With unmatched energy, Ultimate Warrior exploded on the WWF scene in 1987.
In record time, the face-painted Superstar became a household name and sports entertainment icon. Ultimate Warrior had a
natural charisma that was undeniable. His high-energy entrances and chiseled frame made him an instant hit with fans, while
his high threshold for pain and unparalleled power struck instant fear into opponents. Within months of his debut, he had
turned back many of WWF's top names on his way to becoming one of the company's top draws.
(Ultimate Warrior Knew He Was Dying ») |
(Is WrestleMania VI Cursed? »).
(Vince McMahon Wanted Ultimate Warrior To Join WWE During The Attitude Era »).
At SummerSlam 1988, Ultimate Warrior ended Honky Tonk Man's
record 15-month Intercontinental Championship reign when he toppled the titleholder in a mere 30 seconds. The dominant
victory proved that nobody was safe from the Ultimate Warrior's intensity. With the Intercontinental Championship around his
waist, the Ultimate Warrior became one of the World Wrestling Federation's most marketable Superstars. It wasn't long before
arenas were filled with Ultimate Warrior T-shirts; fans even began to paint their faces like the eccentric hero.
Ultimate Warrior's superhuman strength carried him to a nearly eight-month Intercontinental Championship reign. It
eventually took outside interference from Bobby Heenan for
"Ravishing" Rick Rude to
wrest the title from Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania V. He later reclaimed the gold from Rude at SummerSlam 1989.
Ultimate Warrior's second stint with the Intercontinental Championship proved to be even more popular with the fans, setting the stage for an inevitable showdown with
WWF Champion Hulk Hogan.
WWF's most popular Superstars finally met at WrestleMania in an historic encounter dubbed "The Ultimate Challenge."
With both titles on the line, Ultimate Warrior defeated Hogan in front of more than 67,000 screaming fans in Toronto's
Skydome. The victory was capped off by an amazing fireworks display, a precursor to the pyrotechnics seen on a weekly basis
on today's WWE television.
Following the WrestleMania win, Ultimate Warrior spent the next nine months proudly defending the WWF
Championship. His whirlwind reign was eventually silenced when Sgt. Slaughter,
with some help from Randy Savage,
defeated him at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Rather than set his sights on reclaiming the prize, Ultimate Warrior focused
his attention on gaining revenge from Savage. He finally accomplished the ultimate retribution when he defeated Savage in a
Retirement Match at WrestleMania XII.
All four featured players in the Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage match have died
Is WrestleMania VII cursed?
In the wake of the death of Ultimate Warrior on Tuesday in Scottsdale, Arizona, it's eerie to note that over one-third of
the performers who participated in the 1991 pay-per-view spectacular have died.
It has been discovered that eighteen of the fifty-one performers at the event have died, with many of the deaths
attributed to drug use.
The list of talent who have died since the memorable show include some of the biggest stars in the history of the
professional wrestling industry such as Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Perfect. Causes of death
include suicides, murder and heart attacks, some the result of years of anabolic steroid use. Warrior passed away in the
parking lot of the Gainey Suites Hotel while walking to his car with his wife. TMZ.com is reporting that he clutched his
chest and collapsed, which are signs of a heart attack. Savage, his WrestleMania VII opponent, died on May 20, 2011
after suffering an apparent heart attack behind the wheel of his truck. The other featured players in the match, Miss Elizabeth and Queen Sherri, both passed away after overdosing on a variety of drugs (Miss Elizabeth in 2003, Queen Sherri
Not counting the deaths of Gorilla Monsoon (62, natural causes) and Lord Alfred Hayes (76, multiple strokes), sixteen performers have died
prematurely -- Ultimate Warrior (54, 'catastrophic medical event'), Randy "Macho King" Savage (58, heart attack), Andre the
Giant (46, heart failure), Mr. Perfect (44, drug overdose), Miss Elizabeth (42, drug overdose), The British Bulldog (39,
heart attack), Dino Bravo (44, gunshot), The Texas Tornado (33, suicide), Hawk (46, heart attack), Hercules (47, heart
disease), Earthquake (42, bladder cancer), Queen Sherri (49, drug overdose), Crush (44, unconfirmed), Big Boss Man (41,
heart attack), Paul Bearer (58, heart attack) and Joey Marella (31, car accident).
Meanwhile, none of the forty-four starters from the Super Bowl played in 1991 have passed away and only two of forty-four
boxers who held a championship belt that year are gone.
Warrior made amends with WWE in part due to his failing health
Nearly eighteen years after last appearing on WWE television, Ultimate Warrior returned to Raw on Monday night.
The next day he was dead. He collapsed while walking to his car in Arizona on a 90-plus degree day. He was taken to the
hospital and pronounced dead.
Warrior was walking down a hallway at the Gainey Suites Hotel in Scottsdale and headed toward his car with his wife --
when he stopped, clutched his chest and collapsed. He never recovered. All signs point to massive heart attack. Law
enforcement officials believe Warrior suffered a "catastrophic medical event."
A cause of death was not immediately given. An investigation is underway and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner will be
conducting an autopsy on Thursday.
Warrior had just been through a stressful weekend of travel and public appearances for WWE including Saturday night's
Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and his live appearance on Raw on Monday night. He didn't appear particularly
healthy or steady. He sweat profusely, not just on camera, but behind the scenes according to those who saw him. He
staggered a bit on his way to the ring and was short of breath during his Hall of Fame speech and especially Monday night
live on Raw. During his Hall of Fame speech, he made light of how much he sweat. He also made fun of how he had
"blown up" during his speech. Those who were around him behind the scenes say there were warning signs that he didn't
appear right, but since they weren't around him otherwise, they believed it was just nerves getting to him.
According to sources who were backstage at the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Warrior was very friendly when
approached, but also quiet and somewhat reserved. Otherwise, he kept mostly to himself. He was given special accommodations
by WWE, including a rental house for himself and his family over the weekend. He didn't stay at the Roosevelt New Orleans
hotel with WWE talent and employees. He didn't make scheduled appearances other than at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
During his promo on Raw, Warrior made eerie allusions to fate and death.
"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breath 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 than something that is larger than life,
[larger than] than his essence, his spirit will be immortalized -- by the storytellers, by the loyalty of those who honor
him and make what that man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you are the legend-makers of Ultimate Warrior... I am
Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans, and the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"
Sources say Warrior and his family were recently made aware of his greatly failing health -- it was the precursor
for him to make amends with WWE as a way to both say good-bye and also to provide his family income.
Warrior had admitted to fearing an early death in the past. In a 1999 deposition, he addressed this in the context of his
father's passing at 57-years-old three years earlier.
"I'm thinking about, you know -- I just had my 37th birthday. I got 20 years left in my life maybe. I mean, you know,
I'm doing these calculations in my head. My grandfathers die at 52," he said.
Warrior was 54-years-old and is survived by his wife Dana, his two daughters, his mother, his two sisters and his two
Ultimate Warrior could have faced off with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Could you imagine Ultimate Warrior in the Attitude Era battling it out with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind
and Kane? It could have easily happened.
It was widely believed that, aside from early talks for co-operation on the DVD that became The Self-Destruction of
The Ultimate Warrior in 2005, there were no overtures on WWE's part for a renewed relationship with Ultimate Warrior
until 2013. But that is not the case.
On December 17, 1997, with the World Wrestling Federation in the midst of a lawsuit with Warrior stemming over ownership
of the Warrior and Ultimate Warrior characters, Vince McMahon personally sent a letter to Warrior offering him a deal to
return to the World Wrestling Federation. While financial issues got the ball rolling on Bret Hart's departure and Warrior
was, theoretically, not going to be the top babyface of the promotion with Austin ascending, the terms offered were
favorable: five years at a guaranteed $750,000 per year, plus royalties (35% on merchandise when all other talent was
paid 25%) and a maximum of 14 days per month of work "for everything."
"Jim, this deal is far more lucrative to you then our last agreement of 1996, and obviously, far more long term," McMahon
wrote in his letter. "I look forward to building the resurgence of the Ultimate Warrior again."
Instead, after playing both sides off each other for maximum money, Warrior ultimately joined World Championship
Wrestling in August 1998. Recalling the event in an online rebuttal to the depiction of his wrestling career in the
The Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior DVD, Warrior stated, "How about in '98 -- considering that, now, you
hold all these ridiculous fantasizes that you always couldn't wait to "fire" me -- when you sent me a middle-of-the-night
fax offering me, alone, more money than nearly all the rest of the roster? Sent to me in the middle of our lawsuit and just
before I went to WCW, no less. You don't remember? The document does, Vince. What about when you barked to a mutual
acquaintance in the winter of '95 "I wouldn't pay him a God Damn nickel to come back," but you very soon after that broke
open your piggy bank to the tune of an unprecedented upfront seven figures? Oh, the real story still to be told. It's
delicious. Even more tasty now that you are laying your side of the story down."
He continued, "No, Vince, you definitely meant "hire." And it's what you mean, now. It's what you're trying to do and
it's the fix you need to have -- oh, man, you want oh so bad. Like a junkie, you gotta have it and you'll go to all
desperate lengths to get it. You live for the Pop, the rush, the jacked-up juice of the crowd, Vince,and you know that
whatever pop Hogan received all around the country bringing his phony, crippled act back to the ring, Ultimate Warrior
would outdo at immeasurable decibels. ONLY Ultimate Warrior. But."
When asked during a 2009 deposition (in January 2006, Warrior filed a lawsuit against WWE in an Arizona court over the
depiction of his wrestling career in The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD; it was dismissed on
September 18, 2009) why he sought Warrior's services again, McMahon did not remember.
"I don't know. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment here," remarked McMahon.
Even if the stars had been aligned for Warrior to return to the World Wrestling Federation, it likely would not have been
"The fact was, he had a big name, but the game had changed and people in 1998 didn't want to see fantasy creatures,"
remarked Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer regarding Warrior's chances of success in either the World
Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling in 1998. "Who cared about Warrior when the modern version, a real human
being playing unbeatable monster, Goldberg, was on TV every week. He'd have flopped almost as bad had he gone to WWF. It
had been seven years and two failed WWF runs since his glory days.
"At this point, his cartoon interviews and poor wrestling weren't going to be overcome by name value. The physique that
carried him, by that time, due to being around 40, was impressive, but no longer blowing away everyone in the industry, and
really, it was the physique that was the calling card."