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AISIAS I SEE IT: Reactions to the passing of the Warrior
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

It’s safe to say that Wrestlemania 30 weekend was an emotional roller-coaster…in ways hoped for and expected, and in ways that no one would have expected.

Between the emotional highs of the WWE Hall of Fame and the speechs of Jake Roberts and Scott Hall… the once in a lifetime meeting in the same ring of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin… Daniel Bryan’s Wrestlemania 30 wins against HHH and in the main event…the storyline emotional stunner of The Streak ending… and the very tragic real life passing of Jim Hellwig, the Ultimate Warrior, only 24 hours after what turned out to be his farewell appearance; Wrestlemania weekend provided an emotional roller-coaster likely never to be duplicated again.

Most notably, in a sad, ironic, and truly eerie moment, Jim Hellwig gave his own eulogy during his final promo on Monday Night Raw, less than 24 hours before his passing last night in Arizona:

“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 bleed deeper than something that is larger than life, than his essence, his spirit will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, of those who honor him and make what that man did live forever…”

I said to someone Tuesday morning that I didn’t think he looked well on RAW, only to be told I was reading too much into things. Later in the day, it seems like I was in the majority.

TMZ.com reported unnamed backstage sources saying that Hellwig “looked like he was in constant pain … sweaty and very uncomfortable, like he was choking on his tie. It was apparent to everyone … something was seriously off. ” Countless fans online also reported noticing the same thing.

The biggest telltale sign for me was the way Hellwig could barely do his rope shake following his speech to the crowd on Monday Night Raw, and how he seemed like he was winded after doing his “Warrior voice” to the crowd toward the end of his promo.

I have to wonder if Jim Hellwig knew or feared his time was short. It’s notable that on Wrestlemania 30 weekend, Jim Hellwig made his peace with many people with whom he had notable professional issues over the years;, ranging from Hulk Hogan to Jake Roberts to Ted DiBiase. Hellwig even told his daughters from the stage at the Hall of Fame that his most important achievement was being a father.

An especially disgusting sideshow that resulted from Hellwig’s death was the disgraceful display of yellow journalism by HLN personality Nancy Grace, as she piggybacked on the death of Jim Hellwig on Tuesday.

She claimed Hellwig’s death was “known” to be the result of drugs and steroids; when no autopsy had even been begun at the time of her report. While Hellwig made no secret of his previous PED use, the timing was disgusting. Hellwig’s body was barely cold, and she was already using it for ratings. That would have been bad enough.

But she crossed the line of credibility and decency when she then lumped a number of former wrestlers, referees and managers, including Owen Hart (killed in the infamous accidental release from an aerial harness at a WWE PPV in Kansas City), and referee/wrestler/SMW office staffer Brian “Mark Curtis” Hildebrand who died of cancer; both in 1999 and implied that they died from steroid or illegal drug use.

Anyone with a computer could have found the cause of Owen Hart’s death in five seconds in Wikipedia. The same is true of Brian Hildebrand. I know and have written about Brian many times in the past on this site and my AS I SEE IT columns. The implication that Hart and Hildebrand died of steroid use is sloppy, repulsive, and slanderous.

Grace needs to retract her comments, or runs the risk of being forced to by legal means. Martha Hart has shown more than occasional willingness to sue in the name of her late husband, and may well choose to do so this time as well.

In the storyline feel-good moment that everyone DID expect, Daniel Bryan became WWE World Heavyweight Champion after an incredible win over HHH; and submitting Batista to defeat Batista and Randy Orton in the main event, after a roller-coaster match booked in a way to keep fans guessing if they were going to be denied the feel-good ending they’d been expecting.

In the absolute storyline shocker of Wrestlemania night, The Streak ended, as Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker, in what many assume is Undertaker’s final match. Many were angered by this decision, as many felt Undertaker should have been allowed to retire with The Streak intact, and others feeling that if Undertaker lost, it should have been to a fulltime wrestler.

This got a ton of press in places you’d never expect wrestling to be discussed, even Wrestlemania weekend, when the closet wrestling fans in media and sports media come out for 24 hours. Media personalities ranging from the usual ESPN not-so-secret wrestling fans to The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart all had things to say about the end of The Streak.

As I said last week, the reason a lot of people were upset by this, besides some people being armchair bookers…was that it showed that while The Undertaker is immortal…Mark Callaway isn’t, and neither are we.

It’s known that Undertaker is friendly with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Depending on who you believe, either Vince McMahon or Mark Callaway made the call. Callaway was certainly OK with it…and left it to WWE to work out the details, which if you believe what’s been outlined in this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, took an incredible amount of work to keep secret, purportedly even kept secret from the referee in the match.

Sadly, Mark Callaway wasn’t immortal…and in the end, well outside the storylines, neither was Jim Hellwig.

Until next time….

Bob Magee