Ultimate Warrior's 5 Greatest Moments During WWE Career
The pulsating entrance music that caused fans across the country to jump to their feet. The frenetic, high-energy entrance. The lightning-quick matches. The incomprehensible promos.
For five years, the Ultimate Warrior was one of the biggest stars in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. He brought an energy, excitement, craziness and unpredictability that other Superstars on the roster were incapable of.
Despite a poor reputation among his co-workers, Warrior's matches against the likes of Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Rick Rude and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase are perfect examples of what he was capable of when given the opportunity to work with talented opposition.
One of most polarizing Superstars in professional wrestling history, his business relationship with McMahon has experienced its share of ups and downs. As a result, Warrior's stays in the company have been inconsistent and there has been a great deal of hostility between the two sides.
The 2005 WWE DVD release Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior only added more gasoline to the fire, as Warrior took exception to the documentary and took McMahon's company to court.
Luckily for both Warrior and his fans, time has healed old wounds and on April 5 of this year, he will take his place among the greatest sports entertainers when he is inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame.
In anticipation for the huge honor, here is a look back at Warrior's most ultimate moments in chronological order.
The Honky Tonk Man's victory over Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental Championship on June 13, 1987 ignited one of the greatest heel runs in WWE history.
For 64 weeks, the Elvis wannabe cheated and stole his way to victory, rarely ever beating any Superstar fair and square. At the inaugural SummerSlam event in August 1988, he was originally scheduled to defend his title against popular midcard star Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake.
An injury suffered by Beefcake at the hands of rival Ron Bass would put him out of action, meaning that the planned title match at the brand-new pay-per-view extravaganza would have to be altered.
Honky Tonk Man, his ego as big as ever, issued an open challenge to any Superstar who thought they could defeat the intercontinental champion and take the title he had held onto so tightly for well over one year.
The fans inside historic Madison Square Garden erupted as the familiar theme song of the Ultimate Warrior exploded over the PA system and the maniacal Superstar sprinted to the ring.
It took Warrior only 31 seconds to do what no other WWE Superstar could over the course of a year. In less than one minute, he dismantled Honky Tonk Man, pinned his shoulders to the mat and captured his first championship in WWE.
The win was the first milestone moment for the face-painted, tassel-wearing Superstar. In the four years that followed, he would have many more, but the reaction he received from the passionate fans in New York, all of them thrilled that he had put an end to the Tennessean's reign of terror, was memorable.
The Ultimate Challenge
By 1990, Warrior had become the second-most popular star in WWE, just behind heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan.
At the Royal Rumble in January, they had teased audiences with a brief interaction before Hogan dumped Warrior over the top and to the arena floor. The reaction the fans gave their face-to-face was strong enough that the decision was made to run with the first-ever babyface vs. babyface main event in WrestleMania history.
More importantly, both Superstars were champions and as a result, the match would be a "winner takes all" bout with the victor holding both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships.
The epic clash took place on April 1 and emanated from the Sky Dome in Toronto.
The atmosphere was truly special. The lighting in the arena created a dim, darker and more personal setting for the match between iconic Superstars.
Hogan and Warrior took turns controlling portions of the match. Late, Hogan kicked out of a pinfall attempt and began hulking up. It appeared as though the Warrior, for as great as he had been to that point in the contest, was about to suffer his biggest loss.
Hogan planted Warrior and attempted his legendary leg drop, but the resident of Parts Unknown rolled out of the way and caught the Hulkster with a big splash. Three seconds later, he had accomplished what was once thought to be impossible: He pinned Hogan clean in the main event of the biggest show of the year.
Warrior's title reign would be less impressive than his actual win. He was constantly in the shadow of Hulk Hogan and was given significantly lesser storylines than the Hulkster, who dominated screen time in 1990 thanks to his feud with Earthquake.
Despite the disappointing reign, the WrestleMania VI win over Hogan remains not only the most significant win of Warrior's career, but also one of the more iconic moments in WrestleMania lore.
WrestleMania VII Retirement Match
The WrestleMania VII main event between Hulk Hogan and Iraqi-sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter may have been the most heavily hyped match on that year's card, but it was the Ultimate Warrior's match with "Macho Man" Randy Savage, dubbed a "Retirement Match," that stole the show and almost immediately went down in history as one of the great WrestleMania matches of all time.
The contest was a masterpiece of storytelling.
Savage, who was one of the most respected in-ring workers of his generation, crafted an outstanding match, while Warrior played his part brilliantly.
The key moment of the bout is Savage's five consecutive top-rope elbow drops to Warrior, followed by an unbelievable kick-out at the count of two by Warrior.
The 2014 Hall of Famer rebounded, punishing Savage before stopping and looking at his hands, then to the sky. In a match where his career was on the line, he looked to a higher power for guidance. Was he really meant to continue on his path?
The answer was yes.
After thwarting last-gasp offense from Savage, Warrior delivered a series of violent shoulder blocks, placed one foot on Savage and pinned him to end his career. Or so many thought.
The match is as memorable for everything that happened afterward involving Savage and Elizabeth, but Warrior's performance in the match, even to this day, is underrated. It was the best performance of his career. He worked extremely hard and was as key to the storytelling involved in the bout as Savage was.
The WrestleMania VII Retirement match is the absolute epitome of professional wrestling. It combined athleticism and storytelling in one neatly wrapped package. It was full of an emotion that cannot be manufactured or scripted.
A perfect match and the finest of Warrior's soon-to-be Hall of Fame career.
WrestleMania VIII Return
WrestleMania has become as synonymous with moments and surprises as it has the actual in-ring product.
In 1992, Vince McMahon felt that a surprise was necessary, especially given the impending departure of Hulk Hogan at the conclusion of WrestleMania VIII.
Enter a Superstar who had left after a bitter contract dispute back in August at SummerSlam, the Ultimate Warrior.
In the night's main event, Hogan battled Sid Justice in what was being billed as "probably Hogan's retirement match." It was a bad match that left fans unsatisfied thanks to a disqualification finish involving Papa Shango. Had the night's festivities ended with Hogan battling back, clearing the ring and posing for the cameras, it would have been considered one of the most lackluster finishes in 'Mania history.
Luckily, that is not what happened.
Instead, Hogan was on the receiving end of a two-on-one beatdown when the familiar riffs of the Warrior's theme music played and the man himself sprinted down the long aisle way, into the ring and helped Hogan clear the villains.
The crowd in Indianapolis exploded with a huge pop as the former champions, and opponents, posed together to close out the evening's event.
Warrior would do little of substance outside of feuding with Shango in one of the most ludicrous stories in WWE history and challenging Randy Savage in a near-classic rematch of their WrestleMania VII bout at SummerSlam '92.
He would depart from the company in the fall.
His return at WrestleMania VIII, however, was electric and proved that he was still a major, viable star in professional wrestling even after being gone for the seven months that he was.
WrestleMania XII Return
In 1996, Vince McMahon's WWE was hurting for marquee stars.
Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and The Undertaker were the core of the company, but Superstars such as Diesel, Razor Ramon and the 123 Kid were on their way out the door. Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Ahmed Johnson, Vader and Steve Austin made up a solid supporting cast, but they were not seen as legitimate draws.
Enter, again, the Ultimate Warrior.
It was announced prior to WrestleMania XII that Warrior would be returning and, shortly thereafter, that he would be taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
There were plenty of questions surrounding the return of the enigmatic star. What would he look like? Could he still go in the ring? What should fans expect? Didn't he die awhile back?
All of those questions would be answered as he entered the Anaheim Pond to a huge ovation, rushed to the ring and dispatched of Helmsley in less than two minutes.
Anyone who had ever seen a Warrior squash match before was largely unimpressed with the actual in-ring product, but the aura he brought with him, the reaction of the fans and the unmatched energy that he produced for his few minutes of showtime were truly special.