“If what the man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something that’s larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.”–Ultimate Warrior
These are some my stories and memories of one of my favourite wrestlers, the Ultimate Warrior.
As a kid, my favourite wrestler for the longest time was the Ultimate Warrior. His facepaint, his appearance, his intensity, his theme song, his entrance, his strength and power all drew me in as a fan. I remember always wanting to dress up as the Warrior at Halloween but my hair was not long enough. I remember as a kid flexing my biceps and seeing the smallest of veins and thinking I possessed the same strength as the Warrior. I would flex my abs in the mirror and saw six miniscule abs and believed I share the same physique as the Warrior. I remember purposely untying my shoe laces just so they would appear as tassles on my proverbial boots. In so many small ways I wanted to be just like my hero.
Another fond memory of mine was when I somehow accidentally tried out for my schools track team. I knew I had to run 100m to make it and who did I pattern my form after? The Warrior of course. I pushed and ran as fast I saw the Warrior do so on my TV. I may be making this up but as I crossed the finish line first, I believe I signaled for the Gorilla Press Slam. If there was a physical finish line, I would shake it to fuel my intesity (regardless of what place I came in the race)
As a kid, I had no understanding of what “classic wrestling” was and I certainly did not appreciate the “great promos” of the time. When I watched the Ultimate Warrior I saw a man lift giant men over his head and dump them to the ground like yesterday’s garbage. To me he was the ultimate combination of strength and speed. His promos were so intense and I clung to every word. I credit the Warrior to some degree for my ability to confidently approach public speaking. He thought me that your audience will only be as passionate as you are.
I remember going to the post office as a kid and seeing the Warrior comic on the shelf. I begged my mom to buy and she couldn’t understand spending $9.99 on a picture book. In school we had a story book project so I figured if I couldn’t own the comic book I’d make my own. I titled this book the “Ultimate Action Figure.” I believe I stole the entire story from the movie Jingle All the Way. It was about a kid (me) who wanted to do anything to purchase the Ultimate Warrior action figure. I remember doing chores to earn money but not having enough. Eventually I think my character attended a wrestling event and I met the Warrior who heard about my sad situation and ended up giving me the figure but I wound up being more mesmerized that I met my hero. Not sure what mark I got on the book, but it certainly reflected how much I adored the Ultimate Warrior.
As I got older I began to learn more about the backstage life of professional wrestling. I purchased the DVD the WWE put out about the Ultimate Warrior and started to hear stories about the man behind the face paint. I was distraught. I remember tearing down a poster of the Ultimate Warrior because I felt he didn’t have respect for wrestling or it’s fans. I remember how ecstatic I was in 1996 and 1998 when the Warrior returned to the WWF and WCW. After hearing about him backstage and his attitude, it hurt those two fond memories. This speaks to the damage that self-destruction DVD did to the Warrior’s legacy.
On the flip side, there are always two sides to a story. I watched a few YouTube clips that helped give me a better understanding. Kamala shared that during his time in the WWE that he wasn’t making much money as it often went to his travel and accommodations costs. Kamala shared that Warrior asked him one time how he was getting to the building and Kamala said he had to rent a car. Warrior said come in the limo with him. Warrior explained that the WWE was paying for him to travel alone all over the country and told Kamala the ride is paid for just hop in. Tony Atlas was asked in an interview about his impression of the Warrior and Atlas said Warrior approached wrestling as a business and that’s why he had the reputation he did. Atlas said he admired Warrior’s understanding of the business side of the things and Atlas credits Warrior’s success to this understanding. The Ultimate Warrior was a unique human being; he had a compassionate side to him and he stood his ground for his core beliefs and opinions.
What is my favourite memory of the Ultimate Warrior? Wrestlemania 6 in my hometown of Toronto. Warrior won the World title in the Ultimate Challenge as he defeated the biggest star in wrestling. Wrestlemania 6 may very well be my favourite wrestling pay-per-view for those reasons. It was my favourite match for the longest time as I saw my hero win the championship in the biggest show of the year.
It is still shocking news to know that over the past weekend I saw the Ultimate Warrior a few times on WWE programming and last night he passed away. My heart is especially broken for his wife and two daughters. Wrestling fans lost a hero, but his family lost a husband and a father. I hope his family is surrounded by those who honestly care and will walk with them during their grief towards the path of brighter days. I also hope their family takes on the responsibility to help his wife raise their daughters to grow up to be strong women. Nothing in this world is bigger than family!
Today I say good-bye to my childhood hero.