As I sit here writing this, it is 12:21AM, technically the day after of hearing the devastating news of the passing of my childhood hero, “The Ultimate Warrior.” As many of the rest of you who will be reading this, I too, grew up an 80’s kid, who loved the “then” WWF. I became a fan of wrestling in 1977, and one day on a separate post I will go in depth how that came about. As for now, my focus is on my favorite wrestler in the 80’s, “Ultimate Warrior.”
When Hulk-A-Mania started “Runnin’ Wild” in the early 80’s, after capturing the WWF Title from the Iron Shiek, many fans became Hulk-A-Maniacs over-night. For the next several years, all you heard, was the training, the prayers, and the vitamins. In 1987, a new face arrived in the WWF. In the beginning, this new arrival wrestled at house shows, then known as The Dingo Warrior. (Ultimate Warrior had previously wrestled for World Class Championship Wrestling as Dingo Warrior)
Once brought to TV, the “Dingo” was dropped, and The Ultimate Warrior was born! I was 16 years old at the time, and coincidentally, I too, had long-brown hair, use to bang my head to heavy metal, sort of like the way Ultimate Warrior would bang his head, but that’s pretty much where the comparisons stopped. As a teenager and even right now as I type these words on my lap-top, I was in total awe of this man portraying this “Larger Than Life” character on TV. The Warrior’s entrance music, the way he sprinted to the ring, circling it a few times, and finally then standing up on the ring apron, then giving the top ropes such a shake, that you thought the ropes were about to collapse from Warrior’s intensity! Every time Warrior made this iconic entrance, I too would be banging my head in unison and just caught up in the moment! I knew then that eventually somewhere, some time down the road, there would be no denying the Ultimate Warrior of championship gold, even if it meant going through Hulk Hogan to do so.
Before the “then” WWF Championship, like many other great past WWF wrestlers, the Ultimate Warrior won the WWF Intercontinental Championship. It was on August 29th, 1988 at the very first SummerSlam, at Madison Square Garden. The cool thing about this, was that a young Toddy D was present at MSG for this historical event in WWF History! I obviously wanted to be at the first SummerSlam to begin with, but I also had a feeling that something great was going to happen that night! The Honky Tonk Man at the time was the IC Champ. HTM came out and laid a open challenge to anyone in the back for the IC Title. I remember saying to my friend that it has to be Ultimate Warrior, and that I hoped it would be! After the challenge by HTM was made, the silence as the crowd waited to see who this “mystery opponent” would be, felt like an eternity. All of a sudden like many times in the past you heard that opening riff, and before you knew it, Ultimate Warrior came running out at full speed to the ring, as if he were shot out of a cannon! The crowd erupted with joy, knowing that their hero was there, and that justice would finally be served and HTM would finally be dethroned! I felt like I was the leader of that chant and my hero was about to make history! Well, if you would have blinked, you would have missed history, because Ultimate Warrior beat the HTM in 27 seconds! HTM didn’t even get the chance to remove his jacket! In unison when Warrior pinned HTM, we all yelled, “1,2,3!” And history was made!
The Ultimate Warrior held the IC Championship into 1989, and started a program with “Ravishing” Rick Rude. (Who I feel too should be in the HOF) The rival started at the Royal Rumble in 1989, when they had a, “Super Pose-Down” in the middle of the ring. Rude & Warrior had done several body-builder type poses, and either with the approval or disapproval of the fans, be judged on who was better. Obviously with Ultimate Warrior being the “fan-favorite” and for that matter was visibly much larger than Rude, after several poses, Ultimate Warrior was declared the winner of the Super Pose-Down! Warrior didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate the win. Rude’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had a squirt bottle filled with body oil, that he was using earlier to place on Rude, to show-off Rude’s abs, etc. Heenan took the squirt bottle, and had squirted the oil into Ultimate Warrior’s eyes as a distraction, so Rude could use the muscle-bar he was bending to flex his biceps, to hit Warrior over the head with it.
This set up for their legendary feud, with the IC Title at WrestleMania V! Rude eventually won the match, when pinning Ultimate Warrior, with the assistance of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, hiding by the side of the ring, while holding Warrior’s leg, preventing Warrior from, “kicking-out” of the 3-count! Ultimate Warrior would eventually regain the IC Title at SummerSlam 1989 at the “then” Meadowlans Arena, in East Rutherfors, N.J. Again, “Brooklyn’s Own” Toddy D would make his way to watch history unfold live! I knew it was just a matter of time that my hero would regain what was rightfully his in the first place, and would get the chance to right the wrong that was dealt to him at WM V. Like the rest of the crowd I was over-joyed and was banging my long brown hair, celebrated this historic win! Soon after Ultimate Warrior recapturing the IC Title, Ultimate Warrior went into a program with Andre the Giant, where it culminated at Survivor Series 1989.
Enter the 1990’s! By this point, Hulk-A-Mania, at least at that point in time, had ran its course. The seed was planted so to speak, at the 1990 Royal Rumble. Warrior & Hogan had banged into one another, creating this historic stand-off, as if time had stood still, as the two biggest powers were standing face to face, nose to nose! You had the Heavyweight & IC Champions about to go at it! I remember watching the Royal Rumble at home on PPV! I was watching it with my friends, and jumped up out of my chair screaming, “This is it!” “Here we go!” Warrior & Hogan bounced off the ropes, banging into each other, where neither one had budged for the most part. Next, the two legends, “criss-crossed” the ring ropes, with Hogan missing a clothesline, and then both of them went for a clothesline, double-clothes-lining each other! I remember just standing there in shock, watching the two biggest names at the time just laying there. Eventually it came down to Hogan and Mr. Pefect Curt Henning, with Hogan winning the 1990 Royal Rumble, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, the seed was planted!
WrestleMania Vl held at the Toronto Skydome, was billed as, “The Ultimate Challenge!” For the first time ever it was the IC Champ vs the Heavyweight Champ! Title for Title! The unique thing about this, was not only the fact that it was the first time both champs faced off title for title, but also the fact, that it was the company’s two top “baby-faces” (good-guys) facing off against each other. This forced the fans to pick who they were backing, and when watching WM Vl you can literally see the crowd split up! On one side you could see a huge pic of Hogan, and on the other side was a huge pic of Ultimate Warrior. I was at my friend Jerry’s house watching this all unfold live on PPV! Everyone there, with the exception of Jerry’s little brother, were rooting for Ultimate Warrior to win, with me banging my head, “Warrior-Style”, leading the pack! When Hogan missed his famous leg-drop, and Warrior did his splash on Hogan, it felt like an eternity for that 3-count to happen. This was the first time Hulk Hogan was “cleanly” pinned, since winning the title back in 1984 against the Iron Shiek. It was the dawning of a new era, a “passing of the torch” you could say. As Hogan was visibly disappointed and road off into the sunset, there was a new heavyweight champion of the world crowned! The Ultimate Warrior! I can still see the visual in my head of Ultimate Warrior standing proud, holding both titles up with fireworks going off! I was so pumped up that night and so proud of my hero winning that night! Soon after that historic win, Ultimate Warrior “vacated” the IC Title, and focused on defending the WWF Heavyweight Title!
At the Royal Rumble in 1991, Ultimate Warrior, defended the WWF Title, facing an “Iraqi Sympathizer” Sgt. Slaughter. Warrior would eventually lose the match, being distracted by Randy Savage’s “then” manager, “Sensational” Sheri Martel. Savage would take the opportunity, by hitting Warrior in the head with his metal scepter. Warrior went onto WrestleMania Vll, facing Randy Savage in a career-ending match, forcing Randy Savage to retire.
Ultimate Warrior went onto feuding with The Undertaker and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, before leaving the WWF. In 1992, Ultimate Warrior returned at WM Vlll to assist Hulk Hogan from getting beat down by Papa Shango & Sid Justice. Warrior then faced Savage for the title but won by count-out. (Causing Savage to retain) Later, Warrior & Savage were billed as The Ultimate Maniacs, and were suppose to go against Ric Flair & Razor Ramon, but Warrior was released before the match could take place.
For the most part, from 1992-1996 Ultimate Warrior was basically semi-retired from professional wrestling. I remember he had his own comic book series, that I had collected as well as his wrestling school that he started in Scottsdale, AZ. “Warrior University.” I remember before being trained by The “Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz in 1992, first I had sent away for information on Ultimate Warrior’s “Warrior University.” The welcome letter I had received from Ultimate Warrior, described the training facility, what it had to offer, along with various pics of the training school. I was so psyched, when receiving the info, that I wanted to hop on the first flight to Scottsdale, AZ! Realizing I couldn’t make the trip, I eventually stayed in Brooklyn, and trained with Johnny Rodz.
Ultimate Warrior would have a couple more “brief” stints in 1996 & 1998 in WWF, and would then debut in WCW in 1998, which would not last too long either.
In 2006, I had the privilege & pleasure meeting Ultimate Warrior at the Ringside Collectible gathering in Manhattan. I remember they had a Q&A Session, and I directly asked my childhood hero if he were offered to be inducted into the WWE HOF, if he would accept. He simply responded to me by saying, “You never know what’s going to happen, and it could be a possibility.” Every one there clapped at his response to my question and for that matter, a lot of people smiled at me, and you could tell that the people in attendance were thankful of the question that I had asked. Later on, when I go to meet the Ultimate Warrior for the first time, we shook hands and I had thanked him for all the memories that he had provided me as a teenager and eventually into my 20’s! The Ultimate Warrior and I took a polaroid together, which I am currently looking for, and once I locate it, I will proudly be putting it up on my FB page! After signing the memorabillia that I had brought with me to the signing, I remember telling Warrior that at the time my wife’s step-dad was also a huge Ultimate Warrior fan and would have loved to be at the signing, but was recovering from open-heart surgery. Warrior looked at me and asked me what his name was. When I told him, he took one of his 8×10 pics, saying, “George, get well soon & Always Believe! Then ending with this signature “Ultimate Warrior!” Such a true class act! At the time I was with NWA Cyberspace/Shockwave Wrestling, and I was talking to Ultimate Warrior about it. Not thinking anything would happen, but I had given him my email address, and since I knew his website, I told him I would keep in touch with him. Of course being the huge fan that I was, I did in-fact contact Ultimate Warrior a few days after the event, thanking him for every thing and for taking the time out to sign the 8×10 for my wife’s step-dad. And you know what? The Ultimate Warrior did in-fact take the time out to respond, and yes I knew it was him, because what was discussed over the several emails tha we had sent to each other, was about the first time I had the pleasure in meeting him.
In 2008 Warrior wrestled Orlando Jordan for the Nu-Wrestling Evolution Heavyweight Title. As soon as Warrior won the title, he vacated it.
I remember how happy I was when Ultimate Warrior was announced as the pre-order bonus for WWE’s 2k14 video game. That teenager in me returned and I drove as quickly as I could to Best Buy, to pre-order the game, so I could get Ultimate Warrior!
Fast-Forward to this past Saturday, April 5th, 2014. I couldn’t wait to watch the WWE HOF! I was happy for Jake & Razor and was looking forward to their speeches, but I was most looking forward to seeing and hearing my childhood idol speak of his induction! Of course the fan and kid inme, was wondering if Warrior remembered that fateful day of me asking him back in 2006 if he would ever accept the induction into the WWE HOF. Well, it was finally here, and I couldn’t be more proud of him! He was so deserving of this honor, despite all the past controversies. When I was watching the Pre-Shows on the WWE Network, that was leading to the HOF and WM XXX, mostly every one was excited about Ultimate Warriors speech, saying they could only imagine what he was going to say. I’m sitting here thinking, are they kidding? What do they think is going to happen? Do they actually think Warrior is going to come out and just start shooting or yelling in his trademark character? NO! I knew for a fact that he would come out as the proud professional Warrior, that I had the pleasure to meet and get to know.
Being the true class act and proud family man that he was, Warrior came out onto the stage, to accept his HOF Induction, holding both of his daughters hands. A true awesome moment. Warrior went onto saying that his greatest accomplishment in life were his two daughters, and thanked the fans for believing in him. When i watched Warrior make his speech, I was proud, but also concerned for my hero, as he looked sick. He seemed winded and tired, and was sweating an awful lot, and something just did not look right.
The next night Warrior came out with the other inductees and was introduced as the, “Class of 2014!” April 7th, 2014 Warrior came out to address the fans. A I watched the Warrior make his way down the ramp, he appeared to look in bad shape. He sort of stumbled waling down the ramp, and then when entering the ring, he was barely able to do his trademark “shaking of the ropes.” I knew right then and there that something was off. When Warrior continued with the speech that he delivered, it was very cryptic in what he was saying, and it was as if he created his own eulogy, his own send off into immortality. Warrior was signed for a 3 year deal with WWE, in a good-will ambassador type of role. Unfortunately we will never get to see it, as Warrior wrote his last “Ultimate Chapter” on Monday Night RAW.
I’ll never forget that text I received from the same friend that I went to MSG with back in 1988 when the Ultimate Warrior defeated HTM in 27 seconds. It was on Wednesday April 9th at 6am, when I got the text. That entire day at work, I just sat there for 8 hours in disbelief and in shock, that after having this tremendous WrestleMania Weekend & Monday Night RAW, that my childhood hero was taken from us.
The spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will live in my mind forever and will always be a part of me. As I’m typing this, I am reaching the 3am mark, and have to be up for work in 3 hours. It doesn’t matter. The “Warrior” in me, will assist me in getting through the day!
God Bless the Ultimate Warrior & his family! R.I.P. Warrior.