Thoughts from the Top Rope 4.13.14: My WrestleMania Weekend
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 04.13.2014
This week's Thoughts from the Top Rope discusses all the major talking points from WrestleMania Week, including a full review of the show and the post-Mania Raw, thoughts on the end of Undertaker's Streak and the death of the Ultimate Warrior and more!
Another WrestleMania Weekend has come and gone and the number of talking points we have been left to digest is perhaps higher than ever before. WrestleMania Weekend is typically a roller-coaster ride of excitement and emotions for any and all wrestling fans, and this year was no different – in fact, between the Hall of Fame, WrestleMania XXX and the days that followed, fans have experienced the full spectrum of emotions. We felt pride as we witnessed some of our old favourites cement their place in professional wrestling at the Hall of Fame having overcome incredible personal battles. Fans were left utterly stunned and then immediately heartbroken by the end of The Streak at WrestleMania XXX. We then experienced unadulterated euphoria as our champion finally rose to the very pinnacle of the industry by becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion to close Sunday night's extravaganza. And the following night we were left full of optimism as a spotlight was shone and a number of rising talents with the ability to carry the sport will love in to the future. Then tragically, all of that was put into perspective as we learned of the passing of the Ultimate Warrior on Tuesday.
In today's Thoughts from the Top Rope, we'll discuss all of these topics and more, having had a couple of days to digest everything that has happened in what is probably the most shocking week in the history of professional wrestling. Some of my views you will agree with, some of them you inevitably will not. Make sure you leave your thoughts, your comments, your criticisms and your views in the comments section below and I will do my best to respond to as many as I can as per usual, whether that's in the comments section or back here next week. On that note, let us begin by addressing feedback from my three previous pre-WrestleMania XXX columns.
Last Week's Feedback
A number of week's ago, in honour of our guaranteed WrestleMania XXX main event Triple Threat match, we counted down the 30 Greatest Triple Threat Matches in WWE History. The full list is available at the link. The WrestleMania XX main event of Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit and its Backlash 2004 rematch took the top two spots, with the electric WWE Championship encounter between The Rock, The Undertaker and Kurt Angle coming in at number three. As you'd expect, the 411 Universe had plenty of suggesting for matches that could have made the list, though the only one I feel I could have included was the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan/Kane encounter from No Way Out 2012. I loved that match and that angle, so I'm not sure how I let it slip under my radar. Incidentally, the majority of matches that would have made my "Honourable Mentions" list were John Cena matches;
John Cena vs. Edge vs. Rob Van Dam [Raw, June 2006]
John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show [WrestleMania 25, World Heavyweight Championship]
John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Big Show [Summerslam 2012, WWE Championship]
John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Ryback [Survivor Series 2012, WWE Championship]
Cena already had a handful of matches in the top 30, so does that make him king of the Triple Threat match?
We then counted down the Top 30 Moves in WrestleMania History, with Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant coming in at the top, with two Edge Spears making up the top three, Jeff Hardy and Mick Foley the recipients. Once again, the readers chimed in their with their additions and this time I think there was quite a few that could have been included. Sheamus beating Daniel Bryan with the Brogue Kick should have made it for the chain of events it set in motion making it of great historical significance, even though it's just a couple of years old. I left out Chris Benoit forcing Triple H to submit to the Crossface because, although it led to a great immediate moment with Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, Benoit's title reign ended up being fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. John Cena scooping up Big Show and Edge was omitted because he only hit the move on Show – that's a bit of a caveat but a logical one, I feel. John Morrison and his ladder moonsault would have made the list if he'd actually of connecting with the move – instead a bunch of guys had to fall over and pretend. Tremendous athleticism though. I definitely could have found a spot for the Sweet Chin Music/Pedigree combo that nearly ended the Streak inside Hell in a Cell a few years back. I absolutely loved that spot and it's one of the few times in recent history that made you think the Streak could end.
And of course, last week I followed up my WrestleMania Fantasy Card Play-by-Play from way back in January with the Alternative WrestleMania XXX Play-by-Play, using the actual card this time. This time I went a little over-the-top with the overbooking, purely to make things interesting. The show saw John Cena carried to the back by the Wyatts following a fluke roll-up victory over Bray Wyatt. Later in the show, Daniel Bryan would overcome all odds to fend off the Authority with help from the Shield and CM Punk. Following a mammoth celebration, the Wyatts would appear for just long enough to distract Bryan, who would then be hit by a devastating Attitude Adjustment from John Cena to close the show. Of course, plenty of people pointed out that a "John Cena heel turn will never happen," which is a fair assessment. But what I perceived to be the brilliance of the scenario involving the Wyatts is that you can run John Cena as a heel without turning him heel.
Earlier in the show, the Wyatts take Cena to the back. They have him tied up, beat on him some more off-camera and they make it clear to him that they have something over him. I don't know what, it could be anything. You could get Nikki Bella involved. Something that makes Cena vulnerable – because that's all anybody really wants. So for a few months, Bray Wyatt has John Cena do his bidding and that involves helping him chase Bryan for the title. Think of the JBL/Shawn Michaels angle from a few years back. Think of an extended, more intriguing version of the Bryan/Wyatt angle from last year. This way, fans get to see a vulnerable side of John Cena for a few months while the company has a quick fix to turn Cena back and probably wouldn't lose much in the way of merchandise sales. Cena would even still wrestle as a face on the house show circuit. On top of that, you elevate Bray Wyatt to the very top of the card and get months of awesome Wyatt/Bryan/Cena combinations in the ring. Everyone's a winner.
I'd like to thank anyone and everyone who has read any of these articles, especially those who have left feedback. Again, I will always endeavour to respond to as many comments as I can one way or another.
For anyone who considers themselves as fan of professional wrestling, WrestleMania Weekend is the most exciting time of the year. With the growth of WWE, the show has expanded to a whole week of hype, events, memories, moments and magic. Unfortunately, my financial situation in addition to the fact that I live on the other side of the pond means that I have yet to attend my first WrestleMania in person but that doesn't mean my whole weekend didn't pretty much revolve around that one special night. In the days leading up to the show, I opted plenty of classic Mania matches and moments, as well as WrestleMania XX, 21, 22 and 26 in full. These are all great shows. On Saturday night I decided I'd stay up late and try to find a live stream of the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. I found a stream airing the pre-show and the stream was damn good. The pre-show was enjoyable. The actual ceremony didn't kick off until 2am local time, so I figured I had an uphill battle to get through the whole thing, especially when Lita rambled on and on and on and on with no real end in sight. Plenty of people used to complain about not getting the chance to see the ceremony in full and having to make do with the edited version that airs on the USA Network, and those people should now realise they need to be careful what you wish for. Personally, I would have no problem listening to legends telling stories for hours and hours at a time, but at the time in the morning, I was having none of it. Surely though, WWE and USA could put together a 2-hour show as a sort of compromise. One hour isn't enough, especially with commercials. Of course depending on the future successes of the Network, it may all be irrelevant.
So I gave up on the Hall of Fame at the conclusion of Lita's speech and opted to catch the rest another time. My brother and I caught a train to Birmingham around 2.30pm Sunday afternoon. We didn't need to be at the venue airing WrestleMania until midnight, but my brother wanted to meet a friend to watch a "soccer" match kicking off at 4pm. Because of my alcohol dependency lack of will power, this meant that we would be drinking for a good eight hours before the start of WrestleMania XXX. But then again, WrestleMania is only once a year so why not. We arrived at the venue a couple of hours prior to the show starting, disappointed to realise that the organisers either had not realised the official pre-show was not available in the UK, or they hadn't been able to find a decent stream for it meaning we didn't get to see the four-way match for the WWE Tag Team Championships, nor the implosion of the Real Americans. That said, the venue showed classic WrestleMania matches including Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero instead, so it wasn't all bad. I have to say, the atmosphere when watching a show like WrestleMania with 200 other wrestling fans, most of them quite intoxicated, is a surreal experience but a tremendously enjoyable one. As you'd expect, there was lots of "Yes" chants and "Wooo"-ing breaking out randomly throughout the night before the show began.
Blow By Blow WrestleMania XXX Thoughts
Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupting Hulk Hogan's opening promo was absolutely golden. As soon as that glass shattered, there was an inevitability about The Rock showing up but the anticipation made the moment greater. Clearly many people in the venue hadn't read reports online of The Rock being in New Orleans, because people around me were shocked when his music hit. Both Rock and Austin played off of Hogan's "Silverdome" gaffe perfectly and in a way that many other legends wouldn't think to do. A few people might complain about WrestleMania opening with a promo and three not-even-part-timers, but this was a great moment and one that the fans lapped up. Rock's line about "Rock babies" was great. I was disappointed not to see a Stone Cold Stunner all night, but this was a suitable replacement.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H was match of the night for me. There was a tremendous atmosphere, Triple H worked the shoulder perfectly and sold everything that Daniel Bryan had to throw at him wonderfully well. Going in, people thought this WrestleMania was one that would live or die based on Daniel Bryan and the outcome and quality of his match(es) and the first of two went off perfectly. If I was snowflake kind of guy, which I am, I'd rate this at about ****½. These guys had us biting on near falls, amped up for the finish and elated by the ending only to snatch it all away from us with the post-match attack. You can't really ask for much more than that. The only thing that hurts the match is Daniel Bryan's sporadic selling of the shoulder injury, but it's a minor quibble when you're sold on the emotion of a match.
Quick question: has any main event talent put over more people at WrestleMania than Triple H?
The Shield vs. Kane and the New Age Outlaws went exactly as it should have. I know a lot of people were disappointed with how the Shield were used going into WrestleMania, but they went over decisively here, looking like a million bucks and still providing us with a WrestleMania moment in the double triple powerbomb. You can't really be too disappointed with this considering Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns got their big spotlight the following night on Raw. For the sheer dominance and awesomeness of the Shield I'd give this around ** despite it's brevity.
I'm not usually a big fan of Battle Royals but I thought the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was terrific stuff. I was initially disappointed that the three remaining spots weren't filled with legends or suprise returns, but that disappointment faded when I realised Cesaro was in there. It was inevitable at that point that he would be going over. They worked plenty of nice spots into this one to keep things interested. I loved Fandango's elimination of Big E, followed by him dancing around the ring apron as New Orleans "Fandangoed" in the background. His elimination was inevitable at that point though, but it was well-executed. I was surprised Big E wasn't given more to do during the match. Kofi Kingston got his spot in, and it was a damn cool one. I gather he was supposed to land on his feet on the steps, but I think things worked out for the best. Alberto del Rio looked like a beast in this match, eliminating more opponents than anyone else. I wouldn't mind him get a run as Intercontinental Champion as I think his days a main event talent are done. Then we come to the finish, and Cesaro creating his WrestleMania moment by slamming Big Show over the top rope. The impressive thing here was how effortless it looked. I think Cesaro still has some things to work on, but in the ring the guy is an absolute beast and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here. I'm going to rate this at ***¼ for the fun spots and the awesomeness of Cesaro, who was the right winner. The first couple of minutes were uneventful but things picked up quickly to make for one of the better battle royals I can recall.
The encounter between John Cena and Bray Wyatt is apparently drawing criticism for being a slow match with a bad finish. That's crazy talk. The Wyatt/Cena match was a showcase of perfect story-telling and ring psychology. Sometimes you have to slow the pace down to properly convey the emotions of nuances of the match and these guys did a great job. After Cena was spooked out by Bray's crab stance during his first Five Knuckle Shuffle attempt, he goes for the move later and doesn't bother hitting the ropes. You have Cena then taking a dive to the floor to eliminate the Family. Later Cena tackles Harper through the barricade in favour of getting back in the ring. You have Wyatt doing everything he can to get inside Cena's head. John Cena is screaming at Wyatt to "TAP," whilst in the STFU. Even the referee played a role, not warning Cena not to use the chair for fear of disqualification, but because "that's not who [Cena] is!" The finish wasn't decisive, it was desperation. Give credit to Wyatt for having he crowd in the palm of his hands (we at the bar were singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" along with NOLA), but John Cena deserves a lot of praise for that match too. And it really picked up in terms of physicality down the stretch. It's barely a *** affair without the psychology, but the story-telling takes it up to **** in my opinion.
We move onto the Streak match pitting The Undertaker against Brock Lesnar. We'll discuss the outcome and what it means in depth a bit later on, but let me begin by flat out saying that the match was lacking. There's a couple of issues coming into play here. First and foremost, in the last few days it has become apparent that Undertaker suffered a number of injuries during the match, not least a concussion that took him completely out of the ball game. Having re-watched the show at home, Undertaker is audible on a couple of occasions asking "what's next" or "what are we doing" as he tries to gain some composure. Secondly, the crowd weren't with them and that's always going to hurt the quality of a match. You could argue that the lacklustre build is to blame, but I don't think anyone bought Lesnar as a threat to the Streak regardless of how much offence Brock got in on Taker before WrestleMania. If the fans in the stadium aren't biting on the near falls, it's unlikely fans watching at home will either. It didn't help that the offence leading to the signature moves consisted almost entirely of punching and kicking, and the execution of moves was tentative at best (likely due to both guys trying to protect each other), but it's hard to be too critical considering Taker's injuries suffered during the bout. Then came the finish. My immediate thought when Lesnar connected with the third F5 was something along the lines of "I can't believe someone's going to kick out of F5s, the move's been tarnished enough already." And then of course, the referee counted the 3, Heyman jumps in the ring and the crowd is absolutely gobsmacked. We can argue all day and all long about the rights and wrongs of the Streak ending to Brock Lesnar (and we will, later) but it's in the record books. We'll go *** in total, but that's largely in part to the shocking conclusion.
Fun fact: I exited the venue as the Undertaker began to make his entrance. I smoked two cigarettes and then had a conversation with an old friend who was stood in the smoking area of the venue next door. When I returned, Taker was just removing his hat.
You had to feel sorry for AJ Lee and co. for having to following the ending of the Streak. I think they did an admirable job. I see people saying it was a bog standard Divas match and it was a miracle that nobody died, but I feel that these people haven't watch many Divas matches lately. It's hard to get a good match when there's 14 competitors in there and not much time, so they did OK. The Bellas' spots were fun and most Divas got their spots in. I was confused by the finish, as AJ used the referee's bad positioning to force Naomi to submit by slapping her hand to the mat, but Naomi was clearly tapping with her other hand in front of the referee anyway. Still, this was fun filler and I feel they did a good job under the circumstances so ** seems about right.
The main event was about what everyone expected it to be in terms of booking, but I think the match quality was better than most thought it would be. It's easy for overbooking to take away from a match but I don't feel as though that was the case here. Randy Orton did a good job of holding everything together. Daniel Bryan put in a stellar performance even if his selling of the shoulder was once again hit and miss. Batista more than held his own in there. It took to get the crowd back on side but they did come alive for the Triple H interference, which they got out of the way early and that's no coincidence. They did the announce table spot, which looked sick, and the stretcher job for Bryan. They did everything they could to play up the underdog role for Bryan and it made for a tremendous match with a more than satisfying finish. The bar I was in absolutely erupted for the tap out and the celebration was on. For the live audience, I'm not sure if this moment made up for the shock of the Streak ending but it had to have come close. The match was perhaps better the second time around watching it at home, but it was still a top notch main event to cap off an incredible night. It's a **** match, but as it's also the pay-off an eight-month long wait, you have to go ****¼ for this one.
Summary: WrestleMania XXX was a hell of a show for a lot of reasons. Of the seven matches, three of them hit **** in my opinion, and those were the main events. The fourth main event, Brock/Lesnar, was a disappointing match but had such a shocking ending that it's difficult to hate on it too much. Outside of that you had a decent enough women's match, a brutal Shield squash and a fun battle royal. There was nothing really bad. The bullshit was kept to a minimum, with two brief backstage skits with legends, and an opening segment featuring three true icons that was great fun to watch. Add on top you had a more than satisfying conclusion to a saga that has been going on for eight months. Regardless of what the original plans were, you have to say WWE got there in the end. A top notch WrestleMania, without doubt. 8.5 out of 10 for me.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H: ****½
The Shield vs. Kane and the New Age Outlaws: **
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: ***¼
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt: ****
Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar: ***
Diva's Invitational: **
Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan: ****¼
WrestleMania XXX: 8.5/10
Random Post-Mania Raw Thoughts
Monday Night Raw the night after WrestleMania has become almost as big a part of the experience as WrestleMania itself, thanks to a tendency for important things to happen and years of enthusiastic crowds. I will say right off the bat that I thought the crowd in New Orleans Monday Night was even better than the crowd in New Jersey last year. They were hot all night, but more importantly, ty were respectful of the performers in the ring. Only a few times did they chant for the likes of JBL, Justin Roberts or Chris Jericho, but thankfully I didn't hear anything along the lines of "we are awesome," nor did I witness any Mexican waves. You could argue that WWE did a lot to cater to the audience, or that the product has moved on since this time last year, or simply that there were less idiots in attendance. The truth is likely a combination of the three.
Don't look now, but it looks like John Cena is a mid-carder. I'm not quite sure how this happened. I really enjoyed his feud with Bray Wyatt and that looks set to continue. Monday night, Cena teamed with Big E and Sheamus and didn't really factor into the match all that much, which was weird. I guess it was more a showcase for the Wyatts, but that was a win over three top stars that could have got more time and attention. After hot-tagging Big E, I don't think Cena featured in the match, so I wonder if he suffered an injury or was nursing a previous one. Either way, indications are that the Cena/Wyatt deal continues and that's good news for all.
Paige debuted Monday night and won the Diva's Championship from AJ Lee, who had held the gold for 295 days. There's two schools of thought on this one. Some think it was a stroke of genius, debuting Paige in front of smark crowd that would react to her – and they did, popping huge for her entrance and the title win. It made for a memorable moment and a reaction she likely wouldn't have got had she merely started a program with AJ leading up to Extreme Rules. The other train of thought is that it was too soon for the title switch and that Paige sounded awkward on the mic, and wasn't treated as a big deal. I understand that, but follow up is key. The angle was presented as if Paige tried to back out of the match, but it's rectifiable so long as it becomes clear that Paige was merely suckering Lee into the title bout. Regardless, I love both performers and look forward to seeing them battle over the title. Personally I would have AJ regain the title pretty soon and have Paige chase for a number of months.
Despite what appeared to be a face turn at WrestleMania, Cesaro announced himself as the latest Paul Heyman Guy, an idea I can get behind. I mentioned earlier that I think Cesaro has a way to go in terms of being a top, top star, and I think Heyman will be great for him. I'm interested in how the face/heel dynamic works but having said that I don't really think it matters in this day and age. Heyman will do what he does best, and that's put talent over verbally, and Cesaro has all the skills to continue impressing inside the ring. Evidently there's a feud with Jack Swagger to get on with, but I hope Cesaro moves on from that as quickly as possible because I don't think there's an individual on the roster less interesting than Swagger, Curtis Axel aside.
It looks as though there's a plethora of new talent showing up soon, having been promoted from the NXT roster. Alexander Rusev made his debut trouncing Zack Ryder on Raw, in a fairly pedestrian squash match. As with all new talent, I will give the guy plenty of time before making judgment. So far, he has an "unorthodox" in-ring style and a hot blonde separating him from other bog standard foreign heels WWE has had in years past. That's a start. It's certainly better than Tensai, who beat John Cena straight off the bat and then had nowhere to go but down. We also got vignettes for Bo Dallas and Adam Rose, two young NXT talents who have been doing good things from what I have seen. Nobody liked Bo first time around, but his heel turn has done wonders for him in the last year. I'm not sure where either guy fits in at the moment. I anticipate their debuts with trepidation because we already Fandango, a very talented individual with tons of commitment to the gimmick, yet he has done next to nothing in the last year. You could argue he blew his chance by getting concussed when he was pencilled in to win the Intercontinental Championship. Regardless, we shall see if the rumour is true about Triple H wanting every new talent to have a ready-made angle before they debut on television.
The Shield's gradual face-turn was cemented on Raw as Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins defied the Authority and attacked Triple H and his cronies to ensure that Daniel Bryan didn't have to face unfair odds when defending his WWE Championship against the Game. The closing moments of Raw had the crowd on their feet and has set us up nicely for the next few weeks of programming. There's a few different ways to go here, with the Shield potentially having to deal with Evolution, or alternatively Triple H challenges for the title at Extreme Rules while Kane teams with Orton and Batista. The other way is of course the 8-man tag, with or without the title on the line. Some people don't like the idea of a singles title being decided in a tag match, and I'd usually be one of them, but if the title isn't going to change hands then it really doesn't matter so it really doesn't matter one way or another. Looking towards Extreme Rules, I'd go with a card that looks something likes this;
As we all know by now, Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker last weekend at WrestleMania XXX to end the incredible streak of Undertaker. I've already covered my thoughts on the match itself, so now we seek answers to some of the question the result raised, the most obvious of those being "why Brock Lesnar?" and
In all honesty, I think we're wasting our time seeking these answers. At the end of the day, we can only assume that the Undertaker has made the decision that he can no longer put on his yearly spectacular at WrestleMania and thus chose to have the streak ended at the hands of Brock Lesnar. The timing seems peculiar considering Taker had a few more matches in the weeks following WrestleMania last year and looked in reasonably good shape. But it seemed quite obvious last Sunday night that Taker was struggling out there, even before he suffered the injuries that have since been reported.
I was one of many that genuinely thought the streak would never end. I don't know why really, because a lot of tidbits we've all read and heard about the Undertaker suggests that he'd old school and he's loyal and that means going out by putting somebody over and, if we presume last weekend was the last we will see of Undertaker in in-ring competition, that is exactly what he did. No one should really be surprised by the end of the streak and yet we all were. We still are. Perhaps we wouldn't all be so shocked if the streak had been ended by someone like John Cena, or on the other hand, an up-and-coming future star who was obviously going to make it. Except, there are no safe bets in the wrestling world. You could argue that having a young star end the streak is a risk but on the other hand what exactly would you have to lose?
One has to wonder what exactly is next for Brock Lesnar. As far as we know, he's still working with a par-time contracts and a set number of dates. His win over the Undertaker means the guy is a huge deal. So do you now use him to put somebody over, will he be working with younger talent? Or do you reserve him purely for marquee matches with other top stars like the rumoured match with The Rock? Will we see Lesnar insert himself in the title picture, which is where he wanted to be in the first place? I think the fact that Paul Heyman has aligned himself with Cesaro is an indication that Lesnar will not be on TV much in the next few months, if at all, as it feels like a way to keep Heyman on TV. Paul Heyman, by the way, has to be one of the most consistent performers in the wrestling business right now. I could listen to him talk for hours on end.
When Ric Flair retired back in 2008, we were prepared for it emotionally. We all knew deep down that Flair was going to go out on his back losing to Shawn Michaels. Two years later, we had a pretty good idea that Shawn Michaels himself was going to be on the losing end of a match with the Undertaker that meant his career would be over. We were emotionally prepared for that one, too. So when those matches ended with our heroes finally bowing out, we were able to react in the appropriate way, and the same can be said for the emotional farewells on Raw the following evening. However, when Undertaker's shoulders were counted to the mat for 3 after a third and final F5 from Brock Lesnar, wrestling fans had no idea how to process what they were witnessing, the presumed final match of The Undertaker. If it indeed proves to be the case that the Phenom has wrestled his last match, you have to wonder if wrestling fans will ever get the kind of closure necessary to pay homage to such a legend. Whatever happens in the future, you can't help but feel gratitude to a man who has had one of the most successful careers in the history of professional wrestling. Once we finally get over the shock of WrestleMania XXX and the Undertaker's loss to Brock Lesnar, and once the speculation finally ceases, the only thing left to say will be an honest "thank you" to one of the most iconic professional wrestlers of all time, the conscience of WWE, The Undertaker.
The Ultimate Warrior Passes Away
Just when you thought the surprises of WrestleMania Week were over, news broke that Jim Hellwig aka Ultimate Warrior had passed away on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after appearing on Monday Night Raw for the first time in nearly two decades.
I woke up Wednesday morning around 8pm and as per usual, the first thing I did was check my email account. Because of time differences I typically receive a lot of important mail overnight so I like to be able to respond as necessary as soon as possible. The first thing I saw upon logging into my account was an email from Larry Csonka with the subject "Warrior Roundtable." My immediate assumption was that the site would be running a feature on the newest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame, though that isn't the norm and nor did it turn out to be the case, unfortunately. I opened the email and read the first line, "Following the very unfortunate passing of Ultimate Warrior..."
Wait, what? I think my jaw just dropped, and I certainly had to re-read the line a couple of times to make sure I wasn't seeing things. So of course I headed on over to 411 to find out exactly what had happened and the story of course began to unravel.
Obviously the timing was absolutely shocking, with Warrior making a triumphant return to the company for WrestleMania Weekend only to pass away days later. Of course, his promo on Raw made the whole thing all the more bizarre with conspiracy theorists working overtime.
The 411 staff presented its views on Warrior, his career and his passing in a special roundtable column a couple of days ago but I'd like to quickly offer my thoughts. Like many reading and others who write for the site, I wasn't a wrestling fan during Warrior's prime and my exposure to him came much after his heyday. It was pretty obvious why he was as popular as he was. The intensity and the energy was pretty much unparalleled to anything else going on in the company at the time. It was also pretty obvious why the guy created so much controversy. For all intents and purposes, the Ultimate Warrior was absolutely crazy. He also held a number of views and opinions that I just flat out disagree with. Some of his comments and rants that have surfaced over the years are just ignorant. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that the guy was an asshole. That said, I didn't know him personally.
What I do know is that, like countless others, for years he gave his body and his life to the world of professional wrestling. He became one of the sports most iconic figures. He was the one that took the baton from Hogan and quite literally ran. He was a hero to many and brought smiles to thousands of people, whether you were delighting in his incredible title victories or laughing at his mind-boggling promos. And like everybody else who has laced up a pair of boots and performed for fans like myself in the history of the business, I am grateful and I respect Warrior for helping to keep the industry of professional wrestling thriving, because it's an industry that I love.
Warrior, I did not know you personally. From what I know to be true, had I known you I probably would not have liked you very much. But I respect you and thank you for your contributions to the business, as every fan should.
The other thing we know to be true is that Warrior had a family, friends and fans and of course I offer my condolences to them.