5 Matches, Moments That Made The Ultimate Warrior a WWE Icon

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2021

5 Matches, Moments That Made The Ultimate Warrior a WWE Icon

0 of 5

    Credit: WWE.com

    The Ultimate Warrior is one of the most enduring Superstars in WWE history, a former world champion and Hall of Famer who will be the subject of A&E's Biography Sunday night.

    A larger-than-life performer defined by his neon face paint, jacked physique, unbridled energy and often-rambling interviews, he captured the attention of the WWE fans to such an extent that Vince McMahon himself believed he could supplant Hulk Hogan.

    While that may not have happened quite as the Chairman of the Board imagined, Warrior remained one of the biggest stars of his generation and is a bona fide pro wrestling icon.

    Ahead of his night in the spotlight, relive these matches and moments that earned Warrior sports entertainment immortality.

5. Papa Shango's Curse on Warrior...and the WWE Fans

1 of 5

    You cannot appropriately tell the story of Ultimate Warrior without reliving some of the ridiculousness that defined his career, and nothing is more over-the-top or jaw-droppingly bad than his storyline with Papa Shango in 1992.

    Cursed by the witch doctor, Warrior crumbled to the ground in pain before vomiting all over the backstage medical staff in a scene right out of The Exorcist. The following week, he would be in the midst of a promo with "Mean" Gene Okerlund when black blood would ooze from his forehead and over his white WWE track jacket.

    It was a level of absurdity that pushed the limit of both good taste and what fans were willing to put up with in the already over-the-top world of professional wrestling.

    The two never had a real, high-profile blowoff match, most likely because the prospects of Warrior vs. Shango were far scarier than anything the creative team could think of to get that match in the ring.

    Still, it was a key feud in Warrior's history. And for some young fans at the time, it is vividly etched in their minds.

4. 'His Spirit Will Be Immortalized by the Storytellers'

2 of 5

    For the first time in 18 years, The Ultimate Warrior returned to WWE Raw just 24 hours after WrestleMania XXX in 2014 and two days after taking his place among the greats as the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame.

    Sporting a colorful jacket and a plastic Warrior mask, the legendary performer addressed the WWE Universe with a heartfelt promo that felt like one final goodbye to an audience that had loved and supported him over the course of his career.

    No one could have expected the weight his words would take on just 24 hours later when Warrior unexpectedly died of a heart attack. What had been a WrestleMania weekend of celebration and honor turned tragic.

    In hindsight, Warrior's final words before a crowd are that much more mythical, meaningful and unforgettable.

3. The Retirement Match

3 of 5

    Those who criticize the in-ring work of Ultimate Warrior often fail to recognize how much of a showman he was. His ability to generate emotion is one of the most underrated elements of his performance. Look no further than the epic Retirement Match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII.

    Despite downing Macho Man and appearing to have the win locked down, Warrior found himself in awe as his opponent kicked out. Then he started questioning himself. He looked at his hands, then to the sky and debated walking away.

    Perhaps it was his time. Maybe it was a higher power giving him a sign to leave behind professional wrestling.

    He was snapped back to reality as Savage attacked. Then he did the unthinkable. After four consecutive top-rope elbows by Savage, Warrior kicked out and proceeded to kick some major ass, putting his opponent down for the count following a barrage of shoulder tackles.

    His place in WWE preserved, he walked out of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena that night victorious, having delivered the greatest performance of his career against an opponent who knew how to best utilize his strengths between the ropes.

    A superb match and one of the best examples of pure, unadulterated spectacle in WWE history.

2. Destroying The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988

4 of 5

    By the summer of 1988, The Honky Tonk Man had spent nearly a year infuriating fans with his undying ability to sneak away from matches with his Intercontinental Championship in tow.

    No matter the beating he took or how close it appeared he came to losing it, the Elvis wannabe retained his gold, sometimes by hook but almost always by crook.

    Then came a fateful night in the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of the inaugural SummerSlam pay-per-view. Originally scheduled to defend against Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, an arrogant Honky Tonk Man took to the ring to issue an open challenge to any Superstar who wanted to replace Beefcake and challenge for his title.

    The familiar guitar riff exploded over the PA and the fans erupted as The Ultimate Warrior sprinted to the ring, not giving the loudmouth heel even a moment to hesitate. He bowled him over with a series of shoulder blocks, hoisted him overhead in a gorilla press and dropped him face-first. A big splash later and Warrior had captured his first championship in WWE.

    More importantly than that, though, was the moment. It was his first major angle in the company, a sign that Vince McMahon and Co. were intent on investing in him to be one of the next big stars for wrestling's No. 1 promotion.

    The enthusiasm of the crowd and the fact that he played his part to perfection only made it possible for management to continue in that direction.

    In terms of reaction, historical significance and execution, there are few better instances of a hated villain getting his comeuppance at the hands of a dominant force quite like that SummerSlam squash.

1. The Ultimate Challenge

5 of 5

    For six years, Hulk Hogan dominated the sports entertainment industry. He was the top star in Vince McMahon's WWE and a worldwide attraction. The rise of The Ultimate Warrior provided him with the first real challenge to his spot atop McMahon's empire, with some believing he would replace The Hulkster as the biggest star in the business.

    At WrestleMania VI, the battle for supremacy backstage in WWE manifested in a rare babyface vs. babyface match dubbed The Ultimate Challenge.

    Hogan, in a passing-of-the-torch moment, delivered a classic performance with Warrior en route to putting him over and essentially announced to fans that the face-painted renegade was the new guy on top.

    It was an iconic moment and a match that was infinitely better than it had any right to be.

    After two solid years of building his star and connecting with fans, Warrior had his rise pay off in the grandest of ways. It may not quite have worked out the way McMahon and Co. envisioned it would thanks to a stronger bond between fans and Hogan, but there is no denying how great a part of WrestleMania lore it is and that it is unequivocally the best, brightest and most unforgettable moment in Warrior's career.

    Without it, he is not a WWE icon. Nor is he receiving the Biography treatment Sunday night.