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 a success.
“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.”