An Ultimate Column
October 30, 2005 by Phil T.
I have been a die hard wrestling fan since 1985. In that time I have had two all time favorites. Anyone who has read my last few columns knows that my overall all time favorite wrestler till the day I die will be Shawn Michaels, but the first wrestler to make me become obsessed with wrestling, (cheap pop, couldn’t resist), was The Ultimate Warrior. The Warrior has been the topic of choice in many wrestling circles recently thanks to a new DVD that Vince McMahon has put together in hopes that it will put more green in that Mt. Everest size wallet of his. I apologize for not referring to this DVD by name because it only reflects a personal attack by Mr. McMahon on a man who refused to kiss his ass like thousands have in the past, but we all know what DVD I am referring to. In this column my main focus will be The Warrior’s WWF run between 1988 and 1991. For you rookie fans out there, it was this time period were The Warrior placed himself as one of the largest icons of all time in the sport of professional wrestling and also helped McMahon make a shit load of money in the process. For those that know me, you know I’ll be backing up that bold statement very decisively in a little bit. For those of you that were fans during this period, I know you will appreciate this column more then those who have just heard stories as well as seen old matches of The Warrior’s career. Every wrestling fan will agree there is no comparison between seeing a wrestler’s career unfold as it happens, compared to seeing an old match here and there and trying to figure out what it must have been like back in the day for those of us that lived it. That being said, here are my views on why The Ultimate Warrior will forever live on in the hearts of many fans and whose image will never be tarnished by the devil himself, Vincent K. McMahon.
For the first few years I watched wrestling I never had that favorite superstar that I tuned in solely in hopes of seeing each and every week. About 99% of my friends back then were all huge Hulkamaniacs. What little boys weren’t during that time? I know, Phil T. I liked Hogan back then and still do, but I just couldn’t see why people went nuts for the guy night after night. Then one Saturday morning I sat in front of the TV like every Saturday to get my fix of wrestling for the week. This would be the first time I would see The Ultimate Warrior and I am proud to say I was hooked immediately. What I saw was a man with face paint, bands around his arms and knee pads, running full speed to the ring, shaking the ropes like he wanted to destroy the ring before his opponent, and then just totally obliterating his opponent in about ninety seconds. By the way, he also was built like a brick shit house. Vince McMahon wanted a new type of professional wrestler to throw out there to the fans and see what would happen and The Ultimate Warrior was it. I don’t think in his wildest dreams McMahon expected The Warrior to be embraced by the fans not only as much as he was, but also as fast he was. In record time The Warrior would come to be 2nd only to Hulk Hogan for the titanic size pops he would get from the crowds night after night and then at one point The Warrior became 2nd to none.
Now before I go into some of The Warrior’s matches, I will take a moment to be realistic for all you critics out there. I absolutely loved The Warrior’s style and still do, but I’m also not blind as a bat either. Growing up, I admit it; I thought The Warrior was a wrestling god. All I can say in my defense is that at the time I was in my very early teens, had some zits on my face and yes, I still thought wrestling was real. I heard the awful rumors that it wasn’t, but I was still at an age were I just refused to believe wrestlers knew who was going to win the match before the bell even rang. God I miss those days. But, I digress. When I watch a match involving The Warrior now, I do see that The Warrior wasn’t quite the wrestling god I thought he was. His wrestling skills, average. His mic skills, average. His selling of moves by his opponents, awful and I will even in some matches go as far as pathetic. Now some of you may be totally blown away by these statements, but lets face it. As much as any Warrior fan hates to admit it. “It’s true. It’s true.” I owe Angle a royalty check for that one.
Now many fans who didn’t grow up with The Warrior as I did are probably still scratching their heads and saying, “I still don’t get it. What was so good about The Ultimate Warrior?” I’ll answer that question in the following way. When anyone talks about Hulk Hogan, (Another average wrestler who went on to become the most famous and most recognizable professional wrestler of all time), the most used adjective is, “Charismatic!” If I had to describe The Warrior in one word I would choose, “Electric!” The Warrior had an electricity that no one had possessed before him. It was an intangible that a wrestler had or didn’t have. It couldn’t be taught, you either had it or you didn’t have it, and The Ultimate Warrior had it in abundance. I will even go as far as comparing his electricity to that of The Rock’s. I have seen both men live numerous times and the energy these two gave out to the crowds was both off the charts. It was this electricity that made the fans instantly drawn to him. It reminds me of a quote from the movie Gladiator, “Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.” In The Warrior’s case it would have been, “Win the crowd and you will win a title.”
August 29, 1988 is a day I will never forget. I was over my cousin’s house and we were getting ready to watch the inaugural SummerSlam. All I wanted to see was The Warrior in some shape or form and my cousin knew it. My cousin loved to push my buttons when we were young and this day would be no exception. He was a huge Hulkamaniac and he kept teasing me and saying, “My guy’s in the main event. Where’s The Warrior? Oh I know; he’s in parts unknown with his mommy.” Seeing I was ten at the time and all I wanted to see on the PPV was The Warrior and seeing he didn’t even have a match listed on the official card I just wanted to kill my cousin for those remarks. So we’re about halfway into SummerSlam and I’m still hoping Warrior will cut a promo or something when out comes The Honky Tonk Man set to defend the Intercontinental Title against a mystery opponent. At the time I was thinking this is probably going to suck. Boy was I wrong. After a few minutes of The Honky Tonk Man working over the crowd, The Warrior’s music hits. To say Madison Square Garden exploded would be the understatement of the eighties. I jumped up off the couch and starting going nuts as I watched The Ultimate Warrior race down to the ring and simply destroy The Honky Tonk Man and capture the Intercontinental Title in record time. The Warrior had accomplished a feet in under sixty seconds that no other wrestler in the WWF was able to do in over fourteen months. Were there other wrestlers in the back at the time that were more deserving? Sure, but it was The Warrior the fans wanted to see the most take the title that night from The Honky Tonk Man, again in record time I may add. Many thought this would be a record that would stand the test of time. Unfortunately McMahon’s hatred towards The Warrior would result in that record finally being broken at this year’s SummerSlam when Benoit defeated Jordan for the US Title. I truly believe McMahon was just sick over the fact that The Warrior held a record like that for so long and with the DVD coming out was the only reason McMahon opted to have the US Title match run as shortly as it did.
Now for those of you that disagree with my comment earlier when I said, “The Warrior was electric.” I urge you to look at the match again and don’t focus on the match, but focus on the crowd. Not only did 20,000 people go nuts when The Warrior’s music hit, but watch the crowd the second the referee’s hand hits the mat for the third time. Those fans blew the roof off of MSG when that hand hit. I’ve seen many title changes over the years at MSG, but by far that was the most jacked up crowd for a title change ever and it all had to do with one man, The Ultimate Warrior.
A key component behind the success of The Ultimate Warrior character itself was displayed in that historic SummerSlam match and that was his unmistakable and unique entrance. First, was his entrance music itself. The Ultimate Warrior’s theme had a very fast beat that instantly pumped up the crowd the second it hit. To me it did exactly what a wrestler’s theme music should do and that is to pump up the crowd before the match even starts. Well, The Warrior’s theme was one of the best ever in that department. For those of you that ever saw the man live know exactly what I’m talking about. The music would only need to be played for a second and an entire arena would be on their feet in anticipation for The Warrior’s dash to the ring. Then there was his signature shaking of the top rope that just drove the crowd into even more of a frenzy. To this day I still don’t know who got more pumped up during The Warrior’s entrances, himself or the crowd. I would bet anyone who grew up during this time as I did when ever they saw a rope between two poles would try out their best Warrior impersonation every time. Thanks to this one of a kind entrance, The Warrior had the crowd in the palm of his hands night after night and helped propel him faster then any other wrestler during that time.
What would a column about The Ultimate Warrior be without taking a second to comment on The Warrior’s greatest rival, Ravishing Rick Rude? It all started at The Royal Rumble in 1989. The two would squared off in The Super Pose Down, basically it was a twenty minute body building contest between the two, and yes it was as bad as it sounds. The only highlights for me on this one was Rude ripping on Gene Okerland before every pose and Jesse Ventura going totally over the top in support of Rude as he always did. The finish for this one came when the crowd unanimously chose The Warrior as the winner. This infuriated Rude who then nailed The Warrior in the back of the head with a work out bar and then proceeded to choke him out with it. This would set up their Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania 5 were Rude would give The Warrior his first major loss and win the Intercontinental Title. The finish came when Bobby Heenan grabbed the leg of The Warrior as The Warrior was about to suplex Rude from the apron to the inside of the ring. This caused Rude to fall on top of The Warrior and for good measure Heenan held on to The Warrior’s leg allowing Rude to get the three count. On a personal note, I still think to this day that was one of the most brilliant cheat finishes of all time. I can still see Heenan holding The Warrior’s leg and crouching down out of site of the referee allowing Rude to record the fall. Brilliant!
The two would meet again at that year’s SummerSlam in a classic rematch. I thought this match was The Warrior’s best match ever in the WWF. I can’t believe McMahon didn’t put this one on the DVD. It was a back and fourth, twenty minute battle which ended with The Warrior finishing off Rude with his patented gorilla press/splash combination. The Warrior would win his second Intercontinental Title and would be one on a very short list to never lose that title officially in a match, but would be stripped of the Intercontinental Title after winning the WWF World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 6 from Hulk Hogan.
Anyone who saw the Royal Rumble in 1990, the one memory that will always stand out among the rest will be the one point were the only two wrestlers in the ring were Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. To quote Gorilla Monsoon, “You could cut the electricity with a knife.” The two top draws for the WWF in the last year were seconds away from going toe to toe. At the time, this was a face off that the fans could only dream about because a face vs. a face just didn’t happen back then and was extremely rare. The crowd instantly was on its feet and going nuts in anticipation of the two biggest stars left alone in the squared circle with their only option being to battle each other. I know I was on my feet at home and I probably wasn’t the only one either who jumped off their couch for this one. If I had to choose one word to describe the emotion those ninety seconds produced for many wrestling fans that saw it unfold in front of their eyes as it happened would be, “AWESOME!!” The moment ended with a double clothesline and both men lying incapacitate until The Barbarian made his way out as the next entrant. I can only imagine Vince in the back licking his chops at the unimaginable drawing power these two could have in one historic match. Thus “The Ultimate Challenge” was announced for WrestleMania 6 a few weeks after.
The “Ultimate Challenge” brought many firsts to the table for the WWF. You had the top two faces in the WWF going one on one in the main event of a WrestleMania. Both the Intercontinental Title and the WWF Title were on the line in a winner take all format, and it was to take place over the border in front of 67,000 fans at The Sky Dome. If there was ever a WrestleMania that was ninety-nine percent built on the success of the drawing power for its main event it was this one. What Vince made on the gate alone for WrestleMania 6, thanks to Hogan and The Warrior, I could’ve probably retired on. But again, Vince was so happy to fire The Warrior one year later.
I thought this was one of the best matches in either man’s career because both had the same in ring ability as the other. I said earlier that both men were average in wrestling skills and fundamentals. This helped a lot in their match because one really couldn’t over shadow the other. It was a good back and fourth match with the crowd being into every second of it. The match definitely delivered on the promise as one of the biggest WrestleMania matches ever promoted in the history of the WWF/WWE. The finish came when Hogan kicked out of The Warrior’s gorilla press/splash combo, (Didn’t see that one coming. HA HA), Hogan would then hit the big boot on The Warrior to set him up for the patented leg drop, except when Hogan landed on his attempt all he found was the canvas. Warrior rolled out of the way, bounced off the ropes, hit a big splash on Hogan for the three count and thus captured his first and only WWF Title. This win also made him the first man in the WWF to ever hold both singles titles at the same time in the history of the company. A few other firsts that occurred that night; Hogan lost cleanly for the first time in about eight years. Hogan also for the first time in recent memory went to the ring hearing fifty percent of the arena booing him. I guess The Warrior must have been doing something right to sway the crowd away from the WWF’s top draw in the last six years.
The Ultimate Warrior would then go on to hold the WWF Title until early 1991 where he would lose the strap to Sgt. Slaughter with a little help from Randy Savage. Warrior would then go on to defeat Savage at WrestleMania 7, with the stipulation that the loser would be forced to end his wrestling career and retire from the ring. Now if there was ever a point in the Warrior’s career were I did disagree with his actions it was this. It occurred a few weeks prior to WrestleMania 7. It was on the Brother Love Show that The Warrior decided to start ending careers before WrestleMania and basically carried Brother Love to the ring, beat the absolute crap out of him and thus ended the greatest interview segment show in wrestling history. How many great memories do we veteran fans have thanks to The Brother Love Show? Tons! For you newer fans all I will say is this. If Carlito’s Cabana is cool. Then The Brother Love Show was liquid nitrogen.
Now we come to one of the main highlights of the DVD McMahon produced trashing The Ultimate Warrior, the infamous SummerSlam 1991. The DVD’s account on what occurred that night is as follows. The Ultimate Warrior went up to McMahon a few hours before the show and basically said he wanted more money or he wasn’t going to work the match. This put McMahon in a position he seldom is in, a wrestler holding a better hand then the promoter. McMahon eventually agreed to Warrior’s terms and the match was saved. The Warrior however does something everyone today knows you never do as a wrestler, trust Vince McMahon. Upon coming back to the locker room, McMahon decides to set an example on who is the boss of whom, and proceeds to fire The Ultimate Warrior on the spot instead of giving him the raise he promised him only moments ago. Both sides were wrong on this one. A quote that has been heard a million times by now from Vince McMahon referring to that moment is, “I was so happy to fire him.” This makes me laugh every time I here it because how dumb does he think people are. If he was so happy to fire The Warrior and his hatred for The Warrior ran so deep. One would tend to think McMahon would never higher him back again, right? Wrong!! Not only does McMahon hire The Ultimate Warrior back in 1992, but he goes on to hire him back a second time in 1996 after another fall out between the two a few years back. For that reason alone the DVD has no credibility for this wrestling fan.
Another part of the DVD that I strongly disagree with are all the interviews from other wrestling personalities that simply bash The Warrior the whole time. The most talked about example is Triple H calling him the most unprofessional pro wrestler he had ever worked with. Triple H had one match with the guy and if you blinked while watching it you missed it. Also, Triple H has the balls to call The Warrior unprofessional. Last I heard Triple H wasn’t winning any popularity contests backstage. Triple H is becoming more like his father-in-law day after day and that is bad news in my opinion for the future of the WWE, since it looks like Triple H to be the front runner to take Vince’s place when Vince steps down.
They also bash The Warrior’s interview style in the DVD as well and again it makes me laugh. Now granted, The Warrior’s style wasn’t the greatest and some may even go as far as to say it was a little cheese, but I’ve said it before in other columns and I’ll say it again, “If McMahon doesn’t want it on television. It’s not going to be on television.” In other words if McMahon wanted The Warrior to use a different interview style at anytime during his WWF run. Vince would have stepped in and told The Warrior lets try it another way. Vince never did that. This is just another part of the DVD that lacks so much credibility Stevie Wonder could see right through it. I still am a little surprised that Vince McMahon went this far just to try to one up The Ultimate Warrior one last time. Vince McMahon has truly become pet coon crazy.
The Ultimate Warrior will forever be one of the largest icons in the history of professional wrestling regardless of how this DVD tries to make him out to be. The Warrior gave me many great memories as a wrestling fan growing up and no one can ever take those away. The saddest outcome of all from this DVD is proof that The Warrior is going to be at the top of the list of pro wrestlers that deserve to be recognized in the hall of fame, but unfortunately won’t because they never once kissed the bosses ass, which today is a prerequisite for all future employees of the WWE. I also think that list is going to grow by leaps and bounds over the next ten years as well. Warrior, I thank you for all you have done in and for the sport of pro wrestling. I assure you, it was not done in vain.
by Phil T...
Jesse Lee wrote:
I never liked the Ultimate Warrior, though that's an unfair statemtn to make. Truth is, I started watching in 1997 and never watched the situation between him and Hogan in WCW. From the clips I have and matches I've witnessed, I don't like him. I will say this, however, he did have something about him at the time that made him a fan favorite. Somewhat like how people view John Cena today or maybe more accurately Batista.
i dont think the WWE dvd "Self-destruction of the Ult.Warrior" was purely a burial but more of a humorous recount of the UW career. I cant say that im a UW fan, his interviews were incoherant (and i cant understand why Vince let him do SO MANY of them) and his wrestling abilty and workrate is comparable to bill goldberg.....LOL, but i do recognize the electricity he brought to the ring. other than that i think UW will be remembered as merely a 'flash in the pan' and could never be considered a "wrestling great" because seriously with the recent speeches that he has done im not sure if he really gives a damn about anybody but himself.
Great piece, nicely written. Nice to go back over some old memories, even if written with a slight bias towards the Warrior.
He did have amazing electricity, and a unique style. Sure, it wouldn't have worked in todays 'sports entertainment' WWE. But back then it fitted in perfectly with Barbarian, Warlord, and Tugboat characters that were the thing of the day back then.
Great memories, I was young too during the late 80's/early 90's and thought the Warrior was awesome. I couldn't believe that he was nailed with Savage's sceptre full-on in the head to lose the title when I too thought that wrestling was still real.
Oh, and incidently - the greatest Brother Love moment of all time was the angle between Martel and Jake Roberts whe Jake was 'blinded' - yeah, I thought that was real too!
Ihor Dawidiuk wrote:
I enjoyed your article and respect your admiration for the man but fail to how you can justify your claim that the "Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD lacks credibility. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Vince or anything and tend to agree that the man is cold-hearted and conniving, but as far as I can tell, nothing in the DVD was necessarily inappropriate or way off base. Granted none of us will ever know exactly what transpired behind the scenes between Vince and Warrior but from the myriad of reports and interpretations of these events I think we have at least some information to judge by. I personally do believe that the DVD does have some credibility as it wasn't the bash-fest I expected it to be but rather a fairly accurate summation of the man's career and eventual downfall (hence the title). You say that the DVD holds no credibility in your eyes because of Vince's alleged hypocrisy in rehiring Warrior after saying that "he couldn't wait to fire the guy." This isn't necessarily a contradiction as yes, probably Vince couldn't wait to fire him but, as the shrewd business man he is realized the value of trying to work with Warrior again despite his dislike for the man. As for wrestling personalities bashing Warrior the entire time, I wouldn't say they were necessarily bashing him (with a few exceptions) as much as giving their personal opinions on what they thought of the man. When Dibiase says that Warrior "wasn't a good technical wrestler" I don't construe it as a "bash" but rather someone giving their honest opinion on what they thought of the man's in-ring talent. When Orklund says that Warrior's matches with Papa Shango were atrocious, he's just giving his assessment based on his impressions of the fight. When they say that nobody in the locker room really liked Warrior and that his promos were long rambling, unintelligible speeches, they're making statements which can be defended and proved. All of the above statements are true. Very little of what you construed as "bashes" really are. True some of the newer wrestlers were mocking his promos and you could tell Heenan really hated the guy, but overall nothing said was really fabricated. What makes the DVD credible in my eyes is the fact that there was corroboration between numerous respected individuals in the industry essentially echoing the same sentiment regarding Warrior's unprofessional antics, his general lack of wrestling ability, etc.... If it was just Vince and maybe Heenan (who obviously didn't like the guy very much) trashing the Ultimate Warrior I would definitely view the documentary as skewed, but given the vast amount of respected talent interviewed in the documentary essentially saying the same thing I tend to believe there is some truth to the common views regarding the man know as the Ultimate Warrior. The reasons for why this DVD was released is quite another story. Possibly it's release was motivated by Vince McMahon's intense dislike of Jim Hellwig and its intent was to use it to tarnish his legacy. I'm not disputing that. Regardless, the DVD does not gloss over or omit the fact that Warrior was one of the biggest stars in the WWF in the late 80/90s or that his charisma and intensity garnered him a huge fan following rivaled only by Hogan. It gives credit where credit is due and much like your article acknowledges the iconic status he reached in his time.
Great article. However I have to disagree with the comment about Vince not wanting to fire him. After UW totally embarassed Vince at SummerSlam, a man with as big an ego as VKM would have been looking for something to get back at him. He had to do something to get the upper hand on UW and look like he couldn't be taken for a ride by his talent. So after the pain UW had caused him I expect that VKM was very 'Happy to fire him'. However VKM is a business man at heart and he new that he needed UW back in order to sell his product. It is the re-hiring that I am sure VKM truley hated doing. Having to go back on his word because he new he needed UW must have dented his ego much more than the original SS argument.
Jeremy R. Thompson wrote:
Ahh!, The Ultimate Warrior. Maybe I don't speak for everyone when I say this but I am so sick and tired of the ignorantly negative comments made about the Ultimate Warrior. He did what he was paid to do. Ok. He wasn't expected to be a "technical" wrestler. It would not have fit his gimmick. You have all these wrestlers like Undertaker, Jake Roberts, Bobby Heenan,etc. just regularly saying the "same" comments about Warrior. Geez, since they all say it, it must be true. Put on the brakes here, nope. They're just being Vince's little bitches. They don't like the warrior because he was himself, he had the fans that they wanted to have root for them, and he had the balls to stand up to Vince and speak his mind. HHH's comments on the Self Destruction DVD, hahaha, if it hurts him that bad, he needs to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger. He's suppose to be all big and tough and there he's crying like a little bitch. Aww, poor thang. I guess it's ok because not everybody is capable of handling such issues as being upstaged by an established, and selling, gimmick. You know here's a concept. They've done all they can to down the man, and he'll still be remembered longer than they ever will be. They all don't want him back. Well here's another concept, he didn't want to do it anymore. Where's your argument? They've all been busting their asses over a goal they won't never accomplish. They want to be respected for "wrestling technicalities" and such. Here's a clue.. The audience who is watching could give a damn. So how could anyone expect to be respected. Besides, it's all staged, coreographed and whatever. I think the funniest comment though was from Bobby Heenan calling the warrior stupid. Lets see. Hmm!!! The Ultimate Warrior was an established bodybuilder and chiropractor. Bobby Heenan, a 7th grade education at the max. Sounds to me like someone's a little jealous that they weren't blessed with the genetic superiority to do the same as Warrior, so he's just trying to use politics to make him look better. Well there's the stupidity right there. When you do stuff like that, nobody likes it exept for other insecure, self-confident insufficiant pussies like yourself. There's the clue as to why the Warrior was and always will be more popular and revered than any of those oversized bitches behind the wwe stages. Ok I've spoke my mind enough now. Just one question. I heard all this hype between the WWE and Warrior Shoot videos is all promo for a match between Warrior and Vinve McMahon anyway. Is this accurate or just a rumor. Thanks for your time.
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