Ultimate Warrior dead at 54: Wrestling has lost an icon and one of the most recognisable stars

Wrestling legend was a man for the big occasion

The man born James Hellwig, legally known as Warrior but most commonly known as The Ultimate Warrior, has died.

His passing came just days after his WWE Hall of Fame induction and barely 24 hours removed from his emotionally charged speech on Monday Night Raw.

His return to WWE drew a line under a long and mostly bitter saga involving lawsuits, a legal name change and a defamatory DVD. Despite all of this, it truly appeared as if all wounds had healed between the two, with a new role agreed that would see Warrior make occasional TV appearances, similar to the role that Mick Foley had played until his contract expired.

For many of us, Warrior was one of the most recognisable and iconic figures from the then WWF boom of the early nineties in the UK. Charging down to the ring at full speed, Warrior was a man who appeared uncontrollable, shaking the ring ropes and pumping his arms up and down. His trademark face paint, tassels and herculean physique gave the illusion of a superman, while his interviews often gave the impression of a mad man.

 

At his peak, he was the epitome of why a large portion of the viewing audience watches wrestling – he was over the top, larger than life and looked like he was from another planet. His matches were usually over as quickly as his sprint to the ring, and the fans would lap it up. Perhaps the greatest example of one of his ‘squash’ matches was his first Intercontinental Title win at Summerslam ‘88, where he dethroned the longest reigning IC champion in history, The Honky Tonk Man, in a matter of seconds; the roof of Madison Square Garden threatened to collapse with thunderous cheers.

Read more: Ultimate Warrior dead at 54

While he may not be remembered as the most gifted wrestler of all time, Warrior saved his greatest performances for his two biggest matches. At WrestleMania 6 he toppled Hulk Hogan in a match that somehow lived up to the hype of the two biggest stars of the era clashing for their respective Intercontinental and World Championships.

While the title change did not signify the shift from Hogan to Warrior as ‘The Man’ (i.e. the face of the company), the match itself, as well as the post match embrace between the two remains iconic, if particularly sombre, today. Warrior’s clash with the late ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage in a Loser Must Retire match the following year was as good, if not better, than the previous year’s clash with ‘The Hulkster’. He was, it seemed, a man for the big occasion.

As the years passed, Warrior would make numerous comebacks, almost always diminishing. Following a disastrous run in WCW he faded from the spotlight, appearing occasionally on a big independent show but mostly in the courtroom or on his own website. It was with a lot of joy that he returned for this year’s Hall of Fame induction so that the fans could once again see the man they idolised growing up and show their appreciation. It was a cruel twist of fate that just a few days later they would be paying their respects.

Wrestling has lost an icon but more importantly a 54-year-old man has died, leaving behind him a wife and two daughters. And that is the biggest reason to mourn today.

Read more: WrestleMania 30 results
Undertaker's streak ends at WrestleMania 30
Top ten WrestleMania matches of all time
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

£18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

Recruitment Genius: Designer

£32969 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Engineer

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Data Engineer is required to ...

MBDA UK Ltd: Project Manager Facilities

Competitive Salary & Benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Role Title and Location: Facilitie...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence