I loved the Ultimate Warrior. And yet I can’t ever feel completely satisfied with that one sentence. It’s the love of guilty pleasure and therefore needs justification. It is like saying, hypothetically, “I love Kylie Minogue’s Greatest Hits” – or “I really like The Spice Girls Movie”.
But just as it could be suggested that Kylie’s greatest hits album shows a transition from a girl-next-door pop wannabe to a sophisticated dance-pop entertainer (not that I’ve listened to it) or that The Spice Girls’ movie Spice World could indeed mark a return to the Beatlemania-derived school of fan-fetish film-making – and a superbly over-the-top performance from Richard E. Grant (not that I’ve actually seen it) it can be said that The Ultimate Warrior was one of professional wrestling’s greatest characters-turned-caricature (and this is where I have to admit that I have seen him).
I never got to meet the Ultimate Warrior. Never got to shake hands with the erstwhile Jim Hellwig. I did not write to him. I never got to see him, erm, wrestle, in the squared circle. I didn’t ever own an Ultimate Warrior mask, nor an action figure. And I can’t say that I ever had the pleasure of watching one of his speaking engagements (apart from a few minutes of bizarre chuckling when I found an hour-long lecture on YouTube). But I knew the Ultimate Warrior through his work – and I was a huge fan of it. As a 12-year-old kid, newly in love with all things wrestling, I thought The Ultimate Warrior was, well, ultimate. I was stoked when he put Bobby Heenan in the weasel-suit. I was overjoyed when he squished The Honky Tonk Man in about 30 seconds and won the Intercontinental Championship. And did I mark-out like a crazed fan when he became the Ultimate Champ and defeated Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6? Did I what…um, actually, no, I didn’t. I’d stopped watching wrestling (for the first time) just before Wrestlemania 6. And even though I grew to see The Ultimate Warrior as a rather ridiculous creation, I still have a fondness for what he symbolized – not that I really know what that is?? He was a character that I accepted, flaws and all, and for a time in my formative upbringing, The Ultimate Warrior was there for me.
Going back a few years now, a friend of mine, we’ll call him “Sam” (after all, that’s what his parents did), sent me a mysterious Christmas present. It was the back-to-back Royal Rumbles from 1989 and 1990 on DVD. We watched them over that holiday period in sunny Hawke’s Bay. I was about to get married – watching old wrestling and stand-up comedy seemed a perfect send-off to my younger years. Dave Chapelle and The Ultimate Warrior are vastly different creations – but on a fundamental level there are some similarities: I used to be a big fan of both and found them very entertaining for a time.
Flashforward a few months, to the next time we’re in Hawke’s Bay, a parcel from America arrives. What could it be? I am used to parcels (it comes with the territory of being a freelance writer/reviewer. I am even used to getting parcels from America). But a parcel, from America, delivered to my parents’ abode?
I opened the parcel. (It’s generally the best option if you want to know what’s inside). Lo and behold, a present. A gift. A beanie. With The Ultimate Warrior’s mask insignia on it. Brilliant.
My mum laughed. My wife did not. Standing in the kitchen, appearing like those cartoon versions of the angel and devil that plagued Goofy’s shoulders. The two most important women in my life. And me just looking goofy.
“That is so funny” said my mum, completely up to speed with the joke, knowing in an instant that Sam would have been the one to send me the hat. And that, with not too much of an effort, my mum could instantly recall the nights spent awake while me – and a group of my school friends – watched horror films in sleeping bags in the lounge and them ended the evening, amidst the flaky, off-colour orange residue of Burger Rings and Twisties, with a screening of The Royal Rumble or Summer Slam, or, even, Wrestlemania IV part I on video-tape (that was always tricky, it was hard to get through part one and part two in the same evening. But the tournament made no real sense in isolated viewings…Anyways…) My mum laughed. She thought it was funny. She possibly thought it was cute too. Here I was all those years on being reminded of a piece of my past. Shall we say an Ultimate piece?
My wife didn’t laugh quite so much. “You look like a condom”, she said with dead-pan accuracy. The skin-coloured beanie couldn’t have been less flattering. And I watched my wife’s shoulders sink a little with the realisation that as we approached our one-year wedding anniversary it was wholly plausible to see that she had in fact married a 12-year old!
I see my friend Sam and tell him about the Beanie. It arrived in Hawke’s Bay the same day that he did. What a random coincidence. The synchronicity of life as expressed through a thoroughly vague in-joke. And I tell him thanks for the Beanie. I am genuinely thrilled. I can taunt my wife with the belief that I will be wearing this, come winter. And I can display it on my cabinet next to a collection of aftershaves and deodorants, right next to my thumb-wrestling figures of Hulk Hogan and The Iron Sheik. Yes, I know how to make my wife proud.
So Sam asks, “and did you get the Christmas card?” I’m like, “nah, you never sent anything…” He goes, “no, not from me. From the Warrior.” I say, “What?” He explains that Warrior was sending a personally signed Christmas card “with an individual message”. We both laugh at the brilliant absurdity of it. And I tell him it’s a real shame that the card never arrived, but that I still love the gift. Sam tells me he’ll forward his correspondence with [the] Warrior when he gets back to Sydney.
See here the following set of emails between a man named “Warrior” [Warrior] and a man named “Sam” [Sam]. I have not changed anything in these emails – they are formatted as they were written, I have corrected neither punctuation, nor spelling. Please enjoy the story of how my friend Sam got to know my former idol Warrior. And how I managed to get a hat out of the deal…and eventually a Christmas card.
Hello Mr Warrior,
I just ordered a beanie off your website for my good friend Simon, he’s a huge fan of your work. I really wanted to send the personally scribed card as well but was not given the option. Can you help. The ref number for the order was 11117 and it was for a beanie being sent to New Zealand. If you could just write something like Merry Christmas Simon, and include some personal message from yourself, if sure you would make his Christmas a very happy one indeed.
Thanks very much
Samuel, hello. Warrior here. No problem, got you covered. Of course, I doubt that you will have it before X-mas…still be a great surprise. Have a great X-mas.
Always Believe, Warrior.
It will be a fantastic surprise, thankyou Warrior, have a great Christmas yourself!!
[Warrior doesn’t reply to this. I tell Sam there was no card. He gives the Warrior a bit of a bump.]
Samuel here. Hey my friend Simon said he got his beanie but no Christmas card with it?
Sam, as was told, the card went out separately — from me, here, in NM, not Georgia where the Beanie went from. Cards are all long sent, but we had two weeks here of no services at all — none, totally snowed under. I am making a post with a note about the cards at my blog within a couple of hours. Nonetheless, the cards are out and everyone will get one. If anything happens that one gets lost –I will replace it. Each one has personal note in it, and although a Christmas card, I think they are worthy enough to be enjoyed and appreciated. Like you say over there, “NO, worries, mate.” Warrior
That’s all pretty good, right? And Sam was enthused by Warrior’s appropriation of Australian sentiment. He had made an extra effort of communication – teasing my friend with a suggestion of further comradeship. There were to be “no worries”. And he was considering Sam to be a “mate”.
My next time back in Hawke’s Bay was to review the Eric Clapton concert at the Mission vineyard. Speaking of, erm, warriors. And former idols. That weekend was made better by the fact that I had an envelope with Warrior’s name marked as the sender. This would not be a card that I’d be returning to sender. This was in fact a card that I would rip open, eager to read. Want to know what it said:
The inscription (word-for-word) states:
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.
Now I had my skin-coloured beanie and my Christmas card from The Ultimate Warrior.
I emailed my friend Sam and told him the good news. He dropped the following line to his friend Warrior.
Simon got his card.
Hahaha, brilliant, thanks for all your help mate if you’re ever over this way let me know, we’ll chuck a couple of shrimps on the barbie!!
Take care of yourself, your pal Samuel.
A lovely thing for a friend to say to another friend. Picking up on that Australian colloquialism that Warrior had offered to Sam, Sam then extends the welcome with yet another classic Aussie cliché. And, for his troubles, he received something not really very close to an affirmation. I’m not sure if Sam continues to “Always Believe”. Sadly, here is what the Warrior, via that most impersonal of forums – the internet – had to say in an email of reply. The final email that he would ever write to my friend Sam:
No, thank you. All the best. Warrior
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