The bizarre passing of one of the most colorful superstars in the history of the business has shocked the wrestling world. Whether you loved or you hated the Ultimate Warrior, the outpouring of emotion from people who worked with him and those who worshiped him has been tremendous.
Even more strange was the timing of his death. Warrior made his first appearance with the WWE in almost 18 years when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday night. He appeared in front of 70,000 fans at WrestleMania XXX on Sunday. He gave an impassioned (and eerie) speech on Monday Night Raw. On Tuesday, he was dead.
Ultimate Warrior was a polarizing figure both in and out of the ring. His promos were often outlandish and nonsensical, but people loved them anyway. He had overwhelming charisma and fans loved to live vicariously through him. The entrance music, the sprinting to the ring and of course, the shaking of the ropes, have all become legendary.
Inside the ring was a different story, and many fans like to put down his ability as worker. Granted, Warrior wasn’t exactly Ric Flair once the bell rung, but given the right opponent, he could certainly hold his own. Warrior had some truly classic matches against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sgt. Slaughter and Rick Rude.
Most people will argue that the Macho Man was his best opponent. Their contests at WrestleMania VII and SummerSlam 1992 were probably the two best matches Warrior ever had. However, his encounter with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI was undoubtedly the most famous match of his career.
There are also the people who ripped on Warrior for being self-centered and unprofessional. WWE produced a DVD called “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” in 2005, which was nothing more than a one-sided hatchet job. The DVD unfairly diminished Warrior’s impact on the wrestling business and failed to tell his side of the story.
As part of a make-good effort to coincide with his induction into the Hall of Fame, the WWE released a second Warrior DVD entitled, “Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection,” which chronicles his most famous matches and provides Warrior’s version of history. Reviews for the set have been strong.
Warrior received criticism over his life for outspoken remarks he’s made regarding left-wing politics and homosexuality. Let’s just say Warrior was never one to sugarcoat his opinions, and many folks were taken aback by things he had to say. Whether you agree or disagree, it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in. It’s very easy to sit back and call someone a racist or a homophobic. It’s difficult to publicly challenge the status quo.
Steroids were another issue for Warrior throughout his career. Like many of the bodybuilding-type wrestlers of the era, Warrior abused steroids and was fired for doing so at the end of 1992. This was during the height of a steroid scandal within the WWE that also affected Hulk Hogan and could have sent Vince McMahon to prison.
What exactly is the Ultimate Warrior’s legacy? What does Warrior mean to the history of the business? He was a top star in the late ’80s/ early ’90s alongside the likes of Hogan and Savage, and he influenced countless wrestlers who grew up watching during the era. To use just one example, Dave Batista admitted that he shakes the ropes in honor of Warrior.
Warrior was one of the industry’s biggest stars during a time when wrestling was the hottest it had ever been. His death has received serious mainstream coverage across the United States, and millions of people are heartbroken. He may not have had the greatest relationship with Vince McMahon or the WWE, but he lived life the way he wanted to. He set his own path and followed it.
The Ultimate Warrior leaves behind a wife and two daughters whom he loved very much. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy in wresting will never be forgotten.