Jim Hellwig. Warrior. The Ultimate Warrior. Dingo Warrier, if you really wish. One thing is for sure that regardless of the name, the image of a bodybuilder sprinting towards the ring with bicep tassels, long hair and brightly coloured face paint across the top half of his face before maniacally shaking the top rope is the everlasting memory of an entertainer who was absolutely impossible to ignore (and why you would want to do that is frankly beyond me).
Whilst fans took him to their hearts, opinions were different behind the scenes with Jim Ross describing him as “a pain in the ass” and Bruce Prichard using… well, less favourable terms than that on his award-winning podcast ‘Something To Wrestle With’. The upcoming episode of the fantastic “Dark Side Of The Ring” series explores the trials and tribulations of the man who called himself Warrior (legally). With all that in mind, let’s look back at the most important moments in the history of The Ultimate Warrior.
WWF lawsuit over the ‘Warrior’ trademark
In 1993, Jim Hellwig went through the courts to have his name officially and legally changed to Warrior, allowing him to appear at official events within and out-with WWF under the Warrior banner with no fear of recriminations or a knock on the door from a group from a team of Greenwich-based lawyers and it seemed to work well with both parties until the split between Warrior and McMahon became bitter, a battle was fought through the courtroom over who had rightful ownership over the Warrior and accompanying properties in 1996 and again in 1998 after Warrior showed up in Monday Night War rival WCW using the moniker. Both times, a judge ruled against McMahon
Following the sudden death of Warrior in 2014, WWE began a segment at the annual Hall of Fame shows called the Warrior Award, to celebrate fans who are deemed exceptional through battling life-threatening illnesses or incredible dedication to charity work. Presented by Warrior’s widow, Dana, it is the part of the show that stops it from disappearing up its own backside in its self-congratulation and, especially when the recipient is a kid, can be the most entertaining part of the ceremony (Look up the acceptance speech from Jarrius “J.J.” Robertson from the 2018 Hall of Fame show). The award, however, has received negative feedback with some fans claiming that some business practices adopted by the WWE at odds with what the Warrior Award is supposed to represent and is seen as nothing more than a hypocritical PR stunt by the company.
The Ultimate Warrior made his TV debut in October 1987 and his energetic ring entrances, flamboyant aesthetics and hard-hitting style were an instant hit with the fans. So much so, 10 months later, he was to face Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Title. Honky had held the title for a record 454 days, mostly through cheating and back-handed tactics and because of these antics, the fans were desperate to see him dethroned and who better than their heroic Warrior?! Mercy was also on their side as the Warrior covered the champion for the three counts after only 27 seconds!! Warrior began a feud with Rick Rude at the Royal Rumble 1989 after he was attacked by Rick Rude after losing a “super posedown”. Rude captured the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania V with help from manager Bobby Heenan. The feud culminated at Summerslam 1989 when Ultimate Warrior regained the belt to become a two-time Intercontinental Champion.
At the Royal Rumble 1990, the Royal Rumble match that year was to determine the WWF Championship. Hulk Hogan was victorious (because of course, he was!) but with a joint most six eliminations in the match and with Warrior being so ridiculously over with the crowd, Vince McMahon saw dollar signs and decided to break with pro-wrestling convention and have the Wrestlemania VI main event for the WWF Championship AND the Intercontinental Title be contested between two babyfaces and so “The Ultimate Challenge” between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior was set. The Ultimate Warrior pinned Hogan after a Warrior Splash and became the only wrestler to hold both titles at the same time. Warrior vacated the Intercontinental Title as WWF rules prohibited both from being held by the same competitor. Warrior had successful defences over Haku, Mr Perfect, Ted DiBiase and Rick Rude before dropping the belt to Sgt Slaughter at Royal Rumble 1991 after interference from Macho Man Randy Savage.
Hall of Fame induction
April 5th to April 8th 2014 is one of the strangest, heart-warming and heart-breaking four day periods in professional wrestling history. After being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 5th after reconciliation with Vince McMahon. He appeared at Wrestlemania XXX on April 6th as part of the Class of 2014 Hall of Fame inductees segment. He came to the ring to a rapturous reception on Monday Night Raw on April 7th and cut a poignant, reflective and life-affirming promo. On April 8th, Warrior died from a heart attack outside an Arizona hotel.
Reports from backstage at Wrestlemania and the Hall of Fame were that he was on tremendous form and took the time to speak to people he felt he had wronged throughout his career and make amends, one of who was Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts who said “After chatting for 10 minutes, we shook hands and we realised neither of us actually knew why we were mad at each other for so long“.
At the very least, he righted some of his wrongs in his last days.