It’s no secret that wrestling hit a speed bump in the early 1990s. Angles were awful. The quality of characters, action and storylines were pathetic, and slowly but surely long-time fans started abandoning the sport by the droves. But in an industry that bestowed such “treats” as the Ding Dongs, The Black Scorpion, Papa Shango and Cowabunga (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle wrestler) upon fans over the years, who would have thought that the Road Warriors, perhaps the most popular tag team phenomenon of the 1980s, would help speed up the exile?
The Legion of Doom, Hawk and Animal, had been in the WWF since mid-1990. Their arrival was seven years in the making. After dominating the competition in the AWA and later in the NWA (where they didn’t really accomplish as much as the announcers and magazines of the day would let you think), fans would finally see the legendary tag team do battle in the WWF with what many people called their imitators, Demolition. After steamrolling past the former three-time WWF champions, the former Road Warriors completed the triple crown of tag team championships one year later (a feat that can never again be accomplished) when they beat the Nasty Boys at SummerSlam 1991 for the belts.
After losing the titles to Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and I.R.S.) early in 1992, the L.O.D. stopped appearing on WWF television. It seemed that the fans had lost interest and they needed a spark to rejuvenate their once spectacular careers. And what better way to do that than to reunite them with their long-time manager “Precious” Paul Ellering. The WWF decided to create a series of vignettes to introduce Ellering to a WWF audience that may be unaware of his history with the team.
Naturally, the film was shot in the mean streets of Chicago where Hawk and Animal grew up and formed their team. Ellering explained to a television audience that he was searching for the secret of the Road Warriors’ success. The one missing ingredient that once made them successful and helped create the most devastating tag team in wrestling history. He sought that driving force that rewrote both wrestling and Chicago history. As he walked through the rubble of a garbage dump, he bent down and declared he found it: Rocco!
Rocco was a puppet. No, not a puppet like a stooge or butt-kisser like you may think today. I’m talking about a puppet where you shove your hand up its backside like Kermit the Frog and make it talk! Yes. This once respected and highly intelligent wrestling personality sold his soul and any shred of pride and decency he had by trying to pass off a ventriloquist’s dummy as the secret behind the Road Warriors’ success! Rocco wore a leather jacket and dark sunglasses making him the most intimidating puppet out there. It had slick back hair and looked like a poor man’s version of The Fonz. Ellering then would proceed to display his ventriloquist talents by providing the voice for the satanic piece of wood and plastic. It was like a really bad version of the Exorcist.
Oh, the L.O.D. was still popular. Hell, this was still the corny, hokey days of the WWF where all the wackiness and non-sensical angles were taken with a grain of salt. They may not have been able to believe what they were watching, but they were still supportive (ah, old school WWF fans; nothing could insult their intelligence).
The coup de grace of this catastrophe? The Legion of Doom wrestled Money Inc. in the opening match at SummerSlam 1992. They rode motorcycles to the ring to show they still weren’t to be messed with and our beloved puppet rode on the handlebars of Ellering’s bike and cheered the LOD on to victory! It was the last time we saw or heard of any of the four of these guys for a long time. You try washing that dirt off of you and facing the public immediately afterward!
Hopefully, Ellering used the wood from Rocco to create one of the sleds he uses for his dog sled races that he’s relegated to now.