Stop all the clocks. Strip off to the waist. Tie tassels around your biceps and paint stripes on your face. Plaster your pecs with creosote and roar into the skies. Blast the power ballads, for the Warrior has died.
OK, enough bad WH Auden pastiches. But it is a solemn moment, for tomorrow marks a week since the Ultimate Warrior passed. One of the men who turned sports entertainment from something monster truck fans watch when they have run out of petrol into a global phenomenon has gone to the big square circle in the sky.
Normally professional wrestling wouldn’t be given the light of day in the sports pages. It is too full of pre-determined plots to be considered a real sport. But, after watching the Ultimate Warrior (he legally changed his surname from James Hellwig to Warrior – think of his kids) speak on Monday Night Raw mere hours before his demise at the age of 54, the finite nature of life hit us in the windpipe like a well-timed clothes line. He had just been inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, joining such luminaries as Hulk Hogan, André the Giant and, er, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers.
And he stepped into the ring, dressed in a suit but still with that familiar death-metaller voice, to deliver some kind of eerie sermon. He said: “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalised.”
The manic faces of The Ultimate Warrior
It was enough to make pot-bellied wrestling fans pretend they had something in their eyes. But if you take away the carnie showmanship of wrestling, what he said could have come out of the mouth of any sportsman. Imagine John Terry had said it – we’d be canonising him. Or perhaps reeling back our claims that he is an utter clot.
Incidentally, the only wrestler celebrating this week was the Ultimate Worrier, who could at last step out of the shadow of his near namesake. Never heard of him? He shuffles around dressed in spandex muttering: “Did I leave the iron on at home?”
As the week began with tragedy, something familiar and comforting was needed. And a double dose of Adrian Chiles was just the ticket. He had been named in a poll last week as being the most gaffe-prone sports pundit (Andy Townsend must have been left off the shortlist), but that is unfair.
His only “crime” is that he speaks like we do – it’s not his fault that some viewers take everything he says literally. Plus, his relationship with Roy Keane seems to be getting a lot better. The dynamic is a lot easier to watch now Chiles appears to toy with Keane, rather than try to impress him.
What he is best at, as was shown last Tuesday and in Saturday’s FA Cup coverage, is treating football like a game. There is no chest beating, as Sky is often guilty of doing. He’d never be as pompous as to start broadcasts with a piece of poetry. Ah. Oops.