WWE Hall of Famer Joe Laurinaitis, known as Animal from the legendary tag team The Road Warriors, has passed away. He was 60 years old.
The news was first confirmed by his brother Marcus Laurinaitis. No other details are known at this time.
Laurinaitis made his professional wrestling debut in 1982 as The Road Warrior, competing under a biker gimmick. After meeting Paul Ellering, he would go down to Georgia Championship Wrestling to be part of a stable called The Legion of Doom. Laurinaitis would bring his friend Mike Hegstrand with him. They would change their names to Animal and Hawk.
After spending time in the AWA and Japan, the duo would make their way to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1986. They were already a highly popular tag team and this move only solidified that. In 1988, they defeated The Midnight Express in short order to win the NWA Tag Team Championship.
Following disagreements with Jim Herd, the head of WCW, they made the switch to WWF in 1990. The tag team would quickly start feuding with Demolition, a tag team created to be WWF’s version of The Road Warriors. A back injury to Laurinaitis ended their run with the company in 1992.
Laurinaitis’ back injury kept him out of the wrestling ring for a number of years, but the tag team made their return to WWF in 1997, though they didn’t experience the success they had previously. They were repackaged as The Legion of Doom 2000 and added a third member, Puke (Darren Drozdov). Hawk was struggling with real life drug and alcohol problems, which was brought into the WWF storyline. This would eventually cause the team to break up.
Mike “Hawk” Hegstrand passed away in 2003. Laurinaitis would wrestle as a singles competitor. He would have a one-year run from 2005 to 2006 with WWE, having John Heidenreich as a new partner. They would win the WWE Tag Team Championship during that run.
Laurinaitis continued to make wrestling appearances in the years that followed. His son, James Laurinaitis, is a former football player who played for the New Orleans Saints and the St. Louis Rams. He was the brother of John Laurinaitis and Marcus, who was part of The Wrecking Crew tag team.
On behalf of the staff of Wrestleview, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Joe Laurinaitis as they deal with terrible loss.
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