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While living in Minneapolis, Hegstrand attended Patrick Henry High School where he graduated in 1976. After high school, he had various odd jobs to make ends meet such as a butcher. Due to his size and love of power lifting, he was an imposing figure and thus a very effective bouncer. He would work as a bouncer at Gramma B's in the Twin Cities where he caught the eye of Eddie Sharkey, a well known wrestling trainer. Sharkey thought that Hegstrand, along with Joe Laurinaitis, Rick Rood and Barry Darsow could make it big in professional wrestling.
Hegstrand had started his career as part of the Traveling All-Stars. He was billed as "Crusher Von Haig" and wrestled in Vancouver. He was considered small at the time and people felt he lacked the skill to make it in the business. Hawk soon grew weary of the road and would get homesick. He traveled back home with another Sharkey trainee, Rick Rude. In 1983 fate struck these two again. Animal's partner for the night would find himself in legal trouble. Needing a quick replacement, Ole Anderson gave Hawk a call. They would be paired together again, this time as tag team partners. Anderson gave them the name the Road Warriors. Neither man knew at the time that they would make wrestling history that day.
When Paul Ellering was looking to put together a stable of heels in Georgia Championship Wrestling called The Legion of Doom it was decided to pair Laurinaitis with Hegstrand and change their names to "Animal" and "Hawk" respectively; thus, The Road Warriors were born. To look more intimidating the two shaved their heads into Mohawks and started wearing studded dog collars, spiked shoulder pads, and face paint. The look and name was taken from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, helping to paint the two as no-mercy monsters. Their interview style was vicious, yet charismatic and a bit humorous. Hawk was known for often beginning his promos with his trademark yell of "WELLLLLLLLLLLLLL!..." and ending with his catch phrase of "OOOOOOOOOH, WHAT A RUUUUUUUUUUUUSH!"
The team was an instant hit, revolutionizing the tag-team scene with their power moves, no mercy attitudes, and innovative face paint that would spawn many future imitators in wrestling. In Georgia they won the NWA National Tag Team Championship four times before moving on to bigger promotions such as the American Wrestling Association in the US and All Japan Pro Wrestling in Japan, winning tag-team titles wherever they went.
Their hard hitting style, no nonsense attitude, and winning ways made the Road Warriors fan favorites wherever they went; even when they were booked as heels, the fans refused to boo them. They were so in demand that they started to split their time between the AWA and the National Wrestling Alliance until finally leaving the AWA for big money contracts with the NWA and a huge push for the monster duo. The move paid off instantly as they won the inaugural Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament and feuded with the top stars of the NWA such as The Four Horsemen and The Russian Team (which included the Road Warriors’ old training buddy Barry Darsow, then wrestling as Krusher Khrushchev). During their initial run in the NWA they helped popularize the WarGames match, the Scaffold match, and their trademark Chicago Street Fight.
In 1988 the Road Warriors engaged in a violent feud with The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord), the first team that could truly match the Road Warriors in power (and who were one of the most well known Road Warrior clones). The Powers of Pain even went so far as to injure Animal’s eye (kayfabe) during a weightlifting competition. When Animal returned, he initially wore a hockey goalie mask to protect his eye. The angle abruptly ended when the Powers of Pain left the NWA after finding out they were booked against the Road Warriors in a series of Scaffold Matches and they did not want to get hurt by falling off the scaffold.
Near the end of 1988, the Road Warriors captured the NWA World Tag Team Championship from The Midnight Express whom they mauled in short order to win the titles in New Orleans. Despite being heels at the time and using brutal tactics against Stan Lane and "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, once again they were cheered by the crowd. After being the “Uncrowned champions” for a long time, the Road Warriors’ run with the tag-team titles was short lived. Crooked referee Teddy Long used a fast count to cheat the Road Warriors out of their titles. In their last year with the NWA, the Warriors feuded mainly with The Varsity Club,The Samoan Swat Team, and The Skyscrapers before leaving the NWA in the summer of 1990.
The Road Warriors immediately signed with the World Wrestling Federation and were pushed into a feud with Demolition (which once again included their old training partner Barry Darsow). Due to his health, Ax was replaced by a new member of Demolition, Crush. (Popular rumor at the time cited a heart condition on Bill Eadie's part, but this has been discredited in recent years. An allergic reaction to shellfish while in Japan after 'WrestleMania VI' was the real cause of Eadie's temporary health problem. He confirmed this in a shoot interview in 2007.) However, fans did not react as strongly to this new Demolition team as they had to the original configuration, and the feud was considered a disappointment. During the early part of the feud, LOD often teamed with WWF World Heavyweight Champion The Ultimate Warrior in 6-man tag matches against all three members of Demolition.
Just over a year after signing with the WWF, the Legion of Doom won the WWF World Tag Team Titles from The Nasty Boys at SummerSlam 1991 and held them for about 6 months. When they lost the titles in February 1992 they were briefly taken off television, only to return with long-time manager Paul Ellering by their side, as well as a wooden dummy called “Rocco”. Both members of the L.O.D. thought the gimmick was stupid, as did most of the fans and it led to Hawk quitting the WWF, leaving Animal on his own for the first time in 9 years. When Animal suffered a severe back injury a short while later, everyone thought it was the end of the legendary team.
Hawk competed as a singles wrestler in Europe and Japan and although he won nearly every singles match he competed in, he was usually seen (by North American and Japanese fans at least) as a tag team wrestler. Thus, he always fought either mid-card opponents or made teams with better-known singles stars. When he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling he was immediately paired with Kensuke Sasaki, then simply known as a good mid-carder, as the Hell Raisers (Sasaki adopting the face paint and gimmick Power Warrior). The two dominated NJPW's tag team ranks for a while through their two wins of the IWGP Tag Team Championship, but no North American promoter thought about bringing them as a team, due to Sasaki's affiliation with NJPW. As a singles wrestler, Hawk found success in Europe, winning the CWA World Heavyweight Championship.
In August 1993 Hawk made sporadic appearances in World Championship Wrestling as a mystery partner of Dustin Rhodes and later as a replacement partner when Davey Boy Smith left the federation but nothing permanent ever came of it, and Hawk left after Starrcade in December 1993. In May 1995, he reappeared in WCW. In July 1995, he helped Sting in a feud against Meng and Kurasawa, but a proposed singles feud with Kurasawa fell through due to an arm injury (in kayfabe Kurasawa broke Hawk's arm using a cross armbreaker, to let Hawk rest). Hawk returned in January 1996, but this time, he also brought Animal back with him as his back had finally recovered enough for him to return to active competition. During that time, Sting and Lex Luger had won the WCW World Tag Team Championship and the Warriors challenged them, to no success. The rise of the New World Order precluded further challenges, and they headed back to the WWF.
After leaving WCW they returned to the WWF where the Legion of Doom took part in the feud between ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Hart Foundation, siding with Austin. The Legion of Doom also became 2 time tag-team champions on October 7, 1997 when they defeated The Godwinns. In November 1997 the Legion of Doom faced the newly formed New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) and shockingly lost the titles to the upstart team.
On an episode of Monday Night Raw, L.O.D. challenged D-Generation X in a Tag Match. During the match, The New Age Outlaws attacked L.O.D. and shaved off one of Hawk's mohawks, and threw Animal through the announcers table.
During the Attitude Era, in which the WWF moved towards a more "adult" product, the Legion of Doom was placed into a storyline incorporating Hegstrand's real-life drug addiction and alcoholism, against the wishes of both Hegstrand and Laurinaitis. The storyline found the Legion of Doom crumbling as Hawk repeatedly showed up to matches apparently drunk or under the influence of drugs, and began demonstrating suicidal tendencies. In order to stabilize the team, a third member, Puke, was introduced. This led to the conclusion of the storyline, in which a suicidal Hawk climbed to the top of the TitanTron, the giant television monitor erected during episodes of WWF's Monday Night Raw to show match highlights to fans in attendance. Puke, supposedly attempting to rescue Hawk, climbed after him, only to apparently throw Hawk over the side (with a special effect being used to make it appear as though fans could see Hegstrand's body plunging a fatal distance behind the screen); Puke then revealed that he had been enabling Hawk's drug addiction in order to kill him and take his place in the Legion of Doom. Being forced to act out Hegstrand's personal demons onscreen eventually proved too much for both Hegstrand and Laurinaitis, and both men quit the company shortly after the "Puke killed Hawk" incident.
While the Road Warriors never officially broke up, Animal started making an increasing number of solo appearances after they left the WWF as Hegstrand struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and generally did not appear at many wrestling shows during this time. In 2001 Hegstrand was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that stopped him from wrestling for a short while. He was able to overcome its effects and returned to a regular working schedule later on.
On June 22, 2002 International Wrestling Superstars, Road Warriors Animal & Hawk defeated the Headshrinkers for the World Tag-Team Championship. That victory also led to Team USA winning the International Tournament held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Laurinaitis and Hegstrand became born-again Christians in 2003 and appeared at a number of Christian wrestling events run by Ted DiBiase and Nikita Koloff hoping to reignite their tag-team career. They also appeared in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in late 2002 and early 2003 as part of a group that opposed Vince Russo’s faction Sports Entertainment Xtreme but only wrestled one actual match for the federation.
Animal and Hawk made a surprise appearance on Raw on May 12, 2003 when they took on Kane and Rob Van Dam for the World Tag Team Championship. Although Hawk and Animal came up short in their attempt to become three-time champions, it was clear that Hawk had defeated the demons that had once kept him from competing, and the Road Warriors had hopes of returning to WWE.
Later in 2003, Hawk made an appearance with the All World Wrestling League, a take-off of the 'original' Big Time Wrestling that was owned by The Original Sheik who died earlier that year; it was run by the sons of The Sheik, Eddie and Tom Farhat. They decided to book Hawk for an event in Holt, Michigan; that event was the second to last time Hawk wrestled. Two weeks before he died he wrestled his final match for Ted DiBiase in Oshawa, Ontario against Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and Marcus "Buff" Bagwell.
Hegstrand died on October 19, 2003 in the early morning in his home in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. He was 46 years old. His friends said that he and his wife Dale had recently bought a condominium near their current home and were packing their boxes the night before. Hegstrand said that he felt tired and went to take a nap. When his wife checked on him at about 1 a.m., he had died of a sudden heart attack. At the time of his death, Hawk and Animal were working on a book about their careers.
On the March 28, 2011 episode of Raw, it was announced that the Road Warriors would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2011. On April 2, 2011, the night before WrestleMania XXVII they, along with Paul Ellering were inducted into the Hall Of Fame by Dusty Rhodes. Road Warrior Hawk was included, along with his tag team partner, Road Warrior Animal, in the Attitude Era, in the game WWE '13.
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