In 2005, the WWE released a DVD entitled The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior. The feature was an out-of-nowhere hatchet job, attacking the legacy of a wrestler who hadn’t been in the company in almost a decade. The documentary featured his peers running him down as a bad wrestler, a guy with a bad attitude and the most unintelligible interviews of all time. While these things are largely true according to wrestling historians, they’re largely unimportant details according to a generation of kids who grew up with the Warrior. The Ultimate Warrior captured our imaginations. He was a real-life super-hero who ran to the ring to the sound of his high-octane and iconic entrance music, shook the ropes and demolished his opponents.

Despite the WWE’s attempts at character assassination, fans were still clamoring for Ultimate Warrior nostalgia. The WWE couldn’t erase our memories of tassels, the face paint, the rope-shaking and the devastating clotheslines. Ultimate Warrior was the symbol of an era of muscle-bound, larger-than-life performers who were more rock star than wrestler. 

The WWE couldn’t erase our memories of tassels, the face paint, the rope-shaking and the devastating clotheslines. Ultimate Warrior was the symbol of an era of muscle-bound, larger-than-life performers who were more rock star than wrestler.

If Hulk Hogan was the biggest star of the early-90s, the Ultimate Warrior was 1b. Warrior was so popular in the ‘90s that he beat Hulk Hogan clean at the main event for WrestleMania VI, in what still stands as one of the most talked-about matches of all time. If you were a kid in 1990, you had to pick a side between Warrior and Hogan. Warrior winning was a signifier of just how big he was as he’s one of only two people to hold victories over Hogan at WrestleMania—The Rock is the other person. 

As we’ve gotten older, though, we’ve been able to see Warrior as a symbol of 1990s camp. His interviews rarely made any sense and are hilarious when revisited (in particular, his promo about hijacking a Hulk Hogan plane and sacrificing pilots or something). As kids, we didn’t care. We just wanted him to snarl and we still bought into every nonsensical word he said.

As a wrestler, he was abhorrent but slightly underrated. You could probably count the number of good matches he had on one hand (though, to be fair, Hogan probably had fewer). Still, he had some great matches with Macho Man Randy Savage and Rick Rude. His aforementioned WrestleMania VI match with Hogan was leaps and bounds better than it had any right to be—and it stands as Hogan’s best match of the 1990s. The duo infamously practiced the match for months leading up to the event just to make sure it would go off without a hitch.

Outside of the ring, Jim Hellwig was considered just as insane as his on-air character. In an attempt to win a dispute over his character copyright, Hellwig had his name officially changed to Warrior. He feuded with the WWE for the past decade over the copyrights, his treatment by the company and of course the DVD, so when he was invited to the Hall of Fame this weekend, everyone was glued to the WWE app to hear what he had to say. A live mic to the craziest promo guy of all time who has a gripe with the WWE? Can’t wait.

The speech itself did in fact have its fair share of jabs at the WWE, but mostly it revealed a guy who was genuinely hurt and surprised by the reputation he’d gained amongst his peers. It was sad to see someone who’d felt so betrayed by the way his legacy had been portrayed. However, above all, Warrior was grateful to the fans who stood by him throughout the slander and demanded his return. He was also a proud father of two daughters, saying being their dad was the pinnacle of his achievements.

On Monday night, I was at RAW to see Warrior’s final, eerie speech where he thanks his fans and spoke about his legacy. He talked about staying alive through his fans after he’d pass. Nobody had any idea that the moment would come to pass only 24 hours later.

Kanye West once said that not enough people get their roses while they can still smell them. We can all take solace in the fact that the Ultimate Warrior got his much-deserved roses just in the nick of time.

R.I.P.

Written by David Dennis (@DavidDTSS)

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