ANDREW OYE'S WWE PRO ATHLETE REPORT: WWE HALL OF FAME CHAMPION, LEGENDARY WWE SUPERSTAR 'THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR' PASSES AWAY AT 54
By Andrew Oye | Friday, April 11, 2014 8:02:22 AM America/New_York
The Scoop: Just Reported: Professional wrestler, bodybuilder and legendary sports-entertainer James Hellwig, known by his stage name "The Ultimate Warrior" passed away at 54. (June 16, 1959 -- April 8, 2014).
The "So What?": MUSCLE INK Magazine reflects on the life and career of James Brian Hellwig. Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the oldest of five children, the man who would come to be known as "The Ultimate Warrior" said he was the "kid who wasn't into any sports." At age 11, Hellwig picked up weights and started training. He briefly attended Indiana State University. Enthralled by the physique of Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Masters Olympia Champion IFBB Pro Robby Robinson, Hellwig set his sights on competitive bodybuilding. While attending Life University in Marietta, Georgia, with plans to pursue a career as a chiropractor, he won the Junior Atlanta Bodybuilding Championships then took 5th place at the 1981 AAU Collegiate Mr. America contest. Hellwig took 1st place at the 1983 AAU Coastal USA Bodybuilding Championships then won the NPC Mr. Georgia title in 1984. After a 5th place finish at the 1985 NPC Junior USA Bodybuilding Championships, he joined a crew of bodybuilders transitioning into pro wrestling.
In 1985, he wrestled as Jim "Justice" Hellwig of Powerteam USA in the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA). Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden (later known as "Sting") formed the Blade Runners tag team and moved to the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in 1986. From 1986-87, he was part of World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), where he took the ring name "Dingo Warrior," formed a tag team with Lance Von Erich, and won the WCWA World Tag Team Championship. In 1987, he won the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship then left WCCW to sign with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where (to distinguish himself from the existing "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry Von Erich and "The Road Warriors" tag team) he acquired the moniker that would become his claim to fame -- "The Ultimate Warrior."
Hellwig made his television debut as The Ultimate Warrior on the October 25, 1987, defeating Terry Gibbs. Since MUSCLE INK Magazine highlights the juncture of sports and entertainment, I immediately recognized that Ultimate Warrior's brand of uber-intensity was an instant hit, with his signature, warrior face paint and high-energy sprinting ring entrances. After a string of wins, his first WWF loss was to rival Ravishing Rick Rude in 1987. Through the late 80s, Warrior scored a 1988 victory at his pay-per-view debut WrestleMania IV; won the prestigious WWF Intercontinental Championship at the inaugural 1988 SummerSlam; won as sole survivor in Survivor Series 1988; and fought a feud with Rick Rude that spanned a Royal Rumble posedown, a championship match at WrestleMania V, and a rematch at SummerSlam 1989, where Warrior regained the Intercontinental title. Through the early 90s, Ultimate Warrior was the WWF's brightest star, positioned to replace wrestling's 80s superstar Hulk. At WrestleMania VI in 1990, Warrior defeated Hulk, becoming the first to hold both the WWF Intercontinental Championship and WWF World Championship titles simultaneously. Warrior went on to defend his title against Rick Rude at SummerSlam 1990; enter six-man tag-team matches with The Legion of Doom (LOD -- a.k.a., The Road Warriors: Animal and Hawk) and Kerry Von Erich (now "The Texas Tornado"); and feud with "Macho Man" Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII in 1991.
After the 1991 SummerSlam, Ultimate Warrior submitted a resignation letter to WWF CEO Vince McMahon in October, but he was under contract until September 1992, so he returned at WrestleMania VIII. He won a match against reigning champ Randy Savage at SummerSlam in August 1992. In November, Warrior was set to tag team with Savage, against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon at Survivor Series, but he was released from the WWF. Hellwig launched a professional wrestling school in Arizona called "Warrior University" and had a role in an action movie titled "Firepower" in 1993. In 1995, he had brief stints in the National Wrestling Conference (NWC) and Catch Wrestling Association (CWA).
Upon his return to the WWF in March of 1996, Ultimate Warrior defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley ("Triple H") at WrestleMania XII. He made his first appearance on Monday Night Raw on April 8, 1996, a comeback motivated by his fans. In July, Warrior was slated to team with Shawn Michaels for a tag-team match, but he was terminated from the WWF over contractual disputes with McMahon (who, as MUSCLE INK Magazine's "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report" has reported, attempted to compete with the IFBB Pro League International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness and its "Super Bowl"-- Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend -- by launching the short-lived WBF World Bodybuilding Federation, for which Hall of Famer IFBB Pro Tom Platz was Director of Talent Development and IFBB Pro Gary Strydom was the champion).
In 1998, Ultimate Warrior signed with Eric Bischoff's World Championship Wrestling (WCW), challenging Hollywood Hulk Hulk's "New World Order" (NWO) with his "One Warrior Nation" (OWN). Warrior had four WCW matches: competing for a shot at Bill Goldberg's WCW World Heavyweight Championship; teaming with Sting to defeat Hulk and Bret Hart; taking a loss to Hulk at Halloween Havoc; and fending off NWO during his final WCW appearance on November 9, 1998.
Andrew Oye's Verdict: James Hellwig, a.k.a. "The Ultimate Warrior," looked the part of a warrior and held admiration in bodybuilding circles (athletes who ordinarily idolize IFBB Pro League athletes who compete in the Mr. Olympia contest or the Arnold Sports Festival's IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Championships) for maintaining a solid, chiseled physique throughout his career in pro wrestling -- a sport populated with quite a few average-jobber, hefty-weightlifter or rotund-strongman types of builds.
There are interesting and ironic coincidences surrounding the passing of the legendary Ultimate Warrior. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly WWF) had recently launched the WWE Network on February 24, 2014 -- just in time for James Hellwig's big return to the sport (following years of tension with the company) for his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014 on April 5, 2014. The next day, April 6, Ultimate Warrior appeared at the 30th Annual WrestleMania. The next night, April 7, during his first appearance on Monday Night Raw since his very first appearance on the show on April 8, 1996 (returning after contractual strife), he delivered the following prophetic speech:
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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 and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back, I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"
Ultimate Warrior died less than 24 hours later on April 8, 2014 -- a full-circle ending of sorts. While my MUSCLE INK Magazine article series "Headlock on Hollywood," profiles charismatic wrestlers-turned-actors like "The Rock" Dwayne Johnson, John Cena, and Dave Bautista (Batista), and I cover career updates about current stars of WWE Raw, WWE Smackdown and Wrestlemania telecasts like David Otunga, I am reminded of the presence of the Ultimate Warrior. The WWE calls him a legend and the archetype of strength and intensity, stating, "The Ultimate Warrior may be the most enigmatic man to ever hold the WWE Championship...Without question, the Ultimate Warrior has etched his name in the pantheon of WWE greats."
Read the full Andrew Oye's Tribute To A Champion.
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