Was The Ultimate Warrior Really That Good?
Adz takes a look at The career of The Ultimate Warrior and asks: Was he actually any good?
When the wolfsbane howls and the blood moon glows, none have captured the imagination of the wrestling fans quite like The Ultimate Warrior. From his iconic face paint, to the tassels on his boots, Warrior was like no other. In a world of cartoon, superhero like characters The Ultimate warrior stood out. He, like so many greats, had his downfalls. Staunchly right wing in his views, known for making homophobic comments and openly bashing the company that made him, Warrior was drenched in controversy. As always, we will be looking solely at his career as an in ring performer as we take a look back and ask the question: Was the Ultimate Warrior really that good?
So, let's start at the beginning. Prior to finding fame as the Ultimate Warrior, James Brian Hellwig started out as an amateur body builder, competing in a number of National Physique Commitee events (NPC), and winning one in 1984 becoming ‘Mr. Georgia’. After moving to California and competing there, he was invited to join a group of body builders to train for a professional wrestling team, one of those group members went on to have a very successful career, Steve Borden, better known as Sting. Dropping the idea of becoming a body builder, Jim accepted the offer and was trained by Rolland “Red” Bastien, a man best remembered for his brief run in the WWWF teaming with Bruno Sammartino.
Debuting in 1985 as Justice, one half of the Freedom Fighters, teaming with Sting in Continental Wrestling Association (Jerry Jarrett’s territory in Memphis) with Dutch Mantel (also known as Zeb Colter to younger WWE fans) as their manager.They were green, stiff and lacked thorough training leading to their time in the Memphis territory being short. Resurfacing in 1986 in Mid-South Wrestling (soon to change its name to UWF), repackaged as The Blade Runners.
Warrior debuted in the WWF in June 1987 under the Dingo Warrior moniker, running through jobbers and getting a decent early push, in large due to his look. He debuted on TV as The Ultimate Warrior on October 25th edition of Wrestling Challenge. Fans took to him instantly. With his 100-metre sprint to the ring, the shaking of the ropes and his overly ridiculous promos complete with snarling, he stood out from the crowd. His character was enough to carry him beyond his stiff work and limited ring ability.
Warrior was renowned for working stiff, this continued with his stint in the WWF. Many, many wrestlers have come forward and said he was rough in the ring. In an interview with HannibalTV, Hillbilly Jim said:
“A lot of guys were mad about the stiffness, he tried that with Andre one time, He ran across one time…and when he run up on Andre, Andre just shot that big giant hand out there, and it stopped everything, caught him up under the neck, it was like he grabbed a squeak toy, and it was funny because Andre had to put him over, but he’d stop him real quick and it was hilarious.”
Warrior feuded with many top names during the late 80’s and early 90’s in the WWF. Names like ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, The Undertaker and Sgt. Slaughter. Many of these names carrying Warrior to a decent showing.
Although limited in work rate, Warrior put on a classic at WrestleMania VI. Unfortunately, that can be put down to the promotion of the match and how Vince had built it up, the sheer magnitude of hype behind these guys would have been enough to make a pissing competition between the two an instant classic. This match was once again repeated in WCW at Halloween Havoc 1998, to very little praise and the fans just weren’t that into it.
Warrior doesn’t haven’t many other standout matches, the only other one that comes to mind is the WrestleMania 12 debacle in 1996. This stands out for the wrong reasons. Hunter Hearst Helmsley was to be Warriors opponent, a hot new heel, buried in under three minutes and that includes Warriors entrance. He no sold the Pedigree before he’d even taken his jacket off. The only moves used by Warrior were a single punch, three clotheslines, a single shoulder tackle, a gorilla press slam and then his signature splash to finish. That was the entire match pretty much.
Warrior was fired a total of 3 times from WWE and almost burned all bridges with them, WWE even went as far as to release ‘The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ DVD. The Last time we saw him in the WWE, Warrior cut an eerie promo about how a man’s heart beats it final beat on RAW. That night on April 8th 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Ultimate Warrior passed away from a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. That last promo could now be considered a farewell to the wrestling fans.
Post death, Warrior’s wife Dana, worked with the WWE to create the Warrior Award for those who have "exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior."
So, as we look back, was The Ultimate Warrior actually any good? I would hate to speak ill of the dead but I have to say no. He had very little ring ability and unlike many of his peers at the time, he never made it to the heights Hogan or Macho Man did and couldn’t work a crowd and hold them in their hands like many of his peers could. He was entertaining for the time sure, but his promos were non-sensical and rarely had anything to do with the match or his opponent. If you look at the great promos from the era, you have Macho Man having everyone hanging on to every one of his crazy lines, Jake Roberts made you listen, Hogan had you like putty in his hands and you believed every word that came out of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper’s mouth. Warrior lacked this, he would talk of wolfsbane and blood moons, things people couldn’t relate to and hus matches were mainly 2 minute squash matches so there was nothing to invest in. Without the ring work, without the promo and a lack of classic matches, he was just a mass of tassels running to the ring and shaking the ropes.
And that’s just my two cents.
Catch you in the next 'Were They Really That Good?'