I could not have been more than seven years old when my mom bought me a hardcover book called The Pictorial History of Wrestling. As a tiny wrestling fan dying to know more, that book was invaluable! Remember that name, for I will refer to it often in future columns. That was where I first came across a tag team of face-painted badasses with Mohawks, big biker boots, spikes, and one helluva nasty attitude—the Road Warriors! They had a great backstory—Animal and Hawk were renegades from a notorious biker gang who were too afraid to make their identity public! Apparently, Animal and Hawk’s levels of violence were too high even for their former cohorts! Surely, every tag team in the sport of professional wrestling cringed with fear at the mere mention of their names! What wrestling promotion could possibly be brave enough to allow these tag team terrorists to enter the ring?
Actually, most of them were. Animal and Hawk had already claimed multiple tag team titles before I even started watching them on Mid-Atlantic’s World Wide Wrestling. Backed by evil genius manager Precious Paul Ellering, Animal and Hawk had also left quite a path of destruction in All Japan Pro Wrestling. This only further elevated them in my eyes. I learned at an early age that the intensity of Japanese wrestling was supposed to be second to none, so American wrestlers who made it big over there were part of an elite group. Seeing the Road Warriors on TV certainly met my expectations—even Hulk Hogan looked like a wimp compared to these monsters of the mat! Nobody on the Pittsburgh Steelers had gigantic spikes screwed into their shoulder pads! Had I been a wrestler opposing them in combat, I think I would have made chocolate in my trunks and ran for the nearest exit. I never felt sympathy for perennial jobbers like Bill and Randy Mulkey who took devastating beatings from the Road Warriors every Saturday morning. I always wondered why they bothered going back for more. After all, one of Hawk’s favorite off-the-wall quotes was “WE SNACK ON DANGER AND DINE ON DEATH!”
Many wrestlers had their own theme music piping through the PA speakers as they made their arrival and the Road Warriors were no exception. Their theme had a simple guitar riff that was slow and ominous in a way that I had yet to hear in rock music. Images of doom and destruction danced in one’s head before the Road Warriors even entered the ring. Once that riff hit the speakers, you could only wonder how long before somebody actually died in the ring at the hands of Animal and Hawk. However, it was not enough to hear their theme song on TV only once a week or so. I wanted to be able to listen to it any time I felt like it, so I turned to my family’s resident music expert—my father.
My dad could often be very stubborn when it came to allowing his kids to indulge in their interests, but he was usually great about getting us whatever hit singles we wanted to hear. We would make mix tapes of my favorite songs so I could repeatedly listen to them on my boom box without pestering him to play the precious 45 on the stereo. I had a feeling he would know what was up with this song and could add it to the next mix tape we made. Only one problem—I had no idea what the actual title was to “The Road Warriors Theme Song”! Nobody ever mentioned it on World Wide Wrestling. Obviously, this was long before Google and/or YouTube existed for the quick and easy research. Eventually, we both happened to be watching World Wide Wrestling at the same time and my dad finally heard the mysterious Road Warriors Theme Song. The song played, they hit the ring, and heads rolled as usual. After the match ended, I looked at my dad in excitement and asked him if he knew the song. He gave me a funny look that made me think that I was in trouble at first. After all, the Road Warriors Theme Song was the toughest, meanest, nastiest song I had ever heard in my admittedly short life. Did they have an “R” rating for music like the one they had for movies? Did I hear a song that was inappropriate for an eight-year-old? Was World Wide Wrestling about to become off-limits?
My immediate fears were unfounded. Dad replied that yes, of course he knew what song that was. He even had the single in the family music collection! As longtime wrestling fans already know, the song was the Black Sabbath classic “Iron Man.”
I will never know how my dad felt about his eight-year-old son accidentally discovering Black Sabbath; we never really talked about it. I do remember all too well that he gruffly refused my requests for singles from bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest that I was interested in at the time. However, “Iron Man” still made it onto the next mix tape. Perhaps the random assortment of songs that accompanied it made my dad think that “Iron Man” was not leading to anything in particular. Unfortunately, for my parents, “Iron Man” was just the beginning, eventually leading me to entire Black Sabbath albums, all of the bands my dad refused to include in the record collection for me, and many more like them. I wonder if my dad would have been as forthcoming with the song title if he had any idea where that revelation would take me!
By sheer coincidence, while working on the column I happened to stumble across the Road Warriors’ autobiography at the library one day. While I had read somewhere online years ago that Joe “Animal” Laurinaitis had this project in the works, I had no idea that Road Warriors: Danger, Death & the Rush of Wrestling had actually come to fruition in 2011! Definitely a fun read, although my beloved Pictorial History of Wrestling’s version of their origins is not applicable here. I do not know that there is very much new information revealed to anyone who is already familiar with the WWE-produced Road Warriors retrospective DVD or their RF Video shoot interview (with classic quotes aimed at Vince McMahon like, “I talk to God on a regular basis and you know what? YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!”), but I personally loved reading the details on their most significant matches. Did you know that Animal and Hawk were the masterminds behind the line of Zubaz workout pants that were so popular throughout the 1980s? Well, you do now!
Of course, the depressing side comes into play as Mike “Hawk” Hegstrand’s off-screen drug issues begin severely affecting the team’s standing within the wrestling industry. Things would never be the same again for the Road Warriors once Hegstrand’s problems took priority over being half of wrestling’s greatest tag team.
One thing that warrants mention is this book’s refreshing honesty. This is not a WWE-published book, so you can expect no sugarcoating or revisionist history to appease Vince McMahon here. Most wrestlers lie through their teeth in regards to their steroid use, but Joe Laurinaitis comes right out and admits that he and Hegstrand began juicing during their powerlifting days. Steroids were legal then. Nobody really knew of the side effects. Why should Laurinaitis lie? Educated eyes know the truth anyway! You may not like it, but the truth hurts and so does a Road Warrior clothesline! Deal with it! I will be perfectly happy to add this book to my shelf as soon as the opportunity presents itself!