What a ruuuuuuuuuush!
Those three words immediately tell you what the latest episode of Dark Side of the Ring brings to the table – we’re talking about the legendary tag team The Road Warriors. Undoubtedly one of the most successful tag teams in the history of the business, their iconic run shaped tag team wrestling as it is known today. Their look, their presence and their in-ring capabilities were unmatched during their twenty-year run starting in 1983 and finishing in 2003 with the untimely passing of Road Warrior Hawk.
Without further ado, let’s find out What We Learned from the latest episode of Dark Side of the Ring.
Minneapolis – Birthplace to the Stars?
The Road Warriors both grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was the same state that Mr Perfect, John Nord aka The Berserker in the WWF, Barry Darsow aka the Repo Man, Nikita Koloff, Rick Rude, Scott Norton all grew up in; most even growing up in Minneapolis itself.
Hawk and Animal both ended up working at one of the roughest bars in Minneapolis, dealing with some of the more unscrupulous individuals in the area, and building up a reputation as guys who could handle themselves. From their job as bouncers, they were approached by Eddie Sharkey who brought them into a wrestling school, where they ended up training with future legends, even if Sharkey didn’t teach them how to throw a worked punch right away.
Yakuza Warrior Hawk
Once they were ready, The Road Warriors went international, and were treated as a very big deal in Japan, apparently garnering more media attention than Michael Jackson, although I’m not sure how true that story is. Hawk somehow ended up getting involved with the Japanese Mafia, who would apparently take a finger from you if you made a mistake. As you can probably guess, from any of their dealings, Hawk never made a mistake and left Japan with all of his fingers. However, partying and excessive drinking started to take a toll on the relationship between the two tag partners, as Hawk’s reputation was starting to affect Animal’s career as well now.
Work Hard, Party Hard
Hawk’s excessive lifestyle started to get even worse upon entering the WWF. The heavy schedule meant that not only was Hawk still hitting the bottle pretty hard, but now he was combining this with pain pills, among other recreational drugs. It was a cycle a lot of the guys got into, which definitely presented itself in later years when the spotlight was shone on the company. Muscle relaxers were allegedly the biggest reason for early deaths, as they created a yo-yo effect for your heart. Steroids and drugs would bring your heart rate up, muscle relaxers bring it crashing down.
Picture the scene. SummerSlam 92. Wembley Stadium. The Road Warriors were due to be featured in a big push which would see them in the penultimate match on the card, being British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart.
However, Hawk had taken a hallucinogenic before the show which lasted six hours and was in no state to perform, so the match was taken down to the second bout on the card. The finish also had to be altered as Hawk couldn’t physically jump off the top rope for the Doomsday Device. Animal knew a suspension was on the horizon after this incident, which meant he had to take time off as well.
The Downward Spiral
Hawk then quit the WWF and went to Japan without consulting Animal, stealing the Road Warrior gimmick and giving the title of Power Warrior to Kensuke Sasake, leaving Animal to finish his dates for the WWF. Without Animal to watch out for him, Hawk spiralled and was rushed to hospital on at least three separate occasions for substance related issues.
Too Close To Home
In 1997, both men return to the WWF and are teamed with Darren Drozdov. They signed a contract which specifically stipulated that they must show up for all their matches, knowing that Hawk had the tendency to be a loose cannon. However, they left the company once again after they were put into an angle depicting Hawk to be struggling through his real life issues with alcohol in the ring, even going as far to depict Hawk wanting to commit suicide. The angle was dropped after both Road Warriors objected to it, but they only had a handful more appearances before leaving.
Back on the independent circuit, Hawk continued with his wild lifestyle, using cocaine and muscle relaxers which played a dangerous game with his heart. Because of this, Hawk was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2001 as a result of his hard partying. During this time, Animal started making more solo appearances, realising that he still needed to make money, and Hawk was becoming more and more unreliable.
Cut Too Short
After returning once again to the United States, Hawk became a born-again Christian and changed his ways. He cut out the partying and drugs, got married and was largely described as a different person.
However, years of hard living had already taken its toll on Hawk’s body and he succumbed to a heart attack, aged just 46 years old.
This episode of Dark Side of the Ring was an interesting insight into one of the most dominant tag teams of the past 40 years. Hawk’s story was had an incredibly sad end for a sadly all too common tale in professional wrestling, especially during the 80s and 90s. Their legacy lives on and both men have rightly been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame back in 2011.
The author of this article can be found on Twitter @DRL_1990. Thanks so much for reading!