Ultimate Warrior Profile
Born: June 16, 1959 (James (Jim) Brian Hellwig) | Birthplace: Crawfordsville, Indiana
Died: April 8, 2014 (Heart Attack)
Billed Hometown: Parts Unknown | Billed Weight: 280 lbs
Other Aliases: Jim Justice, Blade Runner Rock, Dingo Warrior, Warrior
James (Jim) Hellwig was a bodybuilder who became enlisted into a troupe of bodybuilder/wrestlers called Powerteam USA. The small group included – among others – another future wrestling legend, Steve Borden (Sting). Trained by Rick Bassman and Red Bastein, Hellwig’s first port of call was Memphis, with Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett’s Continental Wrestling. Teaming with Borden as the Freedom Fighters and then The Blade Runners, they were tried as faces before turning heel.
After a short time, they moved onto Bill Watts’ Mid-South/UWF. Hellwig did not last long in the territory after having issues with Watts and left in 1986, while Borden stayed. Out on his own, Hellwig went to Dallas for the Von Erichs’ World Class Championship Wrestling, where he went under the name Dingo Warrior. Initially working as a heel, the fans got behind him and he was made a babyface, teaming with Lance Von Erich and winning the WCWA Tag Team titles. He also captured the WCWA Texas Championship before signing with the World Wrestling Federation.
Hellwig debuted for the WWF in June 1987, initially working house show matches as Dingo Warrior before being re-named The Ultimate Warrior. His television debut was on the October 25 edition of Wrestling Challenge, where he squashed Terry Gibbs. His first feud was with Bobby Heenan’s man, Hercules, whom Warrior defeated at Wrestlemania IV. The Warrior’s unique style of running to the ring, shaking the ropes and dispatching opponents in quick fashion got hugely over with the fans, soon leading to Warrior winning his first championship.
On August 29, 1988 at the Summerslam pay-per-view, Intercontinental champion The Honky Tonk Man was informed that his scheduled opponent Brutus Beefcake would be unable to challenge for the title. Honky’s arrogance got the better of him when he went out to the ring and issued an open challenge to anyone in the back. After some delay and not even Howard Finkel knowing who to announce, the Warrior’s distinctive riff-heavy music kicked in, and under thirty seconds later, Warrior had splashed and beaten Honky to win the Intercontinental Title. Honky tried in vain to regain the belt but never could, and the next big superstar in the WWF was launched.
Warrior held the title until Wrestlemania V on April 2, 1989, where he was beaten in controversial circumstances by Rick Rude. Bobby Heenan had been a thorn in the Warrior’s side for most of his tenure in the WWF; Warrior had already humiliated Heenan in a series of “Weasel-suit” matches. In a “Super Posedown” competition at the Royal Rumble, Rude attacked Warrior with a workout bar and left him face-down in the ring. In the Wrestlemania match, Warrior was in control and attempted to suplex Rude into the ring when Heenan grabbed the Warrior’s foot and held it as Rude crashed on top and scored the victory. At Summerslam on August 29, 1989 Warrior regained the title from Rude after Rowdy Roddy Piper caused a distraction.
Heenan sent Andre to soften Warrior up for Rude, but it backfired, as the Warrior ran through Andre in a series of very short matches, some of them ending seconds after the bell had rung. At Survivor Series 1989, Warrior captained a team against The Heenan Family, captained by Andre. Right as the bell rang, Warrior hit Andre with several clotheslines, the final one knocking the Giant out of the ring. Andre was incapable of getting back up and was counted out. The match came down to Warrior against Arn Anderson and Heenan, and after pinning Anderson, he not-long-after beat Heenan to be the sole survivor.
At this point, it was clear that the WWF had found another main event star, one that was even rivaling WWF champion Hulk Hogan in popularity. Warrior had achieved much in a very short space of time; he captured the Intercontinental title in his first year, captured the championship again in his second year, dominated the legendary Andre the Giant, and now, was on course for something even bigger. The seeds were planted during the course of the Royal Rumble match on January 21, 1990. During the middle of the match, Hogan and Warrior eliminated numerous foes until there was just the two of them in the ring. The fans rose to the occasion, the two most popular stars in the company opposing each other for the first time.
After a sequence of moves, Hogan and Warrior laid each other out with a simultaneous clothesline. The next man in was The Barbarian, and things settled, but there was no question in the fan’s minds that they had just witnessed something special. Hogan went on to win the match, during the course of which he ‘accidentally’ eliminated The Warrior, who after another tense face-off, ran to the back. The match that would be dubbed the “UItimate Challenge” was signed for Wrestlemania VI at the Skydome in Toronto, Canada for April 1, 1990 – WWF champion Hulk Hogan against Intercontinental champion, The Ultimate Warrior.
Exceeding all expectations, Warrior and Hogan had a match for the ages, with plenty of action and drama to the delight of the over sixty-three thousand fans in attendance. It seemed like the match was going through the usual process – Hogan kicking out of the finish, hulking up, pointing the finger. Warrior got dropped with a big boot, and Hogan wound up for the legdrop. Instead, Warrior moved, hit the big splash, and held “The Hulkster’s” shoulders down for the three-count to become a dual champion (Warrior was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental title soon after).
For the first time in many years, Hogan was cleanly defeated and vanquished by a better man. Hogan handed the WWF Championship over in a “passing of the torch” moment, which seemed to signal the end of something, but the beginning of something as well. There was no rematch or attempt by Hogan to regain the title over Warrior, and they proved to be strong allies in any case. In a grand final Survivor Series team elimination match on November 22, 1990, Warrior, Hogan and Tito Santana defeated Ted Dibiase and the entire Visionaries team (Santana was eliminated). Earlier in the year, Warrior again knocked back the challenge of Rick Rude in a steel cage match at Summerslam on August 27.
The Warrior’s reign as WWF Champion ended at Royal Rumble 1991 on January 19, when he dropped the title to Sgt. Slaughter. The “Macho King” Randy Savage had proclaimed himself the top contender, and had announced that he had been given assurance from Slaughter that should he win, Savage would get a title shot. At the Rumble, Sherri spoke with “Mean” Gene Okerlund and asked Warrior to come out. She begged Warrior to at least promise to give Savage a shot, to which the Warrior gave a resounding, “NOOOOOO!” During the course of Warrior’s title defense, Sherri and Savage interfered, with Savage smashing his scepter over Warrior’s head to allow Slaughter to get the pin. Warrior was set on a collision course with Savage, and at Wrestlemania VII on March 24, 1991, he survived multiple flying elbowdrops to pin Savage in a “Career Ending” match.
The Warrior went dark after he was ambushed by The Undertaker and locked inside a metal casket on a segment of Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlour. An army of officials tried desperately to free him, finally managing to get the lid open to reveal a lifeless Warrior. Jake “The Snake” Roberts offered to help Warrior prepare for the “Grim Reaper” and put him through a series of ‘tests,’ such as being locked in a casket again and digging his own grave. The final test saw Warrior have to enter a room full of snakes. In the middle of the room was a box, that when opened revealed a king cobra, which bit Warrior in the face. As he succumbed to the venom, Jake was joined by The Undertaker and Bearer, revealing that he had been in cahoots with them the whole time.
While all this was going on before the eyes of the fans, another fight was happening behind-the-scenes. At Summerslam 1991 on August 26, The Warrior had teamed with Hulk Hogan against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa and General Adnan. Dubbed the “Match Made in Hell,” Warrior had prior to the event asked for revisions to be made to his contract (along the same lines as Hogan) and also requested $550,000 for the Summerslam match or he would not perform. After Vince gave in to the demands to guarantee Warrior’s participation at the pay-per-view, McMahon chose to suspend him indefinitely. (Another version of the story propagated by the WWF was that Vince fired Warrior the moment he came through the curtain after the Summerslam bout).
In the lead-up to Wrestlemania VIII on April 5, 1992, it was strongly suggested that this would be the site of Hulk Hogan’s final match (this was also the belief behind-the-scenes as Hogan was looking to quit wrestling to do film and television). As a result, Vince made amends with the Warrior to make his return, doing so after Hogan had defeated Sid Justice by disqualification. Warrior ran out to make the save as Hogan was about to be double-teamed by Sid and Papa Shango and received a big reception from the large crowd in the Hoosier Dome.
After Wrestlemania, Warrior was put into a program with Shango, a master of voodoo who put a ‘curse’ on the Warrior, causing him to get violently ill and vomit uncontrollably. Warrior overcame the ‘curse’ and received another shot at the WWF Championship – now held by Randy Savage – in the main event of Summerslam 1992 in London, England.
Warrior won the match when Savage was counted out. With the “Macho Man” having his problems with Ric Flair, Mr Perfect and Razor Ramon, Savage turned to Warrior to form a super-team known as the Ultimate Maniacs. For the Survivor Series 1992 pay-per-view on November 25, Warrior was set to team with Savage against Flair and Ramon, when once again, The Warrior exited. Around this time, Vince McMahon was being investigated on federal charges for supplying steroids to his wrestlers, which led to Warrior being released.
In a case of Vince believing third time was the charm, Warrior was unexpectedly brought back in 1996, right in time for Wrestlemania XII on March 31, where he squashed future legend, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (as part of the deal, the WWF had to air advertisements for Warrior University, a short-lived wrestling school Hellwig had started prior to re-signing). On the April 8, 1996 edition of Monday Night RAW, The Warrior cut a promo that was interrupted by Intercontinental champion, Goldust, leading to a challenge for the In Your House VII pay-per-view on April 28, which he won by count-out.
After a few more television matches, The Warrior was set to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Vader, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog for the In Your House XI pay-per-view on July 21. Instead, he was suspended indefinitely for missing several house shows, and was not brought back again. (Warrior claimed that he needed the time off to bereave over his recently-deceased father, a story Vince did not believe).
In mid-1998, WCW agreed to sign The Warrior (in 1993, Hellwig had legally changed his name to “Warrior”), and again, his stay was short. He immediately challenged the now-Hollywood Hogan and the New World Order, and came across like a superhero-style character who could appear and disappear in a cloud of smoke, and even had a Warrior-symbol. He made a brief appearance in the WarGames match at Fall Brawl 1998 on September 13 for Team WCW, worked a tag match with Sting against Hogan and Bret Hart on Nitro, and then attempted to re-create the famous Wrestlemania VI match by challenging Hogan for the WCW World title at Halloween Havoc 1998. In a universally panned match, Warrior lost after Horace Hogan smashed a chair across his back. Warrior left the company soon after when he could not agree on terms and retired at the beginning of 1999.
Warrior came out of retirement for one more match in 2008 for Nu-Wrestling Revolution in Barcelona, Spain, where he defeated Orlando Jordan for the Nu-Wrestling Revolution Heavyweight title (which was immediately vacated). Warrior spoke out many times about Vince McMahon and other subjects – including Hulk Hogan – and was especially unhappy with the WWE’s Self-Destruction of Ultimate Warrior DVD released in 2006, that buried him and his career, leading to Warrior issuing lawsuits. It came as a shock then, when Warrior announced on February 20, 2013 that he had accepted WWE’s offer to be in the 2014 Hall of Fame; tellingly, he chose Vince McMahon’s wife Linda to induct him.
On the April 7, 2014 RAW, The Warrior gave what would end up being his final farewell, a memorable message that seemed to suggest he knew his time had come. In a few short days, Warrior made amends with Vince and also appeared to patch up some issues with Hogan. On April 8, Warrior collapsed while walking with his wife Dana to their car outside their Arizona hotel room, and was pronounced dead in the hospital.