Friday, January 4, 2008

Road Warrior Animal, Joe Laurinaitis, part 3

The Road Warriors appeared in TNA Wrestling in late 2002-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 & 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. However, Road Warrior Hawk died on October 19, 2003.

Animal made a return to WWE on an episode of SmackDown! in 2005, where he was challenged by the then-WWE Tag Team Champions MNM to a title match at The Great American Bash. Finding a new tag team partner in Heidenreich, Animal went on to defeat MNM for the titles, dedicating the win to Hawk by saying, "Hawk, this one's for you, brother!" The two would team up for a few months in a new chapter of the Legion of Doom, with Heidenreich adopting the L.O.D.'s shoulder pads, face paint, and mohawk haircut. However, this came to an end with Heidenreich's release from WWE on January 17, 2006.

On the March 3, 2006 episode of SmackDown!, Animal teamed up with Matt Hardy to face MNM. After he and Hardy lost the match, Animal turned heel for the second time in his career by attacking and injuring Hardy's knee. Animal reasoned that he had realized that Hardy and Heidenreich were screw-ups and that Road Warrior Hawk was the only tag team legend for him. After the heel turn, Animal, once again known simply as The Road Warrior, would drop many aspects of the well-known Road Warrior gimmick, losing the face paint, and shoulder pads. Animal's look at this time was similar to his old Road Warrior gimmick in the early 1980s he had prior to teaming up with Hawk.

On the May 6, 2006 edition of Velocity (taped May 2), Animal defeated Paul Burchill. This was his final WWE television appearance. On June 26, 2006, Animal was released from his WWE contract.

On June 17, 2007, Road Warrior Animal returned to TNA on the Pay-Per-View, Slammiversary, with Rick Steiner; he replaced Scott Steiner, who was out with an injury. They ended up losing to Team 3D.

Road Warrior Animal and Kensuke Sasaki teamed up on September 1 for All Japan Pro Wrestling at the Differ Ariake and they defeated "brother" YASSHI and Shuji Kondo. Sasaki wore face paint as Power Warrior, the same name he used when teamed with Road Warrior Hawk in the 90's and both men were billed as the Hell Raisers, the team name used by Sasaki and Hawk while they teamed together in AJPW. Animal was billed as Animal Warrior in a similar move to Hawk being billed as Hawk Warrior when he teamed with Sasaki.

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