The first time I saw the Road Warriors, I have to admit, I was a little scared. Having known wrestling as a “show” of holds and counter holds, strength and resistance, the sight of two men coming to the ring to Iron Man and branding spiked shoulder pads and face paint, they were as bad a badass tag team that there could be.
The Road Warriors were a professional wrestling tag team composed of Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand and Joseph “Animal” Laurinaitis. They performed under the name “Road Warriors” in the American Wrestling Association, the National Wrestling Alliance, and World Championship Wrestling, and the name Legion of Doom (LOD for short) in the World Wrestling Federation (despite the altered team name, they were still individually introduced as “Road Warrior” Hawk and “Road Warrior” Animal).
Under either name, their gimmick was the same – two imposing musclebound wrestlers in face paint. For brief periods, other wrestlers were added as stand-in partners for Animal. In Japan in the 1990s, Kensuke “Power Warrior” Sasaki often teamed with Hawk and Animal, separately and together.
Considered one of the greatest tag teams in professional wrestling history, Hawk and Animal were well known as innovators, popularizing the use of face paint, using their large physiques and power moves to win over audiences, and introducing a tandem maneuver known as the Doomsday Device. Both men used the move as a team finisher throughout their careers, even when teaming with other partners.
And with each promotion they joined, each body they slammed and every title they grabbed, they still existed as the best tag team in professional wrestling history.
This week is Animal’s birthday and although he isn’t in the ring anymore and the late great Hawk is no longer with us, can you argue they are still the best ever?
It is hard to judge the best tag teams of all time because different eras and different promotions produce different stars and different types of wrestling. However, if I were to rank the best tag teams of all time, here are my top five teams.
THE ROAD WARRIORS – There is no explanation needed.
THE HORSEMEN – The Four Horsemen formed in January 1986 with Ric Flair, with Flair’s storyline cousins Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard, with James J. Dillon as their manager. They feuded with Dusty Rhodes (breaking his ankle and hand), Magnum TA, Barry Windham, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (breaking Ricky Morton’s nose), Nikita Koloff (injuring his neck), and The Road Warriors. Animal, Hawk, Ronnie Garvin and many others fought Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title during that time period. They usually had most of the titles in the NWA, and they often bragged about their success (in the ring and with women) in their interviews.
THE FREEBIRDS – The greatest trio of wrestlers of all time. The Fabulous Freebirds started performing together in 1979 when Michael “P.S.” Hayes, Terry “Bam” Gordy, and Buddy “Jack” Roberts decided to form a “three man gang” type of tag-team an unusual concept at the time. They usually worked as heels but also had several face runs as well.
The group wrestled in the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling territory, where they had a legendary feud with the Von Erichs (David, Kevin, Kerry, Chris and Mike). This feud was ignited by an infamous incident in which Terry Gordy slammed Kerry Von Erich’s head in a steel cage door.
THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS – One of the more underrated tag teams of all time. In 1985 Bobby Eaton, Dennis Condrey and Jim Cornette signed with Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and thus were exposed on a national level through JCP’s television shows that were broadcast on SuperStation TBS.
Shortly after joining JCP, the Midnight Express reignited their feud with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express from whom they won the NWA World Tag team titles in February 1986. Eaton and Condrey lost the titles back to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express six months later.
Besides feuding with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Eaton and Condrey also had long-running feuds with The New Breed (Chris Champions and Sean Royal) as well as The Road Warriors (Animal and Hawk). The feud with the Road Warriors included a high profile Scaffold Match at Starrcade 1986, which the Midnight Express lost. Early in 1987, Dennis Condrey suddenly left JCP without giving any reason. After missing the March 25 show in San Francisco, CA and other shows in the following week, the decision was made after he missed the March 31 tapings that a change was needed.
Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton are regarded as the most decorated tag team of all time, compiling a total of 50 tag team titles.
THE WILD SAMOANS – The Wild Samoans was the professional wrestling tag team of Afa and Sika in Mid-South Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Also during this time, while feuding with Rocky Johnson, Jimmy Snuka, and André the Giant, the duo added Afa’s son Samula to their team, first as a replacement for Sika when he got hurt, then as their backup upon his return.
In the end, none of the teams below the top could match the skill and strength and just plain stamina of the Road Warriors. Add the ring side appeal of Paul Ellering and how could you not think they are the best ever?
What a Rush!
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