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.