Perhaps you had – or still have – comic book heroes. I didn’t. Not really. Not unless you count pro-wrestlers. They were my comic-book heroes. There were rock stars too, sure. And pro-wrestlers were rock-stars too. For a while at least. I probably started discovering them around the same time.
That’s why – even though I’ll probably never watch any wrestling ever again – it kinda means something to me to hear that The Ultimate Warrior has died. He was the Ultimate! When I was 12 years old he was it. There was Macho Man and Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan and Jake “The Snake” and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and they all – rather sickeningly, perhaps – meant something to me. But Warrior was the ultimate.
I had the best part of two decades away from wrestling – then returned to it with some strange, vaguely journalistic curiosity. I wanted to write a feature article about how pro-wrestling was a lot like pornography – both were fantasy-versions of the real thing, the extreme end point, unobtainable and absurd. Fetishist/bullshit: guilty pleasures for many. There were strange parallels and contrasts – as the budgets got bigger for wrestling it got more absurd, pornography lost a lot of its drama and “storyline”/angles and the budgets, erm, drooped.
Anyway, I never got around to writing that article – possibly because I was the only person on the planet who thought they might like to read something like that. I did, however, revisit my childhood, rekindle a passion of sorts and start collecting up experiences, renting out old VHS tapes and new DVDs, I even interviewed a bunch of wrestlers when they came to NZ, I got a gig writing for a pro-wrestling website – I did phoners with other childhood wrestling heroes, Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Ric Flair. I always wanted to interview The Ultimate Warrior.
That never happened.
A request or two was made. Ignored at first. Later declined.
But you see I’d always followed – vaguely at least – what this Warrior character was up to. Even when I wasn’t at all interested in wrestling. He was fascinating to me, because clearly the character had disappeared long ago, absorbed into Jim Hellwig’s bloodstream along with all sorts of monkey-juice.
I even received a Christmas Card from him once. True. I’ve still got it.
He had changed his name to Warrior, legally. In fact he was called Warrior Warrior: first name, then surname. And he was mostly involved with his own website and speaking engagements. You could watch his “lectures” on YouTube. He talked giant loads of horseshit. As if steroid residue was crawling out of his mouth convinced it was dressed up preppy and looking pretty and ready for college.
He seemed a sad case. That made him absolutely fascinating.
There was the documentary about him – a hatchet job, because he was not on speaking terms with his former employees; they set out to make him look bad. They had so much to work with. Somehow, that documentary, as grinning and gurning as it was, seemed to tell the truth, or at least a truth. You could picture this nut-job through all of that.
But hey, that’s all irrelevant. Because when I was 12 years old this guy was it. I watch those tapes back now – or rather, watched them back a decade or so ago – and see the full absurdity, he’s like a Chippendale-as-Clydesdale, you could all but imagine he downed several ounces of horse jizz before he jerked the curtain and shook up them ring ropes.
Where the other wrestlers talked in broad clichés this guy had these off-the-hook promos about taking “the little warriors” with him on a spaceship and blasting through stratospheres and he was like some crazy, religious guy. And it was fucking wonderful. Or he just stomped and snorted. Sometimes it was hard to tell which he had settled on – the promos and interviews made no sense most of the time anyway. You could see these other big baby-type wrestlers actually looking a bit scared when they had to work with him, and the interviewers too. He could have popped at any point.
I kinda liked knowing this guy was around though.
I have that Xmas Card he sent me. What happened was: a mate bought me an Ultimate Warrior beanie as a Christmas gift a few years ago, back in 2006 it was. When I emailed him and told him thanks for the gift; good joke…he wrote back going, “did you get the card?” And I said that nah, no card from him was in there. “Not from me” he goes on to tell me. “From Warrior…”
He sends me his correspondence with Warrior. He had emailed him and chased him up. Warrior had explained that the cards had all gone out with a personal note but they had been sent separately and though there might be a delay the card would still arrive and he hoped that the recipient would still appreciate the thought that went into the message.
I did receive the card shortly after that.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! I’m not one to “wish” or “hope”, but my affirmation for you is that you will enlarge your belief in the potential your life holds. We are all Created to do something unique in our lives! The most powerful thing you can do is BELIEVE this every single moment. I will be thinking positively for you that you do!!
2006 – X-mas.
The Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame this past weekend. I’m not up with the play, I’m just learning this from glancing past a couple of obituaries. But he had not been on speaking terms with the company for some time – there was legal action going on and he had fought to keep his character available so that he could wrestle again, pitifully no doubt. But anyway…
He appeared at the recent Wrestlemania 30 and the following night’s TV show – this, by the way, is all just a couple of days ago as I write this.
And now he’s dead. The curse of wrestling, the sickness, the attachment to the lifestyle, the pennilessness of it, the drugs, the painkillers – the worst drugs of all, it seems – the dependency on all of it, the fame that’s so fleeting, so pointless, so superficial, the rush that’s needed, the joke of it all – how you’ll get fans, wide-eyed in wonder, so quick to justify it, but to anyone else your career and life is just a joke.
Something got him in the end. His heart probably gave out. Because his heart was more in it than just about anyone else I ever watched play that mad, daft, wonderful, stupid “sport”