WWE icon Road Warrior Animal dead at 60

Wrestling star Road Warrior Animal died at the age of 60. Handout / WWE

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Joseph Laurinaitis, one half of legendary WWE tag-team the Legion of Doom, has died at age 60.

The wrestler, who competed under the name Road Warrior Animal, was one of the biggest stars during the 1980s and ’90s alongside his partner Hawk – real name Michael Hegstrand.

His death, announced Wednesday morning, came as a shock to the wrestling world.

Hulk Hogan was first to break the news of his passing, tweeting: “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. HH.”

Shortly afterwards, the sad news was confirmed on Animal’s own Twitter page, with a post reading: “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 WWE issued a statement, extending its condolences to Laurinaitis’ family.

“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 most 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.”

Wrestling superstar Animal from the Legion of Doom leaves the Calgary airport after arriving on a flight from Minnesota, May 31, 1999. Chris Bolin / Postmedia Network / Files

The Road Warriors first joined WWE in 1990 and, alongside their ex-manager Paul Ellering, were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. Animal officially announced his retirement from the ring in February 2014. Laurinaitis’ partner, Hegstrand, died in 2003 following a heart attack at 46 years old.

Fellow wrestlers offered their condolences after the shocking news broke.

“The Road Warriors were a team who personified excitement, physicality, and the undeniable ability to energize the crowd,” Triple H wrote on Twitter. “@StephMcMahon and I join the Superstars, legends, and our @WWE fans in offering our condolences to the Joe Laurinaitis’ family at this difficult time.”

Ric Flair also shared his thoughts about Animal’s sudden 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.”