Remembering The Life And Legacy Of The Ultimate Warrior

1985. After years as a bodybuilder, James Hellwig connected with a few fellow bodybuilders in California. One of them was Steve Borden – better known as Sting – who was transitioning into the world of professional wrestling. This inspired him to share Borden's passion, and he abandoned his projected career for the sake of being a pro wrestler. He received his first break as "Jim Justice," one of four members of Powerteam USA, along with Borden (known as "Flash"), Mark Miller and Garland Donoho. His trainer – Rick Bassman – was the manager of the group, and both Hellwig and Borden immediately became the focus. As a result, the two formed a tag team called the Freedom Fighters (Justice and Flash) under the tutelage of Dutch (Zeb Colter) Mantel, and then gained immense popularity as the Blade Runners (Rock and Flash) in Jerry Jarrett's Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion.

The team then moved on to Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling – which turned into the Universal Wrestling Federation – as members of Eddie Gilbert's Hot Stuff International stable. The two were one of the top heel tag teams in the promotion, and this catapulted Hellwig to endeavor in a singles career, leaving UWF to debut as Dingo Warrior for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW).

Before his singles push Warrior teamed up with Lance Von Erich, and won the WCWA Tag Team Championships. After just a short reign, the team split and Dingo Warrior fully pursued his career as a singles wrestler. His first achievement was winning the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, a title with a rich lineage of holders such as WWE Hall of Famers Jimmy Snuka, Rocky Johnson, Blackjack Mulligan and Ernie Ladd.

Based on his success as a singles competitor in WCCW, Warrior was offered a spot on the WWE roster in 1987.

From Jim Justice, to Justice, to Dingo Warrior, Warrior finally found a name that would stick – The Ultimate Warrior. He became so engulfed in his career, that he legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. His first major feud in the WWE was against Hercules, and it culminated at WrestleMania IV with an Ultimate Warrior victory.

He then had his sights on championship gold, and won the Intercontinental Championship less than a year after his debut by defeating Honky Tonk Man in an open challenge at SummerSlam 1988.

Then, the 1989 Royal Rumble. Warrior participated in a posedown with "Ravishing" Rick Rude. After getting the winning vote from the fans, Rude attacked Warrior, commencing a feud that would give Warrior his first major mortal moment by losing to Rude at WrestleMania V. Warrior would rebound from this loss, and regain the title four months later at SummerSlam.

However, Warrior was not satisfied with being just second in command. Shortly after winning the IC title for the second time, Warrior sought after Hulk Hogan's WWE Championship. At the Royal Rumble, they had a brief altercation during the match, but Warrior was eliminated by Hogan and two others after less than 15 minutes. Still, President Jack Tunney deemed him the number one contender for the world title, and the stage was set for Wrestlemania VI.

WrestleMania VI was the pinnacle moment of the Ultimate Warrior's career. Just five years in the professional wrestling business, he was main-eventing for the biggest wrestling event of the year against arguably the biggest and most popular name in WWE history. Not only did he have the opportunity to become world champion, but he took full advantage of it. Warrior defeated Hogan, celebrating with both the Intercontinental and WWE championships.

His first and only WWE Championship lasted until the 1991 Royal Rumble, where he lost to Sgt. Slaughter.

Warrior then began memorable feuds with Randy Savage, The Undertaker and Jake "The Snake" Roberts, before his departure after SummerSlam.

Ultimate Warrior made his return at WrestleMania VIII, assisting Hulk Hogan after a post-match attack by Sid Justice and Papa Shango. He began a feud with Papa Shango, and defeated Savage again at SummerSlam in a WWE Championship match, but by countout. Mysteriously, Warrior left the WWE again shortly after.

Nearly four years later, Warrior made his WWE return, defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a match at WrestleMania XII that lasted less than two minutes. Warrior then vowed to regain the Intercontinental championship, then held by Goldust. Although he achieved a countout victory at In Your House less than a month after his return, he was not able to pin Goldust for the title. These events, along with a brief angle with Jerry Lawler, were the only memorable moments in his third and last stint in the WWE. He departed again only a few months after his return.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs The Ultimate Warrior... by sir-roddick

During the time of Warrior's third departure from the WWE, Eric Bischoff and the WCW started to be a legitimate competitor to the WWE. The Monday Night War was starting to become more and more intense, and a number of wrestlers jumping over to World Championship Wrestling added an even greater level of shock value in this promotional feud. Bischoff still saw money in Warrior, and decided to bring him to the company in an attempt to relive the Hogan/Warrior feud, nearly ten years earlier. Unfortunately, it was a complete bust, and he only competed in a total of four matches during his short WCW tenure.

Ten years later, Warrior looked to revive his wrestling career by wrestling for Europe-based Nu-Wrestling Evolution. He won his last world championship by defeating Orlando Jordan for the NWE World Heavyweight Championship on June 25, 2008. After his win, he vacated the title.

After seven years of not being affiliated with the WWE, Warrior started to appear in commercials in 2013 promoting the WWE 2K14 video game and was one of game's feature characters.

This appearance left speculation of future endeavors with the WWE, and all speculation was extinguished when he was announced as the headliner of the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame.

He was officially enshrined a day before WrestleMania by Linda McMahon and made a poignant speech, telling his version of the heat formerly between he and Vince McMahon. However, he thanked Vince for giving him the opportunity, and especially thanked the Ultimate Warrior fans for making him who his is today.

Sadly, Warrior passed away on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. In his last television appearance on the night on Raw after WrestleMania 30, he continued to express his debt of gratitude to the fans by stating at the end of his speech, "I am the Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"

And indeed it will. Rest in peace, Warrior.