WWE Icon the Ultimate Warrior Passes Away at Age 54 [VIDEO]
Literally hours after returning to the ring following his induction in the WWE Hall of Fame over the weekend, the man many young boys such as myself idolized growing up passed away after collapsing outside of his hotel in Arizona Tuesday morning.
There was a time in my life when professional wrestling was like a religion. Much like one goes to church every Sunday morning, I made a point to be in front of the TV on Saturday mornings when the weekly WWF Superstars program came on. Keep in mind, this was the mid-to-late '80's when my family lived on the west side of town among the cornfields where cable TV wasn't available, meaning Superstars and the occasional Saturday Night Main Event on NBC was my only chance each week to see these larger than life characters come out and pretend to pummel each other.
While I was excited to see, and cheer for, guys like Hulk Hogan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, British Bulldog, and Bret Hart among others, the Ultimate Warrior was on a whole different level. He was fireball of energy unlike any other superstar at the time. Not content with simply strutting out to the ring, he bolted from behind the curtain at full speed the moment his intro music hit, his iconic neon mask painted on his face as he bouncing back and forth between the ropes, playing to the rabid fan base screaming at the top of their lungs with his trademark shaking of the ropes.
He was the personification of what every young boy like me and my friends wanted to be in terms of physical appearance. A bodybuilder before entering the world of professional wrestling, the Warrior embodied strength with his ripped physique that was second to none when compared to other wrestlers on the roster at the time. As I've grown older, I understand that being "a man" is more than just how you look, or having the strength to lift another human that weighs as much, or more than you over your head, but when you're 8, 9, 10-years-old, it's everything.
Warrior also brought a level of intensity unlike anyone before him. Much like his amped up march to the ring, his promos were a showcase of flexing and screaming threats to anyone that stood in the way of his goals. Often times, the words he said didn't make much sense, but you didn't care. He was screaming, he was intense, and it was awesome.
What made his larger-than-life character work was that he believed in it. He WAS the Ultimate Warrior, not James Hellwig as his birth certificate said, and he made you believe it too. As a fan, you were a "warrior" as well. You were part of his legion, his family. It was through your cheers and your support that he was able to conquer whatever challenge was thrown at him, and he had you believing that through that strength you could conquer any challenge as well.
Although my interest in professional wrestling has waned greatly over the years, to the point where I don't really follow it at all, watching his jumbo-tron video above and hearing that epic theme song still puts goose bumps on my arms.