The world of professional wrestling has suffered a big loss today, as legendary tag team wrestler Joseph Laurinaitis — known to wrestling fans across the world as Animal of the Road Warriors — has passed away. Per TMZ, authorities responded to an emergency call close to midnight on Tuesday evening at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, MO. When deputies arrived, they learned that first responders had already declared Laurinaitis dead with the former wrestler reportedly passing of natural causes. He was 60 years old.
“At this time, we would like to confirm the passing of Joseph Laurinaitis aka Road Warrior Animal at the age of 60. The family is planning to release a statement later today. At this time we ask for you to keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers,” the official Road Warrior Animal Twitter account also reads.
Some of Laurinaitis’ colleagues are already posting messages of tribute as they mourn the loss of the WWE Hall of Famer.
“RIP Animal, love you my brother, I know you and Hawk have a lot of unfinished business to take care of! God speed and blessings to your beautiful family, one love4Life,” Hulk Hogan tweeted.
Of course, the fans are deeply saddened by today’s news as well, as #RIPAnimal has also begun trending with countless more tribute messages continuously pour in.
“Completely gutted. I had the privilege of meeting Animal a few times and he was always an absolute gentleman. It was his idea for me to put the SummerSlam 92 spikes on in NY and make a childhood dream come true,” one fan tweeted, including a photo of himself with Animal at a meet-and-greet event.
Born on Sept. 12, 1960, Laurinaitis is best known as Road Warrior Animal, or simply Animal. Along with Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand, the two imposing wrestlers called themselves the Road Warriors and dominated the tag team wrestling scene for years. With their trademark spiked shoulder pads and unique face paint, the wrestlers have always stood out as perhaps the most recognizable tag team in sports entertainment history. When they finally made their debut into the World Wrestling Federation, they changed their team name to the Legion of Doom, but still individually went by the aliases of Animal and Hawk.
Sadly, Hegstrand passed away in 2003, putting an end to the Road Warriors’ run in the wrestling business. For years, Animal continued to compete as a solo wrestler, at one point removing the face paint. He was formally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame along with his deceased partner as the Road Warriors in 2011. As Animal, Laurinaitis would have his final televised match the following year, defeating WWE’s Heath Slater in a 2012 episode of SmackDown on Syfy.
Laurinaitis’ survivors include his wife and three children. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time. It’s very evident from the many, many tribute messages posted online already that the man wrestling fans knew as Animal was and is very loved and will always be missed. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from TMZ.