In Memoriam: Joe Laurinaitis (1960-2020)

New Japan Pro-Wrestling is saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Laurinaitis, better known to wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal, who died this week at the age of 60.

Debuting in Georgia in 1982, Laurinaitis was quickly paired with friend Michael Hegstrand, the two being packaged together as the Road Warriors. With their imposing size, incredible power moves and heavy metal personae, the Warriors were an instant success, and quickly caught on in America and Japan. 

Making their first appearance in All Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1985, the Road Warriors brought their same hard hitting approach to delight Japanese crowds through the 1980s. In July 1990, Hawk and Animal made their NJPW debuts, instantly defeating the imposing team of Kensuke Sasaki and Riki Choshu in just over two minutes. 

The Road Warriors were set to compete extensively in NJPW in 1992, but an injury to Animal instead led Sasaki to team with Hawk as a successful team in their own right; the Hell Raisers. Animal was able to return to New Japan in April 1996 though, teaming with Hawk and ‘Power Warrior’ Sasaki as the ‘Triple Warriors’ team to the delight of fans and fear of their opponents for the remainder of the year. 

A charismatic, imposing and dominant tag team wrestler, Animal inspired and informed a generation of wrestlers and entranced fans all around the globe. The thoughts and sympathies of New Japan Pro-Wrestling go to Laurinaitis’ friends, fans and family. 

Photos courtesy Weekly Pro-Wrestling