WWE Network recently paid tribute to The Ultimate Warrior, who passed away suddenly April 8th at 54, with its “Warrior Week” of programming. Dedicated to perhaps the company’s most colorful champion of all time, both literally and figuratively, fans were treated to clips of his greatest matches and testimonials from legends both young and old about Warrior’s influence in the wrestling world.
On the penultimate night, WWE aired its “Ultimate Legend” documentary, which intersperses interview clips with Warrior with more recent footage of him visiting WWE headquarters in Stamford and preparing for his Hall of Fame induction in New Orleans over WrestleMania weekend. In doing so, they aired what I would argue is one of the single greatest pieces they have ever produced. Kudos to the WWE production staff and all involved. If you missed it, go out of your way to catch the replay on demand. I promise you won’t regret it.
Never have I watched an hour of WWE programming that has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster the way this special did. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter what you may have thought about The Ultimate Warrior, either as a wrestler or a human being. You don’t need to be an Ultimate Warrior fan to appreciate the story being told here. In some ways, it’s a story of redemption.
Not that Warrior himself needed much in the way of redeeming. He seemed quite content living his life away from wrestling, as its most famous pariah, for the better part of 18 years. But along came the “Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” DVD in 2005 that really stuck in his craw, so much so that a lawsuit was filed claiming slander and libel… not the first time Warrior has found himself in a courtroom battle with WWE attorneys. If it wasn’t obvious during his Hall of Fame speech how much that DVD still bothered him (broke his heart, he said, which is a cruel choice of words given how he died), it was every bit as apparent during this special.
But over the course of the documentary, we see Warrior make amends with a number of people who have had some unpleasant things to say about him, and vice versa. Some of the most gripping scenes are the displays of emotion from Vince McMahon and Triple H, with Hunter being the man who brokered the deal to bring Warrior back into the family in the first place. The same Triple H who years earlier referred to Warrior as the most unprofessional person he had ever worked with (stemming from their brief battle at WrestleMania 12 in 1996). All of those feelings seemed to wash away in one memorable scene as the two men came together in Hunter’s office. Then, we have Vince and the complicated, almost father/son-like relationship he and Warrior seemed to have over the years. Seeing the two men embrace on stage during the Hall of Fame rehearsals and put their past squabbles behind them was refreshing. We then see Warrior signing a copy of “The Little Engine That Could” to Vince and handing it to him backstage before going out for his speech. Vince had always thought of Warrior as the Little Engine That Could because he wouldn’t take no for an answer, something he had said to Warrior years ago that stuck with him all this time. It was then that Vince realized, he had been listening all along. “You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it,” said the chairman, through tears. This was some of the most poignant television ever produced by WWE, and not a single “writer” was involved.
There is also a powerful scene backstage at WrestleMania where Hulk Hogan apologizes to Warrior for his past indiscretions and asks for his forgiveness, to which Warrior obliges. Hogan even hopes they might be able to rekindle their friendship. It’s too bad they never had that chance. Then came the scenes with Warrior and his children, the most heart-wrenching of any in the documentary. Warrior’s father left when was only 12. Now his own children, right around that same age, will have to grow up without their father. Life can be cruel sometimes.
You can’t script stuff like this. This is as real as it gets. Absent the depressing ending, it’s something we need to see more of on the WWE Network going forward. To be fair though, I’m not sure there’s a better story that could be told than the one we saw last night. Do yourself a favor and watch this documentary, but be forewarned – those damn ninjas chopping onions got me last night. They will get you, too. They’re very sneaky.
Rest in peace, Warrior.