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?