Having just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this past Saturday, making his first appearance on Raw in 18 years this past Monday and after signing a multi-year contract to become a WWE ambassador, The Ultimate Warrior has died.
He was 54.
It’s always been hard for me to be a fan of The Ultimate Warrior. When he first debuted, I was at that age where Hulk Hogan was akin to a god. So someone else competing for the Hulkster’s spotlight made me uncomfortable. Sure, like every other kid at the time, I couldn’t avoid being drawn in by his energy, his mystique and his batshit insane promos. But that’s about where it ended for me, and at Wrestelmania VI, when Ultimate Warrior challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship, I was rooting hard for Warrior to lose.
Needless to say there were tears in the Brennaman house that night.
Still, I enjoyed watching the guy in the ring, I enjoyed his rivalry with Macho Man Randy Savage and I enjoyed the hell out of watching him shake the ropes like he was some sort of wrestling ring safety inspector. I even got to see him perform live once and, boy howdy, let me tell ya, the guy knew how to whip a crowd into a frenzy.
That ability to work a crowd into a frenzy would, after his wrestling career came to a close, be used for evil. That's why I've always had a problem celebrating the man. Over the weekend, as I watched his WWE Hall of Fame induction, I couldn’t help but tweet on some of the actual hate Ultimate Warrior spewed in recent years. See, he became a prolific “motivational speaker” and his speeches were filled with some pretty terrible things. You can do a Google search to find some of the things he’s said, but to me the highlight will always be: “Queering doesn’t make the world work.” It’s hard to celebrate someone like that, even when they’re being inducted into a hall of fame, or making a celebrated return…
But, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to separate the art from the artist.
For wrestling fans, The Ultimate Warrior is so indicative of this one, magical moment in time when it seemed like super heroes actually walked among us. To watch an Ultimate Warrior match was to be almost overwhelmed with energy and excitement. Despite his world views, Ultimate Warrior’s return to WWE this past weekend did feel special. Watching his Hall of Fame induction speech and his speech Monday night on Raw did illicit feelings of closure while giving everyone a glimpse at a new beginning.
It’s sad that beginning is already over.