The Piledriver Report 04.12.14: Goodbye Warrior
Posted by Ronny Sarnecky on 04.12.2014
This Tuesday night, the wrestling world was shocked by the news that recent WWE Hall of Fame inductee, the Ultimate Warrior, tragically passed away. The Piledriver Report takes a look back at his life, career, and his final weekend on Earth. Ronny Sarnecky gives his thoughts on one of his all-time favorite wrestlers, as well as the thoughts on those within the industry.
Stunned. Shocked. A punch to the stomach. These are the feelings that rushed through my body at 6:09am on Wednesday morning when I read a text that said "Holy shit. You hear about Ultimate Warrior?" Followed by the news that the Ultimate Warrior died on Tuesday. I still can't believe it as I am writing this article. Tuesday afternoon, I was all set to write this week's article about WrestleMania XXX. I never expected to be writing about the death of the WWE's main inductee to the 2014 Hall of Fame less than 24 hours later.
According to the "Wrestling Observer" radiocast, the Warrior and his family did not stay at the same hotel as the WWE's wrestlers and crew during WrestleMania weekend. Instead, the WWE rented a house for the Warrior clan in New Orleans, along with a car service that drove them to and from the events. People that were backstage at the Hall of Fame ceremony said that Warrior was friendly, but quiet and reserved most of the evening.
According to TMZ, eyewitnesses report that Warrior looked sweaty and stressed during WrestleMania weekend. One account described it as he looked like "he was about to burst at the seams." Other claimed that "Warrior looked like he was in constant pain, sweaty, and uncomfortable; like he was choking on his tie."
During RAW, people noticed that Warrior looked weak after he went out to the ring and shook the ropes. One person claimed, "We all felt like he looked like he was going to blow a gasket. It was pretty easy to see." I'm not blaming anyone in the WWE, but if Warrior looked to be in such bad shape, then why didn't anybody question him about his health? Maybe someone did, maybe they didn't. I don't know. I just question that you are reading so many reports now that Warrior looked bad, but nobody had any of the WWE's medical staff approach him. Perhaps no one put two and two together regarding Warrior's physical appearance until after he passed away. However, I just can't help but wonder if this could have been prevented.
On Saturday night, the Warrior gave a great induction speech during the Hall of Fame ceremony. In it, he noted that he "sweats a lot." I wonder if that's why no one felt anything was out of the ordinary at the time. As happy as I was to see the Warrior back in the fold, at the same time, I couldn't help to feel a little sad for him. During his speech, he brought up how the "Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD hurt his feelings. You could still tell that, even though fences were mended, the DVD burial still bothered him.
On Sunday night, the Ultimate Warrior received a special introduction when the WWE announced this year's Hall of Fame class. On Monday night, the Warrior made his return to Monday Night RAW after an eighteen year absence. During his segment on RAW, he shook the ropes like the old-school Warrior, and cut a promo. It was clear that Warrior was more than just their latest Hall of Fame main eventer. He was back in the WWE family, and would be seen again.
According to TMZ.com, at around 6am Tuesday morning, Warrior spent a lot of time at the airport in New Orleans meeting fans and posing for pictures with them. People who saw him that morning said that he looked to be in great spirits, and agreed to take pictures with any fan that approached him.
Scottsdale (Arizona) Police Sargent Mark Clark released the following statement on Tuesday night: "On April 8 at 5:50 pm 54-year-old "Warrior" James B Hellwig collapsed while walking with his wife to their car at the Gainy Suites Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. Scottsdale Fire transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after arrival. At this point in the investigation, it appears as though a catastrophic medical condition caused his death."
According to TMZ, witnesses at the scene have stated that Warrior "clutched his chest, fell to the floor, and never recovered." As of today, there has been no official cause of death has been revealed. It appears to have been a heart attack. However, officials are calling it a "catastrophic medical event" at this time. Right now, there are no signs of drugs and alcohol that had anything to do with Warrior's death. An autopsy and toxicology tests will be performed on Thursday, April 10th to confirm the cause of death, per the Maricopa County Medical Examiner.
Warrior was born in 1959 as James Brian Hellwig, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was the oldest of five children and was raised by his mother (along with, later, his stepfather) after his father left his family when James was 12. The family moved to Indiana. James spent a year at Indiana State University.
Jim started weight training when he was 11 years old. In an interview, he described himself as "the small, insecure kid who wasn't into any sports." He started competing as an amateur bodybuilder after seeing body builder Robby Robinson. He competed in numerous National Physique Committee bodybuilding contests. His first contest took place in Florida where he placed 5th. While attending Life University in Marietta, Georgia, he won the Junior Atlanta contest and placed 5th at the 1981 AAU Collegiate Mr. America. In 1983, he won the AAU Coastal USA. He then went on to win the 1984 NPC Mr. Georgia title. In his final bodybuilding contest, he finished 5th in the 1985 Junior USA event.
In 1985, he was invited to join a group of bodybuilders that included Garland Donoho, Mark Miller, and Steve "Flash" Borden who were attempting to make the transition into professional wrestling. Warrior accepted the invitation and abandoned his bodybuilding career and his plans to become a chiropractor.
Hellwig began his professional wrestling career as Jim "Justice" Hellwig of Powerteam USA. He was trained by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman. Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden broke away from the group, and moved to Tennessee. There they wrestled as The Freedom Fighters. Jim Hellwig was known as Justice and Steve Borden was called Flash during their time as baby faces in Memphis' Continental Wrestling Association. As heels, they were managed by Dutch Mantel, where they changed their names to Rock (Hellwig) and Flash (Borden). Their new team name was called the Blade Runners. After leaving the Memphis territory, the Blade Runners went to Mid-South Wrestling/Universal Wrestling Federation in 1986. While together in the UWF, the Blade Runners were part of the heel stable led by Eddie Gilbert called Hotstuff International. The group disbanded in 1986 when Jim Hellwig left for World Class Championship Wrestling.
In World Class Championship Wrestling, Hellwig changed his name to the Dingo Warrior after someone in the locker room told him that he looked like a warrior. The Dingo Warrior teamed with Von Erich "cousin," Lance Von Erich. On November 17th, 1986, the duo captured the WCWA World Tag Team championship from Matt Borne and Master Gee (substiting for Buzz Sawyer). They would only hold the titles for two weeks, as they dropped the belts to Al Madril and Brian Adias on December 1st, 1986.
On January 12th, 1987, Warrior lost in the tournament finals for the WCWA Texas Heavyweight championship. He would gain revenge on Bob Bradley a few weeks later after he beat Bradley for the title on February 2nd, 1987. He held the belt until he was forced to vacate the strap upon signing a contract with the World Wrestling Federation.
Warrior started his WWF career in June of 1987. His early matches saw him use his World Class Championship Wrestling moniker of the Dingo Warrior. However, that would soon change. Depending on whom you believe, either Vince McMahon or Jim Hellwig came up with his now iconic name of the Ultimate Warrior. According to Tom Pritchard in the "Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD, Vince McMahon did not know what a "Dingo" Warrior is. McMahon felt that because there was the "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry Von Erich and the Road Warriors, there should not be one more simple warrior, but The Ultimate Warrior. However, Warrior claims differently. According to Warrior, after one of his first matches, McMahon had him do a pre-taped promo. Vince said they wanted him to do the promo as Warrior, but they didn't want Dingo in the name. The Warrior then proceeded to cut the promo and stated that he was not this warrior or that warrior, but he was The Ultimate Warrior.
Hellwig made his television debut as The Ultimate Warrior on the October 25, 1987 airing of "WWF Wrestling Challenge," where he defeated Terry Gibbs. In early 1988, the Ultimate Warrior entered into his first WWF feud against Hercules Hernandez. The key angle in their feud came when the two faced off on the February 7, 1988 airing of "Wrestling Challenge," where Hercules was disqualified for using his steel chain. Warrior then grabbed a hold of the chain and in the midst of a tug of war over it, snapped it. This led to a match at WrestleMania IV, where Warrior was victorious in his pay-per-view debut.
During this time, the Honky Tonk Man was in the middle of his reign as the longest reigning Intercontinental champion. At the inaugural Summer Slam pay per view event on August 29th, 1988, the Honky Tonk Man issued an open challenge for anyone in the locker room to face him for the Intercontinental title. It took the Ultimate Warrior only 27 seconds to beat the Honky Tonk Man for the WWF's Intercontinental championship.
As 1989 began, Warrior entered a feud with Ravishing Rick Rude over the Intercontinental title. The feud was sparked at the 1989 Royal Rumble, where the two met in a "super posedown." This was basically a body building contest between the two, as the fans applause determined the winner. After it was clear that the fans were siding with the baby face Warrior, Rick Rude attacked Warrior and choked him with a steel bar. This led to a championship match at WrestleMania V, where Rude pinned Warrior to win the title with the help of his manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who held down Warrior's foot from outside the ring as he was being pinned. At SummerSlam 1989, Warrior defeated Rude to regain the title and become a two-time champion. Warrior then began a feud with André the Giant, leading to a number of matches on house shows where Warrior pinned the massive giant in a matter of seconds, firmly establishing Warrior as a main event level talent.
1990 was the "Year of the Blade Runners," as the former tag team partners were being pushed as the two performers to lead the professional wrestling industry into the next decade. Sting would be the top star in the National Wrestling Alliance following his World title victory over Ric Flair at the July 1990 Great American Bash. At WrestleMania VI, in an Intercontinental vs. WWF championship match against Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior would go on to capture the WWF's top title.
After WrestleMania, Warrior successfully defended the championship against the likes of Haku, Mr. Perfect and Ted DiBiase. He then settled into a feud with the man who beat him for the Intercontinental championship a year earlier; Rick Rude. At SummerSlam 1990, he retained the title over Rude in a steel cage match.
When the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors, signed with the WWF, they set their sights on the WWF's answer to the Road Warriors, Demolition. Due to health issues, Ax and Smash added Crush into the group. To help combat the 3 on 2 disadvantage, the Road Warriors were joined by the Ultimate Warrior for a six man feud featuring all face painted wrestlers. The feud culminated at Survivor Series, where The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, Legion of Doom, and the "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry Von Erich) defeated The Perfect Team (Mr. Perfect and Demolition). For the third consecutive year, Warrior was the sole survivor for his team. He would go on to survive the "Grand Finale Match of Survival" with Hulk Hogan.
During the winter months, the Ultimate Warrior began to feud with the now "Macho King" Randy Savage. I remember this feud well, as it featured my two favorite wrestlers in the WWF at the time. During their match at the Meadowlands, I had front row seats. For the show, my friend and I each painted our faces to resemble the face paint that the Ultimate Warrior would put on his face. The next month, the Ultimate Warrior would defend the WWF title against Savage inside of a steel cage at Madison Square Garden. I couldn't wait to go to the show. However, shortly before the show, the United States went to war with Iraq in Desert Storm. My overprotective mother, as well as my friend's mom refused to let us attend for fear of a terrorist attack. Keep in mind that this was ten years BEFORE 9-11. Nothing ever happened that night. I always regretted not seeing that match. However, I did finally see it when the WWE released it on the 2011 DVD entitled "The Greatest Cage Matches of All-Time."
In January 1991, the Ultimate Warrior faced Sgt. Slaughter at the Royal Rumble. After rejecting an earlier request to grant a title shot to Savage, Sensational Sherri interjected herself in the Warrior's championship match to distract him. Her interference eventually led to a Savage sneak attack where he struck Warrior over the head with a metal scepter, and Slaughter pinned Warrior to win the title. Warrior would go on to continue to feud with Savage, and the rivalry culminated in a 'Career Ending' match at WrestleMania VII with the Warrior victorious, forcing Savage to retire.
Following WrestleMania VII, the Ultimate Warrior feuded with The Undertaker, after Undertaker and his manager, Paul Bearer, locked Warrior in a coffin on the set of Bearer's Funeral Parlor. WWF officials worked feverishly to break the casket open, finally revealing Warrior's seemingly lifeless body, and the torn fabric inside of the coffin indicating Warrior's desperate struggle to get out. Warrior was finally revived by the officials performing CPR. This led to Jake "The Snake" Roberts offering to give Warrior "the knowledge of the dark side" in order to prepare Warrior to take his revenge on the Undertaker. This involved Roberts giving Warrior three "tests" shown on WWF TV in consecutive weeks. For the first test, Roberts locked Warrior inside of a coffin for a second time. For the second test, Warrior was "buried alive" by Roberts. For the third test, the Warrior entered a room full of snakes, to find "the answer" in a chest in the middle of the room. Waiting inside the chest was a Spitting Cobra, which bit Warrior in the face. As Warrior weakened from the effects of the cobra's strike, Roberts made a heel turn and was joined by the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, revealing the three were working together all along. The stage was now set for a feud between the Warrior and Roberts.
According to the Ultimate Creations Inc. vs. WWE Inc. court case, on July 10, 1991, Warrior sent a letter to Vince McMahon requesting what was to be included in his new WWF contract. Warrior requested $550,000 for his WrestleMania VII payday, as well as a guaranteed number of working days, travel accommodations, and a higher percentage of merchandise sales. Warrior remarked that the $550,000 figure "was not fair," and that "(Warrior) meant as much or more to the show than Hulk." Warrior ended his letter by stating, "Whatever your decision, I can and will live with it. Till then I remain home with one who cares."
The WWF responded on July 13, 1991 and stated that he would be paid $550,000 for WrestleMania VII, he would receive a higher royalty rate and no other WWF performer would be paid more than him on WWF pay per views. Vince McMahon personally ended the letter by saying, "I would like to express my deepest appreciation and admiration for you as a performer, as a member of the WWF family, as a man, and as my friend."
Following SummerSlam 1991, the Ultimate Warrior was handed a letter dated August 26, 1991 from Vince McMahon stating that Warrior would be suspended effective immediately. Vince's letter stated, "you threatened to 'stay at home' thereby not even appearing at Titan's major summer pay-per-view event SummerSlam. I had no choice but to accede to your exorbitant demands. This was a serious mistake on your part." Vince later testified that the only reason the company agreed to the contract was to "acquiesce to his demands temporarily" to ensure Warrior would perform at the SummerSlam event.
Upon receiving the letter, Warrior refused the suspension and left the WWF. Warrior formally sent a letter of resignation to the WWF in October 1991. The WWF refused to accept the letter since Warrior was under contract until September 1992. However, the two sides would make amends. Hulk Hogan about to take a sabbatical from the WWF following WrestleMania VIII. To make up for Hulk Hogan's absence, Vince McMahon contacted Warrior about returning. Warrior made his comeback at WrestleMania VIII where he rescued Hulk Hogan from a beat down at the hands of Sid Justice and Papa Shango. Following his feud with Papa Shango, the Ultimate Warrior was booked for a WWF Championship match against WWF champion, "Macho Man" Randy Savage at SummerSlam 1992. The Warrior would win the match by count-out but not the title.
In November 1992, Warrior was scheduled to tag with Savage, as the Ultimate Maniacs, to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon at the Survivor Series. In the weeks before the event, Warrior was released for an unknown reason. In the book "Sex, Lies and Headlocks," writer Shaun Assael stated that Canadian chemist Mauro Di Pasquale nailed Warrior for steroid use in September and was able to persuade McMahon, who was under federal scrutiny at the time for allegations of illegally supplying steroids to some of his wrestlers, to release Warrior from the company. In a 1999 deposition session (Document 185-6), Vince McMahon said the Ultimate Warrior was fired for violating WWE's drug policy when Warrior admitted to having attempted to illegally import human growth hormone from England. Warrior admitted to trying to purchase the drugs in a 1993 grand jury testimony (Document 180-11).
The Ultimate Warrior would be gone from the WWF for almost three and a half years. When the Ultimate Warrior left the WWF, he kept busy. Warrior opened the short-lived "Warrior University", a professional wrestling school based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In December 1992, he wrestled as the Dingo Warrior against Hercules Hernandez in Billerica, Massachusetts, for Killer Kowalski's International Wrestling Federation. In 1993, Hellwig played the role of "the swordsman" in the action movie Firepower.
In July 1995, he returned to the ring for the National Wrestling Conference (NWC) promotion in Las Vegas, defeating The Honky Tonk Man. He had also wrestled a tour of Europe for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion.
Around January 1996, the WWF started airing vignettes promoting the Ultimate Warrior's WWF return at the Royal Rumble. For some unknown reason, the two sides could not come to an agreement, and Warrior never showed up at the 1996 Royal Rumble. Instead, the Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF on March 31, 1996, defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania XII. He made his first appearance on Monday Night Raw on April 8, where he gave an in-ring interview and credited the "voices" of the "warriors" for his return. He was then interrupted by Goldust. Warrior challenged for Goldust's Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 7. Warrior won the match by countout, but did not win the title. The Ultimate Warrior defeated Jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring in June.
Warrior was scheduled to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson to face Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Vader at In Your House 9 in July 1996. However, the WWF terminated Warrior's contract when he took time off allegedly to grieve the death of his father. Vince McMahon claimed that Warrior had not seen his father in ten years and did not care much for him. Therefore, Vince did not take Warrior's excuse for missing bookings at face value. Warrior disputes McMahon's explanation. Warrior claimed that the real reason why he no showed those events was a breach of contract by McMahon, in which the WWF sold Warrior's merchandise without giving him a percentage.
In a 1999 and 2009 depositions, Vince McMahon that Warrior was walking out due to a contractual dispute having to do with their licensing agreements. WWE took the issue public on Raw, turning its legitimate demand for an appearance bond into a storyline. Warrior never paid, was held in breach of contract and that was the end of his in-ring WWE career. In the 1999 deposition, McMahon referred to the dispute as "strike three," as both of Warrior's previous stints with the company edited with bad blood on both sides.
The Ultimate Warrior left the wrestling business until World Championship Wrestling signed him in 1998 and gave him a degree of creative control over his matches. He created a storyline where he formed a stable opposing Hollywood Hulk Hogan's New World Order: the "One Warrior Nation." Warrior only participated in four matches in WCW. The first was the War Games match at Fall Brawl, where he competed as a member of Team WCW, competing against 8 other wrestlers for a shot at Goldberg's WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Halloween Havoc. On WCW Monday Nitro, the next night, he faced Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. On WCW Monday Nitro, he teamed with Sting to defeat Hogan and Bret Hart by disqualification, a match in which he had little participation. His third match was his loss to Hogan at Halloween Havoc.
WCW claimed that attempts were made to save the storyline though Warrior has claimed in interviews and convention appearances that the only reason he was brought back was so Hogan could get a win over Warrior in return for Hogan's WrestleMania job. Warrior's last appearance in WCW was on the November 9, 1998 edition of Nitro, when he came to the rescue of The Disciple who was being attacked by members of nWo. Warrior retired from wrestling at the end of the year.
After retiring in 1998, Warrior only wrestled one match after that in 2008, against Orlando Jordan in Barcelona, Spain. The Warrior won the match and thus the Nu-Wrestling Evolution heavyweight championship, but then immediately vacated the title.
Aside from wrestling conventions, the Warrior left the business behind. During retirement, he had a short-lived career as a conservative speaker and commentator, partnering with conservative spokesman Daniel Pinheiro, denouncing left-wing politics. In perhaps his most controversial speech, Warrior mentioned that "queering doesn't make the world work" during a speech at the University of Connecticut. Warrior explained those comments on his website as meaning that the human race would die out if everyone were a homosexual.
In 1993, Hellwig legally changed his name to the Warrior. This one-word name appears on all legal documents pertaining to Warrior, and his children carry the Warrior name as their legal surname. It was a move used by the former Jim Hellwig that allowed him to continue to use the Warrior name, despite the WWE having the trademark rights to the name Ultimate Warrior.
In 1996 and later 1998, Warrior and the WWF engaged in a series of lawsuits and legal actions where both parties sought a declaration that they owned the characters, Warrior and Ultimate Warrior, under both contract and copyright law. The court ruled that Warrior was legally entitled to use the gimmick, costuming, face paint designs, and mannerisms of the "Warrior" character.
On September 27, 2005, WWE released a DVD documentary focusing on Warrior's retrospective wrestling career, titled "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior." The DVD featured clips of his more notable feuds and matches along with commentary from WWE stars past and present (most of which are unflattering), with Triple H adding that his WrestleMania debut loss against Warrior at WrestleMania XII left him with mixed emotions, saying that Warrior "ruined the experience" for him and was "one of the most unprofessional guys" he's ever performed with. Originally, Warrior was asked to help with the production of the DVD, but as he refused to work with WWE (citing he did not want to be associated with their promotion), there has been some resulting animosity between Warrior and WWE over the Warrior claiming bias on the part of WWE. In January 2006, Warrior filed another lawsuit against WWE in an Arizona court over the depiction of his wrestling career in The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD. On September 18, 2009, Warrior's lawsuit in Arizona was dismissed.
On July 15, 2013, Warrior was featured in a "WWE 2K14" game trailer and revealed he was in the roster as a pre-order bonus. Earlier this year, the WWE and the Ultimate Warrior came to terms on a deal that would put him into the WWE Hall of Fame. He didn't sign the typical Legends contract. Instead, he was given a contract to become the latest WWE Ambassador. This deal was to include public appearances, and a marketing deal to sell Ultimate Warrior merchandise.
Shortly after learning of the Ultimate Warrior's untimely passing, the WWE released the following statement: "WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever, The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior began his WWE career in 1987 and quickly went on to become one of the biggest stars in WWE history. Warrior became WWE Champion at WrestleMania VI, defeating Hulk Hogan in an epic encounter. We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was also able to appear at WrestleMania 30 and Monday Night Raw to address his legions of fans. WWE sends its sincere condolences to Warrior's family, friends and fans. Warrior was 54 and is survived by his wife Dana and his two daughters."
Triple H then tweeted, "Saddened to announce the passing of the Ultimate Warrior. Icon and friend. My sympathy to his wife Dana and his daughters."
Vince McMahon wrote, "We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters."
Stephanie McMahon also tweeted, "#RIPUltimateWarrior Your strength of character is to be admired. There will never be anyone like you. Your spirit lives on in your family."
Several other personalities in the wrestling industry have offered their thoughts via Twitter:
Jake "The Snake" Roberts: Deeply saddened. We just had a great talk & buried a senseless hatchet. Talked working together. RIP Warrior. Taking solace we made peace.
TNA President Dixie Carter: RIP @UltimateWarrior. Much respect. Deepest sympathies to your family.
Hulk Hogan: We talked,both forgave each other,we hugged ,we shook hands as we told each other I love you,I am so sad,God bless his beautiful family HH
Mickie James: Absolute shock! After what must've been an incredible few days for him. Life is so precious. Take nothing for granted. Prayers #RIPWarrior
Jim Ross: Sad to pass along the news that the Ultimate Warrior has died. Condolences to his wife & two, young daughters. RIP Warrior
Curt Axel: To see the love he had for his family proves who he really was! #RIPWarrior
Tamina Snuka: I'm in shock and can't believe it but my heart goes out to #UltimateWarrior and his FAMILY! He was one of my favorites #RIPWarrior
Bobby Roode: Totally shocked by the passing of Ultimate Warrior. Speechless #RIPWarrior
Sheamus: Change your icon to an actual icon. This day we ALL wear warpaint. #ThankYouWarrior
Chris Jericho: "Devastated to hear of the passing of @UltimateWarrior. He was a childhood hero of mine & he vs @HulkHogan WM6 is still one of the best ever. If you were a WWF fan in the late 80s this man was GOD. His heavy metal hair, off the charts "
Hornswoggle: "Saw him at the airport this morning and was going to say hello but didn't want to bother him. Still so unreal and such mind blowing news."
Trish Stratus: "Sad to hear news of Warrior passing. Just seeing him happy last 3 days it puts life in perspective that it can't be taken for granted. RIP"
Daniel Bryan: "Heartbroken. My sincerest condolences go out to The Warrior's family. Seeing how much he loved his daughters and his wife this weekend makes it all the more heartbreaking. The Ultimate Warrior was my favorite as a kid, and getting to speak to him this weekend was one of my favorite moments. He was so nice to me. #RIPWarrior"
Randy Orton: "My thoughts and prayers go out to the Warrior family. It breaks my heart after seeing how proud his girls are of their father. Stay strong"
Batista: "After all these years I finally got 2 tell him that me shaking the ropes was an homage 2 him. Blessed to have had that moment. #onelife"
The Rock: "Loss always has a way of reminding us to live and love as greatly as we can. My prayers and strength to his family. RIP Ultimate Warrior."
Diamond Dallas Page: "Deeply saddened to find out about the passing of #WWE LEGEND, @UltimateWarrior. You & your legacy will FOREVER be remembered in our hearts!"
Bad News Barrett: "Truly awful news about The Ultimate Warrior's passing. Thoughts go out to his family. RIP."
Hulk Hogan: "RIP WARRIOR. only love. HH"
Kevin Nash: "So happy I embraced Warrior with a hug when we saw each other backstage Saturday night.My heart goes out to his family.Always Believe."
Hornswoggle: "This is absolutely horrific news. After just meeting my hero yesterday,finding out about @UltimateWarrior passing is unbelievable.Speechless"
Gregory Shane Helms: "The wrestling world has lost another legend. RIP ULTIMATE WARRIOR. Dammit."
Austin Aries: "WTF?! Really!? #Warrior"
Nattie Neidhart: "Thoughts and prayers go out to Warrior and his family. Incredibly sad to hear this news."
John Layfield: "Really saddened to hear about @UltimateWarrior passing away. RIP A tremendous legend."
Curtis Axel: "Shocked and very saddened to hear about Ultimate Warrior passing. Prayers go out to his family! RIP. Loss for words "
Zack Ryder: "I'm in shock. The Ultimate Warrior has passed away. I just met him yesterday. RIP. I'll always believe!!!"
Rowdy Roddy Piper: "Tomorrow is promised to know one!! Enjoy every second, with a tool called love!! My love to The Warrior and family. RIP"
Titus O'Neil: "Very disappointed 2hear of the passing of @WWE HOF #ultimatewarrior my Kids just met him this weekend&I enjoyed meeting his family. #Wow"
Steve Austin: Shocked to hear of Ultimate Warrior's death. I used to drive to Sportatorium in Dallas to see him in WCCW. He had a damn good run. RIP
AJ Styles: My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Ultimate Warrior.
Tommy Dreamer: I got to hear & see @UltimateWarrior passion & love 4 wrestling in a hallway to me in @MidHudsonCC Happy the world got to show him Love
Brooklyn Brawler: I am so sad about the death of the Ultimate Warrior. My heart goes out to his entire family.
Matt Hardy: Warrior was 1 of my brother's early influences in wrestling, as u can see in this childhood clip of Jeff
William Regal: My condolences and best wishes to the family of the Ultimate Warrior.RIP.
Joey Styles: Disbelief and sadness . #RIPUltimateWarrior
Devon Dudley: To his family and Friends warrior thank you for the memories you will be missed but never forgotten R.I.P.
Had to watch HOF again during cardio, truly saddened by the news. #RIPWARRIOR Michael Elgin (@ROHMichaelElgin)
Whoa, just heard about the Ultimate Warrior's passing. Shocking and surreal, RIP. Kyle O'Reilly (@ROHOreilly)
One of the reasons I fell in love with wrestling..... #RIPwarrior Matt Taven (@MattTaven)
With tears in my eyes... #warriorspirit #createyourowndestiny Tommaso Ciampa (@ProjectCiampa)
When a double clothesline happens in a match, I yell out "Warrior Hogan!" Ultimate Warrior left so many lasting impressions on a generation. Todd Sinclair (@ToddSinclair)
Just woke up to the newsThe Ultimate Warrior has passed away and I'm in disbelief. He was 1of my biggest childhood Heroes. RIP warriorman! -- Shelton Benjamin (@MrSheltyB803)
Ill never forget the inspirational speech Warrior gave me Caleb and Cedric before we walked thru the curtain once. Didnt have to, but he did Adam Page (@theAdamPage)
Just woke up to the news that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. So shocked...I thought his speech on Raw was such a cool moment. Unreal. Kevin Steen (@FightSteenFight)
RIP Ultimate Warrior. Nana (@PrinceKingNana)
Hurt hearing the news about @UltimateWarrior passing. Having a hard time digesting this one. TY for entertaining me as a kid. #RIPWarrior Mike Mondo (@MikeMondo83)
Shocked. Woke up to see that Ultimate Warrior passed away. I just watched his amazing HOF speech yesterday. So sad. Life is so fragile. Steve Corino (@KINGCorino)
A poignant, and almost fitting end to one of the most historic weeks in our sport's history. You could write a book about the last 5 days. Brutal Bob Evans (@brutalbobevans)
Wow just Wow RIP #Warrior you were an inspiration to more than you know Eddie Edwards (@TheEddieEdwards)
Sorry to hear of the passing of The Ultimate Warrior. At a loss for words. RIPWarrior Rhett Titus (@RhettTitusANX
TNA Wrestling has posted the following statement on its website:
"TNA joins the entire wrestling world in mourning the passing of Warrior. He was one of the most popular superstars in the history of professional wrestling and will certainly be missed by millions of fans worldwide. We hope everyone will keep his family in their thoughts and prayers."
Triple H on ESPN: Triple H revealed he had been working on Ultimate Warrior's WWE return for over 18 months, and that his return was a healing process for WWE. Both sides had to grow, and move on from issues they had in the past, but it meant the world to WWE that Warrior accepted the Hall of Fame induction offer.
Triple H said that Warrior's greatest accomplishment in his life were his wife and being a great father to his young daughters. HHH said Warrior was ecstatic to be back, and he didn't think he saw the smile leave Warrior's face the entire time he was in New Orleans. He said Warrior's passing was "shocking, tragic and devastating to all of us."
In an Associated Press story, Triple H said "Vince said to him a couple of days ago, 'I've always loved you. Sometimes, I didn't like you, but I always loved you."
In the same article, Sean Waltman stated, "I got a sense he wasn't well. It was sad to me. He was kind of hunched over. He used to have such great posture. You just had this sense that he wasn't well. But he was in great spirits. He came up to (other wrestlers) and gave them hugs."
The Ultimate Warrior, aka Jim Hellwig, aka Warrior, was one of the most polarizing figures in wrestling. Like his wrestling character, the Ultimate Warrior flew through the WWF and left just as fast. His first stint lasted four years. His next stay in the WWF lasted only seven months. His final tenure as an active wrestler in the WWE ended after three months. His time in WCW also lasted three months. If you add all of that time together, the Warrior's career on the national platform ran only five years and one month. In that time the Ultimate Warrior left his mark on the industry. Was he the greatest promo or even a good worker? No, but he never pretended to be. What he was is someone who had amazing charisma and a super hero look with his long hair, huge muscles, tassels, and face paint. Even people who didn't follow professional wrestling knew who the Ultimate Warrior was.
It seems like whenever a wrestler passes away, we say that we shouldn't be surprised. Yet, every time it happens, we are always stunned. Warrior's death is no different. I can't help it, but the Warrior passing has really left me stunned. Seeing him back at the Hall of Fame brought back memories of my younger years. After the ceremony, I was feeling very happy. Sure, I felt bad when he described the hurt and pain that the "Self-Destruction" DVD caused. However, he seemed happy, and in a good place. He had two cute little girls, and a loving wife looking on. Now, all I can think of is that Warrior's day of redemption, will not be looked at as a happy occasion. However, it will be remembered by them as a time of sadness. That's a shame, because the Warrior coming back to the WWE was a great story.
While doing some research of the Ultimate Warrior, I found an errie tidbit regarding Warrior. He felt that he would die at a young age. In a 1999 deposition (PACER Case 2:06-cv-00535-ROS, Document 180-1), he addressed this in the context of his father's passing at 57 years old three years earlier. "I'm thinking about, you know I just had my 37th birthday. I got 20 years left in my life maybe. I mean, you know, I'm doing these calculations in my head. My grandfathers die at 52," he said. When he passed away on Tuesday, Warrior was 54, three years shy of his father's age when he passed.
Looking back at the Ultimate Warrior's career, I will remember the times, I saw him wrestle in person. There was his Intercontinental title win over Rick Rude at SummerSlam 1989. The aforementioned match against Randy Savage in December of 1991. I also witnessed a Body Bag match against the Undertaker at the Garden, as well as Demolition vs. the Ultimate Warrior and the Legion of Doom in the Road Warriors first Madison Square Garden show. I also was at SummerSlam 1991 when he teamed with Hulk Hogan against General Adnon, the Iron Shiek, and Sgt. Slaughter on the night when Vince fired the Ultimate Warrior after the match. However, the matches that I will look back at the most fondly are probably the two best matches of his career; his title vs. title match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI and his retirement match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII.
I leave you with two final pieces. The first is Jim Ross's blog on his memories. The next is the last televised words from the Ultimate Warrior.
Jim Ross: I met Warrior in 1986 in the Mid South territory when he was known as Rock, the tag team partner of Sting of the Blade Runners. Bill Watts booked the rookie duo into his territory to become the Mid South's version of the Road Warriors.
Even though the pair had a short run in Memphis prior to arriving in Oklahoma, Watts booked them largely upon the recommendation of his old friend Red Bastien who, along with Rick Bassman, trained them in California.
At that time 'Rock's' real name was Jim Hellwig and he departed Mid South under not so positive circumstances. Watts was a disciplinarian and felt that a rookie should be seen and not heard. Warrior did not share in that philosophy.
Off to Dallas Warrior went and came in contact with several veterans in World Class who loved Warrior's look and intensity although the muscular rookie he was not a polished, in ring technician but he obviously had the potential to be a marketable "attraction."
Warrior had a vision then of what his character should be in order to maximize its potential. In an era where many old school wrestling people were not always positive regarding 'wrestling characters' that were 'out there' Warrior needed a visionary with whom he could share his creative vision.
That person was Vince McMahon who was more than happy to bring Warrior to WWE and to work with the larger than life, painted face super hero in further developing the TV persona that would influence countless young fans in the late 80's and early 90's.
Warrior was always somewhat of a loner and was always a unique thinker even as a rookie in Mid South. His promos always told a highly unique and memorable message even if one did not fully understand what Warrior was saying.
For some reason, the younger fans of that era did seem to relate to the super hero with his infectious energy and one of a kind delivery.
The most memorable moment for me this past weekend in New Orleans was the interaction at the WWE Hall of Fame between Warrior and his two daughters who accompanied their Dad on stage just before he gave his induction speech. The love and bond between a father and his daughters was obvious and heart warming.
In an arena full of Warrior fans, many of who were reliving their youth with their hero, Warrior made it clear that his greatest accomplishment was not being the Ultimate Warrior but instead being the father of his two daughters.
In a career and life often marked by controversy, the beauty of the weekend was seeing Warrior come home to WWE accompanied by his family and that they were able to enjoy the celebration together.
I live with this mantra daily, "Tomorrow's aren't guaranteed for any of us." Today, that philosophy is more meaningful than ever.
The Warrior's final promo from Monday Night RAW:
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life 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 immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend markers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends."
Looking back at that speech, and the way the Ultimate Warrior died, his promo is very errie. On Tuesday, the Warrior's hear beat it's final beat. In his life, the Warrior was larger than life, and his memory will live on through his family, friends, and fans around the world. In a sense, the Warrior will live forever. Sadly, forever started too soon. Rest in peace, Warrior. Always believe.