- 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.
- 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."
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.
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.
- 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.
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.