by Irvin Muchnick
Barry Petchesky of Deadspin wrote a very good piece on Jim Hellwig, a.k.a. the Ultimate Warrior, so I don’t have to. Go to “The Ultimate Warrior Was An Insane Dick,” http://deadspin.com/the-ultimate-warrior-was-an-insane-dick-1561275496.
Hellwig collapsed and died Tuesday, at age 54. He leaves behind two young daughters for whom I feel very sorry – first for losing their father prematurely, if predictably; second for being saddled with what became his legal surname, Warrior.
We all love a sob story and we’ll find one here. Warrior had the timing to pull off his Saturday induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, after making business peace with Vince McMahon, plus a live in-ring promo on Raw two nights later, less than 24 hours before his death. In the former speech, he was somewhat more coherent than usual and had the disarming grace to admit that he wasn’t such a tough guy, he just played one on TV.
In 1991 I wrote a cover story for Spy magazine on McMahon’s ill-fated effort to take over pro bodybuilding, which he perceived as a sister “sports entertainment” of pro wrestling. The article discussed the then-WWF’s roster of roided-out lunkheads, epitomized by Hellwig. I quoted Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter calling him “The Anabolic Warrior.” I quoted one of Hellwig’s own goofy interviews, which included the line, “I eat the chemical toxins that other men fear.” I said he could barely pose and mug without getting winded.
A few years ago I was contacted by Warrior’s management team about ghostwriting a book with him. I wasn’t the least interested, and in truth, they shouldn’t have been interested in me. The prospective deal never got past my sending them a standard collaboration agreement, at whose terms they balked. They claimed to have a six-figure offer from a publisher on the table. But in the aftermath I didn’t see any Warrior book anywhere.
In addition to the Deadspin article, I commend a recent piece by David Bixenspan, for Britain’s Fighting Spirit Magazine (http://www.fightingspiritmagazine.co.uk/), about Hellwig’s epic legal battles with McMahon over money and “intellectual” property. In anticipation of the Hall of Fame induction, which no one could know would stand as a swan song, Bixenspan plumbed court records to fashion a wild narrative about the outside-the-ring dance of domination between two great American eccentrics.