Just days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, appearing at Wrestlemania and making his first appearance on Raw since 1996 news has come out that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away at the age of 54. WWE.com was the first to report the passing of the Warrior (real name James Hellwig) and media outlets like TMZ, Yahoo! and ESPN started to pick up the news. Reports say he collapsed outside an Arizona hotel while with his wife and was pronounced dead when he arrived at the local hospital. He is survived by his wife Dana and two daughters. News of his passing spread through the wrestling world and many took to Twitter to show their respect.
We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters.
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) April 9, 2014
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) April 9, 2014
Loss always has a way of reminding us to live and love as greatly as we can. My prayers and strength to his family. RIP Ultimate Warrior.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) April 9, 2014
Sad to pass along the news that the Ultimate Warrior has died. Condolences to his wife & two, young daughters. RIP Warrior
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) April 9, 2014
After all these years I finally got 2 tell him that me shaking the ropes was an homage 2 him. Blessed to have had that moment. #onelife
— Dave Bautista (@DaveBautista) April 9, 2014
The news of his passing is incredibly sad and the timing couldn’t be more unbelievable as he appeared to be in great spirits and health throughout the weekend and during his appearance on Raw. After an 18 year absence he seemed to have made peace with the WWE, Vince McMahon and some of his former co-workers. He seemed to be humbled, honored and just happy to be back in the company that helped make him a legend. He had just signed a Legends contract with the WWE and was expected to be a part of the company going forward, whether it was appearances or promotions.
Hellwig got his career started in the mid-80’s and was partnered with Steve Borden (aka Sting) as The Blade Runners. He spent some time in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) under the name “Dingo Warrior”. He left WCCW for the WWF and changed his name to The Ultimate Warrior, where he had his most success. Debuting in June 1987 he was known for his energetic entrance music, face paint, running to the ring at full speed and shaking the ring ropes before taking on his opponent. His first pay-per-view appearance was at Wrestlemania IV when he defeated Hercules Hernandez.
The Ultimate Warrior famously beat the Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Championship in just 27 seconds at the inaugural Summerslam, ending the Honky Tonk Man’s still record 454 day reign. After losing the title at Wrestlemania V to Rick Rude he would defeat Rude at Summerslam ’89 to regain the belt. He would then take on his biggest challenge, Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI where both the Intercontinental and WWF Championship were on the line.
The Ultimate Warrior ended up defeating Hogan and to this day is the only man to hold the Intercontinental and WWF Championship at the same time. Per WWF rules, he vacated the Intercontinental Championship as one wrestler wasn’t allowed to have two titles. He would go on to successfully defend his title against the likes of Rick Rude, Ted DiBiase, Mr. Perfect and Haku before losing the WWF Championship to Sergeant Slaughter at the 1991 Royal Rumble thanks to a distraction by Randy Savage. He would defeat Savage at Wrestlemania VII and force him to retire.
He would later feud with the Undertaker and Jake Roberts but a pay dispute behind the scenes derailed the storyline and his time in the WWF. The pay demands were met by Vince McMahon and the Warrior performed at Summerslam as advertised but was suspended immediately after the match as McMahon had only met his financial demands to assure his appearance at the event. Rather than take the suspension the Ultimate Warrior quit the WWF. The Warrior and the WWF would reconcile as Hulk Hogan’s contract was about to expire and he would return at Wrestlemania VIII to save Hogan from Sid Justice and Papa Shango. His return was brief as he allegedly tested positive for steroids and asked for his release from the company.
The Warrior was relatively quiet for the rest of 1992 until 1996 when he returned to the WWF and defeated a young Triple H at Wrestlemania XII. His return was again brief and his contract was once again terminated by Vince McMahon after he failed to make appearances to mourn the death of his father, which McMahon claimed was so far removed from the Warrior’s life that it was a cover up. The Warrior appeared in WCW and took on Hogan’s New World Order faction. In his brief stint, he wrestled four matches and claimed the only reason WCW brought him in was so Hogan could avenge his loss to the Warrior at Wrestlemania VI. After his time in WCW was up, Hellwig retired from professional wrestling.
The WWE released The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior in 2005, a scathing look at Hellwig’s time in the WWE as current and former WWE employees took shots at the Warrior and labeled him as an egomaniac and a poor wrestler. Hellwig would file a lawsuit against WWE over the DVD but the case was thrown out. It wasn’t until 2013 when the WWE and Hellwig seemed to reconcile as he appeared as The Ultimate Warrior in commercials for the WWE 2K14 video game.
Fast forward to this past weekend when the Ultimate Warrior was the headliner of the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2014. He was back where his career shot into the stratosphere and was inducted by none other than Linda McMahon. The Ultimate Warrior made what turned out to be his final public appearance on this past Monday’s Raw and delivered a speech that a lot of people now are considering cryptic, given the news of his death. Hellwig seemed rejuvenated leading up to his passing as fans noted that he posed for pictures and signed autographs at the New Orleans airport before departing for Arizona.
The WWE just released Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection yesterday and it will definitely be a more somber career retrospective than originally planned. It’s a shocking loss for the wrestling world as fans and the industry lost a true legend. While he was controversial, he was always considered a legend in the industry and it’s nice to see he was given his due this past weekend so fans and the WWE could show their admiration one last time.
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Tags: Haku, Honky Tonk Man, Hulk Hogan, Intercontinental Championship, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, James Hellwig, Linda McMahon, Monday Night Raw, Mr. Perfect, NWO, Papa Shango, Raw, Rick Rude, Royal Rumble, Sergeant Slaughter, Summerslam, The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, The Ultimate Warrior, Triple H, Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection, Undertaker, Vince McMahon, WCCW, WCW, Wrestemania, Wrestlemania 12, Wrestlemania 30, Wrestlemania 5, Wrestlemania 6, Wrestlemania 7, Wrestlemania 8, Wrestlemania V, Wrestlemania VI, Wrestlemania VII, Wrestlemania VIII, Wrestlemania XII, WWE, WWE 2K14, WWE Hall of Fame, WWF, WWF Championship