Remembering The Ultimate Warrior

Craig Wilson

It is with tremendous sadness that we learn that The Ultimate Warrior has passed away aged just 54. His death comes three days after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and the day after his first Raw appearance in 18 years.

The relationship between The Warrior and the WWE had been strained for a number of years however peace had recently been made between the two parties with the WWE referring to the Warrior as a legend and having him inducted, as the lead inductee, the night before Wrestlemania 30 this past weekend.

Warrior was born on June 16, 1959 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was during his year at Indiana State University that he began his involvement in bodybuilding. As he trained ahead of a bodybuilding contest in 1985 he met with a group of fellow bodybuilders that were trying to make the transition into wrestling. One of those was Steve Borden, who would later achieve fame as Sting.

The two soon became tag partners as The Freedom Fighters – Hellwig was known as Justice and Borden was Flash – in Memphis’ Continental Wrestling Association under the tutelage of Dutch Mantel.

A name change soon followed – to the Blade Runners, with Hellwig changing his ring name to “Blade Runner Rock” and Borden changing his name to “Blade Runner Flash”. Debuting in Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion, run by Jerry Jarrett, the team were portrayed as babyfaces but the fans were slow to take to the powerful duo.

In 1986 he moved to World Class Championship Wrestling and adopted the ‘Dingo Warrior’ name. He soon began teaming with Lance Von Erich as the pair set their sights on the WCWA Tag Team Championship. In November 1986 Warrior and Von Erich defeated Master Gee (substituting for champion Buzz Sawyer) and Matt Borne to win the titles. His greatest success, however, was right around the corner.

Summer 1987 saw him move to the powerhouse that was the WWE. His pounding music and high octane ring entrance soon became synonymous with the Warrior character. His early work saw him overcome various enhancement performers before his first feud with fellow strongman Hercules Hernandez. During this feud, Warrior grabbed Hernandez’s chain and snapped it.

The feud led to the Warrior’s first Wrestlemania match Wrestlemania IV at Trump Plaza. He defeated Hercules and at the inaugural Summerslam, held in August 1988, he defeated Honky Tonk Man in 27 seconds to win the Intercontinental title, ending Honky’s 64 week title reign.

He would hold the title until Wrestlemania V where Rude won the match thanks to Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan holding down the Warrior’s foot during the pinfall.

Afterwards Warrior would enter into a programme with Andre the Giant that would help transition him into a bona fide main eventer. The feud culminated at Survivor Series ’89 where the two captained opposing teams with Warrior eliminating Andre early into the match and being the sole survivor.

The Warrior was seen as the most likely candidate to be superstar of the 90s and the direct replacement for Hulk Hogan. Following a series of confrontations with Hogan, most famously at the 1990 Royal Rumble, Warrior became the opponent to Hogan for the main event for WrestleMania VI. The match, billed as “The Ultimate Challenge”, saw both Hogan’s WWF Championship and Warrior’s Intercontinental Championship on the line. Warrior was victorious after hitting a running Splash and became the first, and as of this date, only wrestler to hold the WWF Intercontinental and World Championships simultaneously, although he had to vacate the IC title.

His title reign would last until the 1991 Royal Rumble and featured a Summerslam steel cage victory over his old nemesis ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude. At the Royal Rumble, Warrior dropped the title to Sgt Slaughter following interference from ‘The Macho King’ Randy Savage. That interference, borne from Warrior rejecting Sherri’s plea for her man to get a title shot, led to the retirement match at Wrestlemania VII which was The Warrior’s finest match.

1991 also saw contract negotiations begin and this is arguably where the problems start. Warrior asked for fewer working days, more creative control and over half a million dollars for his work at Wrestlemania VII. After that year’s Summerslam, where Warrior teamed with Hogan to face Slaugher, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa, he was handed a letter of suspension. He duly resigned from the WWF in October of the same year.

Vince McMahon, however, had to turn again to the Warrior the following year with Hogan leaving the company. Warrior made his return at Wrestlemania VIII saving Hogan from a beatdown at the hands of Sid Justice and Papa Shango and soon entered into a programme with Shango. The feud saw the witch doctor casting a spell over Warrior, causing him to convulse and vomit.

Warrior was scheduled to team with Macho Man Randy Savage at the 1992 Survivor Series to take on Ric Flair and Razor Ramon. However, he was released ahead of the event for disputed reasons and would enter into a period of semi-retirement.

1996 came calling as did Vince McMahon and Warrior returned to WWE screens for the first time in 3 and a half years. Despite a squash match victory of Hunter Hearst Helmsley at Wrestlemania XII and a countout victory over Goldust at ‘In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies’, his run came to a premature end again when the WWF terminated Warrior’s contract when he took time off allegedly to grieve the death of his father.

His time out of the spotlight was shorter this time and he soon reemerged in WCW and once again feuded with Hogan. His run with WCW only saw him compete four times in the ring. This lead to Warrior stating in several interviews that he believes he was only brought back so that Hogan could get that victory over him.

In June 2013 Warrior returned to the wrestling world when it was announced that he would be part of the WWE2K14 game. Earlier this year it was announced that he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the evening before Wrestlemania 30. On April 8, Warrior collapsed outside his hotel in Arizona. He was walking to his car with his wife. He was then transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Perhaps the best way to conclude this piece is with the Warrior’s now-haunting words from his promo from 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, as well. Ultimate. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!”

On behalf of everyone at Ring the Damn Bell, our condolences go to the fans, family and friends of Warrior.

7 thoughts on “Remembering The Ultimate Warrior

  1. Pingback: Remember when The Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF | Ring the Damn Bell

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  4. Pingback: Well That Didn’t Work: Warrior Signs for WCW | Ring the Damn Bell

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