Ten Best Tag Teams of All Time: Number One
As we have reached the end of our countdown of the ten best tag teams ever, there is no doubt that the greatest tag team in professional wrestling history is The Road Warriors/Legion of Doom. The muscle-bound physique of both Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand and Joseph “Animal” Laurinaitis brought a new look to what fans expected from tag teams. They were the first tag team that dominated with power moves and sheer strength. Before the arrival of the Road Warriors, most tag teams were made up of either completely smaller high-flying type wrestlers or only had one member with power/brawler style of wrestling. The Road Warriors were the first true alll-power team– both members were former bodybuilders and night club bouncers in Minnesota before they were discovered.
The Road Warriors also innovated the use of face-paint that superstars like the Ultimate Warrior and Sting would use to great fame. They were the first tag team to create a tandem finishing move, known as the Doomsday Device, that would use throughout their careers– even when they would team up with different wrestlers.
They were brought together by Paul Ellering, first as members of a short-lived stable known as the Legion of Doom– which also included Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Spoiler, Matt Borne, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson, the Iron Sheik, and the Original Sheik. After disbanding the stable, the Legion of Doom was only referred to when speaking about Ellering and the Road Warriors– they would alternate through the Road Warriors and Legion of Doom name throughout their careers (though they would mostly use Road Warriors).
They began in the NWA’s Georgia Championship Wrestling territory and quickly moved to the top of the tag team division. Fans loved their sheer, overwhelming power; their opponents dreaded facing them. Some opponents would collect their bags and leave the arena once they found out they would be facing the Road Warriors. It took them less than six months to win the NWA National Tag Team Championship– a title they would hold a total of four times.
In 1984, the Road Warriors moved on to American Wrestling Association with their manager Ellering. Promoter Vern Gagne brought the team to be a heel team, but in little time they won the fans over and became AWA’s top draw. By August 25, they had become AWA World Tag Team champs by defeating the team of The Crusher and Baron Von Raschke. As top draws, the Road Warriors primarily feuded with the likes of The Fabulous Ones and the Fabulous Freebirds. After a while, the Road Warriors began to split their time between the AWA and NWA territories, feuding with NWA World Tag Team titleholders, the Russians, while still holding the AWA belts. On September 29, 1985, they would drop the AWA belts to Jimmy Garvin and “Mr. Electricity” Steve Regal thanks to interference by the Freebirds. They would leave AWA in 1986 after defeated the team of Garvin and Michael Hayes in a steel cage match.
They would then head to Japan and the NWA International Tag Team title. After losing the belts to PWF tag champs Jumbo Tsuruta and Yoshiaki Yatsu in a unification match, the Road Warriors would become the last defending champions of the NWA International belts.
During this time, they would also begin wrestling exclusively in the NWA. They won the inaugural Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament by beating Ron Garvin and Magnum T.A. in the finals. They would feud with Ivan and Nikita Koloff and the Midnight Express during the Great American Bash tour. At Starrcade ’86, the Road Warriors would defeat the Midnight Express in a Scaffold Match.
The Road Warriors teamed up with Dusty Rhodes to win the NWA Six-Man Tag Team Championship on two occasions. In 1988, they would also defeat the Midnight Express for the NWA World Tag Team title. They then turned heel and brutally beat Dusty Rhodes, going as far as removing a spike from their famed shoulder pads and gouging Rhodes’s eye– this led to NWA removing Rhodes as the head booker. Before Rhodes was fired, Animal beat him at Clash of Champions in order to replace him on six-man team with All-Japan Pro Wrestling superstar Genichiro Tenryu. However, the six-man titles were quickly abandoned shortly after this.
They would to their titles to the Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda and Steve Williams) on April 2, 1989, thanks to referee Teddy Long’s extremely quick count. This would lead to the Road Warriors becoming faces again; to the overwhelming delight of the fans.
They would join the WWF in 1990 and be re-dubbed the Legion of Doom. Initially, they would feud with Demolition (the team many claim Vince McMahon created to look and act like the Road Warriors). The feud would fizzle as Ax was forced to take more of a managerial position on Demolition due to an illness that didn’t allow him to constantly perform. This led to LOD to focus on winning the WWF tag titles.
At SummerSlam 1991, they would defeat the Nasty Boys for the tag titles– becoming the first team to win the tag titles in all three of the top promotions of the 1980s. They would eventually lose the belts to Money Inc. and take a short hiatus from WWF.
Upon their return, they came back with original manager Paul Ellering and a ventriloquist dummy named “Rocco.” Hawk then left WWF after SummerSlam 1992, unhappy with the Rocco gimmick. Animal would stay to finish out the team’s contractual obligations and team with a now face Crush, before a back injury forced Animal to take a lengthy break from wrestling. Hawk would wrestle the next three years for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Upon Animal’s back healing in 1996, the Road Warriors would sign with WCW and immediately feud with both the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat before unsuccessfully challenging Lex Luger and Sting for the WCW World Tag Team belts. Their WCW run would only last about six months due to a disagreement with Eric Bischoff.
They would rejoin the WWF and win the tag titles for a second time by beating The Godwinns. A little less than a month later, they would drop the titles to the upstart New Age Outlaws. They would fail to regain the titles after several attempts before being removed from WWF television due to their involvement in a backstage brawl.
They returned at Wrestlemania XIV, re-packaged as LOD 2000 with Sunny as their new manager. This new package came with new shoulder pads and helmets that Hawk would throw into the crowd– ending the use of the helmets. Sunny also didn’t last long as the teams’ manager, and Droz (known then as Puke) would begin to enter the ring and wrestle with LOD 2000. Paul Ellering would also return, but side with the Disciples of Apocalypse fueling an ongoing between the teams. This began a storyline where LOD began showing signs of tension between Hawk and Animal for the first time in their careers– with Animal feeling Hawk wasn’t fit to wrestle and was replacing him with Droz as a full-time member of the team. This angle played off Hawk’s real life struggle with drugs and alcohol. The angle went as far as to fake a suicide attempt by Hawk, in which he jumped from the top of the Titantron. The angle would be dropped after it bombed and both Hawk and Animal voiced their objections to it. They would fail to win the WWF tag titles again before again leaving WWF.
After a few years in the independent circuit, the Road Warriors would return to the now WWE in 2003. They would make one last appearance on the May 12, 2003 episode of Raw, losing to Rob Van Dam and Kane in a tag title match. On October 19, 2003, Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand passed away.
Animal would return in 2005, teaming with Heidenrich to win the WWE Tag Team Championship over MNM– a match that Animal dedicated to Hawk. After dropping the titles back to MNM, Heidenrich would be released and Animal would continue to wrestle as the Road Warrior before his eventual release. On April 2, 2011, the Road Warriors with Paul Ellering were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.