Just three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame former professional wrestler Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig) died of a heart attack. Ultimate Warrior’s wrestling career ended sixteen years before his death. Hellwig was finally recognized from the WWE for his contributions at the Hall of Fame ceremony on April 5, 2014. All bad feelings between he and the WWE were pushed to the side while the fans of Warrior were allowed to celebrate his career during an emotional speech and retrospective of a tumultuous but impactful life.
The Ultimate Warrior’s wrestling career was short due to various reasons, the most topical at this point after his death was his insubordination towards WWE owner and CEO Vince McMahon. Warrior and McMahon had several disputes that ranged from death in the family to creative control. The dispute that has many talking after his death occurred in 1992. Hellwig was released from his contract after WWE was being investigated by federal officials for supplying their wrestlers with steroids. Warrior was one named in a key piece of evidence and subsequently was granted a release.
The WWE after 1992 still had their problems with steroid usage and drug use in general. Since 1992 the list of wrestler related deaths due to drug use or prolonged drug use that eventually led to the death is: Brian Adams, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bobby Duncum Jr., Pitbull #2, Eddie Guerrero, Curt Henning, Crash Holly, Chris Kanyon, Sherri Martel, Lance Cade, Elizabeth, Louie Spicolli, Chase Tatum, Test, Umaga, Luna Vachon, Randy Savage, Larry Cameron, Art Barr, Eddie Gilbert, Dick Murdoch, Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, Big Dick Dudley, Davey Boy Smith, Hercules Hernandez, Big Boss Man and Ludvig Borga. That is 28 total deaths that have occurred in wrestling that can be linked in one way or another to drug use.
The WWE in 2006 instituted the substance abuse and drug testing policy that has been updated every year to make sure the wrestlers are not going down the path of many wrestlers before them. The company has suspended some big stars due to the policy and even some lesser known wrestlers. The WWE has been public with their commitment to keeping their wrestlers off of drugs.
The WWE is not done with improving their policies to keep their wrestlers past and present healthy and taken care of. Wrestlers are independent contractors that wrestle more than 2/3rds of the year. While under contract with WWE the wrestlers cannot wrestle anywhere else. To be honest there isn’t much left in line of competing companies due to the monopoly the WWE has in the wrestling industry. Wrestlers are responsible for paying for their own health insurance and life insurance. Many insurance policies will not cover the wrestlers due to the nature of the continued abuse on them physically. Many former wrestlers have come out publicly supporting the need for a wrestler union. A union would protect wrestlers past, present and future and would insure them and their families for the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed while with the WWE. The WWE recently released the WWE network and has been making a huge profit. Rewarding the wrestlers and their families that have built the WWE would go a long way to making sure the negative press that is coming out against the company after wrestlers’ deaths will no longer be an issue. Between 1992 and 2006 the WWE looked the other way when it came to drug use and paid for it. McMahon and the WWE will have to deal with many more former stars deaths due to the drug usage in the past. The company should setup a fund for these wrestlers so they can get the necessary care that can insure them to live a longer life. A union will help the stars of today and will insure the company is standing up for the right cause.
Ultimate Warrior on his final television appearance spoke publicly saying “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.” A profound quote coming from a man that has battled with a company throughout his life and has now stopped battling after a celebration of his life. The WWE, need to continue to celebrate their fallen legends and stand with them in their battle with life after wrestling.