Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On DVD: The Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Professional Wrestling (2005)

Professional wrestling, as we know it, began to change with the expansion of cable television in the early 80's. Accustomed as viewers in upstate New York were to the then-World Wrestling Federation, and the all-too-brief International Wrestling Association (IWA), fronted by then-Chicago White Sox owner Eddie Einhorn, the addition of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) on Ted Turner's Superstation WTBS (now simply TBS) on weekends exposed fans to future Hall of Famers such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Four Horsemen, and the Road Warriors.

Two real-life childhood buds from Chicago, Joseph Laurinatis and Michael Hegstrand reunited in Minneapolis in Eddie Sharkey's wrestling camp, and developed the fearsome personas of Animal & Hawk, the Road Warriors. Originally presented as a pair of leather-clad bikers, the Road Warriors swapped out the leather for face paint, spiked shoulder pads, and traditional tights after winning the first of 5 NWA National Tag Team titles. Their typical television matches were short, brutal, and to the point. They jumped their jobber opponents and disposed of them in about two or three minutes. Soon after, they adopted Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" as their theme song, and the legend would grow.

Manager Paul Ellering, a retired wrestler and bodybuilder, handled the team's affairs outside the ring, too. There was a reason why Ellering carried a copy of the Wall Street Journal, rolled up, to ringside with him for matches. He wanted to make sure his charges were financially secure after their careers were over. And they called Bobby Heenan, "The Brain". What a misnomer. Ellering was the real "Brain" in wrestling. The Warriors moved on to the American Wrestling Association (AWA), and won their tag titles, and the accolades kept piling up. A brutal attack on Dusty Rhodes on TBS in 1988 led to Rhodes' ouster as booker for what would become World Championship Wrestling (WCW), as Rhodes would migrate to the World Wrestling Federation. The Warriors captured the NWA tag titles from the Midnight Express (Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton), who were working as babyfaces (fan favorites) at the time, but the Warriors would eventually turn back face, only to lose the titles to the Varsity Club (Rick Steiner & Mike Rotundo) under dubious circumstances, in 1989.

Eventually, the Warriors moved to the World Wrestling Federation, but now were known by their sub-heading, the Legion of Doom, the stable name that Ellering created for the Warriors, King Kong Bundy, Jake Roberts, and others in Georgia, taken from Challenge of the Super Friends. Oh, sure, Ellering could make Lex Luthor look like a piker, and you could imagine Hawk & Animal subbing for Bizarro & Grodd. I digress. The LOD captured two WWF tag titles (1991, 1997), and would be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011, eight years after Hawk (Hegstrand) passed away.

The Road Warriors: The Life & Death of the Most Dominant Tag Team in Professional Wrestling, a DVD issued by WWE in 2005, ignores the team's brief stints with the American Wrestling Federation (AWF) and Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling, and focuses on the glory days of the 80's & 90's. Then again, WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon refuses to acknowledge publicly the existence of TNA, but we won't go into that again here. There are plenty of matches on the 2-disc set, including some of their title victories. Seeing them in their original gear will shock a lot of folks. On some matches, Animal is on color commentary with fellow Hall of Famer Jim Ross, as the original audio was either lost or non-existent.

Here's a trailer:

Rating: B.

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