It's the end of the road for one of Minnesota's biggest stars in professional wrestling. Joseph Laurinaitis, better known as Animal of the Road Warriors, has died at the age of 60. No official cause of death has been given, but TMZ is reporting it was natural causes.
Laurinaitis was the partner of Road Warrior Hawk and the Legion of Doom, and was considered one of the best in-ring performers ever. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Laurinitis attended Irondale High School in New Brighton and was working as a bouncer in the Twin Cities when he was discovered by Eddie Sharkey, a former wrestler known for training some of the biggest names in the sport.
Laurinitis' son James was a football standout at Wayzata High School, before heading to Ohio State and played for a number of years in the NFL.
The Road Warriors career began in the early 80's. They bounced around different wrestling circuits including the NWA, the Minnesota-based AWA, and even spent time in Japan.
In 1990, they signed with the WWF, the biggest wrestling organization in the world, and became well known stars in the sport. Their influence on other tag-teams, connection with audiences and energy they brought to the ring made them legends and hall of famers for the WWE as it's now known.
Laurinaitis continued wrestling regularly until his final match in 2006. He returned for one-off matches a couple more times in 2012. Another Minnesota wrestling legend, Rick Flair, posted this to Twitter following Laurinaitis' passing:"I Am More Than Saddened To Hear Of The Loss Of My Good Friend And GREAT Opponent Joe Laurinaitis Of The Legendary Road Warriors. They Were Iconic! The Road Warriors And The Four Horsemen Drew More Money And Had More Fun And Entertained Fans Worldwide At The Highest Level. RIP."
His Road Warrior partner Michael Hegstrand (Hawk) passed away in 2003.
The WWE released this statement following Laurinaitis' passing:
WWE is saddened to learn that Joe Laurinaitis, known to WWE fans as Road Warrior Animal, has passed away at the age of 60.
One of the most intense Superstars to ever step into the squared circle, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Animal spent the majority of his career alongside his tag team partner, Hawk. Together, they formed what was arguably the most successful, popular and feared tandem of all time — The Road Warriors.
With their intimidating face paint, outfits covered in metal spikes and impressive array of power moves, the duo captured titles and destroyed opponents wherever they roamed. Their dominance made them so popular that the phrase “Road Warrior pop” has been used in locker rooms to describe particularly deafening reactions from the crowd ever since.
The Road Warriors thrived in multiple stints with WWE, where they were known as The Legion of Doom. The team won the World Tag Team Titles on two occasions and were eventually enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame.
WWE extends its condolences to Laurinaitis' family, friends and fans.