After a weekend of mainstream media coverage including Daniel Bryan’s coronation and the Undertaker’s loss at the hands of Brock Lesner, the theatrical world of pro wrestling world was staggered by the untimely death of the Ultimate Warrior. James Hellwig (who had his name legally changed to Warrior) died on Tuesday and news of his passing broke on Twitter late Tuesday night.
The Warrior had largely been away from the wrestling scene since the late 1990s, but was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame over the weekend and his passing came less than a day after doing giving an in-ring speech on Monday night’s episode of Raw.
Warrior’s death was first tweeted by WWE Executive Vice President Paul Levesque and confirmed shortly thereafter by wife Stephanie McMahon and the WWE’s official account. Within moments other wrestlers and fans paid their respects on social media.
The Ultimate Warrior became one of wrestling’s most recognized stars in the late 1980s and 1990s. He won the WWF heavyweight title belt by defeating Hulk Hogan at Toronto’s Skydome during Wrestlemania VI.
By 1999 Warrior had walked away from wrestling, but he made a final appearance with a promotion in Spain in 2008. His Hall of Fame induction was his first appearance with WWE since 1996.
He had aged dramatically since his wrestling days, Warrior’s speech on RAW may have been a clue he knew his demise was near. He said the following during his speech to the crowd:
No talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life 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.
Warrior’s later years drew controversy in the political arena as he presented homophobic agendas, including at the University of Connecticut in 2005.
Whatever you may think of his personal viewpoints or of the professional wrestling industry, it is never good to see anyone die at the mere age of 54. Although wrestlers continue die early at an alarming pace, the timing of Warrior’s death is particularly shocking and surreal. At least fans got one final chance to salute him.