The Ultimate Warrior, who passed away today, will be forever remembered by WWE fans for his legendary career
The passing of the Ultimate Warrior has come as a tragic and sudden shock to WWE fans past and present. The man who was born James Hellwig and legally changed his name to Warrior had, in the last four days, made a triumphant return to the wrestling spotlight, and taken his place among their Hall of Fame legends. Now his untimely passing has brought a tragic end to what should have been a celebration of the career of one of wrestling’s most iconic figures.
Any writing on the Ultimate Warrior this week was supposed to be concerning his return to the WWE fold and his induction into their Hall of Fame on Saturday. It was supposed to be on how last Sunday, he remerged to a reception worthy of a Hall of Famer, how on Monday he appeared on WWE Raw to don the mask and jacket and shake the ropes as the Ultimate Warrior once again. The speech he gave on Monday night has now become even more poignant, as he told fans, "every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life what makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalised. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honour him and make the running the man did live forever.’' For his legions of fans, the Ultimate Warrior was one superstar who could never be forgotten.
The man who was born Jim Hellwig and became the Ultimate Warrior started his wrestling career back in the territory days in 1985. His first memorable incarnation was as one half of the Blade Runners tag team with future WCW champion Sting. He then became the Dingo Warrior competing in the then WCCW before being signed by the WWF as it was then known. Originally keeping the Dingo Warrior name he wrestled a few matches before making his official debut as the Ultimate Warrior.
As soon as the Ultimate Warrior’s music hit, fans would rise to their feet to cheer. The pounding rhythm of his music was coupled with his high energy entrance which saw him sprint to the ring, run round it and then shake the ropes before entering. In his trademark face paint, with his tassels and bleached hair, the Ultimate Warrior exempified the over the top larger than life look of wrestling in the late 80s. Though he wasn’t the most technically gifted in ring performer, to the fans who watched his battles with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, he was a captivating and enigmatic performer and perhaps the most unique wrestler on the microphone ever. The history books will remember him as the man who ended the Honky Tonk Man’s reign as the longest ever intercontinental champion and as the first man to hold the intercontinental and World Championship belts at the same time. He was also the man who, albeit briefly, took the reigns from Hulk Hogan as the WWE’s biggest star during one of the companies most popular periods.
After first leaving the WWE in 1991 and then coming back for a short unsuccessful run in 1996, Warrior’s relationship with his former employers seem irrevocably broken. He retired from active wrestling in 1998 and embarked on a sometimes controversial career as a motivational speaker. The release in 2005 of The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD by the WWE brought back the bitterness between Warrior and the company as they portrayed his career in a vastly negative light. In recent years however it seemed relations between the two were thawing, until finally last month it was announced that the Ultimate Warrior would be the star inductee of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
There was much speculation leading up to Warrior’s appearance at Sunday’s Hall of Fame ceremony, many were holding their breathe at what he might say. The reality was that he appeared in front of an audience of fans and current superstars who welcomed him back with open arms and appreciated all he had done in his career. In his speech he sought to bury the hatchet and leave behind any bitterness between himself and WWE whilst also rebuilding his image. For anyone who had been wondering what Warrior had been up to all these years, it was clear he had become a devoted husband and father to two little girls who adored him.
Though his death was tragic and shocking, we can at least take solace in knowing Warrior left having mended old bridges and being recognised correctly as a WWE legend. Whilst fans will mourn the passing of a charismatic superstar and the loss of a wrestling icon, his family and two young daughters have lost much more. To his family Warrior was a son, husband and father who was their real life hero and the greatest tragedy today is that he has left them too soon.