The Ultimate Warrior was a North American professional wrestling superstar unlike any other before or after him, a character seemingly out of a comic book or a Saturday morning television cartoon and one remembered as much for his antics outside of the ring as he was beloved because of the matches that he had while working for the WWE. Warrior's knack for sprinting to the ring before contests and his history for cutting promos that left many baffled made him a polarizing figure among many in the business, even though fans around the world loved him.
What is the biggest knock on Warrior as a performer other than some crazy interview segments that made little sense to the majority of those listening was that he was not known for being a smooth in-ring worker. Some critics would go so far to say that Warrior was a bad wrestler who was only pushed to the top of WWE cards because of his bodybuilder physique. While there is probably some truth in those opinions, nobody can objectively go back and reflect on Warrior's time with the WWE and honestly say that he did not get over with fans.
Would a gimmick similar to that which belonged to Warrior during the prime of his pro wrestling career work in the modern World Wrestling Entertainment? Probably not, but it is that nostalgia that makes him so special to so many even after his tragic passing which occurred in 2014. For those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, Warrior was a true childhood hero, and that he never once turned heel while working for one of the top promotions on the continent solidified the performer as a legend of the industry in the eyes of those who followed him for decades.
15 Bodybuilding Days
As was the case for many WWE performers during the 1980s, Warrior did not start out hoping to be a wrestling champion. He instead was an amateur bodybuilder during the first half of that decade, and he was involved in multiple competitions until he saw the writing on the wall and he, along with other bodybuilders (including a man who would become the face of World Championship Wrestling), was invited to train as a professional wrestler. Warrior made the right move, and in doing so he helped change the WWE and make it the must-see promotion in all of the world.
Before he was any kind of pro wrestling warrior, Warrior was put into a tag team with Steve Borden – yes, the same Steve Borden who would eventually evolve into Sting and become the top babyface while in World Championship Wrestling. The Bladerunners competed in multiple territories during what was a relatively short run, and the two went their separate ways in 1986. Warrior and Sting both had incredibly successful careers as singles act, but it still would have been cool to see them inside of the same ring at a WrestleMania as foes, even if that match likely would not have been a five-star classic.
13 Before He Was Ultimate...
He was the Dingo Warrior, a somewhat calmed-down version of the energetic and enigmatic character who would go on to take the WWE by storm. Where exactly the “Ultimate” nickname came from has been disputed over the years. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is often credited for making the switch from “Dingo” to “Ultimate,” and that name change (along with Warrior turning up the character all the way up to a ten out of ten) helped create the performer that the majority of WWF fans remember, the one who won multiple championships while with that company.
12 Jake Roberts and Warrior feud
Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Warrior battled during on-air feuds while the two were in the WWE, but Roberts was just one individual in the industry who did not have positive feelings about the Warrior for years. Roberts had since admitted that he made a mistake when he suggested that Warrior did not deserve to be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, and “The Snake” has also stated that the two put any and all negative feelings they had away for good when they come together at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
11 “Motivational” Speaker
*This video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK
Those who you who stopped following headlines or news stories that had to do with Warrior after he retired as an in-ring performer may have missed out on his years as a supposed motivational speaker. Those appearances often included Warrior blasting left-wing politics and, most notably, homosexuality, and he unintentionally became a YouTube sensation when he stated that “qu—ring doesn't make the world work” while speaking at the University of Connecticut. You can find the video above, but be warned (again) that it is not considered to be “not safe for work.”
10 Comic Book Character
It has been suggested over the years that Warrior was a character taken straight from comic books more so than he was an athlete playing pro wrestler, and thus it made sense when he was featured in a real comic in the 1990s. Warrior published the book and naturally booked himself to be the main character. The story features Warrior giving birth to himself, Warrior engaging in battle against himself, and a Warrior Christmas special that was, to put it kindly, unique. They cannot all be winners, of course, but the Warrior comic book has become a cult classic among diehard wrestling fans.
9 Matches Against Andre The Giant
Even casual fans remember when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed and then pinned Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III, a moment that some have suggested is the most important in the history of the WWE. Warrior was also booked in a brief feud against Andre when Warrior was the Intercontinental Champion, and Andre put Warrior over on multiple occasions during that time. While Warrior was a big deal and a champion before he battled Andre, some have suggested that this feud helped convince the majority of audiences Warrior was of equal to Hulk Hogan in importance.
8 Notorious Awards
Warrior was beloved by millions and he still is to this day. He was also not the best wrestler you'll ever behold. As an example, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter twice gave Warrior the award for the “Worst Worked Match of the Year.” One of those featured Andre The Giant as an opponent, and the other was a match that saw Warrior take on Hulk Hogan when the two were working for World Championship Wrestling. Meltzer has, over the years, stated that the Hogan-Warrior rematch was the worst match he has seen, although he has since changed that claim after having watched nearly 17 years of “blah” WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling encounters.
7 Warrior and Vince McMahon Feud Was Real
Warrior and Vince McMahon had a tumultuous relationship that was more off-again than it was on-again for nearly two decades. The two battled over wage disagreements and suspensions, and Warrior sued World Wrestling Entertainment over The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior documentary that celebrated and also tore down the character, according to PWInsider.com. Warrior and McMahon may not have been the best of friends when the performer returned for the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, but the two did come together for an embrace that was featured on the official WWE website following the wrestler's passing.
6 Real-life Warrior
One of the lawsuits that involved Warrior, Vince McMahon and the WWE was the wrestler's desire to use the character’s name in his real-life dealings. The performer, born James Hellwig, legally changed his name to Warrior, and both he and the WWE claimed that they owned the trademark rights to the character. It was Warrior who won out in the end and his children even have the last name of Warrior and not Hellwig. It is fitting in that no other man possibly could have lived the Warrior gimmick as did Hellwig, although there was a time when some wrestling fans had doubts about even that.
If you'd like to read 100+ pages of legal jargon on the case, you can do that here.
5 Those Death Rumors
Much like with Paul McCartney of the Beatles, numerous death rumors began to swirl about once he took a hiatus following the 1991 edition of SummerSlam, according to Bleacher Report. The stories put out there by some in an era before the Internet and social media existed went so far to suggest that the supposed “new” Warrior who emerged eight months after SummerSlam was being played by Kerry von Erich. There was, of course, zero truth to those rumors, and Warrior remains the only person to ever play the Ultimate Warrior character while with the WWE.
4 Warrior Said He'd Never Return to WWE
Warrior was, for a long period of time, a proud individual who had also done well to acquire and save a considerable amount of money during his adult life, and thus putting away any real-life harsh feelings toward Vince McMahon was something that Warrior did not, unlike others, have to do. The former WWE Champion had even gone so far to defiantly post on his website that he would never return to the company. That would fortunately prove to not be the case, of course, as Warrior eventually settled any lingering disputes with McMahon and others in order to receive the induction in the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame class that the performer so richly deserved.
3 Warrior Was Only a One-time WWE Champion
It seems these days as if the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is passed around from performer to performer throughout the year, so much so that it appears to be a matter of when and not if John Cena will break Ric Flair's record for title reigns. That was not the case when Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania VI, however, as that would prove to be Warrior's only title run while with the company. Unless you count Nu-Wrestling Evolution as being worthy of having such a prestigious title, that would be the only world championship that Warrior ever won.
2 Hulk Hogan and Warrior Feud Was Real
Both Warrior and Hulk Hogan made enemies during and after their active in-ring careers, and that included a feud that involved the two WWE icons. Both Warrior and Hogan hit out at each other while interacting with fans over the years, and the story goes that the only reason Warrior was invited to work with Hogan at World Championship Wrestling was so that Hogan could get his win back from that famous WrestleMania contest. Hogan has since said that the two squashed their real-life rivalry before Warrior passed away, but those claims have been disputed.
1 The Hogan vs. Warrior Feud Continues?
Hogan has, during interviews and WWE segments, stated that he and Warrior came together at the 2014 WWE Hall of Ceremony and put all harsh feelings aside. Following Warrior's passing, however, his widow claimed in a statement that she and her family had not heard from Hogan following her husband's unexpected death, according to the New York Post. That was not be the first time that claims of Hogan burying the hatchet with a former rival came under fire, as there remain questions whether or not Hogan and Randy Savage were on speaking terms when Savage passed away. Hogan, for what it is worth, has the reputation for being a worker who is “on” 24 hours a day.