WWE Hall of Famer 'Road Warrior Animal' Joe Laurinaitis Dies at 60
The pro wrestling community woke up Wednesday morning to find Joe Laurinaitis, known in the ring as Road Warrior Animal, passed away. He was 60. The news was broken on the Hall of Famer’s Twitter page and confirmed by WWE. His cause of death is unknown at press time.
Together with his late long-time partner Road Warrior Hawk and their manager Paul Ellering, the Road Warriors captured the imagination of fans worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s with their iconic spiked shoulder pads, face paint and rocking entrance music. They were trailblazers in their presentation that complimented unmitigated power and intensity. Whether it was in the AWA, NWA, WCW, WWE or even in Japan, Chicago’s Legion of Doom were so popular at one time a big live crowd reaction is still known as a “Road Warrior pop.”
The colorful duo won the tag team championship everywhere they went and were big draws at events. Their battles with the likes of the Four Horsemen, Demolition, the Powers of Pain, the Midnight Express and countless others often had fans on their feet. Especially, because they often knew the team would break out the incredible Doomsday Device to finish off opponents.
Laurinaitis, whose brother John is former wrestler turned WWE executive and personality, fought hard to keep the Road Warriors on track. That wasn't always easy when the other half of the duo battled his demons. Unfortunately, Hegstrand died of a heart attack in 2003 at age 46 after fighting them bravely later in his life. The Road Warriors were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
WWE is saddened to learn that Joe Laurinaitis, known to WWE fans as Road Warrior Animal, has passed away.
WWE extends its condolences to Laurinaitis' family, friends and fans. https://t.co/hurorEDVff
— WWE (@WWE) September 23, 2020
At this time, we would like to confirm the passing of Joseph Laurinaitis aka Road Warrior Animal at the age of 60. The family is planning to release a statement later today. At this time we ask for you to keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers. #OhWhatARush
— RoadWarriorAnimal (@RWAnimal) September 23, 2020
Animal continued to ride solo keeping Hawk and the beloved tag team's memory alive in the process. After sporadic appearances in the 2000s, he even had a run on SmackDown known simply as The Road Warrior. Though he did win the WWE tag team titles one more time in 2005 with Heidenreich. His last appearances in a WWE ring came in 2012 in segments involving superstar Heath Slater to help celebrate Raw’s 1,000th episode.
I’ve often been asked ...
“Who is the greatest Tag Team of All Time?”
The answer has always been the same.
Rest in Power brother. 💪🏽
— Bully Ray (@bullyray5150) September 23, 2020
We're saddened to learn of the passing of Road Warrior Animal, a true legend of professional wrestling. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to his loved ones at the time. pic.twitter.com/QqwxGimSHR
— PWI (@OfficialPWI) September 23, 2020
In 2015, Road Warrior Animal surprised MMA audiences by appearing at the Bellator 138 event to help introduce Ken Shamrock. Outside the ring, Laurinaitis supported his son James, who became a standout at Ohio State University and later the NFL. The Road Warriors were the subject of a Dark Side of the Ring episode in season two on VICE TV. Laurinaitis gave his insight and contributed. Some of the team’s most famous matches and moments can be found on the WWE Network. Memories and condolences continue to pour in with #RIPAnimal trending on social media.