As the wrestling world mourns the death of one of the most popular and legendary superstars of all time, I can’t help but to think back at how I became an Ultimate Warrior fan. The face paint, tassels, vibrant colors & the electricity and excitement he brought to each and every match – Ultimate Warrior was one of a kind.
This week’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to the very beginning. It all started in Memphis, TN in 1985. It was before the war paint, long hair & WWF Championship. Like many other legendary wrestlers, Warrior started his professional wrestling career in the Memphis-based Continental Wrestling Alliance. Warrior was part of a tag team known as The Freedom Fighters. Teaming up with Steve Borden (who later became Sting), Warrior performed under his real name, Jim Hellwig.
Let’s pitch it to Lance Russel who is standing by at the desk to get a quick word with the debuting tag team.
The clip shows a different side of Warrior. The calm and collected Jim Hellwig transformed into a raging, hyper-active comic book character two years later when he joined the World Wrestling Federation. A mere three years later, Ultimate Warrior did the unthinkable and captured the WWF World Heavyweight Championship by defeating “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. In front of nearly 68,000 fans inside Toronto SkyDome at WrestleMania VI, Ultimate Warrior had reached the pinnacle of sports entertainment. Not only is Hogan vs. Warrior my all time favorite WrestleMania main event, but that match single-handedly made me want to become a professional wrestler.
Warrior died on April 8, 2014 at the age of 54. His untimely passing came just three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. After appearing at the Hall of Fame ceremony and WrestleMania XXX, Warrior made his first appearance on WWE Monday Night RAW in over 18 years. That’s where he said his final words to the WWE Universe. The very next day, Warrior died of an apparent heart attack. He will truly be missed.
Fun Facts: Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993, which is also the last name of his wife and children. He had recently signed a new three-year contract with WWE to be an ambassador for the company.
“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.
Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.