the two that took several years to repair.
Some attention is given to their brief comeback stint in WCW. As usual, Bischoff is painted as the bad guy because he screwed up some facet of Animal's contract. Bischoff, to his credit, says he honestly doesn't remember what happened that long ago, and that he may have promised something that he didn't deliver on.
Note to WWE: It has been almost FIVE YEARS since Eric Bischoff was in a position of power in WCW; isn't it about time to stop blaming for something on every last DVD? I can't wait for someone like Batista or Randy Orton to get their own full-length retrospective DVD, just so that THEY can somehow blame Bischoff for problems in their careers (and have Bischoff stand back and just take it).
Not much is shown from this period other than a brief angle they had with Stingand Lex Luger. Booker T (rightly) points out that WCW missed out a money feud between LOD and Harlem Heat (Booker and Stevie Ray).
Hawk and Animal finally escape the clutches of Evil Eric and head back to WWE (which still wasn't called WWE, by the way). This was possibly the worst run they'd had anywhere. First, they had the ill-advised angle where Ellering returned, only to turn on LOD and side with, of all people, Skull and 8-Ball. Ellering and Animal try to paint this as something monumental, but honestly, this was probably just the work of one of Vince Russo's whims because it had SHOCKING SWERVE~! written all over it.
From there, they become LOD 2000 –- the only major gimmick change they'd had in years and easily one of the most forgettable aspects of their career. For those who forgot LOD 2000 (first of all, nice work on burying that sad memory), it was essentially Hawk and Animal with their hair grown out, wearing futuristic costumes, being managed by Sunny. That was the entire gimmick. If I remember correctly, Hawk and Animal had come to blows on television prior to the repackaging, but nothing ever came of it (Russo strikes again!).
LOD 2000 was also the springboard for the debut of Darren "Puke" Drozdov(and every time I think of that gimmick, I remember Vince in the film Beyond The Mat going "He's gonna puuuuuuuuuuuke"), which led, unfortunately, to the "Hawk is an alcoholic" angle that most of us probably want to forget. Animal does NOT defend this angle in the slightest, saying it hit too close to home with Hawk's real-life substance abuse issues. Kudos to WWE for allowing that criticism to stay on the DVD. It really was in poor taste, no matter whether Scott Hall was doing the exact same thing in WCW or not.
This led to the even MORE unfortunate angle of Hawk "falling" off the Titantron during an apparent suicide attempt. Of course watching it now, it's crystal-clear that Droz pushed him off the top of the video screen– it wasn't even close. Hey, if they can remaster Star Wars so that Han Solo shoots Greedo first, surely they can make footage where Hawk falls before Droz pushes him, no?
This basically ended the LOD's final stint in WWE, save for a brief one-night reunion against Kane and Rob Van Dam on Monday Night Raw. SHOCKINGLY, they don't mention their brief stint in TNA before that, where they were either teaming with, or fighting against, Jeff Jarrett (I don't recall, nor do I care).
Animal mentions how Hawk had found religion towards the end of his life, and was clean and sober when he had his fatal heart attack in October 2003. This leads to some more comments about how great the Road Warriors were, a tribute on Raw by The Dudleyz Boyz, and some closing comments from Ellering and Animal.
Now… as if that wasn't enough for you, there are also a good dozen matches and TONS of promos and other features. Here is a brief overview:
From Georgia Championship Wrestling, a match against jobbers Joe Young and Randy Barber. Announcer Gordon Solie calls this an "Australian Tag Team Wrestling match"). This is where the LOD are still wearing their Village People outfit, and is just a squash.
Another Georgia match, against Arn Anderson and Paul Jones. Surprisingly, this squash is even quicker than the previous one! LOD now have a primitive version of their war paint on.
A "Texas Tornado" match and The Brisco Brothers. This may have actually been one of the final matches for Jack and Jerry before they sold their GCW stock to Vince McMahon. Animal and JR are on commentary here – and if nothing else, Animal comes across honest and humble as an announcer -- not what you'd expect. This was also one of the earlier matches where a team was actually competitive against The Road Warriors. Still, an awful ending that comes out of nowhere when the Briscos are suddenly disqualified.
Still from Georgia, a match against Mike Jackson and Tracy Stone. Another quick squash.
An AWA match against Baron Von Raschke and The Crusher. More competitive than you'd think, but nothing spectacular. This was from mid-1984 and was when The Road Warriors won the AWA Tag Team Titles. JR and Animal are here on commentary again.
About a dozen promos from AWA, NWA and WWF television and pay-per-views, including a spot on Brutus Beefcake's Barber Shop (the less said there, the better). Still, the interviews aren't without their charm.
The two-part tribute to Hawk from WWE Confidential.A look inside Animal's "trophy room" which is actually just merchandise and a few old tag team titles.
Brief inspirational videos from Michael Hayes and Paul Ellering.
A HILARIOUS music video with Hawk and Animal in the studio singing, er… growling the lyrics to what I'm assuming was their theme song at the time. This was low-budget all the way and utterly cheesy, and I'd be shocked if it wasn't an AWA production.
We're back in the AWA with Hawk and Animal defending their belts against Larry and Curt Hennig, which is the only time I've personally ever seen this father and son combination team up. The LOD stray from their usual plan with tons of restholdage, which is NOT a pretty sight. A typically-crappy AWA finish to boot: The Hennigs are disqualified when Curt delivers a top-rope dropkick. What the hell?
Moving on to better things, we see a match against The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, with Buddy Roberts in their corner). All three Freebirds are wearing confederate-flag makeup for a really cool-looking effect. This also takes place in an baseball stadium-type arena, and the crowd is beyond hot for this one. A tremendous, energetic showing from both teams and just a really fun match. Even the Dusty Finish (or should I say Verne Gagne Finish) at the end doesn't take away from it.
Next is the Crockett Cup tournament final match against Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin. Earl Hebner is actually the referee here. JR and Animal are back on commentary. Not a bad match, but the crowd is dead for it, which takes away something.
This is followed by a "double Russian chain match" against Nikita and Ivan Koloff from the Great American Bash in 1986. No commentary here, but its definitely one to see. Very stiff chain shots throughout.
Next is a match I've always wanted to see – the famous scaffold match against The Midnight Express. Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman) is in the Express' corner for this one. This is actually much better than the few scaffold matches I'd ever seen before, even with Hawk legitimately injuring his knee right before the match. Lots of high risks and action here, and the crowd responds in favor. This match is also famous for Jim Cornette falling off the scaffold, blowing out both of his knees in the process. A must watch.
From Starrcade 87, the LOD battle Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. This is for the NWA Tag Team titles and is in the Warrior's hometown of Chicago. As if this match is going to do anything but rock. This is tremendous because both teams are at their absolute peaks here, and just work so well together. Honestly, this match is WrestleMania caliber, it's that good. Another Dusty Finish (this one actually by Dusty) at the end, but this is the kind of example where that ending works well to build towards a future match.
Another match against The Midnight Express (the Eaton and Stan Lane version this time). In an interesting role-reversal, the Express are newly-turned faces, while the Warriors were newly-turned heels. Even though the video quality isn't great, it's another energetic match, which led to a second NWA World Tag Team Title reign for Hawk and Animal.
We move onto the WWF era, as LOD take on Demolition. Unfortunately, it's the Smash and Crush version. This is a match from Wrestling Challenge, so you just know it was going to be ridiculously short. And other than the nostalgia value of hearing Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan on commentary, this was completely skippable.
We have a rare face vs. face team matchup next, when LOD faces The Hart Foundation of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart. It's not a terrible match, and definitely falls into the "always wanted to see them lock up" category, but it really lacks the emotion that a lot of the NWA matches had. I had always thought this (which was taped for home video) ended in a draw, but the LOD actually go over here.
Onto Japan, in a match against the odd pairing of Hulk Hogan and Genichiro Tenyru circa 1991. This was a joint WWF-Super World Sports event in front of 60-plus thousand fans. It actually turns into a hardcore match at one point, spilling out into the ringside area, with Hogan and Hawk doing tons of color! If nothing else, this has got to be a rarity for Hogan or LOD fans. To top it off, The Road Warriors win (albeit by countout). Another match with JR and Animal on commentary.
Next is (or at least was, until I watched this DVD) one of my favorite LOD matches ever, their No-DQ match against The Nasty Boys at SummerSlam 91. Just a crazy, stiff brawl that gives Hawk and Animal their first WWF Tag Team Titles.
Fast-forward exactly one SummerSlam later, where LOD face Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster) in front of 80,000-plus fans at Wembley Stadium in London, England. This match featured the pay-per-view debut of Rocko (ugh) and was also Hawk's final match during his WWF run. Coincidence? Otherwise, not a tremendous bout.
We move to WCW in a match against Sting and Lex Luger. I think WCW was trying to recreate their awesome match from years earlier between Sting, Luger and The Steiner Brothers, but it just never got going. The LOD were clearly past their prime here; same with Sting and Luger, for that matter. Slow paced and often boring.
The final match on this DVD starts off bizarrely, when the LOD saveAhmed Johnson and Ken Shamrock from the Nation of Domination during an episode of Monday Night Raw. This somehow transitions into LOD against Henry and Phineas Godwinn (with the forgettable Uncle Cletus in their corner). Not a very good match or anything, but it would prove to be the final time Hawk and Animal held any set of world tag team titles together.
Overall: To its credit, this DVD isn't all about the superiority of Vince McMahon's mighty empire, and showed how Hawk and Animal were legends well before their first WWF stint in 1990. There's a great biography and at least a half-dozen matches that are far above-average in quality.
If you're someone who never got to see the LOD in their prime (or wrestling to their full potential), or you just want to go back to a time where tag team titles meant something, I would definitely go out of my way to buy this.
the Life and Death of the Most Dominant
Tag Team in Wrestling History