On the day he flew into Charlotte—the Nagurski is presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club—Laurinaitis recognized a platinum-coiffed man by the baggage carousel.
"Hey, Mr. Flair," he said. "How are you?"
"Animal's boy!" boomed Ric (Nature Boy) Flair, whose chemically tortured mane is of a color definitely not found in nature. "How ya doin'?"
WELCOME TO THE LAURINAITISES' WORLD. "When I was growing up," James says, "it was normal to have The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin call the house. Sometimes my dad would be at a show and he'd have those guys call, 'cause he knew I'd get excited about it."
In the early 1980s Joe Laurinaitis excelled at linebacker and guard at a Minnesota junior college named Golden Valley Lutheran. He was on the verge of trying out for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL when, as his wife, Julie, puts it, "wrestling fell in his lap."
Joining forces with the late Mike Hegstrand, his former high school buddy and fellow bouncer, Joe formed the Road Warriors, known for sauntering into the ring (accompanied by Black Sabbath's Iron Man) in their trademark Mohawks, spiked shoulder pads and face paint. The pair took the National Wrestling Alliance tag-team belt in their first match together, in 1983. Over the next decade they would capture every American version of the World Tag Team Championship.
Though many of Joe's colleagues lived in Charlotte or Atlanta, he and Julie "decided when we first got married," she says, "that we would stay in Minnesota and have as normal a life as possible."
In the bosom of family, Joe was careful "to separate Dad from Animal," as he says. "When I'm home, Animal stays in the bag with the [spiked] shoulder pads."
That is, unless James or his siblings took the pads out to try them on when Dad wasn't around. Joe Jr., now 26, served two tours in Iraq as an Army sergeant and is now a police officer in Ohio. Jessica, who finished her career at Wayzata High as the school's highest-scoring defenseman, plans to play collegiate hockey but still hasn't decided where.
The family has a pool in its backyard, which the kids used as a staging area for reenactments of their father's trademark finishing move. Background: The Doomsday Device requires one tag-team member to hoist his opponent onto his shoulders in a sitting position, so that both are facing the same direction (a position known in the trade as the Electric Chair). The second tag-team member, meanwhile, ascends to the top turnbuckle to deliver a flying attack on the helpless foe.