Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ultimate Warrior - RIP

Jim Hellwig, a.k.a. The Ultimate Warrior, a.k.a. Warrior, has died. He was 54 years old.

This shocking departure came a day after he was celebrated throughout the Wrestlemania weekend, inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and had a solo promo segment on Monday Night Raw. The promo was viewed, then and now, as Warrior clearly acknowledging his hidden health problems and making the most of his limited time by delivering a final goodbye to his fans.

His untimely death is a major blow for myself, especially since I fed on my nostalgic glee for him recently when I wrote about the brief time he teamed with The Undertaker.

Much like the late Macho Man Randy Savage, Warrior was a childhood favorite of mine. The hard rocking theme music, the fast run to the ring, the shaking of the ropes, and the quick elimination of any opposition made him shine in the hearts and minds for young WWF fans.

He was to be the next big thing for the WWF, while also being the biggest clear sign of the changing times for the pro wrestling world, as it moved away from the dim and limited territory days that breathed its last breath in the 80's and moved to the global stage of the 90's.

Warrior was often criticized and lambasted by critics, pre- and post-Internet age, for his paltry ring skills, style over substance demeanor, and of course his incomprehensible backstage promos. Such highlights of the latter include him talking about being trampled by elephants, fueling up a warrior-filled rocket ship, and him killing two airplane pilots to crash Hulk Hogan into his domain, Parts Unknown.

Despite these rightfully just opinions, Warrior did occasionally feature the true potential of his character and the ability to be a true wrestler/performer, albeit with some guidance from other talented workers. Acclaimed matches include his war with Ravishing Rick Rude at Summerslam 1989 and the show-stealing retirement match against Macho Man Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII. But if he had to be singled out solely for one night, it will forever be the "passing of the torch" match between him and Hogan at Wrestlemania VI.

Though he made a lasting impression on many people in the late 80's/early 90's, the rest of his personal life had a harsh ugly light tangled around it. He repeatedly clashed with Vince McMahon backstage and in the courtroom, legally changed his name to Warrior to prevent litigation, never lasting a full year in later promotion runs, crafted some of the worst comic books ever made, and ended his wrestling career with an abhorrent match against the equally aging Hogan at WCW Halloween Havoc 1998.

Unfortunately, he got worst: not content with spouting out gibberish writings about things like "destrucity", he became a far-far-right conservative speaker during the 2000's. His most infamous moment came when his videotaped engagement at the University of Connecticut went viral, showing him making disgraceful comments at some of the audience members and stating that "queering doesn't make the world work."

In the last couple years, he seemed to be changing his ways and reversing mostly all of his bitterness. The previous year had him helping out THQ in promotion for the latest WWE videogame and slowly making some amends with the WWE brass.

I don't condone any of the disgusting opinions he made throughout his life. But I'm simply unable to judge him solely for this side of him, mostly due to my love for the Warrior persona. I, like everyone else, must now see me not as an invincible warrior but as a man, able to stumble and stray when he wasn't bringing joy to his family or his fans.

He will be missed.

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