The Ultimate Warrior was always an interesting person. Almost as interesting a wrestling character. It’s not an unknown secret that for the longest time, the better part of two decades to be more precise, the WWE and Warrior, born Jim Hellwig but legally changed his name for reasons that span from “because he wanted to” to “to capitalize on the idea of owning the right to market the name he made famous in a wrestling ring”, weren’t exactly on the best of terms. In fact, things reached an all-time low point in 2005 when the WWE released a DVD titled “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior”, 90 minutes of mostly bashing him as a performer, a businessman, and simply as a man, with very few defenders.
Warrior was indeed a weird person. Sometimes a VERY controversial person. There’s no denying any of that, but to put so much effort with the sole intention of slandering someone’s name and reputation reached all-time lows. Things felt at a stand-still until 2013 when, of all people, the Ultimate Warrior himself returned for a commercial to advertise WWE 2K14, completely in character. It wasn’t really a WWE commercial, more 2K Sports working out the deal, but you could feel the winds of change coming. Then the announcement came… Warrior was being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for the weekend of WrestleMania XXX. For the first time in 18-years, Warrior made an appearance for his most well-known employers, headlining the Hall of Fame Class of 2014. The next night, Warrior appeared at a WrestleMania for the first time since WrestleMania XII. The night following, Monday Night Raw, for the first time since July 8th, 1996. 24 hours later, Warrior had passed away. He was 54 years old, leaving behind his wife and two daughters.
Over the years, the wrestling world has lost a lot of talent. Some under unfortunate circumstances, and some to natural causes. I don’t recall another death that bothered me as much as it did with Warrior. The unsettling words of his promo the night before his passing didn’t help either. A standard Warrior promo that almost felt like a man who knew his time was short and he had one last bit of sage advice to give. Warrior was literally on TV and for one night, channeled the character that entertained me as a young child, then gone just as suddenly. Warrior’s name and legacy continued to live, through the WWE’s wonderful relationship with his family, and dedicating an award to him as part of the Hall of Fame weekend. This DVD set marks the second released in an 18-month period dedicated to Warrior, featuring interviews with his family, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, and many others.
Disc #1 is exclusively the documentary portion of the 3-disc set. To hardcore viewers of WWE video and the WWE Network, you can see this as a mash-up of sorts from the first DVD set, featuring candid interviews with Warrior, the Network special that acted as a tribute to Warrior, featuring footage of his final days enjoying WrestleMania weekend, and then some buffer stuff and interviews to close the disc out.
It’s easy for me to say, without a doubt, that there’s nothing more emotional than hearing from his wife Dana and daughters Mattigan and Indiana. The loving thoughts and memories, both told in sadness and joy, will tug at the heart strings of even the hardest of humanity, especially the closing chapter where they all read good-bye letters. There’s also a nice chapter that focuses on the relationship they developed with WWE Diva Natalya, including having custom ring-attire made for Matty and showing her a few things in the ring before an episode of Monday Night Raw.
Even though the documentary runs at a tick below 100 minutes, his career as a whole isn’t too detailed. We see bits and pieces of him starting out with Steve Borden and “two other guys”, developing their Bladerunners gimmick (with comments from Zeb Colter and Jerry Lawler), moving on to Dallas where Warrior became the Dingo Warrior, and then transitioning into the WWF and adopting the Ultimate Warrior moniker. It’s mostly cut-and-dry comments, although you can read between the lines, like saying they were “too inexperienced” to book in Memphis meant “they were stinking the place up like green baby-poo.” The way he words things also makes you scratch your head, like saying Sting/Steve Borden “didn’t like to think for himself”. Maybe he meant “he didn’t really push to be handled a certain way”, but it made him sound like a mindless buffoon.
It’s not until we reach talks of WrestleMania VI where we get a more in depth view on things, like him and Hulk Hogan competing to be the top star of the company and Vince McMahon enjoying watching their rivalry because of it. We breeze on through his title reign (it stunk, but to be fair, he didn’t have much for credible challengers) and him losing it to Slaughter (which he claims he didn’t mind since he wasn’t a belt mark), then the retirement match with Savage (whom he greatly enjoyed working with and saw as a huge sign of respect when Savage allowed himself to be pinned via a single foot on the chest).
Things turn negative as the Summer of 1991 approaches, and Warrior is suspended (or “fired” in Warrior’s words) for what turned out to be a power-play to get more money. Warrior’s POV on the matter doesn’t recount the entire situation, where he sent Vince McMahon a letter demanding an increase of pay that equaled whatever Hulk Hogan made, and more money for his WrestleMania VII pay-off, or else he would no-show dates. They do leave in the story about the night of SummerSlam, there was an alleged meeting and idea of teaching Warrior a lesson, but both sides appear to be telling a lie about a much more simpler truth.
Warrior came back in 1992, looking to regain the WWF Championship, but Vince McMahon terminated his contract (as well as Davey Boy Smith’s) for what was allegedly testing with HGH (Human Growth Hormones). As far as I know, this might be true, and if not, it was something that was definitely steroids related. Considering the microscope Vince and the WWF were under in 1992, the last thing you needed was more of this stuff.
He comes back again in 1996, but it didn’t work out.
WCW comes calling, and it had to be the right idea for the right amount of money for him to come on board with them. He summed it up as best as anyone could. He was paid a lot of money to lose to Hulk Hogan, and said if he could go back and do it again, he wouldn’t have done it.
We finally get to the segment that recounts some of the interviews used in the Self-Destruction DVD, where names like Bruce Prichard and Steve Lombardi (two easy scape-goats) bashed him for his lack of ability and making sense. Hulk Hogan then tells a story about how he was questioned about his comments and became overly defensive, standing by his words that Warrior was a flash in the pan and on a scale of 1-10 as a wrestler, he was a zero. Warrior follows that up with a story about refusing to shake Vince McMahon’s hand that day and how that was the most powerful thing he could’ve done.
Years pass, and with the help of Triple H (yes, Triple H, the man who once claimed Warrior ruined his first WrestleMania for being an unprofessional jackass), the bridge between Warrior and WWE was rebuilt, and Warrior would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In a touching gesture, Warrior presented Vince with a personalized copy of the Little Engine That Could, a book that he claims was Vince’s favorite and a book that Vince himself says he compared his company to (I’m assuming in the earlier stages of being under his control). Following Warrior’s appearance on Monday Night Raw, Stephanie McMahon proudly talks about a picture she took of him and her father together. A quite obviously emotional Vince follows talking about how it may be the last picture Warrior ever took, but at the very least, the last he took with him.
We close with a video tribute to Warrior (different from the one featured on the Monday Night Raw following his passing) and a handful of videos submitted by fans honoring Warrior.
“You must show no mercy, nor have any belief whatsoever in how others judge you, for your greatness will silence them all. Always Believe. Warrior.”
Having already purchased a copy of the first DVD set and watched the WWE Network special, there’s not a lot of new material featured, but it still tells a good story on his character and the man he was away from the ring. You could very easily criticize the DVD for not being entirely honest about certain subjects, especially during his days as a “motivational” speaker where he made some very unflattering and politically incorrect remarks, but that wouldn’t follow the theme of the story told. This was more of a good-bye, and while there was a sprinkle here and there of negativity, it tried to paint as positive a picture as it could.
Disc 2 is entirely of bonus features, and more specifically, matches. The original DVD set (The Ultimate Collection) featured many, if not all, of Warrior’s more important matches, so this feels like a nice change from the norm and features some nice rarities and a few head scratchers.
From his WCCW days, we get a squash match from July 25th, 1986, managed by Gary Hart, and squashing Perry Jackson and Chico Cabello in a handicap match. His inexperience was clearly exhibited here, and he was sloppy as hell. Following that, almost a full year later (June 2nd, 1987), a quick squash match versus Big Bear Collie. The appearance had evolved and he looked pretty much like he did when he joined the WWF.
Moving onto the early days of his WWF run… a odd-choice against Frenchy Martin of all people, from the November ’87 card held at Madison Square Garden. The only notable moment from this stinker is Martin quite clearly telling Warrior that he broke his arm, and they immediately go to the finish, with Martin gingerly taking a bump as to avoid further injury. From the December ’87 Spectrum show, another snoozer against prelim lifer Iron Mike Sharpe. We get a couple of squash matches courtesy of Wrestling Challenge, against the likes of Brian Costello (the Dublin Destroyer?!) and a Conquistador, to pad things out.
Moving past his Intercontinental Championship victory, a rematch against the Honkytonk Man from the October 10th, 1988 card held at Boston Garden. It’s fairly short and not very good. Next is an IC Title Match against “Ravishing” Rick Rude from the May 8th, 1989 card held at the Meadowlands Arena. You can tell they were working together a lot, as if feels like an improvement on their match from WrestleMania V, but not nearly as good as the match at SummerSlam ’89. From the June 6th, 1989 TV taping, it’s Warrior teaming with KING Duggan against Rude and Andre The Giant. I know this was featured on Coliseum Video, but can’t recall which (Fan Favorites?). Typical dark match goofiness, but it was fun. From the October 29th, 1989 card held at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, an IC Title defense against Andre The Giant. To say their matches were bad would be not only an under-statement, but obvious. There’s still a weird attraction to matches between them, just because of how it transitioned Warrior from the IC level to beating a guy like Andre the Giant. This was featured on a lesser known Coliseum Video release (or maybe Good Times Video, for that matter) and… it’s really bad, but in much better VQ now than I previously had, so thumbs up for that.
We move into the 1990’s and a squash against… the Brooklyn Brawler. HA! That’s what you get for bad-mouthing Warrior on the self-destruction DVD. We get Warrior’s first televised WWF Championship defense, against Haku on the April 28th, 1990 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event (an OK match, but that is high praise in match quality compared to some other stuff featured). Fast forward a year to a pretty lousy match against Sgt. Slaughter on another episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, meant more to fuel the Warrior/Undertaker angle than anything else. Following that is a couple of weekend syndication matches against the likes of the Model Rick Martel (fairly competitive) and Demolition Smash (practically a squash) before his suspension at SummerSlam.
Picking up with his return following WrestleMania VIII, a squash match against “That Filthy Pig” Skinner, a Coliseum Video exclusive against Papa Shango (what a wonderful feud that was), and a tag team match featuring him and Randy Savage (before they were the Ultimate Maniacs) against the Nasty Boys on the 1992 SummerSlam Spectacular. We skip to 1996 with a squash of Dr. Isaac Yankem (Glenn Jacobs, a.k.a Kane) and his final televised match, against Owen Hart, the latter of which is probably the best match featured on the set.
Disc 3 is more Bonus Features, and exclusively promos and interviews, as well as his Hall of Fame induction speech.
This is going to be a hit or miss disc, just for the fact it’s 42 interviews (2 hours and 40 minutes in run time) and promos spanning the majority of Warrior’s career. Most of them are promos pulled from the Event Center, but sprinkled throughout are segments of the Brother Love Show and very special podium interviews conducted by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. The first few are focused on Hercules. Dig that continental back-drop. There’s one thing that the Self-Destruction DVD had right… the matches between Hercules and Warrior were beyond awful.
The first notable interview (as in not a 20-second event center quickie) is from shortly after SummerSlam ’88, with Craig DeGeorge interviewing him as the NEW Intercontinental Champion. Did you know Craig DeGeorge has worked as a sportscaster for the Miami Marlins for the last decade (plus) under the name Craig Minervini? Well, Jimmy Hart interrupts things quickly, allowing Honkytonk Man to attack from behind and smash a guitar across the Warrior’s body. I guess that was enough to fuel 4-months worth of rematches.
After more quickie promos on Honkytonk Man, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and Andre the Giant (who weighs 15,000 pounds… I guess Warrior studied the same math as Hulk Hogan), it’s an interview conducted by Mean Gene a few weeks before SummerSlam ’89. It’s just a quick “I’m going to destroy you and regain my gold” promo. Fast-forward a few months and its an interview with the Warrior and his entire Survivor Series team, consisting of the Rockers and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. You watch all these promos and you notice the slight changes over time that Warrior went through. By this point (November ’89), he’s wearing more neon colors, his hair is lightening, and he’s wearing more tassles as well as some koosh-looking boots. Here’s a choice line from Warrior’s promo: “I bring stealth bombers loaded with ballistic missiles ready to launch at my command. I also bring a tank that can roll over NORMAL THINGS!"
From the Brother Love Show, a few weeks before the 1990 Royal Rumble. We see highlights from Superstars where Dino Bravo (with a helpful distraction of Earthquake) laid out Warrior with a steel chair. Think about it for a second, the gapper for Warrior’s angles with ANDRE THE GIANT and HULK HOGAN is Dino friggin’ Bravo. I’m pretty sure Warrior wiped the floor with him on the upcoming Main Event special, but Bravo hung around at the top of the card for most of 1990, feuding with Hulk Hogan and his buddy Tugboat… sorry, I forgot, this is a Warrior DVD, not Dino Bravo.
In the most unfortunate decision made on this set, we DON’T get the infamous rant about hijacking Hulk Hogan’s plane and taking it into a nose dive into Parts Unknown. Seriously, it’s one of the most epic rants Warrior ever had, and you don’t put it on a set with dozens of cookie cutter promos?! Yeah, it was on the first 3-disc set, but come on! Instead we get a promo about Warrior whining that Hulk Hogan attacked him from behind in the Royal Rumble, and the Warrior would be man enough to face him eye-to-eye.
Skipping over a few more chapters (I’m not going to detail every promo, for the love of my sanity), we get a few choice Brother Love Show segments from the Fall of 1990. Again, Warrior’s look starts to change… and what the HELL is up with the little Warrior symbols painted on his cheeks like a little kid at a carnival?! The first features Sensational QUEEN Sherri, on behalf of the Macho King, challenging the Warrior and slapping him around, with Warrior not physically responding. A few weeks later, Warrior, tired of being mocked for not hitting a woman, assaulted Brother Love and forced him to wear a blonde wig and an ugly dress. And to think that Warrior would give Brother Love a much worse treatment in the build up to WrestleMania VII… but that was featured on the other DVD set, too.
We get a few interviews of Warrior hyping his Royal Rumble title defense against Sgt. Slaughter, and then the interview from the Royal Rumble PPV where Sensational Sherri propositioned Warrior in a non-PG manner, only for Warrior to spit on the floor and refuse her offers for a title shot for the Macho King. To fill in the blanks that follow, Macho King went psycho and was heavily involved in Warrior losing the title later that night. We follow that with a handful of promos hyping their “Career Ending Match” for WrestleMania VII.
Skipping to 1992, Warrior and his awful perm from hell are back to fill in the void created by a “retired” Hulk Hogan. Warrior is in the middle of a promo when he starts bleeding black goop… yep, it’s the Papa Shango feud. To say that thing bombed would be an under-statement. Crowds would literally walk out mid-match because of how awful they were in the ring. We also get the interview where Savage and Warrior officially tie the knot by Savage offering Warrior some “Macho” style shades, and Warrior giving Savage a set of Warrior knee pads.
Jumping ahead to 1998 WCW (because his 1996 WWF run was such a flop that he didn’t even have a good promo to recycle), Warrior returned, cut some promos on Hulk Hogan, and filled rings with smoke. Sometimes it acted as knockout gas, sometimes it didn’t. Warrior magically disappearing from the ring and into the rafters (complete with Warrior BAT SYMBOL), with a held hostage “Disciple” (Ed Leslie under Gimmick #16 in WCW). I say that in quotations because it looks like a rubber suit, but who knows, maybe he was willing enough to work hard and climb the stairs. So… if the Disciple joins Warrior’s One Warrior Nation, wouldn’t that make it a Two Warrior Nation?
We close the set out with the Hall of Fame induction and the promo from the April 7th, 2014 episode of Monday Night Raw.
"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life made blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, would be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those that honour him and make what that man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back, I see many potential legends, some of them with warrior spirits, and you will do the same for them. You will decide if they live with the passion and intensity so much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends as well. I am Ultimate Warrior, you are the ultimate warrior fans, and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever."
Final Thoughts: Depending on what you’re looking for, this DVD can fall into several categories. If you’re a newer fan or are unfamiliar with his work, I’d actually recommend the Ultimate Collection set, which features Warrior’s comments on certain subjects as well as the majority of his key matches and promos, but the documentary portion of this set would be a good watch, as well. If you’re a fan of Warrior, I’d definitely recommend this for the bonus features, with some odd choices peppered throughout, but you probably won’t find much in the documentary. In a way, I enjoyed the documentary, but didn’t find it TOO insightful. I enjoyed the matches of Disc 2, but with Warrior, you could only do so much before it gets old. I enjoyed the promos of Disc 3, but only can see myself watching them in small doses. I guess you could say I highly recommend this set for old school fans, but still would add caution that 6 hours of Warrior matches and promos needs to be broken down into multiple viewings.