Jim Hellwig, the man who gave life to the Ultimate Warrior, has passed. The former wrestler, who just this weekend was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame as part of Wrestlemania 30, was declared dead on Tuesday after collapsing near his car at an Arizona Hotel. News of his passing was first reported by TMZ, and were later confirmed via Twitter by Triple H, a wrestler with a less than amicable history with the Ultimate Warrior.
The WWE also issued a statement on their website lamenting the loss.
“WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever,” the statement read.
The Ultimate Warrior will always be associated with Hulk Hogan, the most recognized wrestler of all time. His greatest moment came in 1990, when he defeated the yellow-clad wrestling icon at Wrestlemania VI.
This was supposed to be the passing of the torch; it was supposed to be the end of Hulkamania. That didn’t happen. Hulk Hogan’s popularity never waned during the 90s and the Ultimate Warrior was unceremoniously booted from the WWE (then the WWF) the following year after asking to be compensated fairly. He would come back a year later during Wrestlemania VIII (seen below) as a hero and savior of Hulk Hogan, only to be kicked out several times during the remainder of the decade.
Hulk Hogan may be the most popular wrestler of the 90s, but the Ultimate Warrior was the most fascinating one. Hogan was Superman: wholesome and virtuous—or at least as much as one can be in wrestling—but ultimately boring. The Warrior, on the other hand, was enigmatic and intense, and, much like Batman, hid behind a mask (a painted-on one). And just like Batman was able to bring Superman to his knees in The Dark Knight Falls, the Ultimate Warrior knocked Hogan off his pedestal, albeit temporarily.
His pre-match promos were poems that would make any member of the Beat Generation envious. Thinking back on him as an adult, the Ultimate Warrior reminds me of a character in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” only instead of being destroyed by the madness, he was fueled by it.
“I look above to the Gods, and when you fall below the skeletons of the Warriors past, the power of the Warriors will become the eighth wonder of the world.”
On Monday, after more than a decade of bad blood between the two, the WWE invited the Ultimate Warrior to Monday Night Raw. It was the son unwillingly made prodigal returning to take his rightful place in wrestling’s pantheon. His final speech fittingly spoke of immortality.
“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat,” he told the thousands of worshipping fans.
“His lungs breathe a 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 and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”
Jim Hellwig, who was 54-years-old sadly passed away, but the Ultimate Warrior did not. His legend, that of a stark raving mad philosopher king, lives on.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.