Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis talks Zubaz, retirement, and the WWE Hall of Fame

Mike "Hawk" Hegstrand and Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis, a.k.a The Road Warriors, sporting Zubaz.
Mike "Hawk" Hegstrand and Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis, a.k.a The Road Warriors, sporting Zubaz.
Photo courtesy of Zubaz.

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As half of the intimidating Road Warriors tag team, Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis has been known for the past 20 years for his spiky shoulder pads, terrifying face paint, and ass-kicking pro wrestling moves.

More recently, he's also been known for mourning his late tag-team partner Mike "Hawk" Hegstrand, who died in 2003; writing an autobiography titled The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and the Rush of Wrestling; and being inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame last year.

What a lot of people don't know, however, is that Animal and Hawk were heavily involved in Zubaz during the brand's best years, both as investors and spokesmen. You can read about their involvement in this week's cover story.

We chatted with Laurinaitis about Zubaz's good old days, his retirement from pro wrestling, and how he felt being inducted into WWE's Hall of Fame without Hawk.

What was it like when Zubaz were first created and you and Hawk were serving as spokesmen?

At the time, my partner Hawk and I were on the road about 320 days a year. On one trip, we were working out at Gold's Gym in Los Angeles and we brought back some pants by a company called Everywhere. Dan and Bob said, "We were just thinking of doing something with clothing."

Wrestling was just starting to grow, and every time we ran down to the ring or did interviews we made sure we wore Zubaz. On the road, it was always like "Hey, nice pants," you know? We even went to JC Penney and signed autographs. People associated them [Zubaz] with Hawk and I. You couldn't miss us. We were a sight.

Did you ever wear them outside of your life as Animal?

I used to coach little girls' soccer for my daughter Jessica's soccer team. And I got them Zubaz shorts and T-shirts and all that, and I wore Zubaz while coaching. Also, my son James [now a linebacker for the St. Louis Rams], I don't think he wore normal clothes back then. He wore nothing but Zubaz day in and day out.

You eventually ended up being bought out as an investor in the '90s. Do you remember how you felt about that?

I didn't want to get out of it. I was sad to get out of it. I hated to get out of it. Hawk and I worked equally hard in promoting it as Dan and Bob. We made those pants popular in Japan and all over the country. But it was time to sell.

How has retirement from pro wrestling been going?

I'm still here in Minnesota, but I've been looking at moving to St. Louis to be near my son James. Even though I could still wrestle, I don't. I help James with his stuff. Family has always been very important to me.

Do you still do anything wrestling related?

I get asked to do speaking events around the country. I don't usually put on the spiked shoulder pads--I'll bring along the shoulder pads for the fans to wear. But I'll do the Mohawk and face paint still.

How is it attending these events without Hawk?

I'm kind of getting used to being without Hawk, but it was strange being without him there at the Hall of Fame. It was good, though, to be honored among my peers. I miss the camaraderie of the guys. I've never been one who needs to be recognized in the street, but the camaraderie was the best. I miss hanging out and joking around in the locker room with the guys.

What do you think about Zubaz making a comeback?

I'd love to see Zubaz do great this time around, and I wish Bob and Dan the best. I'd love to be involved in any way I can. I think that if I painted up and wore Zubaz that it would help sales--or even if it was a different WWE star. If the opportunity arose for me to help out, it would be great.

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