This Day in WCW History: The Ultimate Return! [1998]

The ultimate disappointment or the ultimate blown opportunity?

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Twenty years ago, I was glued to my television screen in anticipation of something that I had seen rumored on a Yahoo! wrestling chat room. “Today is finally the day.”, I thought to myself, even though the previous Monday was supposed to have been “the day” and maybe even the Monday before that.

The Ultimate Warrior is coming to World Championship Wrestling, and there’s nothing that the WWF can do about it. Eric Bischoff is bringing in the big guns to settle the debate once-and-for-all on which company was the best.

Granted, I was only fourteen-years-old in 1998 and had no real idea about the person behind the Warrior’s persona. It would be years before the racist, homophobic beliefs and bigoted opinions inside the mind of Jim Hellwig would even become known by anyone on the outskirts of his private life. I had just started my time as a ninth grader that day but somehow my life was centered around the idea of MY wrestling promotion winning the weekly television ratings war. The World Wrestling Federation had started to gain their footing within my circle of friends, but that didn’t matter because I knew in my heart-of-hearts that the Warrior was going to change everything. He just had to. He was THE Ultimate Warrior.

On Internet forums and chat rooms, rumors of what happened to the Warrior after the WWF were plentiful. I wasn’t a weekly wrestling viewer as a kid, so the often-repeated stories of playground gossip with the Warrior dying and being replaced in the early 90’s was never was a thing I personally experienced. Instead, I believed any drive-by tales of Warrior sightings that I would come across online. Stories of him shooting across the Arizona desert in an airbrushed multi-colored Warrior Jeep with the “Unstable” WWF theme blaring from his speakers had to be true. News on The Ultimate Warrior showing up to ECW to shoot on some guy named Taz, but the tape was pulled and shelved before air? That totally probably happened!

The man’s real-life elusiveness made him to be a target of the weirdest, absolutely made-up bullshit, and I bought into it all. I don’t know why that was as I didn’t have that much exposure to him back then beyond a handful of WWF tapes from Blockbuster Video, but I was a fan.

Then, I witnessed his final professional wrestling run, and it made me realize that he might not be the warrior I thought he was.

Roddy Piper, Ultimate Warrior and Diamond Dallas Page – WCW Monday Nitro [August 24th, 1998]

Disco Inferno: “[Ultimate Warrior] was a weirdo.”

Konnan: “[Warrior] never said one word to me backstage in the WWE a la [Lex] Luger…

Remember those little sound booths that you would go in there to cut promos? Well, it was maybe two or three in the morning and Warrior comes out, and he’s cussing like you have no idea. ‘Fuck this!’, ‘Fuck that!’, ‘I’m tired!’, ‘Fuck this!’

Vince [McMahon] is like, ‘Calm down, Warrior. Calm down. It’s cool. We can do it later. We can do it tomorrow.’, and I was like, ‘Wow. Warrior must be making a lot of money for Vince for him to let him scream at him like that.’, you know what I’m saying?

So then, fast forward… I don’t know how many years. If I had to guess, six or seven, and he shows up in WCW. And out of the blue he’s just like, ‘Yo, what’s up K-Dawg?’

I was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t think this guy even knew who the fuck I was.’

He was very weird, just like [Disco] said. You know who he reminds me of a little bit? Have you ever talked to Bob Backlund? Just like, really–he’s a weirdo too. He’s a nice guy, but he’s super weird. – MLW Radio EXTRA [April 4th, 2014]

The Ultimate Warrior going to World Championship Wrestling was actually heavily hinted at early on during Hulk Hogan’s run in the company. in 1995, Hogan had revealed that he had an “ultimate surprise” that was gonna be at his corner at the Uncensored PPV to watch his back during his Big Van Vader fight. The original plan was to possibly have The Road Warriors return for Hogan as Ric Flair was pushing backstage for a Four Horsemen vs Hawk and Animal storyline, but instead fans were treated to the debut of a new creation. A man who called himself The Renegade.

Rick Wilson as The Renegade [1995]

Apparently, Hulk Hogan had some booking ideas of his own and wanted to try and re-do some of his former successes by finding himself a new Ultimate Warrior and a new Andre the Giant to feud with. The Renegade did not catch on with the fans in WCW, even though his level of wrestling ability arguably was pretty on-par of what he was attempting to emulate. Copying the mannerisms and attire/facepaint of The Ultimate Warrior without having his actual in-ring charisma and physique just completely stymied any actual potential that The Renegade might’ve had.

Kevin Sullivan: “Hogan brought him in. He was a super guy, God rest his soul. He was a super guy. I don’t know he would’ve got over in a different role, but he certainly wasn’t gonna get over as a ripoff. I mean, it was so blatant. Actually, Hogan wanted to call him something, he wanted to call him ‘WARRIOR’ and I said, “Gee, you know… I think might want to run that one by the political arm of TBS.’

Well, they did and [Turner] said ‘You can’t do that kind of shit.’

And what happened was, he just brought this kid in–first of all, the kid wasn’t prepared to work with Hogan on top, that’s for sure–but he wanted to get that win back. Hogan wanted to get that win back from the Ultimate Warrior.” – Kevin Sullivan’s Helluva Deal [October 17th, 2014]

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Ric Flair: “Hogan was still mad about having to lose the World Wrestling Federation Championship to the Ultimate Warrior at ‘WrestleMania VI’ in 1990.  He was actually grooming the Renegade as an Ultimate Warrior clone that Hogan could beat, somehow getting back the win. How many WCW fans do you think cared about a match that had taken place in another promotion five years earlier? But it sure seemed like Hogan was still losing sleep over that loss.

In 1999, four months after being released from WCW, the Renegade shot himself to death in his kitchen in Marietta, Georgia. The guy obviously had other problems, so I’d never blame Hogan for the suicide. But I do blame both Hogan and Bischoff for inflating the kid’s ego and giving him the impression that he was capable of being a star.” – To Be The Man [2005]

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Ultimate Warrior: “I never watched TV when I was out of the business, so I didn’t see [The Renegade] until somebody at my gym told me about [him]. I don’t know if I’d say it was flattering. It’s been a long time ago, but I was probably a little pissed off. But it does validate the strength of the Ultimate Warrior character’s success and his impact on the business. Just like when organizations drop his name today. I mean, you can’t hear or read the transcript of one wrestling related program, radio or internet or whatever, without someone calling in and asking: ‘What about the Ultimate Warrior?’

I did think Hogan and the others who came up with the scheme really believed that I would see them making this attempt to replicate The Ultimate Warrior, and I would see it and go, ‘You motherf’ers! I’m the damn Ultimate Warrior! How dare you!’ and then, like, show up unannounced at the next TV taping with my gear bag laying claim to what was mine.” – FlynnFiles.com Interview [2004]

Fast-forward to 1998 when talks between WCW and The Ultimate Warrior got serious. Even though WCW Monday Nitro had beaten WWF programming in the ratings war for over eighty weeks straight, the landscape had started to shift. With the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Mr. McMahon storyline heating up, WCW had their ratings streak broken in April that year right after the WWF’s WrestleMania XIV. I wouldn’t say that the signing of Warrior was a move made out of desperation on the behalf of Eric Bischoff, but he had to have been definitely sweating, at this point.

Eric Bischoff: “There’s nothing to comment on. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier. There is no place in WCW for [Ultimate Warrior] given his track record and past history. I don’t know him personally. I can go by what those who have worked with him in the past have said. I’m not willing to put his company at risk by bringing in someone with his track record.” – Prodigy Chat [April 1st, 1998] (As Reported by PW Torch)

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Bruce Mitchell: “WCW and Ultimate Warrior (birth name Jim Hellwig) are in negotiations. WCW is offering Warrior six-figures per pay-per-view appearances on Nitro either late this summer or early this fall. A deal is not imminent, but negotiations are well past being preliminary. Warrior would likely to be matched against Hogan and be a buffer between Hogan’s current programs with Kevin Nash and Randy Savage and his expected Starrcade main event program against Bret Hart.” – PW TORCH #488 [April 4th, 1998]

WCW and The Ultimate Warrior would eventually come to an agreement with each other soon after the negations leaked to wrestling dirtsheets. That said, it still took months before we ever ended up seeing The Warrior show his painted face on television. A theory that gets floated out as an explanation for this was that Warrior needed the four months to be get into “ring-shape”, but the truth is WCW was still trying to figure out the finer details. Not only did WCW have him in mind as their ace-in-the-hole for a surefire ratings boost, there was also a pesky lawsuit put forth by the World Wrestling Federation that could potentially interfere and dictate how The Ultimate Warrior could even be used on television.

Ultimate Warrior: “When I back to work in WCW in 1998, the reason I went back as ‘Warrior’ was because as soon as WWF got wind of the fact that I’d been approached by WCW to go to work there, they filed a motion to stop it saying that I didn’t own the rights to the character to be able to do that. The lawsuit didn’t start as a thing about who owns the rights to anything or me changing my name to Warrior so I can continue to be a wrestler. That’s all just silly stuff. That’s just all urban legends that have been out for years. It started as a breach of contract.

So, they filed a motion to say that I couldn’t do that and what I did was I went and proved, because of my performances in the business as Dingo Warrior, that I did own those. And the judge agreed that I did. The look, the style, the initial beginnings of Warrior, of Ultimate Warrior as he eventually became, certainly started with Dingo Warrior. Vince had Pat Patterson and Bruce Prichard file false affidavits saying that they came up with “Ultimate”, which is another one of those urban legends that isn’t true. They didn’t, I came up with it. My first promo I did, my first television appearance in Green Bay, Wisconsin, down in the little studio room when I was cutting a promo about what I was. I said, ‘I’m not this kind of Warrior, I’m not that kind of Warrior, I am the ULTIMATE Warrior’.

We deposed Davey Boy Smith and he’s on the record saying that, recounting that event because him and Dynamite [Kid] were in the room when that happened. So, anyways, the judge decided, ‘Yeah, well he owns Warrior, whatever it is as a visual, but the thing in question might be ‘Ultimate’, so we’ll have to wait and see as the trail goes on’.

That’s why today I have ‘Ultimate’ too because it all came out in the settlement of the trial, of the litigation.” – MLW Interview with Ultimate Warrior [May 10th, 2012]

Jim Hellwig as The Dingo Warrior – World Class Championship Wrestling [June 6th, 1987]

As time rolled on, WCW had looked at slotting in the Ultimate Warrior a couple of times into their programming as Eric Bischoff kept an eye on the weekly ratings. If RAW started to build momentum, The Ultimate Warrior could make his debut in June at Auburn Hills or maybe even in July at The Georgia Dome. This plan wasn’t just hopeful thinking on Bischoff’s part as a previous all-time ratings record for RAW had been set before with the return of Warrior to the WWF back in 1996. RAW had recently shattered that record by a full point then in 1998, but both promotions were gaining traction in their weekly viewership like they had never done before. Maybe Eric could wait until the fall before he revealed his “ultimate surprise”.

Eric Bischoff: “When we first started talking about [Warrior] coming into WCW, I flew out to Scottsdale, and we had dinner at a really nice restaurant at a resort. We had great conversation. He’s a very creative guy, he was ultra-creative. He had a million ideas and so much energy and so much passion that it was actually hard to follow him. He was kinda frenetic in the way he presented his concepts and his ideas. It was like, you needed six or seven assistants to sit there with a notepad and a pen just to keep track of it all.

I enjoyed that. I love working with somebody that was passionate as opposed to somebody whose waiting for you to hand them the keys to the kingdom and tell them how you’re gonna make them a star, and how you’re gonna best utilize them and what you’re gonna do for them. Warrior was exactly the opposite. He spent all his time telling me what he was going to do for me. Right, wrong, good, bad, somewhere in the middle; didn’t matter. I’d much rather be around somebody like Warrior was than somebody like, not to bury the guy, Bret Hart.” – ‘Bischoff on Wrestling’ Podcast [September 20th, 2017]

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Hulk Hogan: “I knew that [Warrior] was a huge attraction, and I sat down and talked to Eric Bischoff and said, ‘Let’s bring him in’. – ‘Warrior: The Ultimate Legend’ [2014]

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Eric Bischoff: “[Bringing Warrior in] was a Hulk Hogan thing. It started with Hulk. and again, I think it was Hulk recreating, or attempting to recreate some of the magic that he experienced, his success. He wanted a high-profile guy to work with, in his mind–and mine, at the time. I did it, so, I bought into it.

It was something that the audience would perhaps like to see, and I could try to make work.” – RF Video Shoot Interview [2014]

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Ultimate Warrior: “People who contact me and start talking to me about coming back to the ring, they act like they’re doing me a favor. Like they’re going to set up a ring, and they know that my gear bag is packed, and I’m going to be there, and they don’t even have to tell me what they’re going to pay me. I’ll just show up, and I’ll be there. And Hogan was the same way. Well, he lives and breathes the business. And I just told him, ‘Well, it’d have to be the right thing, and it’d have to be the right deal, and there’d have to be some good ideas around it,’ before I would agree to anything.

And, you know, the value of me being there or Ultimate Warrior showing up there would have to be recognized, of course.” – ‘Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived ‘Forever’ [2015]

Throughout the summer, fans saw the return of Dennis Rodman to World Championship Wrestling along with back-to-back main event PPV matches featuring NBA star Karl Malone and late-night talk show host Jay Leno. Suspiciously absent was the one high-profile signing of a former face-painted WWF Champion. On August 1st, Pro Wrestling Torch confirmed that the Ultimate Warrior and WCW had finalized a date for his debut.

On August 17th, at the Hartford Civic Center in the middle of Vince McMachon’s own backyard, The Ultimate Warrior would appear on WCW Monday Nitro.

Well, The Ultimate Warrior would.

Sting: “I think he was pretty excited. I think he wanted to come in too. We were a big company. We were very successful, in those days. He saw opportunity, I think everybody did.” – ‘Warrior: The Ultimate Legend’ [2014]

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Kevin Sullivan: “I knew the Ultimate Warrior when he was Jim Hellwig, Mr. Atlanta. He had used to train at a gym called Doc’s Gym—I actually bought, me and two other guys, bought a franchise Doc’s Gym, one time—and [Warrior] was Mr. Georgia and Mr. Atlanta. I had a very good relationship with him from the gym, and then I saw him—I used to go to Texas out of Florida some—and I saw him with Gary Hart as The Dingo Warrior.

Then, when he came into the WCW it was like—I don’t know how to explain it. It was like, there was a whole dressing room of guys, and he wasn’t part of it. He had carried a lot of… he carried baggage because of Hogan, he was brought there [into WCW] to get the win back for Hogan.” – ‘Kevin Sullivan’s Helluva Deal’ Podcast [June 2nd, 2017]

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Eric Bischoff: “I’d fly out to Phoenix and I’d sit down with him. I remember one time, I came home from the airport after having spent two days with him, a day and a night. I got home, and [there] was like a fax of about four pounds thick of different ideas of what to do with his character and comic books and all that and there’s nothing wrong with that. He saw an image, he saw a character in his mind that he was passionate about–clearly enough to change his name literally to it–that was challenging. It took a lot of energy.” – RF Video Shoot Interview [2014]

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Kevin Sullivan: “I wanted to do—and I was shot down before I even got to talk to him about it—I wanted the nWo to jump [Warrior], to beat him up, shave his head and then throw him a shirt. He got jumped in, like they do in gangs. Then do vignettes where he was going down dark streets, not knowing where he was and then someone coming up to him, “Hey, can I help you?”, and he “pie-faces” the guy, you know?

He starts screaming, “I’M THE WARRIOR, I’M THE WARRIOR!”

I knew he wasn’t going to do it. I brought it up to somebody and I wasn’t the only one to talk about it amongst themselves. We knew that he was THE WARRIOR. He was not going to go that route”. – ‘Kevin Sullivan’s Helluva Deal’ Podcast [June 2nd, 2017]

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Tony Schiavone: “We had a very good friend of ours who worked in the front office at the WWE, her name was Lisha Murphy. Lisha has since passed away. Lisha worked as my assistant at Coliseum Videos and Lisha left the WWE to take a job to be Jim Hellwig’s personal assistant.

I tried to talk her out of it. I told her, I said, you know that he’s been known to be kind of a, at times, an irrational guy and explosive guy. She was gonna pull up all her stakes and go to Arizona to be in charge of him. I told her, “Alisha, you’re making a big mistake. You should stay where you are. Stay in Connecticut.”

She didn’t listen to me. She packed up all her stuff, put it in a moving van, got to Arizona and as soon as she got there, he fired her. So, she called me and was crying and sobbing, what is she gonna do? She doesn’t have a job. She’s out in Arizona. She has no money to get back. I offered to send her some money and to be honest with you, I don’t know what happened to Lisha Murphy after that.

So, from a personal level, I didn’t think too kindly of him because of that, because he was that very volatile personality that apparently blew up at Lisha the first time she started working for him.” – ‘What Happened When’ Podcast [May 22nd, 2017]

Behind the scenes, the production team at WCW worked on creating something unique for the Warrior’s debut. They wanted to create an entrance that was similar, but bigger than what they had done for Glacier.

When the time finally came for The Warrior to show, I was beyond elated. Over on the other channel, the WWF had Bart Gunn vs The Godfather slugging it out in a Brawl For All match, which meant that WCW had every advantage here with their timing to unleash the Warrior. Even if I wasn’t obsessed with reading over wrestling rumors online, Diamond Dallas Page had already let slip during his promo earlier in the night that he reached out to an old acquaintance of Hogan’s, someone with a 1-0 record against him.

Hollywood Hogan, Eric Bischoff and The Disciple sauntered to the ring to do their usual nWo shtick. Hogan continued his tirade in response to DDP’s taunts regarding bringing out someone from his past. Hogan, unimpressed by Page’s grand claim:

“Who is out there that Hollywood can’t handle, brother? Who is out there that Hollywood can’t put under his thumb, the God of Wrestling or something? Well, sorry you didn’t recognize me without my sandals on, Page. I’m the man. I always will be. There’s not a wrestler I can’t beat to win my belt back. There’s not a war I can’t win to get my belt back. There’s not a warrior in the world that I can’t beat to get my belt back, because I beat—“

As the lights flickered on-and-off and Tony Schiavone openly wondered whether they were witnessing a power surge within the arena, The Warrior made his appearance. Pyro and dark lighting engulfed his figure as he entered through the Nitro set, but there was no masking his trademark facepaint and affinity for airbrushed jackets. Smoke billowed out from around the ring as Warrior walked down. Hogan’s face trembled, jaw wide open in a ridiculously cartoonish fashion. Two icons of wrestling were staring each other down once again, and I was loving every moment of it.

But, I never expected what happened next.

Ultimate Warrior: “TALK TO ME, WARRIORS!!”

*Crowd explodes*

Warrior: “FEEL THE REAL POWER, HOGAN!!”

Hollywood Hogan: “I, I thought you were dead.”

*Crowd alternates between “HOGAN SUCKS!” and “WARRIOR! WARRIOR!” chants*

Warrior: “Who holds the absolute power now, Hollywood Hogan?? Unleash that raging voice, Warriors!”

Tony Schiavone: “This is the last thing in the entire universe that Hogan ever expected, and you can see it. I’ve never saw him shake before but Hogan was shaking.”

Warrior: “Seems as if no formal introduction is going to be necessary! Actually, it seems as if there are those who anticipated my arrival”

Bobby Heenan: “Well, they’re glad he’s here!”

Schiavone: “Hogan, I think Hogan is scared to death. I think he wants to make amends, he’s doing everything–look at this!

*Hogan offers Warrior the nWo shirt off his back*

Schiavone: “He took off–he wants him to join him! He wants him to join him!”

Heenan: “That’s the act of a coward right there.”

Warrior: “What is that smell?? You might want to use that to clean up the mess you made all over yourself!

You need to open your eyes and ears. Take control of the limited ability you have to understand the words I’m about to say. For years, I have watched while this industry with YOU as its figurehead has tried to recreate what is simply un-re-cre-atable! I have heard, listened to all of the innuendo and speculation that something ULTIMATE or WARRIOR may soon reappear. Welcome to the reappearance!

Those things, Hogan, which are irreplaceable, whether they be people, places or things, are never forgotten. You are witnessing that right now.”

Heenan: “Hogan is visibly shaking.”

Schiavone: “He’s speechless. Has no idea where to go, what to say, what to do next and the fans here are into it!”

Heenan: “He’s at a loss for words!”

Schiavone: “Bischoff looks sick.”

Warrior: “History tells us, Hogan…”

*Crowd chants “Hogan sucks!”

Warrior: “Let’s talk about something he doesn’t know.”

*Crowd cheers at Warrior absolutely dunking on Hogan*

Heenan: “Bingo!”

Warrior: “History tells us that a man’s legacy is built on the premise that within his life the moments lived, once lived, become a piece of his history. Somehow, you have conveniently and even eloquently misplaced pieces of your history. In the one time, epical battle between us Hogan, you were the quintessential influence of what was good, great and heroic. But different than what you may remember, although you have beaten myths, legends, giants and other great men, you never, never beat a Warrior.”

Heenan: “He’s right up in his face.”

Schiavone: “Right up in his soul, is what he is.”

Warrior: “AND certainly, not the ULTIMATE ONE!

As the victor of that one time battle, I defeated what was until-then undefeatable. I conquered what was then unconquerable. I dominated what was until-then indomitable. On that day, you were great. I was ULTIMATE!”

Warrior: “Let me introduce myself to those two fools who stand behind you. Let’s see… (motions towards The Disciple) this ‘dude’ must be your barber.”

*Both Heenan and Schiavone laugh to themselves as a light “Brutus!” chant starts up*

Warrior: “And who are you, little man? Who are you?”

Schiavone: “Introduce yourself here!”

Eric Bischoff: “You know who I am. My name is Eric Bischoff, and I run this company and who invited you?”

Warrior: “Different than what you want to make people believe, I never received an invitation. I showed up on my own accord, and let me tell you, Mr. Eric Bischoff, if you stick your nose in my business, you only, very quickly, prepare for your own demise.

FURTHERMORE, when I get done with my business here, I’m going to be sending you a bill, and I suggest that you pay it.

I have waited patiently. The Warriors have waited all too patiently.

Now, NOW. The virtue of justice unties my hands so that I can continue to fulfill a destiny set in motion upon that memorable day years ago. A destiny at the next level. A destiny beckoning the next super hero. There really is no sadder sight that when a grown man fears the challenges in his life so much that he rationalizes adolescent behavior to the point where he carries out heinous and self-indulgent actions. Your evilness, the evilness you embody and portray is intolerable. I am the one that has the power to destroy you.

In source, Hogan, the truth is inexhaustible. I come here, not to beat you up tonight, Hogan. Beating you means nothing anymore, everybody already has.”

Heenan: “Now to Hogan, that hurts.”

Warrior: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, that’s too easy, because you felt guilty for being who you were. Your mind became weak, and Hulkamania became boring. I come here Hogan to tell you that NEXT week, I intend to launch a revolution not even YOU can control. I ask you to find the courage. Check it out, next week. Same Warrior time. Same Warrior place. Same Warrior channel.”

*screen turns to static as the ring becomes overtaken by pillars of smoke that allows The Warrior to escape via a trap door hidden in the ring*

Schiavone: “He has vanished. Ladies and gentlemen, in one of the most mind-boggling and incredible displays we’ve ever witnessed on this program, the Warrior has literally vaporized before our eyes.”

Heenan: “Never seen anything like this in my life.”

Schiavone: “There’s never been anything like this in our sport. Look at the sign.”

Holy gimmick infringement, Batman!

Schiavone: “Don’t you dare touch that dial!”

The Ultimate Thesaurus delivered the ultimate soliloquy to the Nitro crowd, completely oblivious to the fact that the crowd’s response lessened the longer he ranted. To me, it was the funniest thing to watch live as Hogan, The Disciple and Bischoff seemingly had no real response planned to the Warrior beyond feigning being overwhelmingly intimidated. A live hostage situation had taken place inside the ring that night as the segment ended up clocking a little over fifteen minutes from the moment the lights flickered to The Warrior disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Regardless, what Eric Bischoff banked on ended up coming true as ratings spiked for WCW during the ultimate return as Warrior did indeed still have some drawing power.

At least, for the moment.

Tony Schiavone: “I thought, watching this and watching it develop, that it was way too long and was way overdone. But again, when the ratings came out, you couldn’t argue with it.” – What Happened When [May 22nd, 2017]

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Hulk Hogan: “I went, ‘Oh my God. We’ve self-destructed.’ Vince has to be at home laughing his ass off.” – ‘The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

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Gene Okerlund: “It laborious, repetitive, redundant. It was terrible.” – ‘The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

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Kevin Sullivan: “He was oblivious to timing. His rantings and ravings were that of a lunatic.” – The Hannibal TV [November 2017]

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Eric Bischoff: “Warrior was so far out there in his approach to his character in terms of creating it and delivering it… on camera, that in my experience he had a challenge when it came to timing, in every way. All anybody has to do is go back and–I’m sure it’s on the WWE Network somewhere–but look at his debut in WCW. What was originally supposed to be about a twelve minute opening—I think it was an opening—what was supposed to be a twelve-minute segment ended up being like thirty some-odd minutes.

I’ve never done a hallucinogenic drug in my life. If I did, I would admit to it. I’ve done a lot of other crap that I’ll admit to, but I’ve never done that. But I’m guessing that’s probably what it was like. I have never been more, I felt like… it was like that dream you had when you’re a little kid and you dreamt that you showed up to school and you forgot to put your pants on and you’re running school around with your ass hanging out.  That’s kinda how I felt at about the twenty minute mark.” – The Ross Report [July 6th, 2016]

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Bryan Alvarez: “Warrior allegedly signed a $1 million deal to work roughly three shows per month, which of course had the locker room in a n uproar as nearly everyone else was making a hell of a lot less to work a hell of a lot more. And everyone but Eric Bischoff seemed able to predict exactly what the future held: Warrior would have a shelf life of about, oh, five or six weeks, and then it would be all downhill from there. These people were sadly mistaken. His shelf life for his WCW run was actually about three weeks.” – ‘The Death of WCW’ [2004]

From that point, what happened next for Warrior would become stories of legend regarding how bad things could be in World Championship Wrestling. On the road to Fall Brawl, Warrior decided to join Team WCW to face nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac in the dreaded War Games match, Warrior gave a name of the revolution he mentioned during his debut. He announced the formation of the ONE WARRIOR NATION (the nWo backwards, you see), which would be the force that would take out the New World Order.

Surprised that the litigious Warrior didn’t go after Oprah after the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network back in 2011.

Warrior would use his smoke trick to attack and escape Hogan and the nWo over the next month, irritating them beyond belief but not really doing much damage to the group. I remember thinking that Warrior ended up looking like a weaker version of Sting as his methods were rarely physical as Hogan’s tormentor. The ratings war saw WCW and the WWF trade off victories, but WCW saw diminished returns with every long-winded Warrior speech and magical disappearing act. At Fall Brawl PPV, The Warrior suffered a torn bicep and twisted ankle due when he attempted to do nothing more than terrorize Hogan and break out of the gimmicked steel cage. Fun note though, Rick “The Renegade” Wilson was used as a body double for The Warrior to pull off his teleportation from the ring back to the entrance way (which totally blew my mind watching live).

Instead of pulling back and rethinking things, WCW marched towards the planned Hogan vs Warrior II match at Halloween Havoc and decided to get even wackier with the Warrior’s character. The Warrior ended up kidnapping Hogan’s number one stooge and brainwashed The Disciple into joining his One Warrior Nation (which officially bumped it from being a one-man-army to a dynamic duo). Warrior and the Disciple would continue to annoy Hogan with the same smoke trick, leading to the infamous Nitro segment involving Hogan, Bischoff and a two-way mirror:

The whole thing could’ve been potentially saved if not for the fact that Schiavone, Heenan and Zbyszko all reacted to seeing The Warrior appear in the mirror, as we were supposed to believe Hogan was just losing his mind.

Ultimate Warrior: “[WCW] was a whole different operation there. There was nobody making any decisions about anything. Bischoff had a problem with panic attacks, and an house before a live television throw-around, he’d say things like ‘Spontaneity, spontaneity’ when he really had no frickin’ idea! It was like, the music’s on. Send somebody to the ring.’

Vince wasn’t there to say, ‘Okay. I’ve listened to all the ideas, and this is what we’re going to do’.” – ‘Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived ‘Forever” [2015]

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Bruce Mitchell: “In the last ten weeks, Nitro has won five weeks, Raw four weeks, and there was one tie. The WWF hasn’t hot-shot any angles, signed any new high-paid names, and is without the star power of Shawn Michaels, but is managing to compete with Nitro.

Meanwhile, Nitro is focusing on a bizarre, homoerotic angle where Warrior has hung Disciple upside down, kidnapped him for a week, laid him flat on his stomach in the ring, and convinced him to leave Hollywood Hogan’s side and join him. Even Ric Flair’s presence can’t clear the fog from that angle.” -PW TORCH #513 [September 26th, 1998]

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Ultimate Warrior: “Say what you want, and others can think whatever they will-and naturally the business has changed in so many ways since then, but when I went over there in’98, Ultimate Warrior was a Main-Eventer, and I can assure that is the kind of investment they made. My first 15 minutes in the ring, after another long, long, absence proved that beyond any reasonable doubt. It was a launching pad WCW could have used to take Ultimate Warrior to a whole other level. But they didn’t want to do the work, put the time in. They were already convinced reaching for the lowest, degenerate level of creativity was where it was at. And as much as I was willing to give it whatever it would have took, you need a whole team of people behind you.” – FlynnFiles.com Interview [2004]

The Warrior would team up with Sting to reunite The Blade Runners on Nitro that ended up being a fun nod to their history together, but Warrior’s injury kept him from doing much beyond a couple of clothelines (while still wearing his jacket and jeans).

WCW was saving the REAL Warrior for Halloween Havoc.

The night wrestling died.

Holy shit.

Kevin Sullivan: “There was something very strange between those two, [Hogan and Warrior]. It was like—in my head, there was such a deep resentment between the two, I didn’t know if they could possibly have a good match.” – Kevin Sullivan’s Helluva Deal [June 2nd, 2017]

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Ultimate Warrior: “I don’t know if anyone ever gets to know Terry [Hulk Hogan]. He may not even know himself, he’s been working himself for so long. In ’98, he invited me down to his place in Florida and, well, let me just say here, to save expanded thought for my book, he was very, very shallow and was not mature in ways that a person his age with his life experiences should be. It was, especially since I had matured in some really strong and empowering ways, very disappointing, disheartening.” – FlynnFiles.com Interview [2004]

Curiosity got the better of me, and I paid my hard-earned $30 (or begged my Mom to spend her hard-earned $30) in order to watch the entire Warrior vs Hogan II match live. Funnily enough, this was the PPV that went too long and had several cable systems shut it down before the main event occurred, so for years, I never actually got to see the actual finish of this debacle. Divine intervention took place that night, and I was luckily enough to be spared seeing what happened past the point when Hogan tried using a fireball (wtf?!).

The Warrior vs Hollywood Hogan could be the worst match ever shown on a WCW PPV from any era. At least, the Vince Russo swerve jobs where we saw Hogan or Jarrett lie down for their opponents were over in a matter of seconds. This cluster of a match went on past ten minutes.

Kevin Sullivan: “I wanted to get a noose and hang myself. It set us back.” – The Hannibal TV [November 2017]

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Bryan Alvarez: “WCW did themselves no favors with Halloween Havoc, it almost felt as if the company was trying to see how bad a show they could put on that people would still pay to see. The Hogan vs Warrior rematch was so far beyond atrocious that it actually made their War Games match look like a Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat classic. The bout went on for nearly fifteen minutes, and it’s no exaggeration that these two forty-plus-year-old men could realistically only go about fifteen seconds.” – ‘The Death of WCW’ [2004]

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Dave Meltzer: “Hogan (Terry Bollea) pinned Warrior (Jim Hellwig who if you didn’t know has legally changed his name to Warrior) in 14:20. Warrior came out to Warrior sux chants. I guess steroids do a number on your hearing as well as he was acting like they were all cheering him. A comedy of mistimed spots of epic proportions.” – ‘Wrestling Observer Newsletter’ [November 2nd, 1998]

Eric Bischoff: “I think I agree with the critics that the Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior match at 1998 Halloween Havoc was one of the worst matches in history.” – ‘WWE: The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

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Hulk Hogan: “The match at Halloween Havoc didn’t deliver like it should of, and it was probably on the list of all time ten worst matches that I’ve ever had, but it was my fault. So, that was definitely a moment in time.” – ‘Warrior: The Ultimate Legend’ [2014]

Eric Bischoff: “The Ultimate Warrior is not a great ring technician. Hulk Hogan is, without a doubt, one of the most charismatic, entertaining performers, I think, in the history of our industry. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he can have a great match with everybody. He’s got to be in the ring with somebody that compliments his style, compliments his character, and the Ultimate Warrior was just not that guy.

Consequently the match pretty much stunk up the joint. You could smell it all the way down the street in Las Vegas.” – ‘WWE: The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

R.D. Reynolds: “The match was well south of abysmal, and despite having two of the biggest wrestling stars of the past fifteen years in front of them, the fans in Las Vegas nearly booed them out of the building. The finish was to see Hogan throw a fireball into Warrior’s face, but it took the Hulkster nearly two minutes to manage a tiny spark that wouldn’t have lit a cigarette. Warrior was finally subdued, however, and Hogan had defeated his hated rival.” – ‘WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling’ [2004]

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Hulk Hogan: “I think I pretty much came up with some hare-brained idea that ruined that match. We had all the intensity going into it, and I came up with this hare-brained idea since he character was so off the wall that after I beat him up and was really doing a pounding on him that he should make this huge fighting come-back blind. And I kinda blew it.

I got into the ring and I had this huge wad of flashpaper and as I went down a corner, I pulled it out of my tights, I was gonna light it with a lighter and throw it in his face and then he would be blind. And then when I would go and grab him by the neck, he’d reach out to grab me and start his comeback. All of a sudden, we’re in the corner and it’s time for the flashpaper. Time for all the fire to blind the Ultimate Warrior. I pull the flashpaper, I couldn’t get the lighter lit. All of the sudden, the lighter lit, the flashpaper blew up in my face. Burned all the hair off my mustache and on eyebrows and eyelids.

I think probably everybody in the arena started laughing.” – ‘WWE: The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

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Dave Meltzer: “Hogan was supposed to throw a fireball at Warrior. But after attempting to light the flash paper in slow-motion, he threw the fireball and nothing happened. No fireball. The whole place groaned and poor Warrior, who didn’t have a clue to begin with, really didn’t know what to do. This spot will be replayed for the next 100 years and at this point they had blown away the Sid Vicious-Night Stalker match as the worst match of the past two decades…

[Negative] ***** ” – ‘Wrestling Observer Newsletter’ [November 2nd, 1998]

With an incredibly and ultimately embarrassing effort over and done with, The Warrior was quickly ushered out of World Championship Wrestling. He only made two more appearances for the company, one on the following Nitro to address his loss to Hogan and one (inexplicably) a full month later to save The Disciple from an nWo beatdown. The wrestling dirtsheets had already proclaimed the Warrior experiment to be over and that WCW was just going to eat the costs for their reported million-dollar, six month contract with him.

It really did seem like the only real reason The Warrior was brought back was to avenge Hogan’s loss at WrestleMania VI. Nothing more.

Ultimate Warrior: “So, even though one of the great stories of the industry is that Vince was really concerned that he might not be able to compare against WCW back in the day when they were doing the nWo, the reality was that was never going to happen. They rode it for as long as they could and used Turner’s checkbook. And that’s what they did for me. They used Turner’s checkbook to buy me to come back to lose a match to Hulk. It was repulsive to me when I finally realized it. If I would’ve known, I would’ve never gone back, even for all the money that they gave me.’ – ‘Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived ‘Forever’ [2015]

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Eric Bischoff: “Anybody that would suggest that the only reason that we brought in the Ultimate Warrior, and the only reason I used the budget that I had available to me at the time was to bring him in so that Hogan could get revenge and we can soothe Hogan’s ego, that is just drinking their own Kool-Aid and living in their own vacuum. It’s not true.” – ‘WWE: The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

I so want this jacket.

Ultimately, The Warrior failed to become a major player in WCW, but you could argue that his injection into the Monday Night War led to WCW’s last hurrah in the television ratings battle. WCW stayed competitive after his departure but in 1999, WWF RAW scorched Nitro and left it for dead, once and for all.

The Ultimate Warrior would return back to the shadows and try his hand at being the Ultimate Conservative through political ramblings on his website (which has long since been deleted). Warrior would not be seen in WCW or even WWE programming again until he was announced as a pre-order bonus character for the WWE 2K14 video game.

Eric Bischoff: “Warrior was kinda like Randy Savage, in a way. Incredibly intense and passionate. Very creative. A little on the outside edges of comprehensible… but it doesn’t mean its bad. He was just way out there.

So, you get somebody that’s really intense and passionate and you mix that character with somebody that’s on the outside of the edge of really, REALLY on the outside edge of the box, and it can be a challenge. He was that challenge.” – RF Video Shoot Interview [2014]

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Tony Schiavone: “Warrior just did not seem to me to be one of the guys.” – ‘What Happened When’ Podcast [May 22nd, 2017]

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Sting: “[With] that clique there and that clique there, [WCW] kinda just fell apart, and he came in right in the middle of all that stuff. Politics and all the stuff going on. Wrestling can be pretty brutal in that way. That’s probably why all this never really took off.” – ‘Warrior: The Ultimate Legend’ [2014]

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Ultimate Warrior: [W]hen I went to WCW, there were what you could call politics, plenty of it, but I would call it what it really is: Backstabbing, conniving, being a scumbag to weasel whatever you didn’t have the talent to get. There are many things that led to the demise of WCW, but it was plenty of politics as I describe them that sped it along. I can guarantee you that. – FlynnFiles.com Interview [2004]

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Eric Bischoff: “Just the creative differences between Ultimate Warrior’s vision of who he was and what he wanted to do and our vision of what he was capable of being, we realized that it just was a short-term relationship.” – ‘WWE: The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior’ [2005]

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Ultimate Warrior: “Ultimate Warrior as a character could have really been used to great benefit. It always turns my stomach to see guys talk tough but not have the moral backbone to back it up. Again, the truth is that those guys hated Vince and used tons of TV time mocking him and lashing out at him. And then later they crawled over there [to WWF] begging for jobs. That’s a whole lot of pride to swallow, man. I think probably to do so, you have to have had plenty of practice over the years to, well, let’s say accommodate that kind of swallowing. I don’t believe that about those guys, Bischoff and Hogan and the others, before I went over there. Then, I saw it happen. It really showed me that they are really tiny, tiny guys with even tinier balls.” – FlynnFiles.com Interview [2004]

Always believe, that the Ultimate Warrior is not above using homophobic innuendo against his enemies. Maybe it would’ve been for the best if I just stopped watching wrestling after WCW folded, and I would’ve never known how much of a dick the man behind the paint truly was.

At least Hogan ended up being the hero we all–oh, right.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I still say the Goldberg was the worst investment. His gimmick was basically bald Ultimate Warrior. Hogan/Warrior could have sold out the Ga Dome for less money. Not to mention all of the guys they could have elevated for way less money AND jobs by other wrestlers. They were hiring upper midcarders for 6 figures just to lose to Goldberg by late 1998!

  2. But the buzz at the time was massive, I remember the build-up here in the UK and we couldn’t wait for Nitro when we somehow knew he was coming back that Friday (wasn’t shown on Mondays here) Watched it in a big group and we exploded when he came out to face down Hogan. “I thought you were dead” and “This must be your barber” were classic lines!

  3. It wasn’t a bad idea. Until Warrior grabbed a mic. Though now, as with all many great things not appreciated in their time, his anything goes promos would be HIT television now.

  4. Warrior was not a homophobic racist bigot etc etc. You’re probably yet another hater who is basing his opinion off that one night at UConn where a room full of mouthy millennials tried to heckle him and got OWN’d (SWIDT?). Sad that most people reference this night when referring to him as a bad guy, yet none ever take the time to mention how much he motivated and empowered people with his inspirational YouTube videos in the years before his death. People probably aren’t even aware of the kindness he showed a grown man of a different nationality who approached him in tears at an autograph signing and expressed to him he was his hero. He held the guy as he cried and even let the adoring fan caress his face. Not something a racist homophobe could do.

    In the business people are quick to denounce him as overrated, one-dimensional, etc. Two of the best Wrestlemania matches in the history of the event featured him. Was Hogan/Bundy great? No. Was Hogan/Andre great? Lord, no. Hogan/Slaughter? Hogan/Sid? No. Warrior/Hogan? One for the ages. Warrior/Savage? Better than the Hogan main event that night. Hell, Warrior/Rude put on better matches than Hogan, unless he was working with Savage. Say what you want about the in-ring ability of the guy on the outside. It took a special person beneath it to be able to make it work.

    • There’s more to Warrior than his “queering doesn’t make the world work” line. A lot of his ranting has been completely white-washed off the Internet in order to present this sort of inspirational hero to all mankind persona.

      Having Warrior suggest that Hurricane Katrina was a GOOD thing or something that the people of New Orleans deserved because of their “poor choices” in life is more than enough to cement the fact that he was a bigoted piece of trash.

      Warrior as a wrestler wasn’t technically gifted but you’re right about him being able to connect with the audience. I would never go as far to say he carried any of his matches himself but the ULTIMATE WARRIOR character had an unbelievable staying power that does deserve a place in the WWE Hall of Fame.

  5. Bryan must be in the works as an aspiring media journalist throwing the words, racist and bigot around. Good luck to you!
    RIP Warrior
    We miss you dearly.

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