The announcement of the Ultimate Warrior as the main event inductee for the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony wasn't exactly a shock. It goes back to last Summer, when he did the media rounds to promote inclusion in the WWE 2K14 video game.
While he's been in other WWE video games in recent years (some wrestlers who have issues with WWE will make deals with their licensees), this was the first time he was the centerpiece of a game's advertising. When asked about future plans with WWE, he said "We're not fighting...but I can't tell you anything about the future."
While the issues between WWE and Warrior go back over 20 years, their most recent big public dispute was over WWE's "Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD release in 2005. As you can guess from the title, it was more or less a hit piece, which came about after Warrior refused to cooperate.
WWE subsequently invited him to respond on their "Byte This" internet talk show, but Warrior issued a statement refusing the invitation where he called co-host Darren Drozdov (paralyzed by an in-ring injury) a "cripple." Until last year, the resulting battle was more or less the status quo.
Before the DVD, there were three key issues between Warrior and WWE, each of which ended a run in the company. His original run ended at SummerSlam '91. WWE's claim is that he held up the company for money (wanting equal pay to Hulk Hogan) or else he wouldn't appear in the main event as advertised. This was corroborated by Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter both at the time of the incident (this and other Observer links are subscribers-only) and at various times in the subsequent two-plus decades (including last year).
Warrior's version, as outlined in the blog post that included his refusal of the "Byte This" invitation, is that there was a dispute over his WrestleMania 7 payoff not being in line with other performers in comparable spots. In this version of the story, Vince apologized and wrote a laudatory letter to him, only to then suspended him after he wrestled the match. The truth maybe a combination of both stories.
Warrior was gone until WrestleMania 8, where he returned with a noticeably leaner physique and a different haircut, starting decades of "there were two Ultimate Warriors" rumors. With Hulk Hogan going on hiatus, he had a nice spot waiting for him. He was one of the company's top babyfaces along with Randy Savage, Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith.
The version of the WWE drug testing policy in effect at the time was fairly new and very strict. As Meltzer noted in the 2013 story linked above, WWE fired Warrior and Smith after allegedly discovering that they had been trying to beat the testing with Human Growth Hormone. There was no test for HGH at the time and while there is a blood test now, its reliability is often questioned as it can only detect synthetic HGH within a few days of injection at best.
Warrior has since claimed in both legal filings and interviews that none of this was true and it was a made-up excuse to fire him. Last year on MLW Radio (h/t WrestlingInc.com), this is what he said about his 1992 departure:
Vince was feeling the heat from the federal investigation in what ultimately became an indictment over the steroid thing. It's another one of those instances where he did what he had to do to protect his foremost interest, which was himself and his business. He made the claim that me and Davey Boy, Davey Boy got let go at the same time, that we had violated the drug policy at the time, which wasn't true."
We deposed Dr. [Mauro] Di Pasquale, who was in charge [of the drug testing program]. We went to Canada and deposed him as part of the litigation and he said it wasn't true. He was the guy that had the absolute authority in the program to decide who should be let go or if there was a different way of evaluating something. If they saw something on a wellness program test or something, it was up to him. He said he was totally shocked and surprised when Vince let me go and fired me. He never got a reason.
It's worth noting that with HGH being a substance that couldn't be tested for, the story was always that WWE had found evidence that the drugs were being imported. Since it wasn't "on a wellness program test," it's possible that Dr. Di Pasquale didn't have to be involved.
Warrior's last stint with WWE was in 1996 and was the shortest of his three runs, barely lasting four months. When his father passed away, he no-showed a few house shows. WWE felt that with Warrior having been long estranged from his father and already allegedly threatened to no-show if WWE didn't buy copies of his comic book to sell at live events, it wasn't why he didn't show up. They asked him to post an appearance bond, he didn't and he was let go.
In some ways, this is crazier than Bruno Sammartino being inducted last year. For all of his issues with WWE (and like Warrior, there were lawsuits), he never did anything like write the venomous blog posts Warrior wrote over the years.
What do you all this of this development? Has Warrior softened in old age? Let us know in the comments.