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.


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.


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.

Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 00:26  Leave a Comment  
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WWE Network – even more reason for wrestling nerds to stay inside

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th January 2014.

Last Thursday, at a glitzy press conference in Las Vegas, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Chairman Vince McMahon announced the creation of the WWE Network. Widely expected to be a new premium sports channel to be carried via traditional US cable TV distributors, WWE pulled a pro wrestling storyline swerve by revealing that the fledgling network will be internet based, and most importantly, available in Australia.

WWE Network will consist of a live feed plus on demand programming. I have no doubt that die hard fans will be able to stay glued to their screens 24/7 but is there enough footage of men pretending to fight in their undies for a whole network?

On their way to becoming the dominant wrestling promotion in the USA and by default, the planet, WWE have swallowed up almost every tape library going so their archive of over 100,000 hours of bouts and footage from the 1940’s to now will be a major drawcard for enthusiasts of the square circle.

WWE is also promising original programming such as Wrestlemania Rewind which will examine some of the greatest match-ups in history, the stories behind them and talk to the participants, assuming they haven’t died in a steroid or drug related incident. Another documentary style show, The Monday Night War, will spotlight the infamous mid-90’s battle for ratings between WWE and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Of course, history is written by the victors so don’t expect a balanced perspective. For the record, my friends and I were huge WCW fans at the time. With hindsight, WCW was pretty terrible. Our preference for it may have had more to do with Australian pay TV’s decision to drop WWE programming at the time.

I’m most excited about WWE Legends House, a reality show which sees “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and other stars from the eighties with inverted commas in their names live under the same roof. I’m looking forward to enjoying the antics of the legends. By legends, I mean a bunch of unhinged old grapplers who have been dropped on their heads a few too many times.

For most fans, the biggest attraction will be the monthly pay per view events such as Wrestlemania. Currently priced at $35 a pop via Australian pay TV channel Main Event, the pay per views will be part of the network lineup. With the introductory price point for the WWE Network being set at US$9.99 per month, with a minimum six month subscription, the online channel represents great value for fans and appears to be another sign that tradition TV distribution is on the wane.

The best news for Aussie wrestling fans is that WWE Network will become available for us in late 2015 or early 2015. The lag is presumably to allow WWE to renegotiate its arrangements with local distributors such as Foxtel.

WWE Network premieres in the US only on February 24. In the words of the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Oooooh yeeeah!”

Bad Movie Choices for Dating

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd April 2013.

It’s strange how we regularly choose the cinema as a social experience. What’s social about sitting in a darkened room where it is impolite to make conversation? I suppose having that shared experience to discuss afterwards makes all the difference. What did we like about the film? What did we dislike about it?

I quite like going to the cinema alone. One of my favourite film experiences was watching Wolf Creek as the only person in the cinema. My backpacking days came quickly to an end after that one.

Selecting the right film is always a dilemma, especially when trying to impress someone of the opposite sex. As a cinefile, I appreciate all types of films, but there are clearly terrible choices which can turn date night into Fright Night. Here are some of my biggest mistakes. In the interests of protecting the innocent, I won’t name names and if ever asked about this, I will deny that it ever happened (this means you, Doug the newspaper guy).

So the year is 2000. You’ve asked a girl on a first date. You’re at the box office and you suggest that an Aussie film would be a great choice. Eric Bana is that funny guy from TV. His film debut should be hilarious, right? Wrong. About twenty minutes into Andrew Dominik’s Chopper, Bana’s titular character has been stabbed in the gut. There is blood everywhere. I look across to my date. She’s looking down. Wait, she’s not looking away from the visceral violence on the screen. She’s not looking anywhere. She’s passed out.

Trust me, assisting a faint, clammy girl out of the cinema is not a great start for a date. It is, however, a pretty definitive ending. I did go back later and see the rest of the film. It’s brilliant.

Jumping backwards in time almost a decade, I asked the smartest girl at school on a date to a Saturday afternoon matinee. How quaint! The year is 1991 and in hindsight, there was an amazing array of superb films on offer: Cape Fear, JFK, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Silence of the Lambs. Which film did I actually choose? Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan, of course. This cinematic abomination is neither funny nor dramatic. As an actor, the Hulkster is a fantastic wrestler. Whilst remaining friends throughout school, we never spoke of this date again (Girl X and I, not Hulk Hogan and I).

My final embarrassment came during my university years. I frequented the Sydney Film Festival every year and was keen to share my film discoveries with anyone who would listen. I asked a girl to see a film that I was keen to champion, an underrated Aussie gem starring Jack Thompson and a young actor named Russell Crowe.

It was only when the lights darkened and I was thinking about trying the Yawn and Stretch Technique™ that I remembered that The Sum of Us was a tale about a father and son coming to terms with the son’s homosexuality. Although by definition a romantic-comedy, and still a film I recommend, this selection was not necessarily in line with the message I was trying to send. That date ended with a handshake. Enough said.

Trust me, choosing the right film is vital to romance. Learn from my mistakes. I’ll leave you with one last rule, which I learned the hard way. It goes like this. Don’t drop a mega-sized Coke on your date at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and insist on staying for the rest of the film.

iColumn 2.0 – 2009: The Year In Review

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th November 2009.

As this year draws to a close, a quick look at the events of the past 11 months suggests that 2009 will go down in the history books as an eventful one. The Black Saturday bushfires, Michael Jackson’s death, swine flu, Britney’s mime act, the rise of Masterchef , Guy Sabastian releasing the most irritating song ever and the crowning of the new Australian Idol (I’ve already forgotten his name) will all become a part of our collective memories and culture. 2009 has also seen several cases of fraudulent marketing where unscrupulous hucksters have done almost anything to get publicity, even if they don’t necessarily have a product or anything at all to market. Let’s relive some of these moments together and then perhaps banish them to the Recycling Bins of our minds. Only last week, two men who pretend to have fights in their underwear for a living, held a press conference where they proceeded to, wait for it, pretend to have a fight, and managed to get themselves covered by the mainstream Australian media. 80’s wrestling legend Hulk Hogan and 16 time World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair staged a bloody tussle to promote their upcoming pro-wrestling tour. Pictures and footage of a bleeding Hulkster were featured on the home pages of several major news websites and also made local television news. The story was then picked up internationally, however, the main focus of these stories was the Aussie media reporting on the fight as legitimate. The publicity stunt worked and initial poor sales for the Hulkamania Tour’s first show in Melbourne soared following the press coverage. At least they had a product to promote, unlike my next subject, Falcon Heene, better known as the Balloon Boy. In October, Falcon’s parents, who allegedly met at acting school, reported that he had accidentally floated away in a homemade helium balloon shaped as a flying saucer, resulting in approximately US$2 million being spent on rescue services. The balloon eventually landed without an occupant, sparking fears Falcon had fallen to his death. Of course, the whole time, Balloon Boy was hiding at home the whole time. Falcon’s parents have since confessed to the hoax, admitting it was a publicity stunt. It has yet to be determined what exactly the Balloon Boy incident was meant to be promoting. There was no product to sell, with the exception of a crazy family, but we’ve all got one of those. Hmm, seeking publicity for the sake of publicity… That reminds me of our final attention seeker, a home grown bogan better known as the “Chk Chk Boom Girl”. Clare Werberloff gained worldwide internet and media stardom for a few days when she gave an interview for a Nine Network film crew in Kings Cross. Giving completely false descriptions of a “fat wog” shooting a “skinny wog”, Werberloff had to get herself a publicist to deal with the international and local media requests for interviews. She later admitted that it was all in fun and would be a good story for the grandkids. I can just picture it. “When I was your age I made up a slightly racist story for the television and I was famous on Facebook for 5 minutes. Why don’t you kids play hide and seek in the attic while I launch my giant helium balloon?”

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 13:53  Leave a Comment  
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