RIP: Road Warrior Hawk
May 18, 2014
I became a wrestling fan because of The Road Warriors. As a kid I wasn't allowed to watch pro-wrestling. My Dad hated wrestling, he figured it was fake and that if you watched it people would assume you thought it was real and therefore think you were stupid. I had a curiosity of pro-wrestling but other that just flipping by it and catching a few minutes before having to switch channels when my Dad entered the room, I never really had the chance to watch. That changed in the early 80s when I saw the movie The Road Warrior on television. I fell in love with this movie and thought all of the over the top characters were amazing.
Shortly after falling in love with this testosterone filled movie I was flipping channels one Saturday afternoon, when my Dad was out of the house, and I flipped past the AWA and heard Ken Resnick pitching to break with the teaser "Up next, The Road Warriors". I stopped immediately wondering who these Road Warriors might be and watched pro-wrestling purposely for the very first time. After the break these 2 gigantic dudes hit the ring and beat the Holy Hell out of two helpless dudes and I was hooked.
I made of point of catching the AWA every week I could from that moment on and just continued to become a bigger fan of The Road Warriors and pro-wrestling in general. We didn't get the NWA where I lived so when the Warriors wrestled there I had to follow them in wrestling magazines which I did. Hawk was by far my favourite out of the 2 but the combo of Hawk, Animal and Precious Paul were the cornerstone of my wrestling fandom. If there was a Road Warrior article or poster in a wrestling magazine I bought it, if there wasn't I didn't. The first poster I ever hung in my room was a Road Warrior poster, and my dorm room in University was covered in them.
They were the perfect combination for me. The look, the face paint, the promos, even their manager kicked ass. A lot of managers were skinny wimps, or often clowns, but not Precious Paul. Paul had a commanding presence and looked like he could kick ass too. Since we didn't get NWA television in North Bay (my childhood home town) I had to rent VHS video tapes to see them. I remember a couple Ring Master Series tapes, as well as a couple early Starrcade tapes that came out on VHS after the WWF Hogan boom hit. We eventually got NWA TV and I remember being so disappointed because the first episode to air locally was the bench press competition between the Road Warriors and the Powers of Pain and Animal was injured on the first show. I continued to watch and follow the Road Warriors as I fell more and more in love with pro-wrestling.
Fast forward to 1993, I am now in the business and wrestling in Graz Austria for CWA Catch. The last night of the Graz tournament they bring in a couple of big name guys for the super show. On the card are Eddie Gilbert and Road Warrior Hawk. I'm not one to mark out or get star struck but to say I wasn't pretty excited would be complete bullshit. Hawk was in a couple days before the event to do PR so I didn't just get the chance to meet him I had the pleasure of getting to know him and hang out a bit.
They say never meet your Heroes, because they almost always disappoint, and while I would not describe Hawk as my Hero I certainly looked up to the man. Thankfully he did not disappoint. Hawk was one of the nicest most down to earth guys I'd ever met, and he made a point to hang out with everyone. Most of the European guys stayed together at a camp ground and Hawk bought a case of steaks and went to the camp site in the evening to have a BBQ with all of the boys, and since I wasn't staying at the camps site he spent the afternoon hitting a local pool with me.
When we hit the local pool he was swamped with fans. The place was packed with kids, and Hawk took time to sign an autograph for every kid who wanted one. I remember him telling me to never forget where you came from. Hawk hadn't brought a bathing suit with him so he was of course decked out in his finest Zubaz, which he took a pair of scissors to, to make shorts. In true "It's an upper body business" fashion he cut his pants off just above the calf and headed to the diving board. He hit the water with a gigantic splash and when he broke the surface the pool was littered with money. He had forgotten to empty his pockets before hitting the pool. All the kids he was nice to, gather up his money for him and we just sat by the pool soaking up the sun all afternoon. I never use the term surreal but that is exactly what the day was, surreal.
After the big show it was time to go out. As you've no doubt heard me say a million times I never went out on the road, but at the time Larry Cameron had been encouraging me to go out a bit for the sake of camaraderie with the boys, so I did. Larry Cameron, Anthony Durante (Pitbull 2 from ECW) were in the same hotel as I was, so Eddie Gilbert and Hawk met us there and the 5 of us went out. This was the first time I'd ever gone out with the boys after a show. Hawk had an early morning train to catch so he brought his gear bag with him and left it in my room when we all went out.
I don't have a lot of memories of that night apart from feeling incredible out of place, and sensing a tremendous amount of heat from Eddie because I wasn't drinking. Diet Coke did not seem like an acceptable beverage to Eddie. I packed the night in before everyone else and when I got back to my room I noticed Hawk's bag. Crap...it was really late, I was pretty sure he'd have had to have left already if he was going to catch his train, and I was leaving in the morning too. I had to catch a train to Vienna in the morning. I checked the bag and found his address on it and noticed it weighed a ton. Those shoulder pads were the real deal, and believe me The Road Warriors had the heaviest bags in the business.
There was no way I could leave his bag behind so I figured I'd have to lug this near 100 lbs monstrosity with me to Vienna and then find a way to ship it back to the States to him. With the headache of how much of a pain that was going to be I went to bed only to be woken up at likely 5 am by a knocking on my door. Thankfully it was Hawk, who wished me the best of luck, grabbed his bag, and raced off to catch his train.
I can't possible say enough nice things about this man. His tag team made me a wrestling fan, his professionalism made me proud to be in the same industry, and his friendship although brief made my life just a little bit better. For all of the above I thank him.
On an incredibly sad note of the five of us who went out that night, I'm the only one still with us. Larry Cameron died of a heart attack later that year, Eddie Gilbert died in early 95 also from a heart attack, Anthony Durante died of a drug overdose in late 2003, and a month later Hawk died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack.
Rest in peace my brothers, you are all missed, and remembered.
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