Mike P., Here…
The Undertaker’s Streak died on Sunday, the Ultimate Warrior died on Tuesday, and if there are any other remnants of my childhood that you’d like to destroy, I’d prefer you go for it today so I can deal with them all as a package deal.
My grandma bought me an Ultimate Warrior Wrestling Buddy when I first started watching wrestling, so naturally he was my guy. Within a few weeks, the Undertaker and Paul Bearer tried to murder him on the Funeral Parlor. That was a tough one to deal with. I hoped that the Warrior would get his revenge on the Undertaker, but instead he strangely disappeared after Summerslam and the whole thing ended without an explanation.
Warrior came back to the WWF in 1992, and feuded with Macho Man Randy Savage, who had become my guy in Warrior’s absence. They had a match at Summerslam that I loved (at Summerslam 2013, a WWE employee asked me to talk about my favorite Summerslam memory for a video clip that they would use on the pre-show. I gave a disconcertingly excited 15-second recap of a 21 year old wrestling match.) Savage and Warrior were both good guys at that point, but the crowd couldn’t help itself. They had to cheer for the Warrior.
After Summerslam, the Warrior and the Macho Man became a tag team. The Ultimate Maniacs. I expected the Ultimate Maniacs to win the tag team titles and reign supreme for all-time. Instead, they didn’t even make it to their first scheduled pay-per-view. The Warrior had strangely disappeared again.
He didn’t come back again until 1996, where he destroyed HHH at Wrestlemania XII and then had an odd, homophobic feud with Golddust. Then he strangely disappeared until 2014 (the WCW thing never happened.)
As it turns out, that was the Warrior’s thing. He had a tumultuous relationship with Vince McMahon, eventually leading to a WWE-produced DVD titled “The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior“, where WWE talent took turns mocking and undermining the Warrior. I watched the DVD. I was not pleased.
It became fashionable over the past decade to act like the Warrior wasn’t a great wrestler. That’s wrong. He wasn’t a great in-ring technician, but he was an all-time great wrestler. The Warrior was an 80’s hair band, a high-speed chase and (I can only speculate) a giant pile of cocaine, all in one neon package. Even now, I feel like a kid watching the Ultimate Warrior. He was a unique performer in a unique profession. There will never be another one quite like him. And there will never be another Warrior. Seriously. He was so committed to the character that he legally changed his name from Jim Hellwig to Warrior. Your move, Fandango.
The Warrior came back to the WWE on Saturday to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He then appeared on RAW Monday night, and gave what is now a haunting speech in which he tells the fans that we will carry on the Ultimate Warrior legend when he dies. On second viewing, he doesn’t look great. He died on Tuesday.
Per the Warrior’s request, I’m doing my part to carry on the Ultimate Warrior legend. It matters to me because I’m strangely loyal to the things I loved as a kid and because through all the strange interviews and rope-shaking, the Ultimate Warrior connected with audiences like nobody else in his industry. He made me, and probably millions of others, feel like a kid. That’s a gift, much like an original Ultimate Warrior Wrestling Buddy, that’s worth appreciating.