I’m still in shock. It was only about 2 hours after we had finished doing our podcast (Pop!cast Wrestling, aka PCW) and I had gone on a bit of a tangent of how great I thought the Warrior’s speech was. First person I saw that mentioned it happened to be one of the co-hosts, whoisjfx316. I just kind of ignored it. Then heehaw-ds9. It was too coincidental, but I still didn’t believe it. I commented that I wouldn’t believe it until tmz said it. It’s odd that a de facto gossip site is my go to for news about celebrity deaths, but when Michael Jackson was reported dead, they were the only ones that had the info. So, I looked, and TMZ didn’t have anything. I thought, “Ok, another hoax.” (He was reported dead last week.) I tweeted this:
And then TMZ posted the news.
It’s a hard reality to accept. We was on TV for three days straight. He gave, for my money, the best speech at the WWE Hall of Fame. So good that when it was over, I immediately went to WWE Shop.com and bought his t-shirt AND his DVD. His words were inspiring. They made me want to get up and DO SOMETHING. And let’s face it…the guy is a motivational speaker, so he knew what he was doing. Then on Sunday, he took his place on stage with the other HOF Inductees. And then on Monday, he came down to the ring and did this…it was a piece of magic that, unless you’re a fan of wrestling, you wouldn’t understand. It’s a hard thing to explain and I’m going to do my best to make sense here. Jim Hellwig and I shared the same birthday, a fact I didn’t know until many years after he retired. But I always felt connected to the character. I watched him as the Dingo Warrior in WCCW and when he came to the WWF/WWE, I felt like I was ahead of the curve (my first smark moment, probably) because, like a wrestling hipster, I was all, “Oh, you never heard of him?”
He was, in a very true sense, a comic book superhero come to life and anyone that knows me knows that comics are a big part of my life. As are superheroes. As a kid, I made sense of my dad not being around by telling myself, “He must be Batman.” It’s somewhat delusional, but only in the way that is endearing and truly heartbreaking because it’s a child’s logic. I was around 13, maybe 14, when the Ultimate Warrior first showed up in the WWF in 1987.* Old enough to know better, for sure, but something about the entrance, the music, the facepaint…it just spoke to me. I was always a mark, but I put that guy over immediately. The impact that WrestleMania 6 had on me…that picture above is a screen grab from right after he won the match against Hulk Hogan and it’s a pretty big deal because…his facepaint is off. It’s like he’s human. Whenever a superhero loses his or her mask in an epic battle, it’s a big deal and that’s what that is…It’s indicative of a hard fought battle. But, more than anything, it proves that the immortal superhero…is mortal.**
I was a Freshman at the University of Pittsburgh in 1991 and while I didn’t watch wrestling all that much, the Ultimate Warrior was still my favorite. A few friends and I decided we would paint our faces for a football game, and of course I chose the Warrior’s design. Everyone else did something small, but I went over the top. The day started out rainy, but slowly, before halftime, the sun came out…and stayed out. Pitt won and my friends and I went back to our dorms to get ready for a victory party somewhere in Oakland. I showered, cleaned the paint off of my face and then looked in the mirror. I had gotten a tan…and it left a Warrior shaped design that was lighter than the rest of my face. I was the Ultimate Warrior for a few days as my skin evened out, and I can assure you, it was a topic of conversation at that party and for days later.
Early reports state that the Warrior was walking from his car to his home, or from his home to his car (or it might have been a hotel) and he collapsed midway. I like to imagine it as God reaching down from heaven and saying, “Nope. The power of the Warrior is too strong.” And now WrestleMania 6 is going on upstairs between the two most powerful beings in the universe.
It’s a pretty special thing to write your own eulogy, even if you don’t think you’re ever going to die, or if you believe you have more time. This weekend, for me and every Ultimate Warrior fan, is very special because we got to see his redemption, on his terms, in his words. He left the world his words:
“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 what makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and 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 The Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever.”
There is truth. There is positivity. There is heroism. But he’s just a man. Eventually, they…we…all face eternity without heartbeats or breaths or blinks. We are souls and spirits and energy in the forever. This, today, this is just a shell. It’s temporary. One day, we’ll break out of these prisons and truly live. That’s why we can’t carry hate or evil or selfishness or jealousy or anything negative. It only weighs us down. Be strong. Be positive.
Be a Warrior.
I get it now.
Thank you, Jim Hellwig. You were born with that name, and you eventually changed it to just one word, but for me, you will always be the ultimate warrior. The Ultimate Warrior.
*EDIT 1 - In a weird, but awesome case of FUN MATH, I realized that Hellwig was 13 or 14 when I was born, the same age I was when the Ultimate Warrior was “born.”
**EDIT 2 - I liken hearing about his death to being one of the spectators in Superman 75.
One of the best Prince songs ever, and it feels like it could be another seven minutes long and STILL not be long enough.
I HAVEN’T LAUGHED THIS HARD IN THREE YEARS I AM HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTCK
I laugh until I cry every. single. time.
I swear Loki invented autocorrect.
It’s Crowley, I’m telling you! Autocorrect and the M4.
Auburn cockrocket. Auto cat rectal. Jesus chalupa. I think autocorrect is just a highly advanced artificial intelligence that understands our humor better than we do.
The thing is iPhone autocorrect mostly suggests words you use commonly…
I will forever find this garbage funny.
As the above note mentions, these people wrote all of these words themselves at some point, so I love that people basically self report how weird they are.
Laughing at auto corrects gave me a legit headache.