MN Wrestling Legend and Pioneer “Animal” Passes Away
Not only can Minnesota take credit for the success of professional wrestling, but also the reason it became the multi-billion dollar industry it has become. The AWA (American Wrestling Association) really started it all and was based in Minneapolis. It also produced many of the first professional wrestling superstars, and some of them are from Minnesota.
I was pretty big into wrestling when I was a kid. I remember sitting in front of the TV every Saturday morning, watching “All-Star Wrestling.” I never thought that it would become as big as it has when I was watching it back then or realize the impact Minnesota would have on wrestling’s worldwide success.
Many famous wrestlers got their start or used the AWA to propel them. Guys like Shawn Michaels, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Sgt Slaughter, and Hulk Hogan. And a lot Minnesotans became household names such as Jessie “The Body” Ventura, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning, and “Ravishing” Rick Rude.
By the mid-1980s, the AWA was losing many of its top wrestlers and many of its fans to the new WWF (now the WWE). But what kept the organization afloat for a while longer was the arrival of two Minnesotans. It was the tag-team duo known as Hawk and Animal -- aka The Road Warriors -- aka The Legion of Doom.
The Road Warriors were two of my favorite wrestlers of all time and certainly the best and most powerful tag team to ever enter a ring. They were just bad-ass looking. Wearing those spiked shoulder pads, cool face paint, and of course their signature haircuts. Animal (Joesph Laurinaitis), with the Mohawk and Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) with the double Mohawk. They were just a couple of really strong, thick dudes.
There were ups and downs for the duo throughout the years. Then in 2003, Hawk died from a heart attack. He was only 46.
Early Wednesday, the news broke that the wrestling world lost the other Road Warrior, Joesph Laurinaitis aka Animal. The word is that it was natural causes. He had just celebrated his 60th birthday.
Even though I don’t watch professional wrestling anymore, and haven’t for over 25 years, I’ll always have those childhood memories of watching those two dominate the wrestling ring. They were pioneers of what is now a global phenomenon.