What Is He Thinking?! Volume 6 - Ultimate Warrior, WWF 1996
by Scrooge McSuck
- It's been a good 10-months since the last installment of "What Is He Thinking, so here's a refresher for any new readers out there: I basically take a subject, compile some footage regarding that subject, typically a performer, and recap it. The catch is that it's stuff that no one would typically bother doing. For example, who gives a shit about the One Man Gang's WCW run in 1996, or the bizarre mishandling of Ultimo Dragon by WWE in 2003? I still have plenty of ideas in my mind for the series, but I figured I would work on a subject that has become hot news in the wrestling world, without so much as making a live appearance.
I am writing this introduction on the first of August, 2013. Several weeks ago, WWE released a commercial hyping WWE '14, with none other than THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR as the shill-man, who also appears in the game as a downloadable superstar if you pre-order. Yes, hell did indeed freeze over. The last time the WWE did ANYTHING with the Warrior's likeness on a national scale, it was a slander filled, tasteless DVD released in 2005 where everyone and their mother shat on the Warrior's career and legacy.
I'm going to admit it: I'm a closet Warrior geek. I cheered for him initially growing up, cheered for him again in 1992 when he made his first comeback and was mistakenly identified as Kerry Von Erich because the "real Warrior died", and then, in 1996, he came back, again. I still liked the Warrior, but I'll be honest: I expected him to either never make an appearance or to disappear as quickly as possible. For those who have seen the above mentioned DVD, you'll note that the era from 1996 (and 1998 WCW) was particularly criticized and talked about even more harshly than anything else. It's time to set the WAYBAC Machine for the Spring of 1996 and see if there's any justification to some of those stories...
- We start things off with a pair of vignettes hyping the Ultimate Warrior's return at WrestleMania XII. Notable of one of them is Todd Pettengill informing us how he defeated the "self-proclaimed Immortal" Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title and retired Randy Savage at consecutive WrestleMania's, the two main targets of the on-going series of Billionaire Ted sketches that ran for about three MONTHS. After seeing Jake Roberts' return, I had genuine fears Warrior would come back looking like a pathetic shell of his former 'self, if he showed up at all. It wasn't until about 2-3 weeks before the PPV that his opponent was advertised as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, he of legendary feuds with Henry Godwinn and Duke Droese over their disgusting ways of life.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley:
From WrestleMania XII, held on March 31st, 1996 in Anaheim, CA, a card so notable for roster depth, it featured an hour-long main event and a one-night only in-ring return of Roddy PIper. I guess there wasn't much belief that a Makin' a Difference Fatu vs. Justin Bradshaw match would tear the house down. You might find this surprising, but each individual introduction is longer than the match itself. Helmsley attacks from behind, unloading with rights. Whip, boot to the chest, and the Pedigree connects... and Warrior absolutely no-sells it, a clip modern fans love to death, I'm sure. Warrior goes into his comeback mode, lays Helmsley out with clotheslines, a shoulder tackle, press slam, and splash to finish things off quite convincingly at 1:39. Rumors (and by rumors, I mean stories from that DVD) insist this match was meant to go long(er), near the 10-MINUTE range, but Warrior demanded it to be a quick, sudden squash. I'm sorry, but I feel having Warrior come back and NOT destroy someone within 90-seconds would be the dumbest thing possible. Helmsley was a well-protected, upper-mid-level heel, and having Warrior trash him instantly reminds everyone how big of a deal Warrior was. This isn't Jake Roberts, someone who's act relied on taking a beating and milking crowd sympathy: Warrior was an ass-kicking machine that was nearly unstoppable.
- From the April 8th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. Vince McMahon brings out the ULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLTIMATE Warrior for his first-ever appearance on Raw, and his first nationally televised appearance since November '92's Saturday Night's Main Event. It's a basic "where were you and what have you been up to" interview. Real answer: On your bad side and sitting at home, enjoying time off. Kayfabe answer: nonsensical rambling typical of the Warrior. He was deep in his own mind until he heard the fans speak to him, pointing out to all four of them. Goldust interrupts, instantly setting up an Intercontinental Title Match at IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies. The most notable moment of said confrontation: Warrior calling Goldust a fruitcake. After all, "queerin' don't make the world work."
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
From IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies, originally broadcasted on Pay-Per-View on April 28th, 1996. Earlier in the night on the Free For All, an ambush on Warrior went wrong, and Goldust ended up tweaking his knee (kayfabe). Unfortunately for paying fans, this wasn't going to stop the match from taking place, while not taking place either. I don't know why, but the "match" was nothing but Goldust playing the stall game, while the crowd waited (mostly) impatiently for something to happen... and that something didn't happen until nearly 10-minutes after both men made it to ringside. Warrior quickly attacked Goldust with clotheslines, officially starting the match, and instantly sending Goldust to the floor to take a walk and retain the Intercontinental Championship via count-out loss. Post-match, Warrior gets to beat up on the unnamed Bodyguard, because the fans spent $20 for that (on PPV, at least).
Goldust © (w/ Marlena & Bodyguard) vs. The Ultimate Warrior:
As much as I wanted to see the Main Event of Shawn Michaels and Diesel for the WWF Title, I was equally excited to see the Warrior win the Intercontinental Title. Poor, uneducated mark... considering Warrior's track record of being fired from the company, there was no way in hell he would get a Championship reign, and there was even less chance he would willingly do a job to Goldust. That leaves only the possibility of a bullshit finish, but why a 10-minute match of nothing? If Goldust really WAS hurt, then pull the match, or do a rush-job with the ending, and put on an unadvertised match to fill the void of the time the match was going to take. This, even 17-years later, still marks one of the most shameless attempts at a bait-and-switch, only topped by the Savio Vega incident at No Way Out '98.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Isaac Yankem D.D.S.:
From the April 29th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, televised live from Sioux City, IA. When you think WWF, you think of Sioux City. After coming in to resume Lawler's feud with Bret Hart, Yankem had settled into a JTTS role ever since that was blew off in October '95. Warrior's must've been feeling great that night, doing his entrance not once, but twice. Don't ask. Typically one lengthy sprint left him sucking wind immediately, so two should've technically killed him. Lawler coaches Yankem with some pre-match instructions, but I doubt they will help him. Vince McMahon with a shameless shill for "Warrior University", with information made available "this coming Saturday" on Mania. Warrior controls to start, sending Yankem to the corner and following with a clothesline. He tosses him to the floor as we take a commercial break. Back from break, Warrior with a series of clotheslines, followed by a diving shoulder tackle and splash, and yep, it's all over at 2:02. Yankem didn't get so much as a punch in. Post-match, Warrior dumps him out of the ring, only for him to return in September as "Diesel." Lawler threatens to take care of Warrior himself, but will likely save it for another day. Just a squash match, as if we were expecting something otherwise.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Owen Hart:
From the May 19th, 1996 card held at Madison Square Garden, which means it's a random edition of FanCam Fandemonium! Honestly, it's better suitably titled as "Filler", otherwise this whole collection of stuff would fill out maybe 60-minutes. If you need a reason for why Warrior is facing Owen, it's because someone had to. No one wants to pay for tickets to see Warrior vs. Tatanka. We join the video already in progress, but judging by the looks of things, it's barely after the introductions. We cut to Owen finally entering the ring, only to be taken down with a pair of hip tosses and sent to the floor following a clothesline, resulting in more stalling. We take another cut, with Warrior stalking Cornette, only for Owen to cheap shot him. Back in the ring, Owen pounds away, only to get pressed in the air and dropped on his face. Warrior slingshots him to the buckle, slams him face-first to the canvas again, and jerks him around with a handful of hair. Whip is reversed, and a spinning heel kick has no effect. Owen with a diving clothesline with as little results. He practically tackles Warrior into the corner and pounds away. Cornette with a cheap shot with the tennis racket, and Owen comes off the top with an axehandle. Owen with some mocking of the Warrior before unloading with the Enziguri of Doom. He heads to the top again, this time connecting with a missile dropkick. Warrior blocks and counters a suplex with his own, and it's time for the big comeback. He comes off the ropes with a flurry of clotheslines and the diving shoulder tackle, and that's enough for the three count at 6:33 (Shown). Decent match, but the editing cuts out some stalling, I'm sure.
King of the Ring Opening Round Match:
From the May 27th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. Note how the tournament labels this as a "First Round" Match rather than a Qualifying Match. I guess that makes it possible to do some screwy things to the brackets. Goldust stalls to start, so Warrior chases him around the ring. Into the ring, Warrior lays into him with rights, followed by an inverted atomic drop. Warrior with another, sending Goldust to the floor for more stalling. Goldust's offense gets no-sold and Warrior sends him right back out following a press slam. Warrior follows him out, throwing him over the security rail. Goldust goes to the eyes and sends Warrior to the rail, but it's no sold and he rams Goldust to the post. Back inside, Goldust puts Warrior down with a slam and slaps on a chinlock. Warrior powers to his feet and escapes with an electric chair drop. Goldust teases walking out, but Ahmed Johnson cuts him off, because (...) and carries him back to the ring.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Goldust (IC Champion; w/ Marlena):
We come back from break, with Goldust stalling on the floor AGAIN. He pulls Warrior out and rams the leg into the apron, then face-first to the steps. Back inside, Warrior stomps him down in the corner. Whip to the corner and he misses a dive. Goldust pounds away with rights and throws him through the ropes, right into Marlena's Director's Chair. HOW DARE YOU! Back inside (I'm sorry if I keep typing it, but dammit, they keep doing it), Warrior offers a comeback, actually going for a pin attempt after a back drop. Warrior with a BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPLEX for two. Goldust goes to the eyes, then to the nuts as he distracts Tim White with the classic "look over there!" technique. Snapmare and back to the chinlock. This lasts a while. Warrior fights to his feet and powerslams Goldust for two. He starts shaking the ropes, and we all know what that means. Clotheslines and a shoulder tackle, sending Goldust to the floor. Warrior follows, and it's a Double Count-Out at 12:36. Meanwhile, Jerry Lawler threatens Warrior with the chair, but drops it and takes off before any harm can be done. This match kind of sucked, but at least they actually went out there and tried to work a match.
- From the June 10th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. Vince McMahon is in the ring with Jerry Lawler, then brings out the Ultimate Warrior, who happens to come to the ring with a hat on. Odd, but we'll soon find out why. You see, there's a match scheduled for King of the Ring between Lawler and Warrior, for reasons that don't really get explained. Lawler mentions how Warrior thinks he's responsible for costing him the KOTR, but looking at the above paragraph... that means zero sense. Lawler shills that stupid Warrior comic and has a peace offering: a framed portrait of the Warrior. Warrior rejects the present, and threatens an ass-kicking at the King of the Ring, so Lawler bashes him over the head with the frame, glass shattering and all. Hmm... maybe Warrior has the hat on to make sure he didn't get his head sliced open. I'm surprised they cared this much to establish a match between the two.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler:
From the King of the Ring PPV, originally broadcasted on June 23rd, 1996 from Milwaukee, WI. If you really think hard about it, this is roughly tied for the least important match on the PPV. The WWF Title Match, IC Title Match, KOTR Tournament, and Undertaker/Mankind were all more important in build-up, and you can even say the Tag Title Match was more important, too. Anyway, Lawler makes the best of the situation, doing his best to heckle and mock as many fans as he can for the length of his entrance. I would pay for a 3-hour PPV of jackass heel Jerry Lawler taking shots at as many people as he can in a 15,000 person attended event. "It's girls like you that turn men into people like Goldust" is still classic. Lawler attacks Warrior from behind with a scepter, choking him on the arena floor. He sends Warrior to the steps and chokes him some more. In the ring, Lawler clotheslines Warrior with his wrist tape and continues to choke him. Warrior offers a comeback, but Lawler levels him with a mysteriously unseen "foreign object." Lawler with the Piledriver, but Warrior does his best Hawk impression, popping up like nothing happened. He goes through his routine, comes off the ropes with clotheslines and a shoulder tackle for the three count at 3:51. Not even a splash? Lawler's pre-match stuff was entertaining, the match was as it read: crap.
- At the end of the King of the Ring PPV, the finish of the WWF Championship Match lead to a three-on-three encounter with Camp Cornette (Vader, Bulldog, Owen) against the Super-Team of Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, and the Warrior, setting up a Main Event, 6-Man Tag at IYH: International Incident...
- ... but all was not well for the WWF and the Ultimate Warrior. On the July 8th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, we open with an official announcement from WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon: Due to no-showing a series of WWF live events, notably in Indianapolis (June 28th), Detroit (June 29th), and Pittsburgh (June 30th), the Warrior is being indefinitely suspended from the WWF, until he is willing to make "appearance bonds" to ensure he will appear at WWF Events, as advertised... but he's "here" and ready to compete tonight (because it was taped two weeks ago).
Popular story for Warrior's lack of appearances is mourning the death of his father, which was disputed on the DVD due to an alleged lack of communication with his family. I'm sorry, but even if you're estranged from someone and they pass away, you can still mourn their death. People are people, and we have the potential to be complicated beings. Even if there's some truth to this, no-showing, not asking for time off, but no-showing anything is considerably disrespectful... almost as disrespectful as photo-shopping an image to try and prove a point. Like this one...
Yes, according to WWE and their Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD, not only was Ultimate Warrior still advertised for shows on July 25th, but he was THE DEFENDING WWF CHAMPION. Now, one, that's bullshit, because as you see, it also lists Sycho Sid on the card. Sid was off television and not advertised to appear, especially in print, until AFTER Warrior left. Second, in no conceivable way was Warrior ever in line for the belt. Common myth/rumors had that going to Vader, courtesy of Shawn, and that was to play out for the remainder of '96 and into the early months of '97. I'm sorry, but as much as I like a good old dog pile when it comes to bashing people, making shit up just makes you, you basher, look awful, not the subject/target of the abuse.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette):
From the July 8th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, as already mentioned, but taped on June 24th from Green Bay, WI. Ugh, remember the days when the WWF would tape four weeks worth of shows at a time? Owen tries a sneak attack, but Warrior sees it coming and tosses him back to the floor. We cut to a split-screen interview with Michaels and Ahmed concerning the Warrior's "suspension." Warrior with a shoulder tackle, followed by a pair of hip tosses and a clothesline, sending Owen to the floor. Warrior with a sling-shot to bring Owen back in, followed by a press into the air. He grabs a handful of hair to slam Owen down to the canvas and sends him hard to the corner. Warrior with a half-assed powerslam, followed by a side suplex. Whip to the ropes is reversed and Owen connects with a spinning heel kick. No-sold. Clothesline? No sold. Another clothesline... kind of no-sold until sold. Owen stomps away, but a suplex is blocked and countered. Warrior goes for a splash, but Owen gets the knees up.
We come back from commercial, with Owen working the Warrior over with choking. Cornette adds a cheap shot behind the back of the referee. Owen with the enziguri and some pre-mature celebrating with his Slammy. He goes to the top rope and connects with a missile dropkick for a two count. He goes for the Sharpshooter, but Warrior kicks him off. Suddenly Davey Boy Smith comes to ringside. Owen attacks, but Warrior is in no-selling dance mode. He does the clotheslines and shoulder tackle, and in comes Bulldog to draw the DQ at 8:47. Warrior fights him off, and out comes Vader for a Three-on-One attack. Bulldog plants him with a Powerslam, Owen comes off the top rope with a double axehandle (with the cast on), and Vader adds a Vader-Bomb from the second rope. How nice of a coincidence that the last match in the can of Warrior before his termination ended with a beatdown? Decent match, maybe around **, making it the best match on the set. It also played out almost entirely like their match at MSG, so at least they had a formula to go with.
Final Thoughts: And that's all folks. Yep, Warrior's third stint in the WWF was even shorter than the second, only hanging around for approximately three months before taking a walk, being fired, or whatever other reasons used to explain his sudden departure from the company. Was his matches bad? Yes, that's a given, he's had only a handful of "good" matches, but that's not the point. Was his 1996 comeback a big deal? No. Why? Because he was put into second-rate, half-assed "angles." A lazy, thrown together match with Goldust, a lazy thrown together bottom-feeding angle with Jerry Lawler, and a bunch of filler. The only time he was given something worthy of his reputation was the beginning of the build to the 6-Man Tag, and then he stopped appearing at shows exactly two days later.
Warrior's legacy will also be an interesting one. His workrate was some of the worst you could ever see out of someone that had made it so high up the card, but his charisma and mystique made up the difference, and his "here he is, there he goes" appearances and disappearances just made him that much more interesting. There's nothing from this run that really warrants checking out, but is an interesting way to look at what went down in front of the camera, and then try and make sense of the unjust comments surrounding them.
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