If you were a kid growing up in the late 80s or early 90s, The Ultimate Warrior was one of the most iconic figures of your childhood. He was a mythical creature from Parts Unknown who seemed to possess supernatural powers and shot to superstardom in the WWF. Long before the days when pro wrestling would be presented as “entertainment,” the Ultimate Warrior’s mystique was larger than life. In many ways, he was the perfect star for his time. And, as pro wrestling has had the curtain pulled back in recent years, his accomplishments as an entertainer are becoming more and more appreciated.
After being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame at WrestleMania XXX this weekend and making his first appearance on Monday Night Raw since 1996, Ultimate Warrior died on Tuesday at 54 years of age. His sudden death was all the more shocking given the seemingly good spirits he was in during his public appearances for WWE this weekend.
Ultimate Warrior was unique in every way — from his insane interviews to his trademark facepaint to the way he would run to the ring, even the fact that his wrestling character later became a part of himself was different. In the 90s, Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior. That unforgettable character was why the news of his passing has resonated with so many today, more than 20 years after his prime.
To pay tribute to the Ultimate Warrior, here now are the 10 Greatest Moments from his WWE career…
10) COME ON IN WHERE NIGHTMARES ARE THE BEST PART OF MY DAY!!!
The most distinctive aspect of Ultimate Warrior was his promos. Nobody before or after the Ultimate Warrior has ever acted like this in front of any camera anywhere in any realm of television. Some of my favorite Ultimate Warriorisms…
“SHOULD I LAY ON THE LAWN AND LET THEM RUN OVER ME WITH LAWNMOWERS?!”
“LOAD THE SPACESHIP WITH THE ROCKET FUEL!”
“THERE IS NO PLACE TO RUN, ALL THE FUSES IN THE EXIT SIGNS HAVE BEEN BURNED OUT!!!!”
“DIG YOUR CLAWS INTO MY ORGANS, STRETCH INTO MY TENDONS, BURY YOUR ANCHORS INTO MY BONES FOR THE POWER OF THE WARRIOR WILL ALWAYS PREVAIL!!!”
“WITH OR WITHOUT THE FACEPAINT I AM THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!!!”
For anyone else, this kind of psychobabble would have you looking for the nearest padded room, but it was perfect for The Ultimate Warrior and made him that much more popular. I think I’m going to start to use some in daily conversations as a tribute.
9) WrestleMania VIII Return
In 1992, the Ultimate Warrior had been gone from WWF television for months after a dispute with Vince McMahon. His entrance at WrestleMania VIII to help old foe Hulk Hogan was a surprising return in the days when surprising returns didn’t happen nearly every week on television.
8) WrestleMania XII Return
Ultimate Warrior was in and out of the WWF after his run at the top in the early 90s. After another four-year absence after his first return, he came back at WrestleMania XII to defeat blueblood snob Hunter Hearst Helmsley in mere seconds. As fate would have it, the man later known as Triple H, now a WWE executive, would announce Warrior’s death to the world on Twitter.
7) The Royal Rumble Posedown vs Ravishing Rick Rude
Only the Ultimate Warrior could make something as silly as a posedown into a memorable moment. This video from the 1989 Royal Rumble and his battle with Ravishing Rick Rude and Bobby The Brain Heenan is heavy on nostalgia for any classic WWF fan.
6) Being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame
Ultimate Warrior was absent from the WWE realm for a long, long time and was in fact derided by the organization. They even made a “Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” DVD talking about his eccentric career. However, the two sides reconciled in time for Warrior to be inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame last weekend to finally be given the credit he was due.
5) Squashing The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988
The first big moment for the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF came at SummerSlam ’88 when he was the mystery opponent for The Honky Tonk Man, another classic character of that time period. Honky had been the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion at the time and the Ultimate Warrior squashed him. Just take a look and listen to how crazy the crowd is for his surprise entrance.
4) The Crash the Plane promo
Of all the Ultimate Warrior promos, this is the most famous… or infamous. Before his showdown with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI, he talked about Hulk Hogan’s plane crashing into Toronto’s SkyDome.
Let me repeat that, he talked about Hulk Hogan crashing his plane into the SkyDome in some kind of kamikaze mission. Like fine wine, it gets better and significantly more crazy with age.
3) His WrestleMania VII match with Randy Savage
The legendary retirement match against the Macho Man at WrestleMania VII is without a doubt the best and most dramatic match of the Ultimate Warrior’s career. It’s one of the first WrestleMania classics that fans talk about stealing the show on the WWE’s biggest stage.
2) The Final Promo from The Ultimate Warrior
As the Ultimate Warrior made his first appearance on WWE TV in almost two decades, he slipped on his trademark mask and delivered one final, quintessential promo about immortality and legend with a couple snarls thrown in for good measure. Who knew at the time what significance those words would bring when the Warrior said, “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath.” Thankfully another generation got just a glimpse at this legendary figure.
1) Winning the WWF title at WrestleMania VI
In the glory days of the WWF, you were either an Ultimate Warrior fan or a Hulk Hogan fan. They were the two biggest stars and the two most beloved figures in pro wrestling who finally collided at WrestleMania VI in one of those rare good guy vs good guy matchups. For impressionable youth, it was like seeing Superman match wits with Batman. That’s how big this was! There, the Ultimate Warrior did the previously unthinkable and pinned the Hulkster to win the WWF Championship. Forget the Super Bowl or the Olympics or any other sporting event, for many kids like me who were in elementary school at the time, this was the defining moment of our childhood.