Ultimate Warrior dies: “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat”

I’m not even sure what to say about the sudden death of the Ultimate Warrior at 54 and how creepy it is that this guy had just been on Monday Night Raw the day before and had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after years of estrangement from Vince McMahon.

Warrior, whose real name was Jim Hellwig, was among the most memorable stars of the 1980s and 1990s. Longtime fans will remember he started out with a young Sting as the Blade Runners before he became Dingo Warrior in World Class Championship Wrestling. He switched his name to Ultimate Warrior upon arriving in the WWF in 1988.

He portrayed an animated, out-of-control character who ran through opponents with punches, kicks, and force.

“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat,” Warrior said this week on Raw. Ultimate Warrior’s final promo is haunting me.

In fact, more than his matches, most fans probably remember Warrior’s promos, which were spaced-out, often incomprehensible rants that seem to pull from fantasy and science fiction. The interviews remain unique even by today’s standards. When he retired in the late 1990s, he started a website that continued with his off-the-wall commentary on politics and society.

In the ring, he wasn’t a scientific wrestler and not gifted as a worker, but put with the right opponent, he could have memorable matches.

Lightning struck for the Warrior and Hulk Hogan in 1990 when they main-evented WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Anyone who saw that show live will remember the build-up of what was, at the time, a rare babyface vs. babyface match in the WWF. It was classic bout that the crowd brought to life, as the audience was into everything those two did in the ring that night. I just watched this match last week on the WWE Network and after all these years, it is still an entertaining spectacle.

In 1988, Warrior stormed into SummerSlam at Madison Square Garden and squashed Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man in a matter of seconds, ending what is the still the longest Intercontinental reign ever.

His face paint and tassels were often imitated in and out of wrestling. I remember when I attended the monthly house shows at the old Boston Garden, my friend Diamond Dave used to dress up like Warrior, and we’d even occasionally have matches after the cards on the Orange Line platform waiting for the subway home. Dave was a big guy, so there was no mistaking who this kid in face paint and wig was trying to be.

It is depressing to watch the 1980s scene that so many of us grew up on continue to collapse with death after death. To think that Warrior and Randy Savage both died in their 50s blows my mind.

Wrestling is a dirty, ugly profession — and we keep getting reminded of it.

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5 comments

  1. Pingback: Remembering Warrior’s bouts with Savage, Andre, and Slaughter in Boston | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. Mike

    Warrior’s death bother’s me because it was blatantly evident Monday Night that he was not well. As a 54 year old man, there was no reason why he should have been huffing and puffing, like a fish out of water. How come WWE doctors did not pick up on this and check out Warrior or at least urge him to go to the hospital to get checked out?! SMH…

    • Joe Lowry

      Mike, I agree wholeheartedly. I DVR’d both RAW and the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Even during the HOF ceremony Saturday night I picked up a few deep sighs and heavy breathing. Also on Monday Night Raw, he did seem a bit “off.” Yes i did notice, the heavy breathing on RAW as well. Even the shaking was evident when he gave the microphone to the camera man so he could put on his Warrior Mask. Also I noticed that when he attempted to do his “shaking of the ropes” it was done in a very precautionary manner. I usually contribute these type of things to either age, the sacrifices thier bodies took over the years, or maybe just plain under the influence of something. But the heavy breathing, the sighing does point to signs of something pre-existing. Has anyone else noticed the tweets from all of the WWE Superstars? Yes they are saddened and sympathetic, but nobody has come forward with the “shock and awe” over Warriors passing. Almost like they may have known the Warrior was ill or something, As mentioned before, I am sure over the next few days or even weeks we will slowly find out the cause of death and anything else that may have contributed to his passing. But for now we grieve, we pray for the his family and we carry on the true Warrior spirit!! RIP WARROR!!

  3. Joe Lowry

    It is truly a sad day (again) in the world of Professional Wrestling. I had DVR’d USA Networks broadcast of the WWE’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony which aired right after Monday Night Raw and I just watched It last night. The Warriors speech was time consuming and a bit entertaining as well as a bit confusing. He introduced his wife and two daughters and his mom. It was a memorable night in which he kept saying over and over how special it was to be inducted into the hall of fame. Then I wake up this morning to the heartbreaking news of Warriors passing in Arizona. Of course my immediate reaction was that of sadness and confusion. How? Why? What happened? Was he sick? I am sure answers will filter its way onto the internet, some true some not true, but this passing is hitting hard, Just like Macho Mans did a couple of years ago. I think it hits me hard is because pro wrestling to me as a kid was my savior, my escape from real life. And when one of its main players, such as The Warrior, passes it takes a little bit away from me as well. My heart goes out to Warriors wife and two daughters. May the Warrior live on in true spirit and may his memory never fade! RIP WARRIOR!!!!

    • J.Cee

      The smiling image of his daughters makes this a very sad tragedy. But it always seemed that he had numerous opportunities to return to the WCW and WWF in years past–without any change to his persona as the Ultimate Warrior. With respect to his family’s loss, I’ll leave it at that.

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