With his larger than life persona, The Ultimate Warrior is one of the biggest characters pro wrestling has ever seen.
Jim Hellwig was the man behind the gimmick, bringing an energy to your television like few have ever had before him.
Hellwig got his start in wrestling in 1985, breaking into the business with future WWE Hall of Famer Sting.
In 1987, WWE – then called WWF – picked him up and changed his wrestling name from Goofy Warrior to The Ultimate Warrior.
He enjoyed early success with the company, winning his pay-per-view debut at WrestleMania IV and was the Intercontinental Champion less than a year later.
In 1990 – at WrestleMania 6 – Warrior was on a collision course with the biggest wrestling star of the 1980s and, arguably, of all time in Hulk Hogan.
They met at WrestleMania where Warrior’s Intercontinental Title and Hogan’s WWE Title were on the line, with Warrior coming out on top and Hogan even endorsing him in the ring afterwards.
It was a golden push in WWE and Warrior had some memorable matches and rivalries with the likes of Sgt. Slaughter, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Undertaker and Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.
But that’s when things started to go sour between The Ultimate Warrior and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
In July 1991, Warrior told McMahon he wanted a $550,000 fee to perform at WrestleMania VII, a guaranteed number of working days, travel accommodations, and a higher percentage of merchandise sales for his new contract. . He reportedly remarked that $550,000 “was fair” and that “[Warrior] meant as much or more to the show than Hulk [Hogan]’.
Warrior seemed obsessed with having equal footing with Hogan in WWE and wanted to be compensated the same way. He also said he would stay home until McMahon made a decision on the deal.
McMahon agreed to his terms, but only because Warrior was a main draw on a team with Hulk Hogan for SummerSlam the following month and the boss felt like he was being held to ransom for the demands.
Shortly after SummerSlam, McMahon suspended Warrior and in the notification letter said, “You threatened to stay home, not even showing up to Titan’s main summer pay-per-view event, SummerSlam. I had no choice but to accede to your exorbitant demands. It was a big mistake on your part.
In the letter, McMahon referenced Hogan’s obsession and even called Warrior “a legend in your own mind.”
“Your main complaint is apparently that you are not paid the same rate as Hulk Hogan, although ‘Hulk’ is a living legend, is still much better known to the public, has wrestled longer, is the WWF Champion, be largely a greater demand for personal appearances, be a bigger star and draw at WWF events, be more reliable, and be much more revered and respected by WWF fans and the general public,” McMahon wrote. .
“You have become a legend in your own mind; you certainly have no right to express your feelings by violating and threatening to break your contract.
Unsurprisingly, Warrior refused the suspension and wanted to leave in October 1991, but McMahon rebuffed that request, knowing he had him under contract for another 11 months.
This resulted in a stalemate and Warrior did not perform on WWE TV. However, with Hulk Hogan gone, McMahon was able to convince him to return to WrestleMania VIII.
Although the 1992 comeback was supposed to result in another world title run, Warrior was released in November of that year due to failed drug tests.
Warrior has admitted in the past that he was a heavy steroid user. But McMahon suggested that Warrior experimenting with growth hormone led to his departure.
He returned for another run in 1996 and came back with a WrestleMania win over Triple H, but that run ended prematurely after just three months as McMahon again had to let him go, this time for missing contract dates. in his contract. He would then have three matches in WCW before essentially retiring from wrestling.
Things never seemed simple for the one-of-a-kind character. His death was no different.
A complicated relationship with McMahon and thus WWE, Warrior had a history of no-shows at events and was an obvious and admitted steroid user in a time when the government cracked down on this in professional wrestling.
He became expendable by circumstance, but McMahon tried to bring him back anyway after Bret Hart left in 1997. Despite all of Warrior’s flaws, he was still a larger than life wrestler you can’t create at home. ‘anyone. He was special.
McMahon still thought his problem was that he believed he was a bit too special, to his detriment in fact. This difference of opinion was experienced as a betrayal by both sides and the bad blood lasted 18 years.
Finally in 2014, Ultimate Warrior took its rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. He then made an appearance at WrestleMania 30 the following night, then cut an emotional promo on the RAW after WrestleMania.
But for all the nostalgia and full-circle glow fans felt, something was wrong. Even in this latest promo, Warrior said his heart would “beat its last beat” and told fans his “immortal” spirit would live on.
Then, on April 8, 2014 – the next day – Warrior’s heart gave out as he died of cardiovascular disease. He collapsed while walking to his car with his family at a hotel in Arizona.
Witnesses from WrestleMania weekend had said that Warrior sweated a lot and was often short of breath. He looked frail and certainly not the picture of health he once was.
Dying at 54, he may have suffered from the aftermath of his own steroid abuse, but was he finally at peace?
Burying the hatchet with WWE after all these years and immortalizing himself in the WWE Hall of Fame might have been the most fitting end to a life greater than most.
Wrestlemania is this weekend, so it’s FINALLY time for talkWRESTLING to return to talkSPORT! We have AJ Styles joining the show ahead of his Edge fight, and Austin Theory taking on Pat McAfee on Sunday. Enjoy and catch a great preview show later this week!