Vince Russo was Head Writer for WWE at the height of the Attitude Era, and thus heavily involved in producing a number of angles that are still revered to this day. However, not every storyline from this period is so fondly remembered.
Hawk and Animal of the Road Warriors are two of the most famous and respected tag team wrestlers in history, however, their final WWE run couldn’t have ended on a more controversial note.
In May 1998, Droz aka Puke debuted on Raw as an associate of the Road Warriors, known as Legion of Doom 2000 at the time. In the storyline Hawk was depicted as struggling with addiction issues, repeatedly being shown as unable to compete. This led to him becoming jealous of Droz who was seemingly replacing him in the team he helped make famous. The angle went as far as to suggest that Hawk was contemplating taking his own life.
While it has been argued that such a storyline is problematic in isolation, to make matters worse Hawk was dealing with very real drug addiction issues during this period. The angle came to a climax in November when Hawk climbed to the top of the titantron on Raw followed by Droz, Hawk was then seemingly thrown from the structure although his fall was hidden from fans. It was later revealed that Droz had been the one enabling Hawk’s addiction.
In an article for WrestleCrap, Vince Russo admitted that while he knew that the star was having real-life drug issues this wasn’t uncommon and he was unaware of their severity.
“Yes—I knew Hawk, Michael Hegstrand, was having issues with drugs. You can’t help but to hear the chatter in both the locker room and the office…
I had no idea that Hawk’s addiction was as serious as it was. NONE. How would I know? I only saw him at TV where as a pro, he was always ON. He never brought any problems he may have been having in his personal like to work. So to me, writing into the story that Hawk was “struggling” was just another storyline.”
Russo added that he would never have written the storyline had he known the full extent of Hawk’s issues.
Why Vince Russo Ended Controversial Angle
Continuing on, Russo explained why he decided to bring the storyline to a halt. The veteran recalled waiting to fly home after a television taping and seeing Hawk being pushed through the airport in a wheelchair while he was “comatose and foaming at the mouth.”
“At that moment I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had no idea that Michael was in this way. No idea. Again, had I known…
After that, I immediately killed the storyline. This was no longer entertainment; this was a man’s life—and ultimately his death.”
Russo closed by commenting that the angle is something that he has to live with every day, having earlier conceded that he went too far.
Road Warrior Hawk sadly passed away on October 19th, 2003. He was just 46 years old. The Road Warriors were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.