By Mike Mooneyham
Nov. 26, 2006
A unique piece of wrestling history will be unveiled 75 miles up the road Saturday night when a pair of grappling legends join forces for the first time.
Joe Laurinaitis, better known in mat circles as Road Warrior Animal, and Bill Eadie, the man behind the Demolition Ax character, will team up against The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey) in the main event of a six-match Christian Wrestling Alliance show at Southern Methodist College in Orangeburg.
Laurinaitis and Eadie were part of the two greatest trend-setting power teams of the ’80s. The Road Warriors (Laurinaitis and the late Mike Hegstrand) first burst upon the scene in the early ’80s after being put together by Ole Anderson, making a major national splash with their jacked-up physiques, colorful face paint and spiked shoulder pads. Several years later the World Wrestling Federation came up with its own version, Demolition, composed of Eadie and Barry Darsow, a journeyman who previously had appeared in the Mid-Atlantic area with a Russian gimmick as Krusher Khruschev.
Eadie, a 30-plus-year veteran of the business, already had an impeccable resume, most notably as one of the top masked men in the business as The Superstar during the ’70s and early ’80s. The Pennsylvania native went on to hold the WWF tag-team title on three occasions with Demolition Smash and later added Demolition Crush (Brian Adams) as a third member.The Carolinas hold special meaning for Eadie, who first worked in the area in 1976 as Bolo Mongol, half of The Mongols tag team along with Geto Mongol (Newton Tattrie). Before the year was out, Eadie would make yet another major transformation, this time under a hood as The Superstar.
The switch was so seamless that Eadie, as Bolo Mongol, wrestled Wahoo McDaniel in a hair match on a Sunday evening in Greensboro, N.C., and the following night in Greenville debuted as The Masked Superstar. With the help of booker George Scott and manager Boris Malenko (Larry Simon), the 300-pound masked man was propelled to immediate main-event status.
For the next decade Eadie was a major attraction from Charlotte to Tokyo, with a feared finishing hold known as the cobra and a gimmick of coughing up several grand if anyone could make him submit. He claims to have been the first wrestler to body-slam Andre The Giant, years before Hulk Hogan’s feat at the third Wrestlemania in 1987. The two were close friends outside the ring, and Andre became godfather to Eadie’s youngest daughter.
Eadie resurfaced as Ax, half of the tag team Demolition along with partner Smash, in the WWF in 1987. His final WWF appearance was at the 1990 Survivor Series.
Few tag teams in the history of wrestling, however, rival The Road Warriors – later known as The Legion of Doom – in terms of drawing power and overall impact. As The Roadies or LOD, their gimmick was the same, that of two imposing wrestlers with massive physiques sporting Mohawks, biker boots, spiked shoulder pads and face paint.
Hawk and Animal burst upon the wrestling scene on June 6, 1983, capturing the NWA tag-team belts in their first match together. Regarded by many as the most influential team of that decade, The Warriors held tag titles in nearly every major company, including the WWF, WCW, NWA, AWA and the major Japanese promotions. Their muscular, tough-guy image helped usher in the era of the big man in pro wrestling, spawning similar teams over the years such as Demolition and The Powers of Pain.
Laurinaitis and Hegstrand – Minnesota high school buddies, bodybuilding partners and fellow bouncers – set the bar for tag-team wrestling during the 1980s and revolutionized the business. More than their muscular builds and Mohawks, the larger-than-life monsters’ no-sell, overpowering ring style placed them at the apex of tag-team wrestling throughout the decade, their painted mugs on millions of TV screens across America.
The Warriors even had their own trademark battle cry, “We snack on danger and we dine on death,” followed by Hawk’s piercing, gravely-voiced “Oooohhh, what a rush!” Entering the ring to the sounds of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” they inspired a generation of face-painted musclemen and seemed to be a prototype for Demolition.
“We were two completely different types of teams with different styles that happened to have a similar appearance,” Eadie said Wednesday. “They were more established as the power team, where we could wrestle with just about anyone of any size. A lot of people said we stole their identity, but when they came into the WWF, the fans of that company said they copied us. It’s really a debate between the fans. There was certainly no heat between the two teams. It’s just a matter of the fans’ choice.”
Hegstrand, who had battles with alcohol and drugs throughout his career and was an admitted steroids user, passed away in 2003 at the age of 46 of an apparent heart attack. The born-again Christian had been diagnosed two years earlier with a heart condition known as cardiomyopathy.
“I was no saint,” Hegstrand said in an interview shortly before his death. “For years I put a lot of stuff in my body that I shouldn’t have. Now it’s just the God-made stuff. I’m eating healthy and feeling stronger.”
“The Road Warrior era is done,” Laurinaitis said after his friend’s passing. “You cannot replace a Hawk or an Animal in this type of gimmick.”
Laurinaitis, though, isn’t the only one in the family donning the shoulder pads these days. His son, 19-year-old James Laurinaitis, is a finalist for the prestigious Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country.
Dubbed “Little Animal” or “Animal Junior” at 6-3 and 244 pounds, Laurinaitis has established himself as leader on defense of the top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. There’s no denying that he’s an animal on the football field.
Laurinaitis, who excelled as soon as he was old enough to strap on a helmet, was Minnesota’s defensive Mr. Football in high school and an even better hockey player. He comes by his athletic prowess honestly. Mom Julie was a standout prep swimmer and runner and former powerlifter who, fittingly enough, met Joe in a gym, when she asked him to spot her on some squats. Their youngest, daughter Jessica, is a high school junior drawing interest from several schools, including Ohio State, for ice hockey.
“He played linebacker in the fourth grade and he would just smoke kids,” his father said earlier this year. “One time a quarterback came up the middle and James gave him a bloody nose through his helmet.”
“He doesn’t have a conceited bone in his body,” added the elder Laurinaitis, who was an All-American guard and linebacker at Golden Valley Lutheran College in Minnesota. “I told him: ‘Somewhere along the way you’re going to face bigger, better and stronger players, so be a class act. When you hit a guy, help him up.'”
Although a pro football career looks very promising at the moment, if things don’t work out, the junior Laurinaitis can always fall back on wrestling. He remembers visiting the locker room after one of his father’s wrestling matches when WWE boss Vince McMahon extended the invitation.
“James,” said McMahon, “you’ll always have wrestling here waiting for you if you want to try this business.”
As one fan wrote, says Joe Laurinaitis, “Animal, you created another Animal.”
Although many years have passed, Eadie says he looks forward to teaming with Laurinaitis, and once again working in the Carolinas.
“I really enjoy it there, and the promotion putting on the show is first rate. I’ve had the chance to meet some fans who were at the matches years and years ago. It’s really nice because they can sit down and we can chat, and they can remember things more explicitly than I can. The fans help me fill in the blanks (about my career). I tell them it’s not because I’m trying to avoid the question. I don’t have full-blown Alzheimer’s, but I do suffer from ‘part-timers,'” he jokes.
Eadie, 58, says picking his favorite between the Superstar and Demolition Ax characters is like choosing between kids, but the masked gimmick gets the nod.
“I think I enjoyed Superstar more, but only because it’s the first big break I got by myself. I certainly enjoyed Demolition because it gave me some longevity and sort of reignited my career in front of a different group of people. It’s funny. There are a lot of fans of both characters. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for legends shows and autograph signings, and I’ll ask promoters which character they want to choose. Sometimes it’s hard for them to make a decision. I won’t do both, though, because it just insults the people.”
It’s also difficult to pick a favorite memory of his extended time in the Mid-Atlantic area.
“There are so many good memories. I guess the matches I had with Igor, the battles I had with Mulligan, they’re the ones that stand out.”
The program with The Mighty Igor (the late Dick Garza), he says, got him plenty of mileage. A memorable angle in which The Superstar smashed manager Boris Maximilianovich Malenko’s lit cigar into Igor’s eye not only spurred one of the top money-making programs in the territory, but it also led to a long, lucrative run in Japan for Eadie.
“The angle was so successful that I took it to Japan and got a 13-year career out of (Antonio) Inoki from it,” Eadie said. “I was the first guy to ever do anything like that to Inoki. We were supposed to have a blowoff match after about the first six weeks at the Tokyo Dome, and there was so much heat they had to send me home. They finally brought me back, and I rode 14 years out of that thing.”
Eadie, as The Superstar, rode the same angle with Dino Bravo in the Montreal territory into a five-year run. Eadie remembers originally coming up with the idea as a rib.
“We needed some kind of victory celebration. Boris didn’t smoke. We got these big, stinky cigars, and every time we got a victory, Boris would have to light up a cigar. Boris would actually almost throw up every time. In this case a rib turned out to be a good thing. Once fans saw him light up that cigar, they thought it (the match) was over. And then when I had the best of Igor at (Charlotte’s) Park Center, Boris jumped the gun and lit the cigar, stood up on the apron and turned around with a big smile, and there I was with a bear hug on me. I just grabbed the cigar and stuck it right in Igor’s eye. It did get him a little bit in the eyebrow, but he sold the heck out of it.”
Igor sold it so well that his vision suffered as a result.
“Even when it got better, he went and got sandpaper and scarred up his eye. He wore this big patch to the extent that it almost cost him his vision. He wore it for almost six months. But people sure remembered that angle.”
“I got almost 13 years out of cheap three-dollar cigars,” laughs Eadie.
Eadie, who now lives in Roswell, Ga., works as a teacher at a nonprofit psychiatric hospital whose clientele consists mostly of troubled and abused youths from the Department of Juvenile Justice. He’s been doing the job for eight years since selling his security company.
“Sometimes it’s rather heart-wrenching, especially around the holiday season, but we’re hoping to make a change in their lives. I try to shut down when I come home. I did that for the first couple of years, and it was just driving me nuts. My wife told me I couldn’t continue to do this to myself. But it’s gratifying work.”
Advance tickets for the CWA show can be obtained by calling Kick Booty Motorsports at 803-533-1111, Roger Gleaton at 803-707-4072 or David Garrick at 803-308-5357. Bleacher seats are $10, floor seats $12 and ringside $18. Doors and concession stand open at 6 p.m. with a 7:30 bell time.
– WWE returns to the North Charleston Coliseum on Dec. 4 with a nationally televised Monday Night Raw along with an ECW taping on the same bill. Both brand shows will air back-to-back beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $41, $31, $26 and $21 (plus applicable fees). Tickets are available at the Coliseum box office, all Ticketmaster outlets (including select Publix grocery stores), online at ticketmaster.com or charge at 554-6060.
– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Survivor Series pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7.
– Roddy Piper has been removed from tonight’s Survivor Series match due to health problems he experienced on the recent European tour.
Piper was flown back home to Oregon where doctors removed a mass in his spine. Results of a biopsy are being awaited.
– WWE women’s champion Lita (Amy Dumas) will be leaving WWW after tonight’s Survivor Series PPV in Philadelphia. Lita reportedly is interested in pursuing acting jobs while fronting an Atlanta-based punk rock band called The Luchagors.
– Former Buffalo Bills linebacker and TNA star Monty Brown has signed with WWE.
– British star David Taylor, who recently debuted on Smackdown as William Regal’s tag-team partner, suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during a recent Smackdown taping.
Taylor, who was scheduled to have surgery, also teamed with Regal in WCW as a member of The Blue Bloods and most recently had worked as a WWE trainer in the Deep South developmental territory.