Weird. He is just a weird guy, or at least that is how he comes across. Every now and then Ultimate Warrior ends up making news in the wrestling media for one reason or another. A few months ago it was a war of words with Hulk Hogan. Warrior ended up posting a long video in which he called out Hogan and several issues. This week it was some insignificant rift with Kevin Nash. I don’t really care about what is going on in these squabbles, but whenever Warrior comes up I have to smile. I always seem to lighten up when I reminisce about the guy. Warrior gets a bad rap and it’s really not fair. If it is his fans or his peers, there are always people criticizing not only his personal views, but his contributions to wrestling. I remember watching Warrior as a kid and being mesmerized by his every move. When he comes up in the news because of something he did or said, it’s easy to forget why we all loved this guy in the first place. For many, they forget they even liked him at all.
The most overlooked aspect of Warrior was the quality of his matches. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. His first big match was arguably his win over Honky Tonk Man at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988. Honky Tonk Man was the longest running Intercontinental Champion in WWF history when he walked into Madison Square Garden. It took half a minute for Warrior to unseat him in one of the more fun squash matches I’ve ever seen. HTM never even got his jacket off. Warrior went onto have two very memorable matches for the I-C title with Rick Rude. The first was at WrestleMania V, where Rude unseated Warrior as champion after assistance from Bobby Heenan. The second was at the second SummerSlam when Warrior won the title back. When fans talk about the matches these two had, they will mention the cage match they had in 1990, but there feud in 1989 was much better and one of the more overlooked I-C title feuds.
You can’t discuss Warrior’s matches without mentioning his legendary match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI in Toronto. The back and forth action had me on the edge of my seat as a kid. You could never tell who was going to come out on top. I was ecstatic when Warrior got the pin and took home the WWF Championship. Hogan had a lot of really good matches, but this one always stands out. Perhaps it’s because it was one of the few he lost. It was at a time when the World Wrestling Federation decided to go another direction, even if it was a temporary one. I always imagine what it will be like when it’s time for John Cena to pass the torch, even if it’s just for a while. It doesn’t have to happen at WrestleMania, but I do envision it playing out very similar to the way Hogan-Warrior was handled at WrestleMania VI.
As great as that match was, I can’t rank it above one particular Warrior match. Last year around WrestleMania I put together a string of columns which listed out my favorite Mania matches. Making it towards the top of the list was Warrior’s retirement match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII. There is so much about this match that was good. At one point, Savage came off the top rope only for Warrior to catch him, set him down on his feet, and then slap him across the face. It was Warrior telling Savage that even if he brought everything he had, there was nothing he could do. Warrior was going to end his career. Savage eventually gained the upper hand with assistance from Sheri. Savage put Warrior down with several of his flying elbows, only for Warrior to kick out. What I love so much about that spot to this day is that it wasn’t overbearing. It may have been a bit over the top, but it was nothing like what we see today where guys are kicking out of each other’s finishing moves over and over again. Fans have praised the last three Mania matches for Undertaker, but I just kind of groan and shrug when people start talking about them as classics. Once Warrior decisively put Savage away, it was clear an incredible match had just taken place.
Aside from match quality, people will frequently knock his promos. For those of you who saw WWE’s DVD on Warrior, you know there were several people on that documentary talking about the rambling and the nonsense that came out of his mouth. Sure his promos weren’t great. He was no Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, or Vince McMahon when it came to promos. But guess what? He wasn’t supposed to be. The whole reason I wrote this column was because of a moment I had with my son this week. We had to take him to the hospital and he was not feeling good after we came home. I was holding him and brought up a Warrior promo on YouTube. He began giggling right away before outright laughing. Part of the point of being a wrestling fan is to enjoy it, and even if Warrior’s promos weren’t works of Dante, they at least made me enjoy what I was watching.
If you have forgotten about what Warrior did during his run, I encourage you to go back and watch his stuff again. You never know what you might realize. If you are maybe someone who has never watched him, it is definitely worth it. He wasn’t on top long, but the time he was is very important in wrestling history. There is just something about him running down to the ring, shaking the ropes like he just snorted a pillowcase of cocaine. Open yourself up and feel the power! Embrace your inner Warrior!