Welcome to my new column for WrestleView.com, some of you may remember me as the author of ?The Spike Piledriver?. I?ve returned with a new column, one that explores some of the aspects of professional wrestling history that are considered to be ?common knowledge?.
This month, we?re taking on the idea that The Ultimate Warrior was an awful, selfish performer who never made anyone look good, never sold any wrestler’s offense, and was a dangerous person to work with. Go to any pro wrestling forum, and the Warrior is the butt of many jokes and is seen as a man who exemplifies everything wrong with sports entertainment. However, I?ve often wondered how true this really is.
There is plenty of validity to the reasons for hating the Warrior. He was far from a ring technician, had a limited set of moves, and had a character that was built upon dominating his opponents and being near-indestructible. For many wrestling fans (especially the ‘smart? fans), there is no redeeming qualities to any wrestler who is built this way. Also, the revelations about Warrior’s behind-the-scenes antics and actions over the past decade or so have really cast an ever larger shadow of disfavor from wrestling fans onto Warrior’s career.
I can?t sit here and say that these criticisms aren?t without merit. However, Warrior’s career has been full of enough high points that we cannot simply place the praise on his opponent’s ability to ?carry? the match.
In my opinion, Warrior’s first ?great? match came in his Intercontinental Title rematch against Rick Rude at SummerSlam 89. The match was a back and forth affair, with the two men carrying their own half of the workload in the match. Rude bounced and bumped all over the ring for Warrior, and Warrior made Rude’s offense look damaging and effective. In fact, Warrior’s victory came when Roddy Piper distracted Rude, allowing Warrior to hit a 2nd rope german suplex (at a time when such a move was never seen in the then-WWF). Undoubtedly, one of the more underrated matches of the 1980s, although the match has garnered more praise and respect with it’s placement on the ?History of the Intercontinental Title? DVD.
Watching this match, it’s evident to me that Warrior COULD sell another man’s offense and carry his share of the work in the match. In fact, if he had not been so difficult outside of the ring, he might?ve had a much more illustrious career.
Of course, no positive argument regarding The Ultimate Warrior would be complete without mentioning his classic match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. Granted, this was one of the most cautiously-planned matches in history, but it was done so more to protect the standing of both men, as both had been built to be nearly-unbeatable, and somebody had to lose. Neither Hogan or Warrior will ever be considered as a top ?worker? in the eyes of most fans. However, Warrior played his role well and both men did their best to make each other look strong.
Now, one match that people do not look upon favorably is Warrior’s loss to Sgt. Slaughter at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Granted, there was nothing pretty about this match?but then again, there wasn?t supposed to be. It was supposed to be an ugly brawl that involved outside interference, a valiant effort by the America-loving baby face, and underhanded tactics by a dastardly, hated heel. Most people know the basics of this match.
Many people generally crap all over this match because they either hated Warrior, hated Slaughter’s gimmick of the time as an Iraqi sympathizer (personally, I thought it was genius), or due to the fact that Randy Savage’s outside interference was oversold by Warrior.
First?who ever thought that the Warrior would ever be accused of overselling anything? Secondly, one must remember that in 1991, any kind of foreign object use was tantamount to certain victory. For Savage to use a lighting stand (far and away the most hardcore move of early 90’s WWF) AND bash Warrior in the head with his metal sceptre, that means certain doom at this period in professional wrestling.
Nonetheless, what people fail to do is take this match for what it is, a fun brawl with an ending that was a major shock and surprise to those of us who were around and watching during that time.
This leads me to Warrior’s other high notes, his two major matches with Randy Savage. His first, a classic retirement match at Wrestlemania VII in which both men gave their all to avoid the end of their careers. This included Warrior kicking out after 5 successive top-rope elbow drops and Savage kicking out after Warrior nailed his finishing combo of a gorilla-press drop and a running big splash (something that only one man, Hulk Hogan during the WrestleMania VI match, had ever done up to that point). The match, if you haven?t seen it, is a fantastic bout and highly recommended.
The other major match with Savage was at SummerSlam 92, in which Savage’s WWF Championship was on the line. While not close to the classic that the two men had put on a year and a half earlier at Wrestlemania VII, it is still a solid match wrestling-wise and includes a great storyline with Ric Flair playing mind games with both men.
So while The Ultimate Warrior never has, and never will be, referred to in the same breath as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, or even John Cena?he did have a track record of ?turning it on? at big events and delivering on his end of the bargain. So despite his reputation of be a strange individual who was stubborn, hard-headed, and difficult to work with?we cannot deny the fact that the man could, more often than not, work a good match when it mattered. So for that, I?ll side with the fact that the Warrior’s in-ring performance has been fairly under-appreciated by wrestling fans.
What do you think? Send your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.