In an absolutely shocking turn of events, former WWE and WCW performer The Ultimate Warrior has died at the young age of 54. While pro wrestlers dying young is sadly not a new phenomenon, what makes the Warrior's passing so surprising is that he just appeared at three different events during this past weekend's WrestleMania XXX festivities.
Warrior received what many felt was a long overdue induction into the WWE's Hall of Fame this past Saturday night, made a brief appearance during WrestleMania itself on Sunday, then appeared live on Monday Night Raw for the first time in almost two decades to deliver what will now be his final goodbye to wrestling fans around the world.
Yesterday evening, Warrior collapsed outside his Arizona hotel room, while walking to his car with his wife. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An official cause of death has yet to be released.
For those unfamiliar with the Warrior's career, he was born James Brian Hellwig, and began wrestling professionally in 1985. He entered the business in a tag team alongside fellow future icon Sting, before transitioning to World Class Championship Wrestling, where he played a character called The Dingo Warrior. He signed with the then WWF in 1987, where his ring name was quickly changed to the much more impressive sounding Ultimate Warrior.
Warrior was known primarily for his frantic ring entrance, one that involved him running to the ring at what seemed to the viewer like 100 mph. He would then enter the ring and shake the ropes, pumping his arms up and down, before crisscrossing between the ring ropes. Between that and his interviews, which often made no logical sense, but were full of passion and fire, Ultimate Warrior rose through the ranks like lightning.
In 1990, Warrior did the impossible, defeating Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Championship at WrestleMania VI in Toronto, Canada. He would hold the title for almost a year, before dropping it to Sgt. Slaughter. Warrior then transitioned into a feud with another now deceased legend, the "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
This culminated in a legendary "retirement" match at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles. After a falling out with company owner Vince McMahon, Warrior left the WWF in summer 1991, but would make brief returns to the company in 1992 and 1996. He also had a brief stint as a wrestler for competing promotion WCW in 1998, before retiring from active competition that year.
In the years since, Warrior has done some decidedly strange things. He legally changed his name to Warrior. He made politically charged speeches and wrote ranting blog posts expressing sometimes controversial opinions. That said, none of that really effects his legacy as one of the biggest superstars in the history of professional wrestling, and by all accounts a terrific husband and father.
Warrior is survived by his wife Dana and daughters Indiana and Mattigan. Whether the man knew he wasn't long for this world will remain up for debate, but here's a partial transcript of his now haunting final address to the WWE fanbase from Monday night:
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever."
TVRage extends our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of James "Ultimate Warrior" Hellwig.