Farewell Ultimate Warrior

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th April 2014.

This past Monday was one of my favourite days of the year. Not only was it the premiere of season 4 of Game of Thrones (a guilty pleasure) but it was Wrestlemania Monday.

I’ve been hooked on the ultimate soap opera for guys since I was a little kid. My parents bought me a tiny (by today’s standards) black and white television which I had in my bedroom. Late at night, when the then WWF was on, I’d sneak across my room, start the box and wonder at the superhuman displays of strength. Whenever I’d hear footsteps coming my way, I’d switch it off and dart back to me bed, pretending to be asleep.

Things are a bit different now. Thanks to the new online WWE Network (only currently available in the USA so don’t ask) I can literally watch wrestling twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Not that I actually do that. Even for me, there’s only so much lycra one can take.

ultimate

Wrestlemania XXX from New Orleans was a memorable event, the highlight for me being the introduction of there inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame for 2014. Headlining the bunch was one of my childhood favourites, The Ultimate Warrior. The following night on WWE Raw, Warrior (now his legal name) appeared in the ring to give a heartfelt speech. The next day, he was dead.

The Ultimate Warrior appeared on the WWF scene in 1987 as a replacement for the “immortal” Hulk Hogan, who was pursuing a Hollywood film career (don’t get me started on his appalling movies). With his face paint, ribbons tied around his biceps and ridiculous musculature (definitely not naturally acquired), Warrior would sprint to the ring and shake the ropes like a mad man.

His feuds with the Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude and Andre the Giant were legendary and always culminated with Warrior standing victorious. As the Intercontinental Champion, he faced WWF Champion Hogan in the “Ultimate Challenge” at Wrestlemania VI, a match that is regarded as one of the best for that era and saw Warrior winning both straps.

Warrior was notorious for his rambling nonsensical promos on the microphone. Unfortunately, this tendency to say way too much saw his reputation become tarnished after he finally retired in 1998, following several attempts to resurrect his legacy, each with diminishing returns.

As a motivation speaker, Warrior made an almost incoherent diatribe at the University of Connecticut in 2005 in which he made the now infamous claims that “queering doesn’t make the world work” and “homosexuals are not as legitimate as heterosexuals.” Other later speeches exposed further extreme right wing views and were met with claims of racism. His blogs were no better, with Warrior making bile ridden rants about his fellow wrestlers. My hero had let me down.

On April 5, Warrior was accompanied by his two daughters to the podium to make his Hall of Fame induction speech. He spoke about how much he loved his wife and daughters. He acknowledged the crew behind the scenes and thanked Vince and Linda McMahon. Very little was said about his colleagues (Warrior was not well liked by his fellow WWF talent) but in my eyes, simply by returning to the company where he was previously persona non grata, Warrior had showed his human side and was rebuilding bridges with his fans.

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The following night on Raw, Warrior stood in the centre of the ring and addressed his fans and colleagues in a prophetic and haunting speech.

“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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 makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalised.”

With that speech, the man Warrior transformed into the Ultimate Warrior and just for a moment, I was a child again, jumping up and down in anticipation of my hero running to the squared circle to vanquish his enemies with the “ultimate splash.” In my mind at least, he had achieved his redemption.

Less than twenty four hours later, Warrior had a massive heart attack and died. Jim Hellwig may be gone, but the Ultimate Warrior will live on forever.

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Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 00:26  Leave a Comment  
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