Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ultimate Warrior: The Loss of a Legend and a Hero

he·ro noun \ˈhir-(ˌ)ō\
: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities

: a person who is greatly admired

: the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc.

plural he·roes
Full Definition of HERO

a :  a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b :  an illustrious warrior
c :  a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d :  one who shows great courage
a :  the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work
b :  the central figure in an event, period, or movement
plural usually he·ros :  submarine 2
:  an object of extreme admiration and devotion :  idol

As kids we all have heroes we adopt while growing up.  We all have that someone to look up to and idolize.  We embrace our heroes and they in return give us a sense of direction and purpose.  You want to be that person when you grow up.  They become part of the foundation of who you are whether they realize it or not.

When I was a kid I was a huge wrestling fan which isn't surprising growing up in Texas.  I watched the WWF (now WWE) every chance I got.  Back then it was a lot easier to be a fan and believe in the characters since kayfabe was still around at the time.  You weren't told all the characters were fake and just normal people so you could believe in the magic on your TV.  The first time I saw Ultimate Warrior on TV I was instantly hooked.  It was nothing like the cheesy cookie-cutter image that Hulk Hogan presented us all the time.  This dude was fucking INTENSE.  As soon as his music hit he would run full speed to the ring, shaking the ropes, and screaming like a madman.  It was impossible to not be a fan after you saw it the first time.

This was a character you had never seen before.  The energy and charisma was astounding.  You couldn't help but be drawn into it.  The day he beat Hogan and won the world title I about lost my shit in pure excitement.  The hero had conquered all and reached the pinnacle.

I'm obviously grown now and much smarter to what I thought was the reality of things back then.  Kayfabe is gone, the mystique of the sport had vanished ages ago.  I'm still a fan though under the new reality of things.  We all know now that Warrior was a normal guy - James Hellwig - and had a normal life.  OK let's be honest here...normal isn't the best way to describe him.  He legally changed his name sometime back to Warrior, was a public speaker, and quite frankly was a bit off in left field at times when he talked.  He wasn't always the easiest to work with in the business since he wouldn't take shit when he felt he was treated unfairly and often times left the business and came back later.

Despite all his oddities and the times he had us wondering what the hell he might have been smoking, Warrior was always there somehow.  You may not have agreed with him, but you had to respect the fact he stood up for himself and what he felt.  Hell most people never agreed with his opinions, but the guy had no issue with defending his stance on anything regardless of how nut ball it was.  In a way he was always the masked lunatic you saw in the ring albeit slightly toned down as times changed and he got older.

After years of grudges with the WWE it looked like things had finally changed.  They were back on friendly terms, I believe he just signed a legends contract for a few years, and Warrior was finally getting a much deserved spot in the Hall of Fame.  I have to admit I felt like a kid again watching his induction Saturday as part of WrestleMania weekend.  Despite being 54 now and obvious signs of road wear from being in the business he still looked great and still had energy.  Hell even his acceptance speech was still on par with typical Warrior style as half of it made no damn sense like his promos back in his active days.  He even cut a promo on Raw Monday night and the crowd loved it.  Again, it didn't make sense half the time, but the Warrior style of sincerity and thanks for his fans was there.

It was kind of humbling to watch.  Years of business bullshit had finally turned into a moment of normality and appreciation.  I was sitting there watching him in the ring and felt like that kid again watching my hero.  It was kind of surreal honestly.

So WrestleMania weekend is over, Raw is done, and things are back to normal.  Last night I saw a report that made my jaw drop.  James Hellwig and his wife were going to their car at an Arizona hotel and he collapsed.  Upon being brought to the hospital he was pronounced dead.  I saw the initial reports on Twitter and refused to believe it.  The first one I saw reporting it was SportsCenter.  What the fuck do those guys really know?  It had to be bogus right?  Someone was either too quick to jump on a bullshit report.  I even considered maybe this was some sick leak for a story line from WWE on some weird Warrior to James Hellwig transformation or something.  As stupid as it sounds for a moment it actually made sense.  I didn't want to believe it actually happened.  The guy was just on TV looking more humble and content with life than we fans had seen him in ages.  It finally hit home when I saw the tweets from WWE and Vince McMahon both confirming it to be accurate and not some scripted insanity.

It then dawned on me what he said in his promo the night before.  Watching his promo from Raw again last night I honestly don't know if it was the ultimate prediction, or the strangest series of event we may ever see.  Below is part of the transcript of the promo he did Monday night that really hit home.  You can watch the full promo thanks to by clicking here.

“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 what 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. You, you, you, you, you, 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 The Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever.”

I'm still at a loss for words today and in a bit of disbelief.  The only thing I can think to say is thank you.  Thank you for being my hero as a kid and inspiring me to believe in myself.  Thank you for telling me that I can do whatever I set myself to do in life regardless of what anyone else tells me.  Thank you for giving me the change to be that kid running around my bedroom with a quite horrible face paint job and shoe strings tied around my legs looking like a complete idiot in hindsight but having the time of my life because for that moment I was my hero.  Your contributions to my life and those of many others will always be appreciated and you will never be forgotten.  You sir have earned your wings.

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