Jim Warrior, aka James Brian Hellwig, aka Blade Runner Rock, aka Dingo Warrior, aka Ultimate Warrior, aka The Warrior, aka One Warrior Nation…take your pick, there were certainly a great many names Jim Hellwig went by in his short but impactful wrestling career.
In 2006 WWE released “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” in which a lot of contracted WWE talent buried the Ultimate Warrior and mocked his run, his wrestling ability and his general character.
That’s right, time for me to weigh in.
What you’re about to read isn’t the work of a doughy eyed mark, nor is it being written with fond memories because of his passing. Jim would have hated that; almost as much as he hated me calling him Jim.
I had the good fortune to speak with Warrior on two occasions. The first came shortly after 9/11 when he was very outspoken on US involvement overseas. We had a brief war over his website’s comments area followed by, much to my shock, a phone call. He challenged me to give him my personal information so he could directly address my problems with his views on global politics.
We spoke for well over an hour and I vividly remember being exhausted by the end of it. Neither of us convinced the other that our point of view was correct, but by the end of the conversation he said to me;
“You know Dave, you have strong beliefs and I respect your resolve to hold on to them. Never lose that and never let anyone bully you into following the herd. For what it’s worth, you have my respect.”
Most of you know by now that it takes a great deal to render me speechless, even more when I was younger and full of more piss and vinegar. Even so, I replied;
“I don’t have to agree with someone to like them Jim.”
A few years later news began to come out about abuses in the War on Terror and Warrior began to change his point of view. Being the smartass that I am, after a post he made on his website I commented that I was glad that he was starting to understand what I’d said all along.
And that was when my phone rang.
“Dave. I was wrong.”
I changed the subject entirely and we spoke for a few minutes about politics and the state of wrestling before I could hear his daughter in the background asking for something. It was only after a few days had passed that two things occurred to me.
#1 – He still had my phone number.
#2 – He remembered my name.
I’ll admit it, I marked out a bit.
Now, some backstory.
I got into wrestling like a lot of people in my area did, watching WWF on TV.
I saw the debut of the Ultimate Warrior and it captured my attention. I was seven years old and here was this huge guy running like madman towards the ring, shaking the ropes and running over his opponent. The Warrior/Hercules feud was the first time I was exposed to an actual storyline. Until that point all I ever saw were the stars squashing the jobbers.
His promos were incomprehensible, most of the time he was winded by the time he got to the ring and his move set was basic at best. He was colorful, brimming with energy and at that age I didn’t much care how many moves he had. I was hooked.
WrestleMania 6 was one of the first pay per views I ever saw with my Dad. He hated that I liked wrestling, almost as much as he hated me reading comic books. Which only meant I more eager to explore more of it. When Warrior pinned Hogan I remember screaming my stupid head off, I was eleven. When he just disappeared off of TV, I was upset. Of course, by then I was into heels more than faces anyway.
When he returned in 1992 and had a series of odd feuds, odd even by 13 year olds standards, I went sour on the WWF product.
I moved on to other promotions, including local territory promotions. I’m not much of a wrestling historian, but I do study the things I enjoy and learn as much about them as possible. I ended up getting video tapes of Stampede Wrestling, which my cable provider didn’t air. From there I began watching WCW because we did have TBS.
That being said, I was a Warrior mark and still am. I can’t explain why, but that’s the whole point of marking out for something; it defies rational thought.
I was happy for Jim getting into the Hall of Fame, just like everyone I was excited yet concerned about what his acceptance speech would sound like…and like everyone I was pleasantly surprised. His speech on Raw a couple days later was on par with what we’ve come to expect from Jim and it went over like it usually does.
He wasn’t a good wrestler, but he was an incredible entertainer. He had charisma to spare, a stubborn streak a mile wide and self-confidence in spades. Jim wasn’t perfect; he was demanding of others and intractable. I didn’t know him, but I count myself lucky to have had a chance to talk to him, even though we argued the whole time.
I hope his wife and daughters know and remember just how much he loved them.
I’m going to miss Jim.