(video courtesy of WWE)
We know it’s not MMA related, but before all of this MMA stuff was around, the closest thing a lot of us had growing up to live combat was the WWF (now known as the WWE). Of those childhood memories The Ultimate Warrior was one of the most dynamic and unforgettable characters created and this writer spent much of his parents hard earned money watching pay per views as a child to see him “wrestle” some of the biggest names in the sport like Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. More comic book character than athlete, the guy was all hair and muscles and earned quite a fanatical following, myself included, who thought he was the baddest man on the planet. I eventually moved on from watching pro wrestling and started getting involved in martial arts and eventually MMA. It never captured my interest again. When news came of The Ultimate Warrior’s passing it stuck a nostalgic chord from days long past. Seeing his last speech being accepted in the WWE Hall of Fame what struck me is how much time flew by. Gone was the crazy haired guy that ran into the ring, lifted even larger men over his head and raged his way to victory. In his place stood an older silver haired man in a goatee wearing a mask addressing a crowd of kids who more than likely have only seen him wrestle on highlight reels.
A bittersweet reminder that time waits for no one.
The Ultimate Warrior had the “IT” factor regardless of whether his fights were scripted or not. In a way it’s the same stuff that made me get into MMA so eagerly. A personality that made you want to see him compete. He delivered intense performances that made the kid in you get out of your seat and cheer. Win or lose, he helped his sport grow into what it is now. Same can be said of the Chuck Liddels or Randy Coutures who in turn inspired so many young athletes to compete in mixed martial arts today. It’s a bygone era as we see more and more athletes come and go through so many different promotions. It’s harder and harder to become a household name if you get into a ring or cage.
But thanks to guys like the Ultimate Warrior and the memories they leave behind, it can inspire all of us to keep trying.
RIP James “Ultimate Warrior” Hellwig (June 16, 1959 - April 8, 2014)