R.I.P. The Ultimate Warrior June 16, 1959 – April 8, 2014
Our hearts goes out to The Warriors wife and 2 daughters, please keeo them in your prays. We know there 100's of stories over the years about Warrior, but remember how at the Hall of Fame we wondered if he would have face paint on, be dress like the Warrior, cut a promo and run around like he always did. For those wonder are those we should remember him by.
The Official Wrestling Museum will always honor and pay respect to The Ultimate Warrior. Rest In Peace Sir!
Warrior was born in 1959 as James Brian Hellwig, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was the oldest of five children. He legally changed his name to Warrior.
Hellwig began his professional wrestling career as Jim "Justice" Hellwig of Powerteam USA, the group of bodybuilders trained by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman.
Later, they wrestled as The Freedom Fighters (Hellwig was known as Justice and Borden was called Flash) in Memphis' Continental Wrestling Association under manager Dutch Mantel. Hellwig and Steve Borden, who would later go on to success as "Sting", formed a tag team known as the Blade Runners, with Hellwig changing his ring name to "Blade Runner Rock" and Borden changing his name to "Blade Runner Flash". Debuting in the Memphis, Tennessee-based Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion, run by Jerry Jarrett, the team played baby faces at first, but fans were actually slow to take to the hulking duo in a territory that had featured sympathetic "good guy tag teams" like the Rock 'n' Roll Express and The Fabulous Ones. They were quickly turned heel as The Blade Runners. The Blade Runners went on to wrestle for the Mid-South Wrestling promotion, which became the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in 1986. They were part of Eddie Gilbert's Hotstuff International group, before disbanding in 1986 when Hellwig left the UWF.
In 1986, Warrior debuted in the Dallas, Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) promotion, where he wrestled for $50 a night. He has stated that he adopted the ring name "Dingo Warrior" after a member of the WCCW locker room remarked that he looked like "a warrior". Warrior formed a tag team with Lance Von Erich, and the duo began competing for the WCWA World Tag Team Championship. On November 17, 1986, Warrior and Von Erich defeated Master Gee (substituting for champion Buzz Sawyer) and Matt Borne to win the title. They held the Championship until December 1 of that year, when they lost to Al Madril and Brian Adias.
In 1987, Warrior began competing for the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, losing to Bob Bradley in a tournament final on January 12. He won the title from Bradley on February 2 of that year. The title was held up in April 1987 after Warrior left the WCCW. He was reinstated as champion upon returning, but vacated it once more upon resigning from WCCW to join the World Wrestling Federation, where he adopted the ring name Ultimate Warrior. Warrior began appearing on house shows in June and was initially billed as The Dingo Warrior in house card promos by Gene Okerlund, but soon had his name modified. There is dispute over who created the Ultimate Warrior name. Bruce Prichard stated that Vince McMahon did not know what a "Dingo" Warrior would be, but because there was the "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry von Erich and the Road Warriors there should not be one more simple warrior, but The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior claims after one of his first matches, McMahon had him do a pretaped promo. It was there Vince said we want you to do Warrior, but we don't want Dingo. The Warrior then proceeded to cut the promo and stated that he was not this warrior or that warrior, he was The Ultimate Warrior.
In the late 1980s, while Warrior was still wrestling in Texas, he appeared in several TV ads for Westway Ford, a car dealership in Irving, Texas. Warrior interacted in full wrestling costume with Westway's wacky character, "Mean Joe Greed.
Hellwig joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in June 1987. First competing on house shows under his Dingo Warrior moniker, he defeated the likes of Steve Lombardi, Barry Horowitz and Iron Mike Sharpe. He made his television debut as The Ultimate Warrior on the October 25, 1987 airing of WWF Wrestling Challenge, where he defeated Terry Gibbs. The Ultimate Warrior was known for his high-energy ring entrances, which featured him racing into the arena at full speed, bursting into the ring, and violently shaking the ropes up and down. He was also known for his distinctive pattern of face paint. After several months of impressively defeating enhancement talent, he suffered his first pinfall loss in the WWF to fellow WWF rookie/future rival Rick Rude on December 28, 1987. In early 1988 Warrior entered into his first real WWF feud, with fellow strongman Hercules Hernandez. The two faced off on the February 7, 1988 airing of Wrestling Challenge, where Hercules was disqualified for using his steel chain. Warrior then grabbed a hold of the chain and in the midst of a tug of war over it, snapped it. This led to a match at WrestleMania IV, where Warrior was victorious in his pay-per-view debut. However, the Warrior did suffer two pinfall losses shortly thereafter: a clean pinfall loss to André the Giant in April in Italy, and another to Dino Bravo in Montreal in June (although Bravo had his feet on the ropes for leverage)
Less than a year after his WWF television debut, Warrior won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship, defeating The Honky Tonk Man in 27 seconds at the first ever SummerSlam on August 29, 1988. As champion, he captained a team at Survivor Series '88, where he was the sole survivor, pinning Outlaw Ron Bass and Greg Valentine in succession to win the match for his team.
As 1989 began, Warrior entered a feud with Ravishing Rick Rude over the Intercontinental title. The feud was sparked at the 1989 Royal Rumble, where the two met in a "super posedown." After Warrior predictably had the support of the live crowd in their judging of the contest, Rude attacked Warrior and choked him with a steel bar. This led to a championship match at WrestleMania V, where Rude pinned Warrior to win the title with the help of his manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who held down Warrior's foot from outside the ring as he was being pinned. At SummerSlam '89, Warrior defeated Rude to regain the title and become a two-time champion. Warrior then began a feud with André the Giant, leading to a number of matches on house shows where Warrior pinned the massive giant in a matter of seconds, firmly establishing Warrior as a main event level talent. The feud culminated at Survivor Series '89 where the two captained opposing teams. Warrior quickly eliminated André by knocking him out of the ring, where he was counted out. Warrior would go on to once again be the sole survivor, pinning Arn Anderson and Bobby Heenan to win the match.
The Warrior was heralded as the wrestler to become the biggest star of the 1990s, and the successor to Hulk Hogan, who had remained wrestling's biggest star throughout the 1980s. Following a few confrontations with Hogan, most notably at the 1990 Royal Rumble, the Warrior was written in as Hogan's opponent in the main event for WrestleMania VI at the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario. The match was billed as "The Ultimate Challenge", as both Hogan's WWF Championship and Warrior's Intercontinental Championship were on the line. Warrior pinned Hogan after a Warrior Splash to become the first, and as of 2013, only wrestler to hold the WWF Intercontinental and World Championships simultaneously. Warrior vacated the Intercontinental title, as WWF rules at the time prohibited a wrestler from holding both singles titles.
After WrestleMania, Warrior successfully defended the championship against the likes of Haku, Mr. Perfect and Ted DiBiase. At SummerSlam '90, he retained the title over his old nemesis Rick Rude in a steel cage match. "Macho Man" Randy Savage was also introduced as a potential rival after interfering in a Saturday Night's Main Event title match at the behest of DiBiase.
Warrior was inserted into the feud between The Legion of Doom and Demolition, leading to victories for the Warrior and LOD in six-man tag team matches on numerous house shows as well as the July 28, 1990 airing of Saturday Night's Main Event. The feud culminated at Survivor Series, where The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, LOD and Kerry Von Erich) defeated The Perfect Team (Mr. Perfect and Demolition). For the third consecutive year, Warrior was the sole survivor for his team. He would go on to survive the "Grand Finale Match of Survival" with Hulk Hogan.
In January 1991, Warrior faced Sgt. Slaughter at the Royal Rumble. Slaughter's gimmick at the time was a traitor who had betrayed America by aligning himself with an Iraqi (kayfabe) military general, General Adnan. In the context of the Gulf War, this made Slaughter one of the most hated heels at the time. After rejecting an earlier request to grant a title shot to Savage, Sensational Sherri interjected herself in the Warrior's championship match to distract him. Her interference eventually led to a Savage sneak attack where he struck Warrior over the head with a metal scepter, and Slaughter pinned Warrior to win the title. Warrior would go on to feud with Savage, and the rivalry culminated in a 'Career Ending' match at WrestleMania VII with the Warrior victorious, forcing Savage to retire.
The next chapter of Warrior's career was an encounter with The Undertaker, after Undertaker and his manager, Paul Bearer, locked Warrior in a coffin on the set of Bearer's Funeral Parlor. WWF officials worked feverishly to break the casket open, finally revealing Warrior's seemingly lifeless body, and the torn fabric inside of the coffin indicating Warrior's desperate struggle to get out. Warrior was finally revived by the officials performing CPR. This led to Jake "The Snake" Roberts offering to give Warrior "the knowledge of the dark side" in order to prepare Warrior to take his revenge on the Undertaker. This involved Roberts giving Warrior three "tests" shown on WWF TV in consecutive weeks. For the first test, Roberts locked Warrior inside of a coffin for a second time.
For the second test, Warrior was "buried alive" by Roberts. For the third test, the Warrior entered a room full of snakes, to find "the answer" in a chest in the middle of the room. Waiting inside the chest was a Spitting Cobra, which bit Warrior in the face. As Warrior weakened from the effects of the cobra's strike, Roberts made a heel turn and was joined by the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, revealing the three were working together all along. Roberts then uttered, "Never trust a snake." The stage was now set for a feud between the Warrior and Roberts. The feud never took place, as Warrior was involved in an alleged pay dispute with WWF owner Vince McMahon over the SummerSlam main event, where Warrior was teamed with Hulk Hogan in a handicap match against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa, and General Adnan.
On July 10, 1991, Warrior sent a letter to Vince McMahon requesting what was to be included in Warrior's new WWF contract. Warrior requested $550,000 for performing at WrestleMania VII as well as a guaranteed number of working days, travel accommodations, and a higher percentage of merchandise sales. In particular, Warrior remarked that the $550,000 figure "was not fair," and that "(Warrior) meant as much or more to the show than Hulk." Warrior ended his letter by stating, "Whatever your decision, I can and will live with it. Till then I remain home with one who cares." Which he still had that check at the 2014 Hall of Fame. He did somemore work with WWF in 1992, and 1996 for a short time. and worked for WCW in 1998 where the One Warrior Nation was born.
On July 15, 2013, Warrior was featured in a WWE 2K14 game trailer and revealed he was in the roster as a pre-order bonus.
On April 5, 2014, the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014. The next day, Warrior appeared at WrestleMania XXX, and the following night on April 7 he delivered a promo on Raw, his first appearance on the show since 1996 where he gave a speech in character as the Ultimate Warrior. He died less than 24 hours after his Raw appearance.
The Official Wrestling Museum will always honor and pay respect to The Ultimate Warrior. Rest In Peace Sir!