A few days have passed since the death of WWE legend Ultimate Warrior. The shock hasn’t dissipated yet, but the memories have begun. All day Wednesday, WWE Network aired shows that featured Warrior, including his Wrestlemania VI victory over Hulk Hogan and a special dedicated to Warrior.
Warrior’s relevance in the WWE resurged this past week with the anticipation of Wrestlemania weekend. On Saturday, Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, ending an 18-year hiatus and real-life feud with Vince McMahon. Pictures from the ceremony hit Twitter, including a powerful picture of Warrior and McMahon embraced in a long overdue hug.
On Sunday, Warrior joined the rest of the new inductees on the stage at Wrestlemania, receiving a chorus of 70,000-plus cheers from the New Orleans crowd. And on Monday, Warrior went into character, putting on a mask that resembled his face paint before delivering one more promo.
In his promo, Warrior gave probably the greatest speech of his career, one day before he died. A lot of you have read it by now, but here it is:
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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 makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper, than something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.”
Warrior finished with telling the fans that “the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever.” Days after his death, his spirit is still running. And in wake of his untimely passing, we take a look at five of the greatest moments in Warrior’s career at WWE.
5. Warrior squashes Honky Tonk Man/HHH
I had a difficult time choosing between which squash match was more important for Warrior. In 1988, Warrior won his first big match that legitimized him as a star in the WWE, defeating Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam ’88 [VIDEO]. The match lasted just 31 seconds, earning Warrior his first Intercontinental Championship.
Warrior would go on to have many more epic matches before burying another wrestler eight years later. Warrior made his return from some time off to face Hunter Hearst Helmsley at Wrestlemania XII. Helmsley hit Warrior with a pedigree to start the match, but Warrior jumped right back up. Warrior went on to do his signature moves and beat Triple H in 100 seconds. Warrior would jump ship to WCW shortly after and Triple H would go on to have a Hall of Fame career.
4. Warrior returns at Wrestlemania VIII to rescue Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was wrestling in the main event against Sid Justice. After a big kick out, Hogan began to hulk up and rally against Justice. He body slammed him, hit the big boot but Justice kicked out. Harvey Wippleman got in the ring and drew the disqualification.
Hogan and Justice continued to battle, but Papa Shango came down to the ring to get involved. With Justice and Shango beating down on Hogan, Warrior’s music hit. The Hoosier Dome in Indiana exploded as Warrior sprinted to the ring. Warrior clotheslined Shango over the top ropes and then received a chair shot from Justice before Hogan protected Warrior from a second chair shot before clearing him from the ring.
The two icons posed in the ring to a loud ovation from the crowd. It is one of the most iconic images in WWE history seeing the two biggest stars from the late 80’s/early 90’s together as a team.
3. Warrior beats Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII
Warrior and Savage, who died less than three years ago, had arguably one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history [VIDEO]. This match was billed as a retirement match, meaning the loser would have to retire. Because of the stipulation, the crowd was hot the entire match as they didn’t want to see their favorite, the Ultimate Warrior, lose.
Savage, going by the “Macho King” at the time, had the Sensational Queen Sherri in his corner and she was creating havoc all match. Sherri would climb into the ring and distract Warrior or the ref, and she would attack Warrior outside of the ring. Savage would use the distraction to his favor and gain the momentum in the match
The peak of the match came when Savage hit his signature elbow drop not once, but four times on Warrior. Warrior kicked out and began to blow up, feeding off the crowd’s incredible energy. Warrior pressed Savage up over his head, dropped him and hit the running splash, but Savage kicked out.
Warrior looked up to the heavens and questioned his gods on why he didn’t get the pin. With Warrior distracted, Savage knocked Warrior out of the ring. He set Warrior up on the barricade and climbed to the top ropes for a jumping axe handle but missed. Warrior rolled him into the ring and pumped himself up again, hitting three diving shoulder blocks before pinning Savage with one foot on his chest.
On a side note, this match was also famous because Miss Elizabeth, who was sitting in attendance, rescued Savage from the beating Sherri was giving him while he was down because he lost the match. Savage and Elizabeth embraced, and he held her on his shoulder while the crowd exploded again.
2. Warrior is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame
After 18 years, Warrior returned to the WWE. Recently signing a multi-year legends contract to be an ambassador for the company, Warrior received the highest honor he could: headlining the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame class [VIDEO]. Warrior was led out to the podium by his two daughters and spoke for over 30 minutes, spotlighting his family and thanking all of the Warrior fans for making him who he was. Warrior snarled for the crowd, and acknowledged the fans chanting “you still got it” and asking for “one more match.”
It was a fantastic celebration of Warrior. Pictures popped up of him backstage with current and former stars, and many of the current guys were honored to meet one of the many wrestlers they idolized while they planned their own future in the business. His next two days continued the celebration as he was honored at Wrestlemania XXX, and his bone-chilling promo on Raw. Warrior was received like a prodigal son, and I’m glad he got to witness that one more time.
1. Warrior beats Hogan at Wrestlemania VI
This match, billed as “The Ultimate Challenge,” is considered one of the greatest match ups in WWE history [VIDEO]. Though it’s not the best match performance-wise on the list, it’s the first time Warrior won the WWE Championship and was what turned him into the legend he is considered to be today.
Hogan put the challenge out to Warrior because he wanted to know if Hulkamania or the power of the Warrior was stronger. Both the WWE Championship (Hogan) and Intercontinental Championship (Warrior) were on the line for the match. The build for this match was intense, and Warrior gave one of his most memorable promos when he told Hogan to take control of the plane and crash it, ultimately self destructing. It was intense and powerful, a signature of all of Warrior’s greatest promos.
The intros for both competitors were intense. The crowd was just as hot as you would expect from a crowd of that era. The match itself lasted nearly 23 minutes. Both men went back and forth throughout the match. With the referee down, Hogan had the match won but there was no referee to cover. Warrior rallied and hit his running splash, but Hogan kicked out.
Hogan began to hulk up and was on his way to victory. Hogan hit the big boot and went for the big leg but Warrior rolled out of the way. Warrior popped up and hit his running splash to get the three count. Warrior won the match, and in a show of sportsmanship, Hogan handed Warrior the title, raised his hand and embraced him as a passing of the torch from one great superstar to the next big star.