Professional wrestling legend Road Warrior Animal (real name Joe Laurinaitis) has died at the age of 60.
Animal was one half of the Road Warriors tag-team aka The Legion Of Doom alongside Hawk (Michael Hegstrand).
News of Laurinaitis' passing was made public on his Twitter account, having been earlier confirmed by his brother Marcus.
Laurinaitis was raised in Minnesota, and broke into the wrestling business in the early 80's having been trained by Eddie Sharkey. Sharkey was also responsible for training Hegstrand (Hawk), Barry Darsow (Demolition Smash/Krusher Kruschev) and the future Rick Rude.
In 1983 while working for Georgia Championship Wrestling the Road Warriors were formed by Paul Ellering.
Today we lost the engine of the train
LOD. Animal was a partner, warrior, and friend. He will be welcomed home by a waiting Hawk. pic.twitter.com/pJ3BSYRSnQ
— Paul Ellering (@PaulElleringWWE) September 23, 2020
Rather quickly, the duo became one of the hottest acts in the then still territorial business. With their individual facepaint, muscular physiques and later the spiked shoulder pads, the team were like nothing the antiquated business had seen before.
They were among the first to harness the use of popular music for their entrances. In fact, their entrances became events in themselves as they barged through 80s crowds with Black Sabbath's Iron Man groaning through the building.
The Road Warriors were stars in Georgia, in the Mid West-based AWA, the Carolinas promotion Jim Crockett Promotions, and in Japan.
Known for their power moves, they frequently 'no sold' (didn't react to) opponents' offence. Their finishing manoeuvre - the Doomsday Device - would see an opponent hoisted on Animal's shoulders, with Hawk flying off a top turnbuckle to clothesline them to the floor.
To protect their drawing power across the globe, and the characters which made them national stars, Laurinaitis and Hegstrand reportedly turned down multiple offers to sign for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation.
They eventually relented in June of 1990, with McMahon re-christening them The Legion Of Doom.
Laurinaitis and Hegstrand would spend two underwhelming years in the WWF (now WWE) before the latter's substance abuse led to them departing the company.
The team split with Hegstrand alternating between work in the United States and Japan, while Laurinaitis succumbed to a back injury and effectively spent almost four years retired from action.
The Road Warriors would reunite in WCW in 1996, before rejoining the WWF the following year.
Again their run with McMahon's promotion could never reach the peaks of their run through the territories in the mid-80s.
This wasn't helped by Hegstrand's drug and alcohol problems which became a tasteless on-screen story arc towards the end of their second run.
They again left McMahon in 1999, before bouncing around independent promotions until Hegstrand's untimely passing in 2003 at the age of 46.
Along with their long-time manager Ellering, the Road Warriors were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Dusty Rhodes in 2011.
Laurinaitis was the father of three children, one of which - James Laurinaitis - played as a linebacker in the NFL for the St. Louis Rams and the New Orleans Saints.
Darsow was among the first to react to Laurinaitis' passing online, tweeting, "I can't believe I just found out Road Warrior Animal has passed away. He was a great friend and he will be missed. My prayers are with his family."
I can't believe I just found out Road Warrior Animal has passed away. He was a great friend and he will be missed. My prayers are with his family.
— Demolition Smash (@RealDemoSmash) September 23, 2020
Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) tweeted, "RIP Animal,love you my brother, I know you and Hawk have a lot of unfinished business to take care of! God speed and blessings to your beautiful family, one love4Life."
While Ric Flair added, "I Am More Than Saddened To Hear Of The Loss Of My Good Friend And GREAT Opponent Joe Laurinaitis Of The Legendary Road Warriors. They Were Iconic! The Road Warriors And The Four Horsemen Drew More Money And Had More Fun And Entertained Fans Worldwide At The Highest Level. RIP"
I Am More Than Saddened To Hear Of The Loss Of My Good Friend And GREAT Opponent Joe Laurinaitis Of The Legendary Road Warriors. They Were Iconic! The Road Warriors And The Four Horsemen Drew More Money And Had More Fun And Entertained Fans Worldwide At The Highest Level. RIP 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/eiZ2udqGNm
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) September 23, 2020