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'Win one for Hawk'
BALTIMORE — Less than two years after his partner's untimely death, Road Warrior Animal hits the ring again looking for tag team glory. With thoughts of his partner heavy on his mind, Animal -- with Heidenreich in his corner -- will try to win one for Hawk at The Great American Bash.
Shortly following SmackDown!, where Animal and Heidenreich were successful in tag-team action, WWE.com caught up with Animal to find out his thoughts on the fans' support, his upcoming match at The Bash and returning to the ring without Hawk:
WWE.com: What was it like to be back in the ring? Was it a bittersweet feeling to win without Hawk as your partner?
Road Warrior Animal: A lot of people don't realize that one of the last matches we had before Hawk passed away was a tag-team match in Baltimore. So, here I am again almost two years to the day. Still, it wasn't a bittersweet moment. I felt the appreciation of the fans, mostly. I felt they were showing me that they still cared about me even though Hawk's deceased.
I know there will be some skeptics who say, "Aw, man. We miss Hawk. It's not the same without Hawk." Well, you know, of course it's not going to be the same without Hawk. When you're together for 18 years of your careers, day-in and day-out — 300 days a year — you get to form a bond and an instinct. Hawk and I had a real special bond and instinct that I don't think can ever be replaced. You can't ever replace Road Warrior Hawk, but the spirit of the Legion of Doom should live on. And Heidenreich is the first member in 10 years to be officially welcomed into the Legion of Doom. But I think Heidenreich's got more than enough talent to carry the load. I think he's a great physical specimen, people are behind him. You also have to remember that Hawk is still with us in spirit. How could we lose when you have Road Warrior Animal, Heidenreich and Hawk in our corner?
WWE.com: You said on SmackDown! that Heidenreich is more like Hawk than you thought. Could you elaborate on that?
Animal: Heidenreich comes at me with this ridiculous poem that means a lot, but to the average guy, it's a ridiculous poem — especially when I'm preparing for a match. If you remember some of Hawk's interviews, it's the same type of the deal. They have such similarities and mannerisms, and they both have great big hearts. They're also very dedicated.
WWE.com: What's it like having a new tag-team partner after all these years? Do you have to make many adjustments teaming with Heidenreich, as opposed to Hawk?
Animal: My style is my style. I'm 110 miles-per-hour. I'm brute force, all the time. Heidenreich's going to have to keep up with my style, and I'm going to have to work with him on that. It's a process that became instinct with me and Hawk. Heidenreich can't possibly learn in one year what Hawk and I accomplished in 20 years. It's just one of those deals. But Heidenreich's a heck of an athlete, coming from the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. You just don't make it to the top level of a sport like that unless you're some kind of talent.
Keep in mind that I have a legacy that my partner and I have to protect. And in all the years we did Legion of Doom, Droz was the only guy we even considered letting in until now. Now, it's 10 years later. So, understand that this is a very selective process. I won't just let anyone become the next member of Legion of Doom. Nobody can replace Hawk. Can there be a great substitution? Heck yes. Heidenreich can be a phenomenal substitution. But that (tag-team bond) has to be developed.
WWE.com: What was it like to do the Doomsday Device with someone other than Hawk?
Animal: Hawk and I were pure instinct. I could throw a guy up on my shoulders and turn to any corner and know where Hawk was — know how many steps to take — and he'd fly off that top rope and it was over just like that. You can't expect that same comfort level with Heidenriech immediately, but it will come. If Heidenreich is up on that top rope and he's ready, I'll find him.
WWE.com: How well do you two match up against your opponents at The Great American Bash?
Animal: We'll kill MNM. They're two good kids, but they can't match our strength and speed. We're very powerful guys. Not taking anything away from MNM — they are the WWE Tag Team Champions, after all — but they're going to be in for a battle on Sunday. It's not going to be a walk through the park for them, which they seem to think it will be.
WWE.com: On SmackDown, there were fans holding up signs that read, "Win one for Hawk!" How do you feel about that, and is that what this match is about for you?
Animal: Heidenreich and I win every match as a team, but we always win with the spirit of Hawk there with us. It's really three against two with Hawk's presence there with us in spirit form. We've got our guardian angel in Hawk sitting up on my shoulder pad on one of those spikes. He's always there for us. Hawk and I — whether we were together or separate — we had a presence with each other.
Before this SmackDown! match, I had goose bumps on my arms, and I knew that was the spirit of Hawk in the room right then because Hawk loved this business. He was a big part of my success, and he just wants to help guide the success of the Legion of Doom no matter who my partner is. I firmly believe that. I firmly believe that if this was switched around and I was gone, my last words to Hawk would be, "Hey man, carry on the legacy. I will be in your corner."
WWE.com: Have you spoken at all to Hawk's widow throughout these recent events?
Animal: She actually just called me. I hadn't talked to her for months, and she just called and left a message saying she's happy for me. It's hard for us to talk because I remind her too much of Hawk. Every conversation still ends up in tears. I don't know if it's possible, but I want her there at ringside this Sunday. This match at The Great American Bash is dedicated to Hawk. He's still with us.