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SMARK COUNTRY: A Warrior’s Trip to Valhalla

When the news broke yesterday about the Ultimate Warrior’s death, I couldn’t help but take it with a grain of salt. This is definitely not the first time his death had been announced.

This has occurred several times, dating back as far as 1991 when he disappeared from WWF and a look-a-like faux-Warrior debuted a year later. But when news of his collapse while outside of an Arizona hotel with his wife surfaced on several news sites, it really started to sink in that this was no hoax.

Born James Brian Hellwig, the Warrior got his start in the wrestling circuit in Southern California, where most body builders with aspirations of becoming pro wrestlers start. He was in a tag team called the Blade Runners with another familiar face painted icon named Sting (Steve Borden).

After stints as Blade Runner Rock, and then the Dingo Warrior in World Class Championship Wrestling, he got his break in 1987 as he was signed to the World Wrestling Federation and became the Ultimate Warrior. While with the Fed, he won the WWF Championship and was a two time Intercontinental Champion. He left and returned twice, then took a sabbatical from wrestling, only to return in 1998, this time to World Championship Wrestling. After nearly a year there, he retired from professional wrestling.

One of the very first WWF matches I remember seeing as a kid featured the Ultimate Warrior vs another deceased legend, Ravishing Rick Rude. Their styles couldn’t be more different. Rick Rude fought with a tactician’s finesse, and a little bit of flair. Warrior’s was all intensity, all power and there was no slowing him down. The two clashing styles worked to dazzling effect.

This past weekend, the Warrior returned. For the first time in eighteen years, Vince McMahon gave the Warrior an open forum to speak, and also inducted Hellwig into the WWE Hall of Fame. Apparently, Triple H had a hand in helping Warrior and Vince McMahon reconcile. The speeches that Warrior gave, not only there, but on the following Monday Night Raw, were as intense as ever. But along with the intensity, there was a focus and message, unseen in almost all of his previous promos. With his final public appearance, he offered these words…

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.

You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back, I see many potential legends, some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!



R.I.P. Ultimate Warrior