When you talk about the greatest tag teams of all time…you’d be hard pressed not to mention the Road Warriors in that discussion. Hawk and Animal dominated the tag team ranks consistently wherever they traveled to. They won several regional titles, a Crockett Cup as well as the only team to win the AWA, WCW and WWF tag team belts in pro wrestling history.
While some will argue that other teams were better….we have to admit…not many other teams struck legitimate fear into the hearts of their opponents quite like the Road Warriors. With all that said, it was their time in the WWF that started out strong….but ended with somewhat of a whimper.
It is no secret that Vince McMahon and the WWF/E likes to put their stamp on things. Sort of tinker with stuff to make it their own. How could the WWF possibly mess with such a winning formula like the Road Warriors? Well, they did and many of the results were less than spectacular.
First off, their name….synonymously known as the Road Warriors wherever they’ve been…the WWF decided to simply call them the ‘Legion of Doom.’ That in itself wasn’t all that bad considering the L.O.D. was a name they were attached to since their days in the Georgia territory. The Legion of Doom was a stable of wrestlers that consisted of the Road Warriors, Paul Ellering, Jake the Snake Roberts and several others.
Putting the name aside, the Road Warriors started off strong in the WWF…dominating the team that was inspired by them in Demolition. Then winning the promotion’s version of the tag team titles. Despite the initial fanfare and success…something was missing…or at least Vince McMahon thought so…
The Rise and Fall of Rocco
Initially, when the LOD came into the WWF…they were without their mouthpiece…their very cerebral manager ‘Precious’ Paul Ellering. When word got out that Ellering was joining the WWF to reunite with Hawk and Animal there certainly was great excitement over the possibilities. That excitement was shortlived, as a storyline began where Ellering was searching for a piece of LOD’s past that would help them find their identity. They found it…unfortunately…in rubble on the mean streets of Chicago in the form of a ventriloquist dummy named ‘Rocco.’
Rocco…according to who you talked to…would serve a couple of purposes. Firstly, Animal believed that Rocco was brought in not so much as a rib or punishment to the LOD…but because they had such a nasty, unbeatable reputation…a kid friendly doll would “soften” them up a bit and make them more believable as a team on par with every other team in the company. Secondly was merchandising….the WWF had grand visions that every child who was a fan of the WWF would want to get their hands on a Legion of Doom dummy for themselves.
For the record, Hawk and Animal hated the gimmick and according to Ellering…purposely “lost” Rocco in an airport terminal never to be seen again. As a matter of fact, Hawk was so disgusted by the gimmick…he actually quit the company in protest. That’s another story for another day.
After a brief return to WCW, the Legion of Doom returned repackaged with a new gimmick. Gone were the trademark mohawks and Paul Ellering and in were buzz cuts, space helmets and a new manager…Sunny. They were now known as LOD 2000….an updated version of what was believed to be an outdated tag team.
Not surprisingly, while some fans may have enjoyed this gimmick….Hawk hated it. As a matter of fact, Animal recalled one night taking off his helmet and tossing it into the stands. Before too long, Sunny was out as the LOD’s manager and another version of LOD was on the way.
Hawk, Animal and Puke?
In yet another attempt to reimagine the LOD, a new, younger member of the group was added…Darren Drozdov aka Puke. Drozdov was a wrestler who had the uncanny ability to make himself vomit on command. Despite the name…Drozdov seemed like a good fit for the LOD. He certainly had the look and had some other strong attributes in the ring to make himself fit with the other two members.
The Real Life Struggles of Hawk
A part of the reason Drozdov was added to the Legion of Doom, was because of Michael ‘Hawk’ Hegstrand’s real life struggles with drugs and alcohol abuse. With the Attitude Era in full swing….the WWF decided to bring Hegstrand’s personal problems front and center on camera. Hawk began messing up matches and unable to cut cohesive promos.
The culmination came when Hawk threatened to commit suicide by jumping off the top of the titan tron. While Animal was down below trying to talk Hawk down…Droz climbed to the top in an attempt to rescue him. Hawk wound up falling off the titan tron in what appeared him being pushed off by Droz.
The storyline was to have Droz being Hawk’s drug dealer keeping him high so he could take Hawk’s spot in the LOD. Vic Grimes was to debut as the drug kingpin known as “Key” behind the entire storyline. Hawk and Animal hated the entire angle and after Hawk’s supposed fall…the angle was dropped altogether.
The Turn of Paul Ellering
While all of the other soap opera stuff was happening…another little thing occurred. Paul Ellering…the longtime manager of the LOD, turned on the team and joined forces with Skull and 8 ball of the Disciples of the Apocalypse. As you might have already guessed, Paul Ellering hated the idea.
The New Legion of Doom
In 2005, the last incarnation of the LOD took place in the WWE. Two years after the death of Michael Hegstrand…the WWE decided to keep the gimmick going by teaming Animal with a new partner in a new version of the LOD. Enter wrestler Jon Heidenreich who was christened as the newest member of the LOD with Animal. The duo did win tag team gold on one occasion, but the tag team just never clicked they way Animal did with Hawk and they soon disbanded.
Despite the constant tweaks and unnecessary tinkering of the tag team….the Legion of Doom the Road Warriors along with their original manager Paul Ellering were inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2011. In many interviews since Hawk’s untimely death….both Animal and Ellering still view their stay in the WWF/E positively.