If you were a fan of wrestling in the 1980’s then you knew The Ultimate Warrior. He was a staple in that era of wrestling, a larger than life figure who captured the attention of his legions of fans by his surplus of energy and bizarre promos. The man behind The Ultimate Warrior was known as James Brian Hellwig, who also wrestled under several different alias’s including Blade Runner Rock, Dingo Warrior, and Jim “Justice” Hellwig. Warrior became Hellwig’s legal name in the 90’s and to this day is also the last name associated with his family. Now, sadness fills my heart as I think about the Warrior’s wife, two daughters, friends, colleagues, and the millions of his fans around the world that are mourning his death, as shock waves were felt around the world last week.
April 8, 2014 will forever be immortalized in the wrestling world as the last day of The Ultimate Warrior, and it came just mere days after Wrestlemania XXX, Monday Night Raw and the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, three events that the Warrior was a huge part of. To top it all off, he had just signed a WWE legends contract that would have saw him be a part of the WWE once again. Furthermore, when Warrior took his place in the WWE HOF, it marked the first time in over 18 years that he was seen on WWE television, ending a real-life feud with federation owner Vince McMahon. McMahon has reportedly taken Warrior’s death extremely hard, echoing the shock and horrific sadness that the world has reacted to. Furthermore, WWE superstar and CEO Triple H has also spoke out about Warrior’s death, indicating that he was the one who spearheaded the Warrior’s return to WWE, something he had been working on for the past 18 months. Triple H told ESPN in an interview, “It meant a great deal to WWE that Warrior accepted the company’s offer to induct him into the Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2014”. He called Warrior’s death “shocking, tragic and devastating to all of us.” Triple H also echoed Warrior’s induction speech at the Hall of Fame, “His wife and daughters were the greatest accomplishments of his career”. Hunter continued, “Warrior was thrilled to be back with WWE and he had a smile on his face for almost the entire time he spent in New Orleans”. This makes the whole Warrior comeback story that much more tragic, as he seemed to be enjoying his sudden resurgence. He was the headliner of the Hall of Fame class and was met with thunderous ovations from fans who simply enjoyed chanting “Warrior”. Even at Wrestlemania XXX when Warrior was introduced along with the other inductees, he seemingly had a smile on his face from ear to ear. In fact, I believe that the response to Warrior was so impactful that the WWE brass penciled him in for an appearance on RAW the next night.
Perhaps the most eerie and intriguing aspect to this story is the last appearance on RAW by The Ultimate Warrior. For it seemed that the WWE Hall of Fame and Wrestlemania XXX were not enough and fans wanted more of the Warrior, who went on RAW to deliver a promo that would sadly turn into his own eulogy. Warrior boldly stated “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 that’s larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers — by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him, and make the running the man did live forever. I am the Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever.”
This has been dubbed the ultimate message and it rings true as fans all over the world will forever be talking about the legend of The Ultimate Warrior. His essence, memories and spirit will live on through the WWE Universe and the storytellers who will never forget his ultimate accomplishments and moments. Who could forget the very first edition of Summerslam when Warrior captured the Intercontinental Championship for the first time by defeating the Honky Tonk Man in a mere 27 seconds. Then there was the Ultimate Challenge, Wrestlemania VI, the crown jewel of Warrior’s career when he defeated Hulk Hogan clean, ending the night as Intercontinental and WWE Champion. Even the next year at Wrestlemania VII, Warrior defeated the Macho Man Randy Savage in a career match, forcing Savage to retire. Warrior even joined the WCW organization and competed in various matches there, including a spot at their War Games pay per view. There are so many memories to think about as Warrior was a fixture in the world of professional wrestling. You simply could not miss him when he entered the square circle, equipped with his iconic face war paint, colorful tassels, unlimited energy, signature run to the ring, shaking of the ropes and unforgettable theme music. When the Ultimate Warrior entered the arena, excitement pulsated through the WWE fans.
Sadly, Warrior has now left the building, suffering a massive heart attack less than 24 hours after delivering his Ultimate message on RAW. Confusion, devastation, sadness are just some words that fill the hearts of the WWE Universe. It’s no question that I believe the abuse of steroids contributed to this and the honest truth is Warrior now joins a long list of wrestlers who have died well before their time. However, at least Warrior was able to come home to the WWE and thank his fans via a message that could ultimately be translated to love your family, settle old scores, take nothing for granted and leave behind a legacy that will last forever. After the sadness of the Warrior subsides, fans will look back on his last appearances and know that Warrior was able to say his peace and reconnect with his fans. You can bet in the days, months and years to come there will be dozens of tributes and memorials in his honor. The WWE wasted little time paying tribute to Warrior, dedicating the April 14th RAW to him via a ten bell salute and a video package highlighting some of Warrior’s greatest moments. In addition, this whole week on the WWE Network has been dubbed Warrior Week, with a lineup in Warrior’s memory including a special edition of Wrestlemania Rewind that focuses on the Warrior vs. Hogan Wrestlemania title match. There will also be a Legends of Wrestlemania roundtable discussion on the Warrior in addition to a biography. I’m sure there will be much more content to come as well as video tributes. Wrestling fans will never forget The Ultimate Warrior and his spirit will live on for generations.