Pro wrestling icon Ultimate Warrior dies
The Ultimate Warrior put on his signature airbrushed trench coat, shook the white ring ropes, and, for a few fleeting minutes, the wrestler billed as hailing from Parts Unknown was back home in the ring.
“Speak to me, Warriors!” he bellowed on Monday night’s Raw, back on TV after an 18-year absence.
He soaked up the applause from a New Orleans crowd chanting his name, pulled out a neon mask that replicated the face paint he wore in the ring for every main event battle with Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage in the 1990s. Warrior cut a promo to show how much he appreciated his return to the WWE.
Less than 24 hours later, Warrior, one of the most colorful stars in pro wrestling history, was dead. He was 54.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon tweeted: “We are all so sad the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters.”
After ending his estrangement with the company, Warrior was in the spotlight again earlier this week, making appearances at WrestleMania 30 and on Monday Night Raw, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of fame.
His last promo on WWE’s flagship show seems almost eerie now with his triumphant return overshadowed by his sudden death.
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own,” Warrior said. “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”
The Ultimate Warrior personified the larger-than-life cartoon characters who helped skyrocket the WWE into a mainstream phenomenon in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The WWE said Warrior, who legally changed his name from James Hellwig to his wrestling moniker, died Tuesday. Scottsdale, Ariz., police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said he collapsed while walking with his wife to their car at a hotel and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
There were no signs of foul play, Clark said. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy today.
“WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever, the Ultimate Warrior,” WWE said in a statement, adding: “We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame.”
Warrior’s final words to the crowd Monday are ones wrestling’s fanatics will surely take to heart.
“The spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever,” he said.