Joseph Laurinaitis, known to professional wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal, has died, according to World Wrestling Entertainment and his verified Twitter account. He was 60.
No cause of death was given.
Laurinaitis, who was born in Chicago, teamed with Michael Hegstrand -- known as Road Warrior Hawk -- during the 1980s to form the Road Warriors and Legion of Doom, the Los Angeles Times reported. The duo, with their metal spikes and painted hair, won titles in multiple promotions as a terrorizing tag-team combination. The pair took belts in the National Wrestling Alliance and the American Wrestling Alliance before moving to the WWF (now known as WWE). They won WWE titles in 1991 and 1997.
Hegstrand died of a heart attack in 2003.
Laurinaitis teamed with Jon Heidenreich in 2005 to win a final WWE tag-team title.
Laurinaitis and Hegstrand were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
“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,” the WWE said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Laurinaitis was one of 50 former wrestlers who filed a lawsuit against WWE, claiming the organization failed to protect them from repeated head injuries that led to concussions and long-term brain damage, The Associated Press reported.
A federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit on Sept. 9. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City agreed with a federal judge in Connecticut who threw out the lawsuits in 2018.
Among the plaintiffs were Laurinaitis, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Chris “King Kong Bundy” Pallies and Harry Masayoshi Fujiwara, known as Mr. Fuji.
Laurinaitis' son, James Laurinaitis, starred at linebacker at Ohio State University. The younger Laurinaitis was a three-time All-American and a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, the Times reported. James Laurinaitis played eight seasons in the NFL.
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