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WWE: The curious case of the Ultimate Warrior

FEATURED COLUMNIST

When you were a kid growing up in the late 80s and the early 90s, the one name you would have been familiar with in the world of professional wrestling more than anyone else would be that of Hulk Hogan. When Hogan hit his peak in the WWF, he was the most popular ‘entertainer’ in the world, and after his feud with Andre the Giant, Hogan was immortalized as perhaps the greatest living legend in the world.

He was more popular than The Beatles, and it was no surprise that Vince and WWF made complete use of his popularity and name value. But as Hulkamania started to dwindle, Vince needed another ‘larger than life’ personality who could be different, who wouldn’t be ‘just another guy’. Vince found his answer in a character that was completely new, something the fans hadn’t seen till then. He was none other than the Ultimate Warrior.

To understand the meaning of the title of the article, we need to go back and see the career of the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF. There are very few superstars who are destined for greatness, and Ultimate Warrior was bound for great things in the WWF. When Vince laid his eyes on the former Hellwig, he knew right then that he would become one of the biggest assets of his organization, and sure enough, Vince went ahead with his instincts.

With Warrior debuting in ’87, he went undefeated for nearly two years! Ultimate Warrior won the WWF Intercontinental title within the first year of his debut, and cemented himself at the top of the ladder by beating Andre the Giant in mere seconds on many different occasions! People liked Warrior; he brought the adrenaline rush and excitement like very few did.

Slowly, Hogan’s “No” was replaced by Warrior’s shaking of the ropes. People were slowly shifting towards the Warrior from Hulkamania. It looked as if Hogan’s time to pass on the torch was close.

At WrestleMania 6, Warrior faced Hogan in the main event for the WWF championship. Warrior, at that point, was still the WWF Intercontinental champion, while Hogan was the WWF champion. The match was one of the most anticipated bouts in history, as Warrior was seen as the flag bearer of professional wrestling in the coming future, replacing Hulk Hogan.

Warrior won the match and the WWF title, and in a “Passing of the torch” moment, Hogan embraced Warrior and raised his hand. This was supposed to be a sign of things to come, a sign of the dominance of Warrior in the WWF. Warrior held the WWF title for the remainder of the year and lost it at the Royal Rumble in ’91, and that was when things started going downhill for Hellwig.

Warrior started feuding with other top guys, but by the end of the year, Warrior started believing too much in his own hype. Warrior threatened Vince that he wouldn’t show up at Summerslam if he wasn’t given the same or more privileges as Hogan, and although Vince initially agreed, he suspended Warrior after Summerslam, and Warrior quit the WWF afterwards.

This was where everything went south, as Warrior went from being the future of the business to someone who was black listed in the professional wrestling circuit. This soured the relationship between Vince and Warrior, and although Warrior was brought back the very next year due to Hogan giving his resignation papers, Warrior was released once again from the WWF.

Warrior returned in ’96 for a brief amount of time, but the relations between Vince and Warrior were already severed. Vince found yet another excuse to humiliate Warrior and sent him home, and by now, the fans had already found new performers to cheer for and connect with. Warrior was then signed by WCW just to stroke Hogan’s ego, as Hogan defeated Warrior and he was soon released from the company. A guy who should have been the face of professional wrestling was used as a pinball to soothe peoples’ egos, and that made Warrior a scapegoat in the business.

There have been people who blamed Warrior for destroying his own career (And the subsequent release of his ‘Self destruction of Ultimate Warrior’ DVD), but had things been different, the landscape of the now WWE would have been completely different. Guys such as Batista credit Warrior for being their inspiration for getting into the industry, and the sad story of the Ultimate Warrior could’ve been something very different. Ultimate Warrior is regarded as the most enigmatic superstar in the history of the WWE, with his unique style and impressive charisma. In a sense, by threatening Vince McMahon, Warrior did jeopardize his own career, but didn’t deserve to become the laughing stock of professional wrestling.


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Edited by Staff Editor
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