When you think of all-time great tag teams in wrestling history, you probably think of The Fabulous Freebirds, The Midnight Express, The Von Erichs, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, Demolition, The New Age Outlaws and more.
One of the tag teams that not only fits that list but arguably transcends it is the Legion of Doom or The Road Warriors. It’s hard to argue that there was any team in the wrestling world more dominant than they were. Also, they belong to an elite list of few teams who saw such incredible levels of success across multiple promotions.
Whether it was the AWA run by the legendary Verne Gagne, Jim Crockett’s NWA or Vince McMahon‘s WWF, Legion of Doom found success everywhere they went, and it always translated to tag team gold. Moreover, they would go on to become one of the biggest draws in the territories.
They were loved many times and they were hated many times too. But what remained constant was their badass, no-nonsense persona and dominance. For starters, they were two physically massive human beings, and that alone made them as imposing as could possibly be. They were also the first-known examples of superstars using movie influence in their gimmicks.
This was not even a “reference” to the Mad Max film Road Warrior, this was straight up acknowledgment. From the name of the team to their padded gear and spikes on their shoulders, it was obvious where it came from, but it didn’t affect them negatively by any means. If anything, it only helped their popularity reach new heights.
It was with AWA where The Road Warriors had their breakout on a national level. They would face many future WWE Hall of Famers in their time there while they were still younger. However, they knew that there was a bigger world out there for them to conquer and a lot more money to be made, so they decided to jump ship to NWA.
In NWA, they would dominate as well, participating in consecutive Starrcade specials, with all of their appearances being in marquee matches. Their 1986 clash against The Midnight Express was in a “scaffold” match. It was not a new concept in wrestling per se, but Dusty Rhodes and other NWA officials felt that it would be a great special attraction.
However, the match didn’t play out as well in execution as it seemed in theory. Jim Cornette ended up blowing out both knees in the match as well in a botch. While it’s fondly remembered by some, even the succeeding renditions of the match proved that it was a good idea only on paper.
Around this time in 1986, they were in serious talks to join the WWF and even met with Vince McMahon, who was naturally keen on signing the hottest tag team in wrestling. However, there was one catch – The Road Warriors wanted guaranteed contracts, something that McMahon just wasn’t willing to offer at the time.
Not that the Road Warriors were affected per se, because they would go on to have numerous classics in their remaining years with the company, with them being a part of the first-ever WarGames match, facing Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard at Starrcade 1987 and feuding with Dusty Rhodes and Sting in a classic encounter at Starrcade 1988.
Despite turning heel in the feud against Rhodes and Sting, the bookers were quick to realize that fans didn’t really want to boo the Warriors, so they quickly turned face again. Heat with the head booker Jim Herd led to them exiting the company and finally signing with the WWF in mid-1990s.
While some may disagree, many argue that their run with the WWF was underwhelming as compared to their runs with the AWA and NWA. Despite this, they did find tag team success. The first major feud that they had in WWF was against Demolition, who were basically created because WWF were unable to sign the Road Warriors.
However, in WWF, they would officially get their name changed to Legion of Doom, and after a rather underwhelming feud with Demolition, they challenged The Nasty Boys for the tag team championships, successfully capturing it at the event. They would have a near half-year run with the titles, but disputes and various issues saw a rather average 1992 for the team. Hawk had even left at one point in the year, with Animal choosing to stay and complete his contractual obligations. In that time, he had teamed with Crush of Demolition, but that didn’t last very long and Animal soon left the company because he had a major injury to deal with.
Hawk, meanwhile, had gone to Japan and teamed with a young Kensuke Sasaki (then called Power Warrior). Together, they were The Hell Raisers and found a lot of success too. Animal briefly joined them and brought back The Road Warriors, this time as a trio.
In the late 1990s, they returned to WWF just on the cusp of the Attitude Era. They had to prove that they could still hang, and that’s exactly what happened when they defeated the Goodwins to capture their second and final WWF Tag Team championship. However, their title run was mainly to put over The New Age Outlaws, and their run with the company lasted up until about early 1999. Their role at that point was to put over the younger tag teams, which is something that we still see happening today.
Regardless, Legion of Doom left their mark on the wrestling world like no other. They were dominance personified, and there will never be a tag team like them. What they lacked in the ring, they thoroughly made up for with their charisma and presence. They are, in many ways, wrestling royalty.