Hawk Hogan? The Planned Split of the Road Warriors

Brian Damage

With the World Wrestling Federation going full speed with their national expansion, the rest of the territories were forced to play catch up. As the WWF was eating up all of the weaker promotions, Jim Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance were thinking of ways to fend off and actually compete with Vince McMahon and the WWF. This, by no means, was going to be an easy task. The WWF had the single hottest star in the wrestling business in Hulk Hogan. It was up to Crockett to find his own version of Hogan and looked to a red hot tag team to do it.

In 1985 into 1986, the Road Warriors of Hawk and Animal were doing tremendous business for the NWA. Their feud with the Russians of Ivan and Nikita Koloff were selling out arenas all over the NWA territories. The feud was so hot, that it became a co main event along with whomever the reigning NWA world’s champion ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair was defending his title against.

The main issue was, the NWA simply didn’t have a top babyface that could generate big box office to challenge their top heel in Flair. Many were tried out for the opportunity and all seemed to do so unsuccessfully. The Crocketts one constant was ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes…who also served as the booker. The Dream was quickly becoming stale as a babyface as he was hearing more and more boos in his matches. Seeing the popularity of the Road Warriors, Rhodes booked himself to align with Hawk and Animal and created the NWA World Six Man titles to help.

Rhodes felt that him rubbing elbows with the hottest tag team in pro wrestling, would rub off on him and rejuvenate himself as a top babyface. It was Jim Crockett Jr that made the decision to try and find another wrestler to fill the void as a threat to Ric Flair. Crockett wanted new blood, a fresh face…someone that could fill seats at the arenas. Basically, Crockett wanted his own version of the WWF’s Hulk Hogan.

Crockett saw the potential in the Road Warriors. He liked the way they appealed to younger fans with their unique look and the way they dominated their opponents physically inside the ring. Crockett sent word to Dusty to book Hawk and Animal as singles competitors and split up the tag team. Crockett didn’t want to have one of the members turn on the other as was the usual way of operating. He simply wanted to break the team up to see if they could sell tickets individually.

Together, the Road Warriors were a proven commodity, the two as singles competitors was a big gamble. Dusty Rhodes obliged and started booking Hawk and Animal individually. It was no secret that Crockett saw the most potential as a break out star in Road Warrior Hawk. He had the better charisma, the better ability to talk on the microphone and was a bit more athletic than Animal. Both men were going to get the chance to prove themselves and see who got the bigger reaction.

In the Summer of 1986, during the Great American Bash tour, both Hawk and Animal would have singles matches against Ric Flair for the World title. The first up was Hawk, who challenged Flair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The main event match was solid and drew a gate of $238,000 with 10,000 fans paid. The event was considered somewhat of a disappointment as Crockett looked for a bigger gate. The match itself saw Hawk pin Flair to win the NWA world title…only to be disqualified by referee Tommy Young who was knocked out earlier and overturn the decision after seeing Hawk throw Flair over the top rope earlier on. It was the classic “Dusty Finish” that was slowly killing business for Crockett nationally.

A little over a week later, it was Animal’s turn against Flair. He challenged the Nature Boy at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. That event was considered a complete disaster with only 5,000 paid fans in attendance. The disastrous gamble did not pay off and forced Crockett to put the Road Warrior experiment on an indefinite hold.

Crockett would attempt a split one more time in January of 1988 at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. Hawk defeated Flair by disqualification after Flair used a chair as a weapon. The gate only saw a little over 6,000 fans in attendance. This cancelled the Road Warrior experiment indefinitely. Could a split of the Road Warriors ultimately have been successful? Did Dusty Rhodes intentionally try and thwart Hawk’s singles push out of jealousy? Did Jim Crockett Jr pull the plug on his idea too soon or was it always dead in the water? Who really knows?

9 thoughts on “Hawk Hogan? The Planned Split of the Road Warriors

  1. Splitting up the Road Warriors back in the late 90s was a bad idea considering the personal issues they were having. Splitting them up after their first WWE run had ended with Hawk taking Kensuke Sasaki as Power Warrior was a terrible idea. What the hell was Jim Crockett and Dusty were thinking? As hot as the Road Warriors were, they didn’t need to do singles stuff and that whole Dusty Finish thing was stupid.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Just goes to show you how desperate they were to slow down Vince’s momentum using anything they could think of. I’m pretty sure losing Magnum TA hurt those attempts more than they’ll ever know, as he may, may, have become the only true babyface rival for Hogan at the time until Sting came around.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Agreed. I think if Magnum hadn’t been in that accident and the NWA not leaving the Carolinas. NWA could’ve been doing well in the next few years and maybe could’ve been a major thorn for the WWF at the time.

        I know people loved Dusty but I’m sure he was getting some heat for his booking and I remember that when the Road Warriors turned heel and drove a spike on his eye. It only made the Road Warriors look cooler as that was probably a bad idea on Dusty’s part. It has me thinking that this is what Cody is dealing with now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Magnum definitely would’ve helped rival Hogan enough in the South to be a credible challenge to Vince’s expansion for quite some time yeah. I think it is, and unlike his dad, he has to be fully & actively aware of this, thus I’m thinking he’s going to do a slow heel turn. He’s no fool, he hears & is aware of the boos enough to eventually give the fans what they think they want., just not when THEY want it.

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  2. I’m pretty sure the answers is all of the above. It was the perfect storm of bad decisions and betting on the wrong horses when the Road Warriors were clearly a draw as a tag team, not singles wrestlers. As I’ve mentioned before, losing Magnum TA hurt that company more than they’ll ever now, as I feel he had the true potential to rival Hogan popularity-wise as a babyface for the South had he not had his career-ending injury. He would’ve at least being able to help the NWA hold off Vince’s momentum for just a little longer until Sting came around. Does that mean Crockett would’ve even overtaken Vince? No, I believe history overall was on Vince’s side. He was making all the right moves, had all the right people helping him, and had all the right talent to fuel his aggressive expansion into becoming a mainstream institution. But the NWA did have a chance at one point to be closer to the WWE as equals though.

    Liked by 1 person

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