The Road Warriors were one of the most famous and most dominant tag teams in the history of professional wrestling.
From their appearances in Japan, to their runs in the AWA, WCW and WWE, the duo captivated crowds and won championships.
After running roughshod over tag team wrestling throughout the 1980’s and the early part of the 1990’s the legendary duo found themselves back in WCW in January of 1996. The team had left WWE towards the end of 1992, owing in part to a back injury sustained by Animal. While Animal would take a lengthy hiatus, Hawk returned to Japan, performing with Kensuke Sasaki as ‘The Hell Raisers.’
However, with Animal recovered, Hawk returned the United States and the pair headed back to WCW. The duo failed to capture the heights of their previous time in the company and quickly departed, a little over six months after debuting.
Speaking on the latest episode of his podcast, 83 Weeks, former WCW President Eric Bischoff has reflected on the team’s disappointing run. Recalling their return, Bischoff said that the pair were “just going through the motions”
Slamboree 1996 saw the ‘Lethal Lottery’ tag team tournament, leading to the Battlebowl Battle Royal. The tag team tournament saw wrestlers drawn into teams at random, meaning that regular partners could end up on opposing teams. Which is exactly what happened to the Road Warriors. With Hawk and Animal on opposing sides the match ended in a double count out and was poorly received all round.
Even taking into account Hawk having a broken foot, Bischoff was critical of the match, while also accepting that the duo were in a very difficult position.
“With an injury, it’s kinda hard to work on a broken foot, but there was a lot of spots that you could have done that would have had some intensity. You know, I saw a couple of clotheslines by Hawk that were like ‘Wow, I could have taken that one. Even today, I could have taken that one.’ It just wasn’t there. Animal didn’t really have… It just wasn’t there, for whatever reason. Their heart wasn’t in it.”
“There was no backstory, there was no build, there was no nothing. How do you go out there and have a match with any kind of psychology, intensity and story when there’s no story associated with the frickin’ match! There’s no backstory, there’s no reason to, you just go out there and get it over with. You’ve got nine minutes. Go.”
Slamboree 1996 was headlined by the World Title clash between The Giant (Paul Wight) and Sting. During the match, which saw The Giant retain his title, Wight hit a ridiculously impressive dropkick on his adversary, despite being six-foot-ten and 450lbs. Reflecting on the match, Bischoff recalled how that dropkick, despite being visually impressive, earned The Giant some heat backstage.
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