Earlier this morning is was announced that Jim Hellwig AKA The Ultimate Warrior had died aged 54. In recent days the Warrior had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame having reconciled with the company and appeared on their flagship show Raw for the first time in some 18 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.
If you ask any non-wrestling fans about wrestling, the three wrestlers they are most likely to mention are Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker and Ultimate Warrior. The intensity of his character twinned with his brightly coloured face-paint and trunks made him an unforgettable international presence.
Warrior was committed to muscle from an early age, lifting weights as an 11 year old in order to build his confidence. He won a series of junior competitions but in 1985, joined a group of fellow bodybuilders looking to transition into wrestling.
Starting as Jim 'Justice' Hellwig, he wrestled in Memphis's CWA promotion and later the UWF teaming with amongst others Steve Borden, later known as 'Sting', It was during his tenure with the Texas promotion WCCW where he took the name 'Dingo Warrior', following comments from the locker room that he looked like one. It was upon joining the WWF in 1987 that he finally underwent his final metamorphism into the Ultimate Warrior.
Few will forget the energy with which the Ultimate Warrior attacked the runway and ring, violently shaking the ropes and defeating opponents with stiff clotheslines, gorilla presses and big splashes. His WWF career was markedly successful. He was victorious in his Wrestlemania debut against Hercules Hernandez and proceded to win the Intercontinental title in 27 seconds at the first Summerslam pay-per-view in 1988 and once again thereafter. At Wrestlemania 6 he beat Hulk Hogan and became the only person to simultaneously hold both the Intercontinental and WWF championships.
Following an uncomfortably public discourse over pay, Warrior left WWF only to make one of the most memorable returns of all time at Wrestlemania 7 to rescue Hulk Hogan from Sid Vicious and Papa Shango. Unfortunately, his return was short-lived and more controversy followed when he was released from the company in 1992 amidst allegations of drug use.
A period of semi-retirement followed during which Warrior opened a wrestling school (the Warrior University), did some move work, wrestled for independent promotions and became a right-wing political commentator. Importantly, it was at this time that Jim Hellwig officially changed his name to 'Warrior', winning the rights to his character and name in the face of WWF lawsuits. His children retain 'Warrior' as their surname.
Warrior returned to WWF in 1996, beating Triple H and crediting his 'Warriors' (us) for his success. Alas, controversy came calling again and Warrior left WWF following a somewhat contested series of events which relate either to his taking time off to grieve for his late father or for what Warrior claimed was a breach of contract by WWF.
Warriors wrestling career ended with a short run for WCW in 1998, with his One Warrior Nation (oWn) taking on the nWo faction. He retired in 1999 but returned for one final match in 2008, defeating Orlando Jordan to win the NWE title, which he immediately vacated.
Warrior's career was not without controversy as we have explained. WWF's 'Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior' painted him as unprofessional and sloppy. Bret Hart, speaking in London last month, suggested Warrior feared interactions with sick children and shied away from his fans and Sting has also criticised his once partner.
Whatever his colleagues thought of him, he was dearly beloved to his 'Warriors'. His final foray in wrestling with induction into the Hall of Fame, reconciliation with WWE and a final appearance at Raw was a fitting end to a glorious career.
His final words at Raw perhaps sum it up best:
..."if what that man did in his life what 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... You are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever."