A Ravaged Warrior's Defeat: Looking Back At Ultimate Warrior's Failed WWE Return In 1996

One of WWE's most recognizable characters was the neon-clad, high-energy Ultimate Warrior, who rose to prominence in the WWF in the late '80s and into the early '90s. However, according to The Sportster, several questionable choices and tumultuous relationships with top wrestling executives, like former WWE CEO Vince McMahon, bred controversy throughout his career. Warrior first left the company in November 1992, with claims that McMahon released him due to his admitted steroid use and the crackdown on steroids in sports entertainment during that time. However, in the documentary "Warrior: The Ultimate Legend," McMahon asserted the release was due to Warrior experimenting with growth hormones. Whatever the reason, a plan to put the title back on Warrior was scrapped and he was released from the company until 1996.

His second wave in WWF came when the company needed star power due to the numerous top talent out with injury or signing with rival WCW, such as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. But whatever high hopes Warrior and McMahon had for the return didn't last long. His first match back was against a young, up-and-coming Triple H, better known at that point as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Helmsley wasn't at the level he is today, but he was presented strongly with few blemishes on his record. When he and Warrior battled at WrestleMania 12, Helmsley got a flurry of offense in before losing in under two minutes. Bruce Prichard later revealed on his "Something To Wrestle" podcast that Warrior changed the match, and it was not positively received backstage.

Warrior's Second Exit From WWF

At that point, several people in the industry had bad blood with Warrior due to past issues left unresolved. Former WWE official Earl Hebner had gone on the record in September 2022, saying that he, "liked [Warrior], but he didn't care about nobody or nothing." Fellow Hall of Famer Jake "The Snake" Roberts also had well-documented issues with Warrior that nearly led them to a physical confrontation at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. "... He looked at me [at the ceremony] and he goes, 'Jake, please let me apologize to you,'" Roberts recalled. "He was so humble. So sincere. My mouth just fell open. Is this the same damn guy? He said, 'I know I screwed you out of millions. I'm so sorry.' Then he turned around and made himself available for my kids and my grandchildren, and I had to let it go."

But in 1996, Warrior's bridges were aflame, leaving Vince McMahon with little tolerance for his mistakes. Warrior became unreliable shortly after his comeback, with Bruce Prichard recalling that he "wasn't showing up, wasn't answering phone calls" when the company was beginning to put him in a top spot once more. Ahmed Johnson, Shawn Michaels, and Warrior vs. Vader, Owen Hart, and The British Bulldog was scheduled for In Your House 9: International Incident, but it would never take place as intended as Sycho Sid took Warrior's place. Warrior would no-show once more, blaming it on the death of his estranged father, but McMahon ultimately decided to still release him.