The Ultimate Warrior

April 11, 2014 at 7:24 AM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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It’s been another large gap of time to fill in since my last post. I started my grad school program in March of this year and so far it’s had a share of good days and bad days. Mostly good — so not too much to worry on there. My biggest concern pulling me away sometimes is the continuous struggle of just learning a new subject in a (what I would confidently say now is my –) second language. I like the subject material (physical education and everything under its umbrella), but I only now realize how hard it is to learn something completely new in a language that isn’t your native tongue.

But I won’t waste time on that matter anymore. I’ve been struggling to get a post out for months now, yet something happened a few days ago that really shook me up.

The passing of Warrior, known by some of his birth name “James Hellwig” — but known by most as the Ultimate Warrior.

If you’ve read any of my posts on here before, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that while I have a special place in my heart for all sports — the “sports entertainment” world of professional wrestling is very special to me. When I was young, the shows of the (then WWF) WWE and WCW shaped me in many ways. When I’m around those who I feel comfortable enough to talk to it about, I’ll gladly tell them that I was literally born a fan of pro wrestling. My brother — who is 5-and-a-half years older than me — had already become a fan of so many things from 80s pop culture before I came about. There’s a silly story he would tell me about being taken to the hospital with our grandfather and he looked in the “baby room” (I don’t know what it’s proper title is) with two Ninja Turtle action figures in each pocket. Some time later, my brother started to give me hand me down toys of his old pro wrestlers (not because he had lost interest — instead they were toys that had been chewed on by our dog or ran over with the lawn mower).

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I don’t have many memories of being very young, but I can recall one Halloween, when my brother and mom were putting facepaint on me in the design of the Ultimate Warrior. It’s one of my first memories of feeling so happy. I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5, but I remember that rush of energy when I looked in the mirror.

The Ultimate Warrior was an outrageous character who can’t really be explained. He had long “rock star” hair and face paint in the design of something like a bat with radical colors like yellow or pink. He ran out to the wrestling ring wearing bright tights and armbands tied tightly complimenting his jacked arms — and streamers hanging from his boots that just bounced with each massive step that he took in his sprint. His music was so epic. Just this heavy metal riff going on and on, perfectly falling in sync with his energy. He would run around the ring, throwing his arms in the air, then shake the ropes like a maniac to pump up the crowd even more. He was literally having a one-man mosh to his own song, sending energy to the live audience and millions of people watching worldwide.

There were other great wrestlers in that time — Hulk Hogan, the Hart Foundation, Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, the Million Dollar Man — I can go on all day. But the Warrior was my first real “favorite wrestler.” I had no shame in telling anyone how much I like him and wanted to be a wrestler like him.

But time went on — I grew up. The Warrior had a falling out with the WWF and by the time I was in middle school and early high school, the internet was in full force and before long, YouTube videos of the Warrior (who by that point had legally changed his name to Warrior) outside the world of wrestling had come to light. I remember seeing a video of him arguing with a group of students at a university about homosexuality, and while I’ve tried to put a lot of it out of my mind, I recall him saying some harsh things. I never saw the comments myself, but I even heard he had said some terrible things about the late Heath Ledger when he passed away (because of his choice to be in Brokeback Mountain). Warrior — the man — was stromg in his opinions and didn’t care whether anyone liked it or not. I’m not trying to classify myself as liberal or conservative here, but I began to see this man who I had idolized slowing go down a path of almost lunacy. Yelling into webcams on YouTube videos and badmouthing dozens of people in the wrestling industry. All while others within the industry began to share their stories of how crazy he could be. How he didn’t want to work with other wrestlers and how he fought hard to be the “top guy” even though he was holding down others.

I almost felt ashamed to ever say I was an Ultimate Warrior fan.

But time passed, and I grew up. He got older, and I heard about the Warrior slowly coming into contact with his former employer, the WWE. I recall seeing an interview he did with 2K Sports for the WWE2k14 video game, and he seemed so level headed and kind. He had so many good memories to share about his time in the wrestling business. At one point, the interviewer asked him if he would ever return to do one more match at a Wrestlemania against his former boss, Vince McMahon. Before he could answer, a small girl’s voice piped up shouting, “Yeah!” Warrior smiled and said, “That’s my daughter, Maddie.” He began to talk about his family — his wife and two young daughters, and he had only recently began to show his daughters what their father used to do. And they were so proud of him for it, which you could see gave him such happiness.

Fast forward to 2014 at Wrestlemania 30, and the Ultimate Warrior is going into the WWE Hall of Fame. Literally less than a week ago as I type this. His two daughters — only a few years older than my oldest niece — brought him out on stage. He watched like a proud father as they walked to the back with Linda McMahon, the wife of Vince and the person he trusted most to give his introduction speech.

He spoke for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer. It was an awesome speech. He had buried the hatchet and had nothing but love for the business, and while he was upset about how the WWE had tried to tarnish his image, he was so proud of the fans for always supporting him and believing in him.

Two nights later on Monday Night RAW, he gave a final “promo” in character as the Ultimate Warrior, talking about how the fans gave him the energy to do what he did.

As I type this, I’m really having trouble getting all my thoughts together. Being a wrestling fan, it’s not unusual to hear about childhood heroes pass away.

If you haven’t heard already, Warrior died earlier this week outside a hotel in Arizona with his wife. He had flown earlier that day with his family and was said to be in good spirits — hugging his friends and taking pictures with any fans he encountered. Then a few hours later, he collapsed as to what is looking like a massive heart attack.

If you’re fortunate enough to see the Hall of Fame ceremony, you can see how proud his wife and daughters are — and how happy he is. A man once so bitter, hugging old enemies and taking his rightful place amongst the legends in the Hall of Fame. He truly did immortalize himself.

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The photo above was posted from Sting’s Twitter account. The two of them had come up in the business together and were friends from when they were young.

It’s an incredible photo. My heart is feeling heavier and heavier with each touching comment or piece of history that surfaces about Warrior. I went through a phase growing up where I felt almost ashamed to say I was a fan of him, but I now I’m ashamed I could turn on someone who really meant so much to me and gave me courage and strength as a kid.

It sounds so corny, but I’m sure he played a big part of me growing up. I really idolized him, as I’m sure so many other kids did. It’s so sad that I truly realize how special of a person he was after he’s gone.

It can’t be said enough — sending all my prayers and thoughts and positive energy to his family. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for them.

Remembering James Hellwig, the Ultimate Warrior.

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