The ‘Ultimate’ legacy: Fans remember legendary performer

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The world of professional lost a legend when The Ultimate Warrior died suddenly on April 8, just a day after making an impassioned and moving, and final, promo on Monday Night Raw. We asked our friends and readers to share their memories of the Ultimate one. Following are some of those memories, including my own:

Jan Murphy: As a boy growing up in a rural setting, many of my public school friends were also WWF fans at the time. In the school yard, we’d all pretend to be our favourite superstar as we goofed around during recess. Inevitably, someone would simulate what is arguably the greatest wrestling entrance in history by running into the makeshift ring, pretending to shake the ropes and cleaning house. As someone who has been a fan of pro wrestling for most of my life, I literally have a lifetime of memories. But right near the top of those memories is Warrior’s “coming of age” victory over Hulk Hogan in Toronto at WrestleMania VI, making him the only (and still only) superstar to hold both the WWE and Intercontinental titles. What I remember of the warrior was his entrance, his power, his energy and his domination. He was as close to a real-life superhero as one could find. I’m a strong believer in fate and to watch Warrior come home to WWE, make amends, mend fences, find peace and deliver a stirring promo in the ring only a day before he would leave this life … that’s pretty strong evidence of fate setting things right. Rest in peace, Warrior. You may be gone, but your legacy lives forever.

Greg Barr: My most vivid and favourite memory of Ultimate Warrior was Wrestlemania VI.  Hogan vs. Warrior was electric.  By that time I was in Grade 10 thinking I was too sophisticated for rasslin.  I watched occasionally,  but my larger-than-life hero Hulk Hogan was looking bored, with no real challengers to his title. Then came the Warrior, this guy oozed intensity with every promo, he looked carved out of solid granite.  He plowed through jobbers and superstars alike to capture the IC title and then set his sights on the top of the mountain the WWF heavyweight championship.  Sure he was never a mechanic in the ring, didn’t possess the technical skills to dazzle the crowds but he had charisma. Intense, crazy promos that were positively riveting. His later years were a blur of bad promos, blown spots and a squash feud with the Hulkster in WCW so Hogan could get his loss back. Nothing will match Warrior’s match in SkyDome,  going over clean against Hulkamania.  He stood toe to toe with the immortal one and rose above to take his place in the pantheon of great champions. He had charisma, heart and belief in himself. Rest in Peace Warrior. Always believe.

Jesse Modz: I dressed up as him for Halloween when I was 6. I didn’t say trick or treat I just shook my bag and snarled.

Jason Rees: Mid-eighties live at a Maple Leaf Gardens, dark show with British Bulldogs vs Mr. Fuji and Demolition. Sweet.

Mat D’Angelo: If there weren’t any professional wrestling fans, there would be no wrestling. If there were no fans, these men and woman wouldn’t be doing what they are doing, doing what they love, living their dreams, performing for the masses.  As true as this is or may be and yes, I do agree, but at the same time I also see it as if it weren’t for someone like you who came out, ran out to the ring every time with such force, energy, charisma and passion and played your character that well, there probably wouldn’t be a me. I probably wouldn’t be the fan I am today. The man’s size, the man’s energy and charisma, the over-the-top-promos captivated me when I was just a little warrior and made him one of my childhood heroes and I was hooked. Hooked onto this thing called professional wrestling. This past weekend, seeing him at the Hall Of Fame and Mania then again on RAW brought back so many memories and moments and that little warrior in me came out. Today, I mourn the loss of a man but celebrate the career of a true legend. From Parts Unknown to arenas and television sets around the world, you captivated an audience for years. As a kid your theme would play in my head, to this day I still hear the beat of those drums and I’m sure will hear this play inside me until my time is up. Now that you are gone, the legend of The Ultimate Warrior will live inside me forever.  Ultimate Warrior….thank you and rest in peace.

Jon Hull: His match with the Macho Man was always my favourite.

Graeme McDonald: I’m a little old school in my wrestling tastes and it peaked for me around 1980 with the likes of Jimmy Superfly Snuka with his amazing acrobatics and The Baron with his wide-eyed crazed glare and the terrifying claw that we’d chase each other around the school yard with, gripping our right forearm as though our right hand had become possessed by some super human demonic force. My elementary school pal Duane Forde did the best Baron-glare ever and I often wondered years later if he didn’t have a leg up as a fullback in the CFL with giving The Baron’s glare over the backs of his offensive line. In my mind’s eye, it would have been terrifying!
There was of course Angelo King Kong Mosca who represented a dying breed of old school lunch-pail-rastlers who, as a 12 year old kid, I figured was the kind of guy who went to his job as a butcher or garbage man after doling out a healthy dose of every-man justice in the square ring. I could go on (an on), but these were the guys, along with a whole host of other awesome characters that me and my grade 6 pals reverently emulated and watched every weekend with devoted awe.
Then things went kinda wonky in the early mid eighties after Frank Tunney died and Maple Leaf aligned with the WWF. Something about the exploding scale of it and the glitz didn’t appeal to me so much anymore and the new characters were not nearly as compelling, but this may have had as much to do with me growing into my mid teens and watching through slightly more jaded lenses. But then, sometime around ’87-’88, after having not paid attention for a couple of years, I was sucked back in with a vengeance for one reason and one reason only…..the birth of The Ultimate Warrior. I get goosebumps thinking back to the first few times I saw this new force of nature take the ring. This frothy, crazed, incoherent monster with no agenda or side story, other than effecting the complete domination of his opponents, was the most exciting thing I had seen in years since the maniacal glare of The Baron goose stepping around the ring stalking his prey. I completely bought in to The Ultimate Warrior, wrestling was back in my life and I was rapt!
The Ultimate Warrior, who appeared to channel some crazy ancient god of war and destruction, would do these awesome promo spots that came off as terrifying incantations prophesizing doom and destruction for his opponents. Although largely incoherent, they were spectacular and almost as good as the matches themselves! There was also an air of mystery about The Warrior … who is he, where does he come from and what pit of the nine hells does he call home at night? The enigmatic character development was a critical part of the allure for me and it just made the whole character that much more visceral and real because if you didn’t have a back story to question, then it required no explanation and The Warrior simply was what he was and the whole thing just completely kicked ass. His physical prowess was unparalleled and he appeared to be able to dip into supernatural reserves of power that was devastating for his opponents….for Crom’s sake (yes a Conan reference), the guy military pressed Hulk Hogan!
It’s been a long time since I cared about wrestling and the truth is, for me, The Warrior died decades ago, but it took a rare and special kind of man to build that persona and so convincingly ‘BE’ The Ultimate Warrior and that man deserves the attention and respect from all of us that have ever loved the world of entertainment wrestling. I am sorry for his loss. Long live The Ultimate Warrior.

Sara Dusharm: I’m so upset….I LOVED THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!! I was a lil Hulkster when I was a kid, and always watched Maple Leaf Wrestling with my dad every Saturday!!

Ryan McGovern: I first saw the Warrior when I just started watching wrestling and he was the Dingo Warrior. Just an impressive man that reminded me of the Road Warriors (go figure!). I remember when he first got to the WWF they had him billed as The Warrior and he even came out to “The Warrior” by Scandal! A nice catchy song but certainly not good enough for the man that was coming down the aisle!!  My two biggest pops or cheers (whatever!) that I had for him were when he beat Honky for the IC Title (who didn’t cheer?) and the other was when he beat Hogan for the belt!!!! I hated Hogan with a passion!  I had a friend in school that called me “Rude Fan” when he saw me and I called him “Warrior” because as much of a fan of the Ultimate Warrior that I was, I was a huge Bobby Heenan mark so that meant I had to cheer for Rude! Although I have to admit I was a fan of Rude in the NWA when he teamed with Manny Fernandez managed by #1 Paul Jones! Wait a second, I’m getting away from the subject!!  I remember I thought something was up when the Warrior came out for an interview with a jacket and headband on and it turns out that was when Papa Shango put that spell on him and black liquid squirted down his face! I kinda lost interest after that …  Regardless, I was a fan before and I remain one today. I’m glad he went into the WWE HOF and was thrilled by his time on Raw. What a way to go out!!!

Shari Pennell: When I was a girl growing up in the ’80s, I idolized who my friends did, the teen heartthrobs and the big hair rock bands.  Typical for a girl growing up in the ’80s.  But that’s not all who I idolized.  I idolized people like Hulk Hogan, saying my prayers and eating my vitamins, Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana…I could go on.  One of my absolute favorites was, and still is, and always will be … The Ultimate Warrior.  Some people say he could have been so much more if he wasn’t so “one dimensional.”  He had strength, he looked great and every night he was in the ring he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, waiting on his every word.  So he may not have been the best on the mic (let’s face it, only a very few are).  What he had was something so much more.  He was intense, very intelligent and gave the crowd everything he had, every night he stepped into that ring. I was so shocked to hear this morning of his passing.  Just this past Sunday night , he took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, a place where I think he should have been long ago.  However, everything happens for a reason.  Maybe in some way, he knew his time here was coming to a close. Accepting the induction to the Hall Of Fame and being at Monday Night Raw for the first time since July 8th, 1996, was his way of saying goodbye to the WWE Universe, classic Ultimate Warrior style … on his terms.  The only way he knew how. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.  His legacy will live forever. Rest In Peace Ultimate Warrior … Rest In Peace.

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