Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ultimate Warrior (1959-2014)

Professional wrestling lost a legend when The Ultimate Warrior died after collapsing in a hotel parking lot in Arizona on Tuesday. Three days earlier he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The night before he died he made an appearance on Monday Night Raw, his first in 18 years. Many who were with him backstage remarked that he seemed to be in terrible pain and some thought that he looked weak when he did his signature rope shake during Raw. Others thought that he appeared sweaty and uncomfortable. 

One person said, "We all felt like we thought he was going to blow a gasket. it was pretty easy to see."

I remember when Ultimate Warrior made his presence known in the World Wrestling Federation. In the late '80s I was still moderately interested in the shenanigans of professional wrestling but it was increasingly becoming boring to me. Then suddenly, here was this flamboyant, long haired, and muscled heathen of a man who seemed to defy gravity as he spun himself through the air like a human propeller. Nobody was prepared for this new, intense style of wrestling including his competition. When others didn't have an answer for Hulk Hogan's strength and stamina, Ultimate Warrior did. In 1990 The Ultimate Warrior pinned Hogan during Wrestlemania VI to become the WWF World Champion. (Incidentally, he was already the Intercontinental Champion, a title he had to relinquish due to rules stating that he could not hold both titles.)

Hulk Hogan stares down the Ultimate Warrior
The ref holds both of the belts.
Suddenly, wrestling was fun to watch again. If the Ultimate Warrior was on TV, I stopped what I was doing and viewed it. He was mesmerizing. He was incredible. And to my mind then, he seemed invincible. 

The Ultimate Warrior gave a speech to the Monday Night Raw crowd. It was chilling, in retrospect:

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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 believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!

Despite showing signs of pain and discomfort, it doesn't appear that anybody approached Warrior to ask about his health. It's a sad notion because maybe somebody could have directed him to a person or a facility that could have monitored his condition more closely and extended his life. 

Is it possible that Warrior recognized he was nearing his own demise? It certainly seems so based off the words in his final speech. In true warrior fashion, he seemed to atone for his death with wisdom and clarity, as he kept his suffering to himself.

Rest in peace Warrior. You changed everything. 

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