Ultimate Warrior Biography - Nyongesa Sande (2022)

Ultimate Warrior (born James Brian Hellwig; June 16, 1959 – April 8, 2014) was an Americanprofessional wrestlerandbodybuilder. Best known by hisring nameThe Ultimate Warrior, he wrestled for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, nowWWE) from 1987 to 1992, as well as a short stint in 1996. He also notably spent a few months in 1998 forWorld Championship Wrestling(WCW), where he was known asThe Warrior.

After a career in bodybuilding, Warrior turned to professional wrestling. From 1985 to 1986, he would tag with fellow former bodybuilderSteve Bordenasthe Blade Runners, and split when Warrior left to pursue a singles career inWorld Class Championship Wrestling(WCCW). Under the ring nameDingo Warrior, he was a one-timeWCWA Texas Heavyweight Champion. In 1987, he joined the World Wrestling Federation, and became atwo-timeWWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championwithin two years. AtWrestleMania VI, Warrior won theWWF Championshipin a title vs. title match overHulk Hogan, making him the first wrestler to hold both titles concurrently. Posited as the new face of the company, he would fall out withVince McMahonover a pay dispute, and attempted to leave the WWF, which was rejected. Warrior would return atWrestleMania VIII, but by November 1992, he had been released; it was later revealed that this was due to steroid use. In 1993, he legally changed his name to the mononym “Warrior”, and was credited as a co-writer for a comic book based around his name and likeness. Warrior returned to the WWF atWrestleMania XII, but lasted four months, as he began no-showing events. Two years later, he joined World Championship Wrestling (who had tried to hire him in 1995), being used in a much maligned storyline with Hogan, which culminated atHalloween Havoc. Warrior retired from professional wrestling and subsequently embarked on a public speaking career, but wrestled one final match in Spain in 2008.

Warrior died on April 8, 2014, at the age of 54 inScottsdale, Arizona. On the preceding three nights inNew Orleans, he had been inducted into theWWE Hall of Fame, appeared atWrestleMania XXXand made his final public appearance onMonday Night Raw, returning to the promotion after an acrimonious separation in 1996.

Early life

Warrior was born in 1959 as James Brian Hellwig,in Crawfordsville, Indiana, about 50 miles northwest ofIndianapolis. He was the oldest of five children and was raised by his mother (along with, later, his stepfather) after his father left his family when he was 12. His father died at 57 and a grandfather died at 52.The family moved and he graduated fromVeedersburg’s Fountain Central High School and attendedIndiana State Universityfor a year.

Bodybuilding career

Prior to his career in professional wrestling Hellwig was an amateur bodybuilder,competing in a number ofNPC contestsand winning the 1984 NPC Mr. Georgia crown. Hellwig started training with weights when he was 11 years old and described himself as “the small, insecure kid who wasn’t into any sports”He moved to California where, after seeing bodybuilderRobby Robinson, he decided to take up the sport. His first contest took place inFlorida, where he placed 5th. Later, while he was attendingLife UniversityinMarietta, Georgia, he won the Junior Atlanta contest and placed 5th at the 1981AAUCollegiateMr. America. In 1983, he won the AAU Coastal USA, before taking the Mr. Georgia title the following year. His last bodybuilding contest was 1985’s Junior USAs, which was won by future IFBB Pro, Ron Love. Hellwig finished 5th.

In 1985, after spending six weeks in California training for a bodybuilding contest, he was invited to join a group of bodybuilders – Garland Donoho, Mark Miller, andSteve Borden– to form a professional wrestling team. Warrior accepted the invitation and abandoned his bodybuilding career as well as his plans to become achiropractor.

Professional wrestling career

Continental Wrestling Association (1985–1986)

Hellwig began his professional wrestling career as Jim “Justice” Hellwig of Powerteam USA, the group of bodybuilders trained by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman.Hellwig and fellow traineeSteve Borden(who later had success as “Sting”), formed atag teamcalled The Freedom Fighters (Hellwig was known as Justice and Borden was called Flash).

The Freedom Fighters debuted in the Memphis, Tennessee-basedContinental Wrestling Association(CWA) promotion, run byJerry Jarrett, in November 1985. The team played babyfaces at first, but fans were actually slow to take to the hulking duo in a territory that had featured sympathetic “good guy tag teams” like theRock ‘n’ Roll ExpressandThe Fabulous Ones. They were quickly turned heel under “coach” Buddy Wayneand soon afterwards managerDutch Mantel.[15]They left the CWA in January 1986.

Universal Wrestling Federation (1986)

In March 1986, the Freedom Fighters – now known as the Blade Runners – joined theOklahoma-basedUniversal Wrestling Federation(UWF). Hellwig was “Blade Runner Rock” and Borden was “Blade Runner Sting”. According to Joseph Laurinaitis (akaRoad Warrior Animal), UWF ownerBill Wattscreated the Blade Runners and the intent was to make them a parody ofThe Road Warriors.They were part ofEddie Gilbert’s Hotstuff International group, before disbanding in June 1986 when Hellwig left the UWF.

World Class Championship Wrestling (1986–1987)

In June 1986, Warrior debuted in theDallas, Texas-basedWorld Class Championship Wrestling(WCCW) promotion, where he wrestled for $50 a night. He has stated that he adopted the ring name “Dingo Warrior” after a member of the WCCW locker room remarked that he looked like “a warrior”.This stood in contrast with a claim made by Road Warrior Animal, who stated that the Dingo Warrior was a recreation of Warrior’s Blade Runner gimmick and was an attempt to present himself as an offspring ofThe Road Warriors.

Initially, Warrior was still a heel in the territory, managed byGary Hart, although he was cheered during a heel versus heel feud with WCWA World Heavyweight ChampionRick Rudeafter the two fell out during a tag match. After switching managers toPercival Pringle III, Warrior turned babyface permanently after a falling out with fellow Pringle protegesBuzz SawyerandMatt Borneafter a six-man tag match. Warrior formed a tag team withLance Von Erich, and the duo began competing for theWCWA World Tag Team Championship. On November 17, 1986, Warrior and Von Erich defeatedMaster Gee(substituting for championBuzz Sawyer) andMatt Borneto win the title. They held the Championship until December 1 of that year, when they lost to Al Madril andBrian Adias.

In 1987, Warrior began competing for theWCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, losing toBob Bradleyin a tournament final on January 12. He won the title from Bradley on February 2 of that year. The title was held up in April 1987 after Warrior left the WCCW. He was reinstated as champion upon returning, but vacated it once more upon resigning from WCCW to join theWorld Wrestling Federation, where he adopted the ring name The Ultimate Warrior.Warrior began appearing on house shows in June and was initially billed as The Dingo Warrior in house card promos byGene Okerlund, but soon had his name modified. There is a dispute over who created the full Ultimate Warrior name.Bruce Prichardstated thatVince McMahondid not know what a “Dingo” Warrior was, but because there was the “Modern Day Warrior”Kerry von ErichandThe Road Warriorsthere should not be one more simple warrior, but the ultimate warrior.Warrior claims after one of his first matches, McMahon had him do a pretaped promo. It was there Vince said we want you to do Warrior, but we don’t want Dingo. The Warrior then proceeded to cut the promo and stated that he was not this warrior or that warrior, he was The Ultimate Warrior.Warrior made his final appearance with WCCW in June 1987.

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World Wrestling Federation (1987–1992)

Early push (1987–1988)

Hellwig joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in June 1987. First competing on house shows under his Dingo Warrior moniker, he defeated a series ofjobbers, includingSteve Lombardi,Barry HorowitzandMike Sharpe.He made his television debut as The Ultimate Warrior on the October 25 episode ofWrestling Challenge, where he defeated another jobber, Terry Gibbs.As The Ultimate Warrior character, Hellwig became known for his impassionedbabbling, incomprehensible commentary and high-energy ring entrances, which featured him racing into the arena full speed, bursting into the ring, and violently shaking the ring ropes up and down. He was also known for his distinctive pattern of face paint. After several months of defeating jobbers, he was pinned for the first time in the WWF by fellow WWF rookie/future rivalRick Rudeon December 28, 1987.In early 1988, Warrior entered into his first real WWF feud with fellow strongmanHercules Hernandez. The two faced off on the February 7, 1988 airing ofWrestling Challenge, where Hercules was disqualified for using his steel chain.Warrior then grabbed ahold of the chain and in the midst of a tug of war over it, the chain snapped.This led to a match atWrestleMania IV, where Warrior was victorious in his pay-per-view debut.Warrior lost twice by pinfall shortly thereafter: cleanly toAndré the Giantin April in Italy,and toDino Bravo, who put his feet on the ropes for leverage, inMontrealin June.In the summer of 1988, he wrestledBobby Heenanin a series ofweaselsuit matches, in which Warrior won by sleeper hold.

Personal Life

After divorcing his first wife, Shari, Warrior met his second wife, Dana, at his Arizona gym. They went on to have two daughters, Indiana and Mattigan.

WWE Hall of Fame and Death

Following a near two-decade estrangement from his former employers, Warrior agreed to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and to assume an ambassador role for the organization in 2014.

Taking the stage with his daughters at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of April 5, 2014, Warrior acknowledged his run-ins with McMahon and his peers and the long journey back into the WWE family. He attended WrestleMania XXX the following night and then appeared at Monday Night Raw on April 7, the occasion highlighted by another emotional speech from the former champion.

Shortly after his family arrived in Scottsdale on April 8, Warrior collapsed from a fatal heart attack, ending the life of the WWE legend at age 54.

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The Ultimate Warrior

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She did not respond to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and paramedics rushed her to the WellStar Kennestone Hospital Emergency Room, where she was pronounced dead at the age of 42. A medical examiner listed the cause of death as "acute toxicity", brought on by a mix of painkillers and vodka.

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