If you were a fan of 1980s wrestling, especially the WWF, then you know it was all about the bigger-than-life ring personalities. People like Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and the Iron Sheik all helped pack arenas. At the time, however, none were bigger than Hulk Hogan. Hogan had become a cultural icon who had goals that were taking him away from performing in the ring. Vince McMahon had to find someone who could take the torch and run with it. Enter Jim Hellwig, the Ultimate Warrior.
Long before he got involved in wrestling, Jim Hellwig was a professional bodybuilder. Eventually, Hellwig was discovered by a local promoter who felt that Hellwig had the look to be a professional wrestler – even if he lacked some of the skill. After spending a few years in some of the smaller territories, Hellwig got the call from the WWF that he had been working toward. Hellwig still lacked some of the skills needed to be a ring technician, but the charisma kept him employed. Driven by fan response, especially children, Hellwig was eventually given Hogan’s spot as the champion. Unfortunately for Hellwig, the momentum could not be sustained. Eventually, his attitude and self-destructive actions led to his exit from the WWF and the wrestling industry. While the relationship between Hellwig and McMahon was strained for decades, the Ultimate Warrior was, in time, enshrined into the WWE Hall of Fame. In a final twist, after giving an impassioned promo on Monday Night Raw, Jim Hellwig died from a heart attack.
After the last episode – which did not quite feel like it fit on The Dark Side Of The Ring (2019 – 2021) – this episode gets the series back on track. Most of the introduction is handled through the narrator and interviews with Hellwig’s ex-wife. It becomes clear, from the start, that she does not have an ax to grind with Hellwig. She talks about how it became hard to work with his reputation as he became famous. However, she points out that his personality at home was completely different from his public persona.
Most of the negative comments were left to the talking heads who had experience in pro wrestling. Jim Ross summed up most people’s feelings about Hellwig the best by saying that he had never seen a pro wrestler with less talent. The producers explain how a person lacking the talent and understanding of the business was pushed to the top. In trying to keep Hellwig from coming across as a bad person, the episode highlights stories of his battles with anxiety and poor mental health. It is an extremely smart move and is probably one of the biggest reveals in the episode. Just like any redemption story, you have to have a drop before the rise. The coverage of Hellwig’s increased demands and erratic behavior show how he was out of control while also dealing with his anxiety. While Jim Cornette reads some of the letter on the show, a search of the internet will provide the entire letter which reveals the attitude Vince McMahon had toward Hellwig by the time he fired him.
The most disappointing part of the episode was the lack of coverage of Hellwig’s post-WWE career. First, Hellwig changed his name legally to Warrior. He became the character that he created in the ring, which is concerning enough. However, what the show glosses over is Warrior’s motivational speaker career. The Warrior began to speak about conservative ideas and against what he considered the extreme left. He especially spoke against the homosexual lifestyle. It is touched upon briefly in the episode, but not particularly focused on. Instead, the producers decided to focus more on the return to the WWE at the Hall of Fame ceremony.