The Ultimate Warrior RIP

When you boil down what professional wrestling truly is at its core, it's a super-heroic morality play between good and evil. From Hornswoggle to Daniel Bryan to Randy Orton, to Batista to the Great Khali, pro wrestlers look like and solve personal issues in a manner akin to very few other human beings on planet Earth. It's in this crucible of unique personalities with super-human characteristics (that many times bear a minimal connection to actual reality ) where wrestlers exist. Insofar as resolving their struggles, wrestlers re-contextualize the struggles of our own lives into issues solved by pinfalls and disqualifications. In this most spectacular of alternative realities, likely the most incredible of personalities was the now sadly deceased Ultimate Warrior. The most telling fact about his recent induction into World Wrestling Entertainment's Hall of Fame was the child-like naivete he showed towards his career in his speech. When you peeled away the tights, boots, muscles, facepaint and voice, there was an incredibly humble guy named Jim, a guy who by the age of 25 was the eldest of five children, and aspiring to be a professional bodybuilder. In the grand scheme of life, if you had tremendous aspirations for your level of potential success, we could likely presume that Jim-at-25 wasn't exactly meeting great expectations. Describing himself as a youth who was "small, insecure" and "not into many sports," the idea of (eventually) becoming the Dingo Warrior had to be a no-brainer of an idea. If presented with the opportunity to completely change one's stars in life (with a seeming guarantee of certain success), 110 times out of 100, people will take the chance. If by the age of 32 you're main eventing the World Wrestling Federation's sixth Wrestlemania event and defeating Hulk Hogan for the company's World Heavyweight Championship, that's incredible. It's shocking, and makes the hope for something more from life absolutely worth it. As an industry, pro wrestling was never always kind to the Ultimate Warrior, and in hindsight, it maybe should have been. WWE's The Rise and Fall of the Ultimate Warrior DVD is the most easy-to-condemn of the mean-spirited things wrestling did to this man. In retrospect, it's made even more terrible because it showed just how little the wrestling industry understood the greater human purpose of the man who at some point decided to literally embody what it was to be all things "Ultimate." Jim Hellwig was an outsider to our ranks as fans, wrestlers and executives. He was a man who, when presented the option of literally becoming a superhero, did just that. Furthermore, as a sign of the heart and decency of this man, he decided to do this not just for himself, but for people just like he once was, too. From the physique, to the facepaint, to the out-of-left-field promos, they were all there to hide the "small" and "insecure" person that he once was, and that we all are at some point, in some way, in our lives. So he had a "limited move set," he was "difficult to do business with," and he was "out there as a person." It's logical to presume that if anyone else were guided by the desire to not just "have entertaining wrestling matches," but attempt to guide others towards overcoming their shortcomings, you'd march to the beat of a different drummer, too. Wrestling attracts various types of people into its ranks. There are the grapplers and high flyers, oftentimes little guys who actually like the intricacies of the art of ground or aerial combat. For them, the allure of wrestling lies in the idea that if they master these skills, that they can give the appearance that they can literally beat anyone, regardless of size or strength. There are the bodybuilders, who wrestle because there are precious few places in the world where they are able to comfortably be physical giants. The wrestling industry thus is an outlet for them, a place where they can thrive and be appreciated by the world. Then there are the charlatans, characters and carnies, the people who are just too weird for anywhere else in the world. In likely by being ostracized from most everywhere else, they end up literally running away and joining the circus. But insofar as people who evolved in pro wrestling and literally (in all ways) became a superhero? As he himself said, there literally is only one Ultimate Warrior. In 1993, the ex-World Wrestling Federation champion born Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior. While we may all find that more-than-odd, it actually falls right in line with who he had become. He was Warrior, a superhero not driven by WWE-developed marketing slogans like "train, say your prayers and eat your vitamins" or "hustle, loyalty and respect," but who was driven by words said in promos that it's entirely logical to believe absolutely nobody could script. As well, later in life, the volumes of words he wrote and spoke about the world gives credence to this notion, too. In deciding that a life lived excelling by a supreme standard of strength and influence was a life worth living, he's absolutely a legend worth honoring not just in a Hall of Fame or with a heartfelt remembrance. Rather, in every single person he touched attempting to meet the standard that he actually set for us to reach ourselves, we may remember him best. Pro wrestling took an average human being and made him an "Ultimate Warrior." Instead of breaking necks and cashing checks with this name, he instead lived up to the challenge of its meaning. In his untimely passing, instead of being overcome by grief, let's, like Warrior, aspire to something more. We all have a space in life where we need to don our metaphorical makeup, sprint into battle, shake the ropes, giant splash, then snarl, bellow, scream and offer praise to whatever God (or God-like being) we believe in for having the strength to overcome. (We'll) always believe, Warrior. Thank you.
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Besides having been an independent professional wrestling manager for a decade, Marcus Dowling is a Washington, DC-based writer who has contributed to a plethora of online and print magazines and newspapers writing about music and popular culture over the past 15 years.