Saturday, the hall of fame. Sunday, the biggest show of the year. Monday, who knew it would be a farewell speech. Tuesday, gone in an instant.
When I was 9 years old, I wrote the Ultimate Warrior a letter – I don’t recall if I sent it – telling him he was my second favorite wrestler, right behind Hulk Hogan. I’ve spent 24 years since, guilt-riddled over even thinking that was a good idea. I’ve finally discovered the root of my guilt: Ultimate Warrior, for all of his quirks, beliefs and idiosyncrasies, was a man of conviction, unwavering in his beliefs, even if they, at best, didn’t line up, or at worst clashed head-on, with the general public’s way of thinking. Anyone who declares in a public forum that “Queerin’ don’t make the world work” certainly has an askew vision of reality (and shouldn’t be forgiven for some of his statements simply because he’s dead), but whether his comments were shocking, stimulating or spot-on, they were never suspicious or lacking in fortitude.
I grew up on Warrior’s psycho-babble – which made more sense in the context of pro wrestling – and was hypnotized by the paint, the promos, the tassles, the mullet, the muscles and the, as Vince McMahon would say, frenetic energy. At age 9, that sort of thing explodes at you out of the TV screen. Warrior is probably the reason I grew out my rat’s nest of a head of hair when I was in third grade, and he was definitely the cause of my playground press slams and classroom clotheslines. I may have cheered Hulk Hogan in “The Ultimate Challenge” at WrestleMania VI, but Warrior was quite the runner-up.
Fast forward 24 years, a lot of good matches, and a few stinkers. Let’s even skip past the WWE-produced DVD that dragged Warrior’s character through the mud (although that documentary is great for a laugh or 12.) When it was announced that Warrior was being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, I think we all let out a sigh of relief. Our hero made amends with his old boss/sometimes nemesis, and he was coming back home.
Due to timing, the only WWE Hall of Fame speech I was able to watch live this past Saturday was that of the Ultimate Warrior. Despite looking physically shaky, including sweating like a sinner in church, his speech was well delivered and well received. He bit his tongue in this public forum and spent more time applauding the positives than dwelling on the negatives. He did the same thing Monday night on Raw when given the microphone again, despite still appearing somewhat unhealthy – note that the production team attempted to not capture Warrior walking up the stairs and through the ropes. Not a clue if Warrior suffered from any physical ailments, but his hobbling and tremoring may have told a story.
I’ll say this, too, about Warrior: I won’t pretend to be upset about his diatribes against Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and others, as those were their business and none of mine. However, Warrior had always been completely complimentary of the fans, never bad-mouthing us as a whole. For all of the people who have said Warrior was “bad for business,” it’s clear he never took his fans for granted.
The timing of Ultimate Warrior’s death is just as bizarre as the life he led, but in a serendipitous way, maybe the past week gave him closure. I feel miserable for his wife and two young daughters who, I presume, never got to see their dad wrestle, and definitely never saw him at the peak of his popularity. He has a beautiful family, and I’m guessing he doted on them like any loving husband and father should. Stunt Granny sends its condolences, and we cherish the multi-colored memories. -Eric