Warrior (born James Brian Hellwig; June 16, 1959 - April 8, 2014) was an American professional wrestler. He is best known for his appearances in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Ultimate Warrior, during which time he won the WWF Championship and pinned Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI. Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. He wrestled both as a heel and as a face. Warrior retired from professional wrestling in 1999 and embarked on a public speaking career.
The Ultimate Warrior died on April 8, 2014, at the age of 54. Over the preceding three days he had been inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, appeared at WrestleMania XXX, and made his final public appearance on Raw (April 7, 2014).
Warrior began his pro wrestling career as Jim "Justice" Hellwig of Powerteam USA, a group of bodybuilders formed in 1985 by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman, but the gimmick went under when they discovered that, in their estimation, the team had limited wrestling potential.
Of the four members of Powerteam USA, only Hellwig and "Flash" Steve Borden had subsequent wrestling careers of any note. The two formed a splinter group tag team called Freedom Fighters retaining their Flash/Justice names. They later became the Blade Runners where Flash became Sting and Justice became Rock. They wrestled in this team in the UWF and on the independent circuit.
After the group ended, Sting retained his name but Rock became Dingo Warrior for a short period in World Class Championship Wrestling. After WCCW, Hellwig signed with the WWF and was given the name Ultimate Warrior.
World Wrestling Federation
As a World Wrestling Federation (WWF) superstar from the mid-80s to the early 90s, the Ultimate Warrior was known for his high-energy wrestling style and his Gorilla Press Slam, in which he would lift his opponent with an overhead shoulder press and then drop him to the mat face-first, and following with a running splash for his finisher. His matches were generally kept short and frantic, featuring a handful of power moves. The Ultimate Warrior's ring entrances featured him racing into the arena at full speed, bursting into the ring, and violently shaking the ropes up and down. Warrior's string of fast-paced squash matches ended up being a fundamental key to his popularity (the same routine later popularized Goldberg). He was also known for his distinctive pattern of face painting.
Warrior enjoyed two stints as Intercontinental Champion, defeating The Honky Tonk Man (in 32 seconds at the first ever SummerSlam in 1988) and Rick Rude at SummerSlam 1989. The Warrior was heralded as the wrestler to carry the torch after the pending retirement of Hulk Hogan in 1990. Following a few confrontations with Hogan, most notably at the 1990 Royal Rumble, the Warrior was written in as Hogan's opponent for WrestleMania. Ultimate Warrior defeated Hogan on April 1, 1990, at SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario in the main event (which was billed "The Ultimate Challenge") of WrestleMania VI. This match is regarded by several fans as "the greatest match ever in the history of WrestleMania" due to the atmosphere, timing of maneuvers, and the build-up (and possibly where the match took place, the massive then-SkyDome, now Rogers Centre, WrestleMania's largest-sized venue). The Warrior held the title until the Royal Rumble in January 1991, dropping the belt to Sgt. Slaughter (thanks to interference by Randy "Macho King" Savage).
Warrior gained revenge on Savage at WrestleMania VII, pinning him in a "retirement match." Thereafter, he became embroiled in a brutal feud with The Undertaker after Undertaker and his manager, the macabre Paul Bearer, locked Warrior in a coffin on the set of Bearer's Funeral Parlor (one of the WWF's biggest "evil" incidents to that time). Eventually, Jake "The Snake" Roberts offered to help Warrior in his feud, but wound up turning against him; however, Roberts' impending feud with Warrior was quickly scuttled.
In August 1991, Warrior was involved in an alleged pay dispute with WWF owner Vince McMahon. Warrior had put a figurative gun to Vince McMahon's head and threatened to no show the main event for SummerSlam (shown on The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD) teaming him with Hulk Hogan against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa, and General Adnan unless he was paid a certain amount of money. It is unclear whether this sum was an amount the Warrior felt was owed to him (for previous work), or whether it was a new demand. The amount was never disclosed to the public and after the Ultimate Warrior chased Adnan and Mustafa backstage, McMahon promptly fired him. He would then be re-hired in 1992.
Upon returning at WrestleMania VIII (to rescue Hulk Hogan from a beat down at the hands of Sid Justice and Papa Shango), he received a degree of creative control over his bookings. Many fans may remember the Papa Shango storyline, in which the "witch doctor" cast a spell over Warrior, causing him to convulse and vomit in very odd colors though Warrior says he hated that story and had no control over it.
Rumors and urban legends began around this time (and still persist to this day in some fan circles) that the original Ultimate Warrior and Dingo Warrior were not the same as the one who returned to wrestling in 1992, 1996, and 1998, and it was believed that the original Warrior had died. When the Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF in 1992, it was rumored that Kerry Von Erich was playing the part, since Warrior's hair was much shorter than before. However, this has been shown time and time again not to be the case, as the character had always been played by the same individual. The reason for this confusion is a storyline which featured Warrior being "locked in an air-tight coffin" by The Undertaker (whom he was feuding with at the time) and his musculature's drastic changes.
The team was scheduled to compete in November at Survivor Series. Weeks before the event, however, Warrior and WWF were at odds again, arguing over who had creative rights to the Ultimate Warrior name as well as creative differences as to how the Warrior's character should be used. Though this put his WWF future in doubt, the WWF states that his reason for leaving was a "violation" found in his system during a random drug test. It should be noted that this occurred at the height of Warrior's ongoing marketing/financial differences with Vince McMahon, the owner and CEO of Titan Sports and World Wrestling Federation. In addition, Titan Sports—and specifically, the WWF—was under intense scrutiny of its drug policies including "performance-enhancing" drugs, the most prominent being steroids.
Warrior stated on his on his website that his reasons for leaving were due to his disagreements over compensation and marketing rights, and that after his title victory over Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI, he felt that he had achieved the height of his career; anything less was bound to be anti-climatic. According to Warrior, his character was slated to begin a feud with Nailz, a midcard wrestler, and he felt that he was being slowly and unceremoniously pushed out of the spotlight in order to make way for Hogan's return to glory. The WWF however, denied that a Warrior/Nailz feud was in the works on The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD, and they said that they were trying to start a Nailz/Undertaker feud at the time of Warrior's release.
1996 Return & Departure
After several years spent mostly outside of the wrestling limelight, Warrior returned to the WWF in 1996, squashing future superstar Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania XII. Triple H refers to his match against Warrior as "not my best event". Following WrestleMania, Warrior participated in brief feuds with Goldust and Jerry Lawler.
The WWF terminated Warrior's contract when he took time off to grieve the death of his father. WWF owner Vince McMahon claimed that Warrior had not seen his father in ten years and didn't care much for him; therefore, he did not take Warrior's excuse for missing bookings at face value. Warrior disputes Vince's explanation, claiming that the real reason why he no-showed those events was a breach of contract by McMahon.
World Championship Wrestling
In 1995, The Renegade debuted in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage's "secret weapon", using ring attire and mannerisms that closely resembled Warrior's. Renegade was later used as Warrior's stunt double when Warrior himself was in WCW for a brief time in 1998.
WCW Signs Warrior
WCW signed Warrior in 1998, and gave him a degree of creative control over his matches, considered by some to be a foolish move. His debut drew huge audiences and ratings, but it did not last. He created a storyline where he formed a stable opposing Hulk Hogan's New World Order: the "One Warrior Nation." The acronym OWN for One Warrior Nation was a play on the name nWo. Highlights of the unpopular storyline included Warrior kidnapping and "converting" The Disciple and frequent instances of "magic smoke" knocking out all of the nWo members except for Hogan (and covering Warrior's movement through a trapdoor in the ring). The British Bulldog suffered a near career-ending injury when he landed on Warrior's trapdoor.
Warrior only participated in three matches in WCW; a WarGames match (along with seven other wrestlers) at Fall Brawl, in a tag team match with Sting to defeat Hogan and Bret Hart by DQ on WCW Monday Nitro, and his loss to Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998, in what is widely considered to be one of the worst wrestling matches ever.
In the build-up to their match at Halloween Havoc, Warrior played mind games with Hogan by projecting backstage "apparitions" of himself in a mirror that only Hogan could see. The WCW storyline portrayed Hogan as "cracking up" in seeing these apparitions. However, the announcers could also see them, as well as the television audience.
In the Halloween Havoc match, the timing of the maneuvers and hits was very poor; the match was worsened due to an arm injury that Warrior received in the War Games, and an attempt to "blind" him with a fireball backfired when Hogan failed to ignite the flash paper in time, causing the fire to go up in Hogan's face. The match finally came to an end when Horace Hogan hit Warrior in the back with a chair, while the referee was distracted. Hogan then followed up with a leg drop, scoring the pinfall and ending the match.
WCW claimed that attempts were made to save the storyline and re-sign Warrior, but he was said to have asked for too much money, and WCW ended negotiations. Warrior claims that they simply decided not to call him any more, and the only reason why they brought him back was so Hogan could get a win over Warrior in return for Hogan's WrestleMania job. Warrior's last appearance in WCW was the Nitro after Halloween Havoc, when he chased nWo Hollywood out of the ring. He announced his retirement the next year.
Nu-Wrestling Evolution (2008)
During an April 19, 2008 Nu-Wrestling Evolution event in Madrid, Spain, Warrior was presented with an award celebrating his professional wrestling career in front of over 15,000 attendees. During the presentation, NWE Champion Orlando Jordan mocked a fan of Warrior's, resulting in a heated argument between Warrior and Jordan. As a result of the exchange, a match between Warrior and Jordan was scheduled for June 25, 2008 in the Palau Municipal d'Esports de Badalona in Barcelona, marking Warrior's first professional wrestling match since October 1998. Warrior's agent, Bernie Gernay, released a statement saying:
"For over 10 years this is what the entire wrestling world has been waiting for, the return of the Warrior. We are excited to bring back the greatest character and energy to ever get into the ring. Ultimate Warrior is an incredible marketing machine and has kept a tremendous value to his name which is why the NWE has stepped up with a substantial deal that worked very well for both sides. There is no disputing that Warrior left a mark on professional wrestling that no other talent did and the reason why still today he is often imitated, but never duplicated. Over the next few days the NWE will inform fans of the preparations for one of the biggest and most important wrestling events ever to be held in Europe. As the news progresses it is sure to be the headlines of wrestling news and forums throughout the Internet and will most certainly have all in the wrestling industry and fans alike in great anticipation to see what the Warrior will deliver on June 25th, and perhaps beyond."
Return to WWE and Hall of Fame induction (2013-2014)
On July 15, 2013, Warrior was featured in a WWE 2K14 game trailer and revealed he was in the roster as a pre-order bonus.
On January 13, 2014 WWE announced that the Ultimate Warrior will be the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Life Away from the Ring
Warrior officially retired from wrestling in 1999. He found a new career as a conservative speaker and commentator, denouncing left-wing politics. Most notably, he mentioned that "queering doesn't make the world work" (44:20-46:50 of the video) during a speech at the University of Connecticut. Warrior has explained those comments on his website as meaning that the human race would die out if everyone were a homosexual. In 2005, he and his company Ultimate Creations Inc. threatened to sue Richard Kyanka of Something Awful for allegedly libeling him on an Awful Link of the Day. The case has not yet been brought to court.
According to a 2000 research study by Turner Networks, Warrior and Bill Goldberg were among the top five most internationally recognized wrestlers in the world, behind Hollywood Hogan and Kevin Nash. In April 2006, WWE.com had a poll for the most deserving person for the WWE Hall of Fame. Warrior received the most votes, but it is highly unlikely that Warrior would agree to join.
Beginning in May 1996, Warrior began writing with Jim Callahan and The Sharp Brothers illustrating a comic book entitled WARRIOR, featuring himself as the main character. The comics sold well in the first two months of their distribution, before sales plummeted and the comic was taken out of circulation in early 1997. The initial success of the comic and its ultimate failure is often attributed to the same things.
As a comic book, fans argued that WARRIOR was a failure: there were virtually no characters other than Warrior, little action, and considerably more text than the average comic (in the first issue, at least one entire page is nothing but text, with a small picture of Warrior in the corner).
The comic's most enduring issue, and the one which has received the most ridicule and is now worth the most money, is one of the final issues, which breaks away from the main storyline into a Christmas tale. The plot of the comic is hard to decipher, as it contains no dialogue, monologue, or text boxes. Inexplicably, Warrior attacks the North Pole, usurps Santa Claus' authority over the elves, and in the final frame, which gained the comic its enduring popularity, a sweaty Warrior forces Santa into bondage gear and poses beside him. The apparent sexual undertones, lack of an actual plot, and non-sequitur nature (nothing from the previous issue served to segue into the Santa attack issue) gained the comic cult popularity, especially on the internet. Though nothing sexually explicit is depicted in the comic, some fans have come to describe it as the "Santa rape" issue; more commonly, it is referred to as "the one where Warrior puts Santa in bondage".
According to Warrior, six issues of the WARRIOR comic book were created, as well as a "Warrior Graphic Novel that revealed the story behind the creation of Warrior’s Comic Book Universe". However, only the first four issues of the comic were actually produced.
The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior
On September 27, 2005, WWE released a DVD documentary focusing on Warrior's retrospective wrestling career, entitled The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. The DVD featured clips of his more notable feuds and matches along with commentary from WWE stars past and present (some of which are largely unflattering), the DVD has provoked some controversy due to Warrior's own allegations of bias by WWE against him. Originally, Warrior was asked to help with the production of the DVD, but as he refused to work with WWE (citing he did not want to be associated with their promotion), there has been some resulting animosity between Warrior and WWE over the content and his vehement accusations of bias.
After the release of the DVD, Warrior was asked to appear on Byte This!, WWE's weekly webcast program, ostensibly to air his side of the story. He refused the offer, instead opting to issue a paragraph-long controversial statement, responding back to the insults of host Todd Grisham by calling him a "queer", and frequent contributor Droz a "cripple." This led to Matt Striker subsequently appearing on Byte This! and performing an unflattering impression of Warrior, including numerous references to the abuse of steroids. Striker, Grisham, and Droz shared several jokes at Warrior's expense, and an edited version appeared on WWE.com days later - the edits chosen giving the segment a less vitriolic feel than what was originally broadcast.
A week after this parody aired, JBL was featured on the show and angrily criticized and mocked Warrior, angry at his recent calling of his real-life friend Droz as "crippled." He angrily called Warrior "absolute piece of shit" and "can't stand the son of a bitch." JBL would, however, admit to the fact that he and Warrior had no previous grudge - he was simply angry about Warrior's original, offensive statements.
In 1993, Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior in order to retain the legal rights to use the name outside of the WWF. The one-word name appears on all legal documents pertaining to Warrior, and his children carry the Warrior name as their legal surname. The ultimatewarrior.com domain is registered to "Mister Warrior".
Warrior and the WWF engaged in a series of lawsuits and legal actions in 1996 and 1997, culminating in a court ruling that Warrior was legally entitled to use the gimmick, costuming, face paint designs, and mannerisms of the "Warrior" character.
To counter the negative portrayal of his character by WWE, Warrior began producing his own DVD documentary and announced that he would release a lot of the official court documents with Titan Sports/WWE to show what he has termed the ultimate truth. However, Warrior later filed suit against the filmmaker he hired to make his documentary, Andrew Wright, claiming that the documentary Wright made was "negative, not positive" and that Wright had threatened to release a very negative documentary unless he was paid more money.
In January 2006, Warrior filed a lawsuit against WWE in an Arizona court, over the depiction of his wrestling career on The Self-Destruction DVD.
In a recent audio interview with conservative speaker, Dan Flynn, Warrior revealed that he will be publishing two books in 2007. The first being a strictly ideological work on the core conservative values, and their function in a modern society. Although as yet officially untitled, Warrior hopes the work will be released as America: Get It or Get Out; but the release date of the book is unknown.
He also has plans to release a second book in the second half of the year, which will be part autobiography, part motivation guide. Warrior has stated that "...the book will detail my wrestling career...but it will be from an intelligent, inspiring angle". He further stated, "I'm not interested in detailing the seedy underbelly of an industry I have no desire to be associated with".
Warrior was married to a woman named Sherri, but divorced later. This woman threatened to publish a book regarding their relationship, but that publication was later cancelled.
In 2000 he remarried, this time to the former Dana Viale (whom he had been dating since at least 1996, as admitted in interviews during his WWF stint then). They now have two daughters; Indiana Marin (b 2000) and Mattigan Twain (b 2002).
Warrior died on April 8, 2014. He had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 5, appeared at WrestleMania XXX on April 6, and made his first Raw appearance in 18 years on April 7, one day before his death. According to TMZ, Warrior collapsed at 5:50 PM while walking to his car with his wife in Arizona outside of their hotel. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
During his final appearance on Raw and less than 24 hours before his death, Warrior gave a speech to the fans and wrestlers past and present as his Ultimate Warrior character. During the speech he said,
No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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 believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!
News spread quickly through social media of Warrior's death. Jake Roberts, a fellow 2014 Hall of Fame inductee and former opponent in the ring, said that the two were able to finally put their past problems behind them. Roberts said "Deeply saddened. We just had a great talk & buried a senseless hatchet. Talked working together. RIP Warrior. Taking solace we made peace." Kevin Nash, another wrestler who has spent years publicly feuding with Warrior was also able to end their problems. Nash said "So happy I embraced Warrior with a hug when we saw each other backstage Saturday night. My heart goes out to his family. Always Believe." Hulk Hogan, one of Warrior's most hated rivals in and out of the ring said through his Twitter page "RIP WARRIOR. only love. HH"
- Finishing moves
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Nu-Wrestling Evolution
- NWE Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Class Wrestling Association
- World Wrestling Federation/WWE
- World Wrestling Superstars
- WWS Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Most Overrated (1989–1991)
- Readers' Least Favorite Wrestler (1989, 1990)
- Worst Feud of the Year (1989) vs. André the Giant
- Worst Feud of the Year (1992) vs. Papa Shango
- Worst Feud of the Year (1998) vs. Hulk Hogan
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (1989) vs. André the Giant on October 31
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (1998) vs. Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc
- Worst Wrestler (1988, 1998)