Pineda, if you’re gonna play dirty, follow the lead of the dirtiest player in the game

Now, this blog — considering it’s an MLBlog — once focused on baseball. The topics covered on it this year have generally been about pro wrestling (because pro wrestling is the best). However, on Wednesday night, I believe I’ve found something that bridges the two:

Michael Pineda being ejected from the Yankees-Red Sox game due to a foreign substance on his neck.

First off, two things: 1) I am a Yankees fan. 2) Even before he joined the Yankees I was a Pineda fan, mostly due to this quote from 2011 when he was asked what his reaction would be if he made the All-Star team:

Asked last week what it would mean if he were named to the All-Star team, the Dominican native’s eyes grew wide.

“Oh wow,” Pineda said. “I don’t know. I might just die. Maybe Pineda dies.”

Pineda was traded to the Yankees before the 2012 season, but this year has been his first actually pitching for the big league club after he missed time due to a major shoulder injury. He had a strong Spring Training, won the fifth-starter’s job and was off to a good start this year (2-1, 1.00 ERA in his first three starts). After he beat the Red Sox on April 10, it was brought up that cameras had caught a shiny substance on his pitching hand. Many assumed it was probably pine tar, Pineda said it was dirt and the issue seemed to blow over. Until Wednesday night.

In the second inning of Wednesday’s game — again against the Red Sox — Boston manager John Farrell came out to talk to the home-plate umpire, the ump went over to Pineda, and after finding something on Pineda’s neck, the umpire tossed him from the game.

Baseball has had a long history of players trying to cheat — hitters using corked bats, pitchers cutting the baseball for extra movement, teams stealing signs, and everyone’s favorite, PEDs. While cheating of course isn’t right, it’s long been part of the game.

One of my favorite parts about the Pineda thing is the fact that the Red Sox seemed to be less annoyed about the fact that Pineda was using pine tar (it was cold, so the pine tar would help him grip the ball, which means he might not accidentally have a pitch slip out of his hand and possibly hit a batter), and more so were annoyed by how blatant he was about using it.

However, no matter what the “unwritten rules” are, the actual MLB rule — 8.02(a)(2) — says: “The pitcher shall not have expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove.” So Pineda was breaking the rules and will likely be suspended by MLB/vilified by many (especially in Boston).

While cheating in baseball is almost always frowned upon, pro wrestling embraces cheaters. For without cheaters, how would we know who to hate (and then eventually love for their ability to make us hate them)? The late Eddie Guerrero’s slogan — Cheat 2 Win — even blatantly embraced the art of bending the rules. So, while I’m thinking Wednesday was the last time Pineda will attempt to pitch with an illegal substance on his hand, he probably could’ve avoided all this trouble had he checked with a wrestling legend first about how to pull it off without getting caught. That legend: Ric Flair.

Known by most as “The Nature Boy,” Flair also has another — well, he has a few — nickname: “The dirtiest player in the game.” My favorite example of Flair’s cheating ways comes from my favorite match of all time: Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 8. If you have WWE Network, here’s the direct link to that Mania. And now, let Flair — and his executive consultant, Mr. Perfect — show Pineda the right way to cheat without being detected.

Perfect enters the ring after breaking up a pinfall following an elbow drop by Savage. While the ref is distracted, he reaches into his pocket for brass knuckles and eventually tosses them to Flair

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While the ref is still dealing with Perfect, Flair puts on the brass knuckles. He then punches Savage in the face and successfully hands the brass knuckles back to Perfect without the ref noticing.

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However, Savage kicks out of the count at 2, and eventually wins the match — and the title — by himself cheating with a HAND FULL OF TIGHTS.

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You see, in pro wrestling, even the good guys occasionally have to bend the rules.

So, next time Pineda’s preparing for a start, instead of looking up video of his opponents’ swings and pitch tendencies, he should be Fair to Flair and look to the Nature Boy for guidance.

Brian Cougar

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Pineda, if you’re gonna play dirty, follow the lead of the dirtiest player in the game

Just a spoke on the wheel: CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

“The reason I’m leaving is you people, because after I’m gone you’re still going to pour money into this company. I’m just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel’s gonna keep turning. And I understand that.” — CM Punk during the “Pipe bomb” promo on June 27, 2011

Cult of Personality hits … CM Punk walks out … he yells, “It’s clobbering time!” and heads down to the ring.

At some point in the future, be it next Monday night or years down the line, that series of events is almost definitely going to happen. And when it does, I, like millions of others, will be MARKING OUT, BRO pumped. If Punk returns to help/to attack/to help then immediately after helping attack Daniel Bryan (or someone else), it’ll be a great moment.

Punk’s last appearance with WWE was the Royal Rumble in January, and we still don’t know why, exactly, he decided to leave. Was he burnt out? Injured? Unhappy with his Wrestlemania plans? People were even saying he had a dispute with Vince McMahon/HHH over how wrestlers were going to be paid as a result of the move away from PPV due to the start of the WWE Network. However, since then, we’ve heard little. Punk’s last tweet came the day after the Royal Rumble, McMahon said during a conference call with share holders that Punk was on “sabbatical,” and the only time Punk has been mentioned on air was when Paul Heyman came out at the beginning of “Hijack RAW” in Chicago.

When and if Punk returns, the ready-made feud is clearly Punk vs. Bryan. For three reasons:

1) Bryan got to main event a Wrestlemania, and Punk never has. On the “Best In The World” DVD that WWE put out about Punk (it is great), he brings up the fact that the Miz main eventing Wrestlemania 27 was something that pissed him off (although, to be fair, plenty seems to piss Punk off). Then, the next two years — while Punk was the most popular he’ll likely ever be as a pro wrestler — the Mania main event was Rock/Cena (“Once in a Lifetime” at Wrestlemania 28 and “We lied about that whole Once in a Lifetime deal” at Wrestlemania 29). While I’m fairly certain Punk holds Bryan in higher regard than Miz/the Rock, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that could cause him to be jealous.

2) Bryan got to complete what Punk started with the Pipe bomb promo. The first part of that promo dealt with Cena and how he wasn’t the best — Punk was the best. And, at Money in the Bank and Summerslam that year, Punk defeated Cena to back up those words. But the second part of that promo took aim at the McMahon family: Vince, his “idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law” (Stephanie McMahon and HHH). Stephanie and HHH would eventually become The Authority, and Bryan, not Punk, was the one to defeat them at Mania on his way to winning the title.

3) Those people Punk so lovingly describes in the quote at the top of this story. After Punk left, there were plenty of “CM PUNK!” chants at WWE events. There was the attempt to “Hijack RAW” in Chicago which featured … a few more “CM PUNK!” chants than usual. Wrestlemania 30 came and went, and the thing that pissed most people off wasn’t the lack of Punk, it was Brock Lesnar ending The Streak.

And while the crowd will still chant “CM PUNK!” on occasion, what they cheer far, far more is “Yes!”

WWE — the wheel — keeps turning.

Brian Cougar

Just a spoke on the wheel: CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

Forget Savage/Steamboat. Give me Naked Mideon vs. William Regal

My high school held a card party in the gym every year to raise money for the school. Since I was a wonderful student — or because I was forced to, I don’t remember … it was many beers ago — I helped out during my senior year. The event didn’t start until 8 at night, so there was about a 4-hour window between the end of classes and when the card party started. So, with all that time to kill, I had some options: Our lunch room had a ping pong table and a foosball table, so I could occupy my time playing those. There was a mall across the street, so I could hang out there. Or maybe, since it was Friday, I could get a head start on my weekend homework.

Instead, my good buddy Mike and I decided to host multiple screenings (on VHS!) of arguably the greatest match in pro wrestling history: Naked Mideon vs. William Regal for the European Title at No Mercy 2000.

Naked Mideon, for those of you who don’t know your history, was a character portrayed by Dennis Knight. When he first arrived in WWE, Knight was a part of the tag team the Godwinns, who were … pig farmers. Then, the team became Southern Justice, who were … redneck bodyguards. After that, Knight was kidnapped by and then joined the Ministry of Darkness (a group led by the Undertaker during his “Let’s crucify people!” phase), and he became Mideon. The best thing about Mideon was his theme music.

Finally, for reasons that I don’t remember ever being explained, Mideon started randomly showing up on RAW and Smackdown in nothing but a fanny pack: Naked Mideon had arrived.

Unlike Steve Austin’s switch from the Ringmaster to Stone Cold, Mideon becoming Naked Mideon did not lead to Knight becoming the biggest star in WWE history. However, probably (definitely) because we’re idiots, Mike and I were arguably (definitely) his biggest fans. If he would show up on RAW, one of us would either call the other’s house to make sure he was watching, or it would be the first thing we talked about the next day at school*. Eventually, Naked Mideon had a match. For a title. On a PPV people paid money to watch. Here are some blurry photos (courtesy of WWE Network) of the match highlights:

The tease (Mike, via text — “It’s the Steamboat/Savage of No Mercy.”)

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The high point (Jim Ross, on commentary — “Put the women and children to bed.”)

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The wide shot (J.R. — “Can we get a wide shot, maybe.” Mike — “Curse out J.R. for requesting a wide shot.”)

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The end (Mike — “It was the best match in its segmented amount of time.”)

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Not surprisingly, after we somehow got around a dozen people to attend the first screening of this match that afternoon, by the third screening (Mike — “Third screening? We had over 60!”), it was just Mike and I watching by ourselves. To quote Tex Slazenger, Knight’s post-Naked Mideon character, and the final one he portrayed before he was released by the WWE: “Don’t bother the crazy people.”

Brian Cougar

 

* We were the coolest kids in our high school

 

Forget Savage/Steamboat. Give me Naked Mideon vs. William Regal

WWE Network is great. Do I know how to make it better? YES! YES! YES!

The first couple of days for the WWE Network didn’t go so well:

However, outside of a few hiccups (the never ending Tyler Breeze loop during NXT ArRIVAL), it’s worked without any major issues since then, and has replaced Netflix and Amazon (outside of Justified and,  recently, Veronica Mars) as my go-to source of televised entertainment.

The main appeal of the WWE Network for me was the chance, for $9.99 a month*, to watch the Naked Mideon vs. William Regal match from No Mercy 2000 whenever I wanted on ANY DEVICE. Also, all the classic WWE/WCW/ECW PPVs. And not having to spend $45 a month to watch live PPVs (aka, I would not be watching Extreme Rules in May if I didn’t have WWE Network).

One program I didn’t know about until getting the Network was Legends of Wrestling, which is a series of roundtables that were filmed in the mid-to-late 2000s. Hosted by (well, he attempts to keep things under control) Mene Gene, the episodes feature former wrestlers discussing a variety of topics (factions, Wrestlemania, greatest rivalries, etc.), and they are generally great, the highlights being Ric Flair’s legit hatred of the nWo during the factions episode, and DDP going out of his way to defend both David Arquette and Karl Malone multiple times during the episode on celebrities. Do not mock Malone unless you want a diamond cutter.

Other original programming includes a Countdown show (Jake the Snake’s DDT was wayyy too low on the top finishers episode), a Wrestlemania Rewind show (a recent episode features “the thrilling Undisputed Championship match against Y2J Chris Jericho” from Wrestlemania 18 … #fireable) and a very entertaining documentary about Daniel Bryan following his wins at Wrestlemania XXX.

Now, while there’s plenty of great stuff on the Network, here are a few things that could improve it:

1) For some reason — or I’m not noticing the feature because I’m a dope — you can sort WCW and ECW PPVs by year on PS3, but not WWE PPVs (you can sort WWE PPVs by year on other devices). Now, I could certainly do a google search and find out the order of PPVs by year within minutes, but … LAZY. Also, a resume play feature. PPVs are long, WWE Network!

2) Adding a “random” button. There are so many PPVs that, unless I’m looking for a specific show, I don’t even know where to begin (except maybe AT THE BEGINNING), especially on the WCW stuff. If I start trying to look around myself, I inevitably end up watching Wrestlemania 8 again. This is not a bad thing, but it is preventing me from adding to my wrestling knowledge.

3) Remove how the match ends from the search function. One of the fun things about WWE Network is the chance to see matches I haven’t seen before. One of the fun things about seeing matches I’ve never seen before is finding out how they end. WWE Network search engine = DESTROYER OF FUN:

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4) Letting users create/share playlists. I’ve seen people write about this elsewhere, and it’s a great idea. If someone wanted to put together a list of greatest high-flying matches or greatest Hollywood Hogan matches, then post them for other people to watch, that’d be great. The person putting together a list of greatest Hollywood Hogan matches would have an insanely low standard for what constitutes a great match, but he/she should at least have the option.

5) Add a titantron/music video channel. Please let me watch the Real American video or listen to The Brood’s theme song whenever I get the urge (always) in higher quality than YouTube.

Gotta be Fair to Flair

Brian Cougar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*with 6-month commitment

 

WWE Network is great. Do I know how to make it better? YES! YES! YES!

Swig of beer for the podcasting man: the wonderfully weird Stone Cold Steve Austin

Sunday on reddit.com/r/squaredcircle, someone posted this video of Stone Cold Steve Austin:

Back during the Attitude era, while I was of course a fan of his, Stone Cold was not MY GUY. As a slightly weird, overweight high school student, I very much related to Mick Foley and was a huge fan of him as a wrestler and was invested in his path to achieving his dream. When it came to Austin/Rock, I was on #teambringit. I got back into wrestling in the late 1990s because I read a newspaper article about all the old WWF wrestlers who were a part of WCW/nWo, but early heel Rock — I still remember seeing the People’s Elbow for the first time — was such a wonderfully obnoxious character that I quickly drifted back to being a much bigger fan of WWF.

Stone Cold, the beer swilling redneck who was in the early stages of his feud with his boss, Vince McMahon, wasn’t someone I related to at the time (although if I was the 30-year-old, employed dude I am now back then, that would’ve been a different story). It actually wasn’t until after he aligned with McMahon at Wrestlemania 17 and his subsequent transformation into a paranoid (and hilarious) whack job — I’ll forgive him for What? since it was great when he first started doing it — that I got fully on board with the Bionic Redneck.

And in the past few years, Austin has excelled somewhere outside the squared circle: the internet.

First, there’s his Twitter. And it is glorious:

And then it gets even better with his podcast, The Steve Austin Show

Now I only listen to like five podcasts, but until Tom Scharpling brings back the Best Show, Austin is the reigning champion of the podcasting world.

Not surprisingly, the man responsible for “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”, “And that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so!” and “Gimme a hell yeah!” has a few catch phrases on his podcast:

“Swig of (beer/Red Bull/water) for the working man!”

“We’re making money up in this bitch!”

“They keep sending little gimmicks in the mail and they’re called bills.”

Austin has two different versions of the show: A PG one and an “Unleashed” one … “Unleashed” meaning he will use the word “mother [expletive]” within the first two minutes. Generally, of course, the guest/focus of the show has to do with wrestling, but he’s also interviewed David Lee Roth (the highlight being when the two of them just started cackling at one point), among other non-wrestling celebrities.

The great thing about Austin’s show is the fact that 1) he has improved a ton since the first couple of episodes and 2) since he’s one of the top 3 pro wrestlers of all time, other wrestlers show him a ton of respect and therefore seem open to discussing whatever the hell he wants to talk about. He’s had on legends (Ric Flair), underrated veterans (William Regal), current stars (Daniel Bryan), behind-the-scenes people (Jim Johnston, who composes most of the theme music), and has even had Q&A sessions with fans, respectfully referring to one as a “member of the Internet Wrestling Community” as though the person was some kind of ambassador and not just a jabroni calling from home.

Also, Austin is a weirdo. He’s got an ongoing feud with anyone who drives a Prius/anyone who throws a cigarette butt out of their car window/as my buddy James pointed out after this was originally posted, Trader Joe’s for their tiny parking lots, had all the fans calling in for the first Q&A session end their calls by cutting 15-second promos on McMahon for screwing up the Royal Rumble and reads his ad copy with a fantastic amount of intensity.

And, most of all, he still has a passion for pro wrestling. He doesn’t condescend or discuss wrestling in any kind of ironic manner, and you can tell how serious he is about the work involved when it comes to the athletic and entertainment aspects of the job. Also, at the end of a very enjoyable interview with John Cena, Austin made sure to call out Cena for how loose he applies the STF, which was, to use Austin’s term, audio whoop ass.

Swig of beer for the podcasting man.

Brian Cougar

Swig of beer for the podcasting man: the wonderfully weird Stone Cold Steve Austin

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX

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After attending Wrestlemania XXX on Sunday in New Orleans, I got separated from the group I was with, my cell phone was dead and when I arrived at the spot in the lot where we had been doing some pre-Mania tailgating (the best kind of tailgating), all I found were two empty parking spaces.

Following 30 minutes of wandering back and forth in front of the Superdome in the hopes that I — a 30-year-old white dude in a wrestling T-shirt — might be noticed by my group among the thousands exiting the show, I eventually stopped to get my bearings. A man with a title belt draped over his shoulder started talking to me, and while we were chatting, I explained my current predicament of being lost with a dead cell phone in a city I was visiting for the first time with no idea where — or, more specifically, at which bar — my girlfriend/her friends were. In a show of extreme compassion, he said, “Man, that sucks. And can you [expletive] believe they had [expletive] Brock Lesnar end the [expletive] streak!”

Since I started watching WWE regularly again around Wrestlemania 25, the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania winning streak — The Streak — has been treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL (and it had already started being treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL a few years before that).

This year, however, everything about The Streak seemed boringly inevitable. Inevitably Undertaker was going to show up around Mania (the past few years, that’s basically been the only time he appears). Inevitably he was going to find an opponent/victim (Lesnar had always seemed to be the likely option, although the annual Sting — or John Cena — rumors also started popping up). Inevitably Michael Cole would shout about all the legendary wrestlers Undertaker had beaten at Wrestlemania (Giant Gonzalez! A-Train!). And inevitably there’d be a match, Undertaker would kick out of an F-5, Lesnar would kick out of a tombstone, but in the end, The Streak would move to 22-0.

The Lesnar/Undertaker feud leading up to Wrestlemania XXX — outside of the initial confrontation when Undertaker stabbed Lesnar in the hand with a pen, signed the match contract in Lesnar’s blood and then chokeslammed him through a table — didn’t feature any memorable moments. And despite Lesnar’s manager/representative, the amazing Paul Heyman, trying as hard as he could to sell Lesnar as an actual threat to The Streak — and Lesnar is a terrifying man — everyone knew Undertaker was walking out of Wrestlemania 22-0.

I was up in the cheap seats — WHERE I BELONG — at Wrestlemania XXX, part of a group of 30-plus people in their mid-to-late 20s who were attending the event as part of an extended wedding celebration weekend. Many of the group were non-wrestling fans who were there mostly for the chance to see the glorious spectacle that is Wrestlemania one time and to participate in the equally glorious pre-Mania tailgate. By the time the Undertaker/Lesnar match was about to begin, some were getting restless, and one dude in particular was entertaining himself — and annoying me — by yelling out random nonsense (although, to be fair, many actual wrestling fans do this very same thing every week during RAW).

The match itself — at least watching live — was not very good (I have yet to rewatch it). It was slow, Undertaker, even from where I was sitting, looked old as hell in the ring, and the crowd was mostly quiet. When Lesnar hit the third F5, I was thinking to myself, “It seems a bit silly to have Undertaker kick out of three of these.” And as I finished that thought, the ref counted three. What followed was the strangest reaction I’ve ever been part of at a sporting or pro wrestling event. First it got completely quiet as many — myself included — thought something had gone wrong. Then, once they started flashing 21-1 on the screens, people started booing. When Undertaker finally got off the mat and took the long walk to the back, there was some clapping, but once he disappeared, the booing started again. The woman a row in front of me who stood and screamed during the entirety of the Undertaker’s entrance headed for the exits.

When you watch a pro sporting event, while there are times the outcome heading in looks clear, you know in the back of your mind  — as a result of things like the Giants beating the 16-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, or the Red Sox coming back from down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees — that anything can happen. When you watch a pro wrestling event– especially once you learn the outcomes are fixed (thanks for letting me know, @poolhalljames!) — there are times when you know without a shadow of a doubt the inevitable is going to happen.

As a kid who still thought pro wrestling was real, I knew Hulk Hogan wasn’t losing to turncoat Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII, because he was immortal, had 24″ pythons and USA! USA! And Hogan eventually dropped the leg and got the 1-2-3. As a teenager who had half a brain and the internet, I knew Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t losing to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV, because he was the most popular wrestler to come along since Hogan, Michaels could barely walk after suffering a real-life back injury and “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” And Austin eventually hit the kick-wham-stunner and got the 1-2-3. As a 30-year-old, I knew the Undertaker wasn’t losing to Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX, because he was 21-0, The Streak would never end and “Rest … In … Peace.”

And then he [expletive] lost.

Brian Cougar

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX

Your founding father of Ring Intensity: RIP Ultimate Warrior

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Ultimate Warrior was one of those perfect wrestlers for people around my age (30) due to the fact that, when I was a kid, he came across as a real-life superhero who was so powerful he could even stand toe to toe with Hulk Hogan; then, when looking back on him as an adult, he came across as a real-life lunatic so maniacal it made complete sense that he was able to stand toe to toe with the ridiculousness that was Hulkamania.

I remember watching the Hogan/Warrior encounter at the 1990 Royal Rumble and how it resulted in the greatest double clothesline of all time. I remember, since my household did not order Wrestlemania VI LIVE ON PPV, the anticipation I felt sitting in the auditorium before school the next day as I awaited word on who won the Hogan/Warrior title vs. title match. I remember the end of Wrestlemania VIII, and how, while Hogan was being attacked by Papa Shango and Sid Justice, the Warrior made a surprise return to save/pose with the Hulkster. I remember my younger brother having an Ultimate Warrior wrestling buddy. I remember Papa Shango making Warrior vomit via voodoo, and how weird that was. I remember kids in school during the early 1990s saying the original Warrior had died, and a different guy was portraying him.

I was at my friend’s house watching RAW in the late 1990s when we switched over to Monday Nitro during a commercial break only to find the Warrior had returned to confront the now evil Hollywood Hulk Hogan. And it was amazing! And then he talked for like 25 minutes! And it was less amazing but still pretty enjoyable! They would go on to have a rematch — which I again missed LIVE ON PPV — but that one didn’t turn out so well, and soon after, he was gone.

But he would still pop up. While not doing much work at my first post-college job in 2005, I discovered that the Warrior had a blog, and it was, not surprisingly, pretty bonkers. He signed off the first post I read with, “Your founding father of ring intensity.” So I clearly had to steal that line, and started ending my own personal emails with it.

After hours of driving through heavy snow while helping a friend move back to NY from North Dakota, we decided the best way to unwind after stopping at a hotel was to drink too many Miller High Lifes and watch an Ultimate Warrior DVD. After one Warrior promo, all the stresses of the road had faded away.

This past weekend, I was in New Orleans for Wrestlemania 30, and there he was again. During the show, my wonderful girlfriend stopped by the merchandise booth and ended up randomly buying me a Warrior T-shirt. Near the end of the show, the Warrior was the last to come out as the newly inducted Hall of Fame class was introduced. On Monday night, he made an appearance on RAW. When I was going to bed Tuesday night, I got a text from a friend that Warrior was dead.

During his final appearance on RAW, Warrior said, “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 … then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him.”

The Ultimate Warrior, from parts unknown, has a strong place in my memory.

— Brian Cougar

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