They always say that you should make the most of life because you never know when it’s going to end. I don’t think that’s ever been more true than in the case of one of my childhood heroes over the weekend, the Ultimate Warrior.
My first real memory of wrestling is watching Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan one Saturday morning while my mother was doing the weekly ironing. I have no idea whether it was the full match or whether it was just highlights from Wrestlemania but that’s the first image that I have in my head from wrestling. I remember turning to my mum and asking her “Do you mind if I watch this” to which she replied “no”. At that age, I didn’t understand the question that I had just asked and so her telling me “no” caused me to take it that I couldn’t watch. I remember sulking until she explained to me what it meant and so with renewed happiness I turned back to the TV to continue watching and have been captivated ever since. Ultimate Warrior not only got me hooked on wrestling that day but also helped me learn something new, he was a man of many colours.
Over time the Ultimate Warrior slowly faded from public conciousness and it wasn’t unexpected, many old school wrestlers do fade away from the public eye. However, Warrior never stopped putting his name out there and with regular YouTube posts and tweets in recent years, it was easy to keep up with what the legend was doing.
For many Warrior fans, the dream was to see him inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame but for many many years, that looked like nothing more than a pipe dream. WWE and Warrior had seemingly destroyed all bridges and there appeared to be no chance of rebuilding them. It was sad but many of us came to terms with the fact that we would never see Warrior anywhere near WWE again. Then something magical happened, in 2013 WWE released a trailer for their new video game WWE 2k14 and right there, right in the trailer, was Warrior promoting the game, dressed in full Ultimate Warrior gear. It was one of those rare and unexpected moments that just was so exciting that I don’t think I’ve ever watched a trailer as many times over in my life.
Earlier this year WWE announced that FINALLY the Ultimate Warrior would take his place in the WWE Hall of Fame. If ever there was a collective cheers from a group of fans heard around the world then it was at that moment. There are a lot of people who don’t have a lot of good things to say about Warrior but he was a legend and he deserved to be there.
This past weekend came and on Saturday the Hall of Fame aired live on the WWE Network. Being in the UK it didn’t start airing over here until 2am (yes I know it’s not launched over here, but I wasn’t going to wait until next year for it so I had to be sneaky sneaky) As I do with most wrestling events I sat up late waiting for it to start, I then sat through all the speeches, not complaining about it because all the inductees deserved to be there but the one I was waiting for was Warrior. At around 4.45am he finally took to the stage, walked out arm in arm with his daughters and the man looked happier than I think he had ever been. He gave a speech that at times bordered on rambling but it was still fantastic all the same.
On Monday he appeared on RAW for the first time in almost two decades. As soon as that music hit, I felt chills going up my spine and excitement pulsing through my body. Ultimate Warrior was back in a WWE ring and I was as happy as any other Warrior fan. The obligatory rope shake occurred and at that moment, I looked at Warrior and thought to myself that he didn’t seem the same but then I chalked it up to his age and his not being an active competitor any more so I brushed it off. As he spoke I felt like a child again, Ultimate Warrior was in a WWE ring and I was watching it and it wasn’t a repeat, this was happening and this was happening right now. As he left the ring I found myself looking forward to his next appearance, he had recently said he signed a multi-year deal with WWE, and I couldn’t wait to see him again. However, there wouldn’t be another appearance.
It was a crushing blow, like being punched in the gut. I never met Ultimate Warrior, I didn’t know Ultimate Warrior but I was inspired by Ultimate Warrior. Without him I doubt that I would have been as captivated that Saturday morning all those years ago, I doubt that I would have discovered my love of wrestling at such a young age. I’m a grown man and I know that wrestling is pre-determined and there’s no competitiveness to it but I also know that I don’t care about that. I watch it because the storytelling that can be done in the ring is tremendous. I watch wrestling because a very young me sat cross legged on the floor watching a man in face paint captivate my mind.
Load up the spaceship with rocket fuel Warrior because wherever you’re going there’s a ring set up waiting for you with all the greats. You will have one more match and your legacy will live on forever.