The Ultimate Warrior, the WWF wrestling legend who was born James Brian Hellwig (and who, in 1993, legally changed his name to Warrior), passed away Tuesday at the age of 54.
While, sadly, the early death of a professional wrestler is all too common, this one is particularly shocking because he's appeared on WWE programming three times in the previous three days.
WWE.com confirmed his passing and added, "We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was also able to appear at WrestleMania 30 and Monday Night Raw to address his legions of fans. WWE sends its sincere condolences to Warrior's family, friends, and fans."
It was strange enough to see Warrior at WrestleMania for his Hall of Fame induction this past weekend; his last appearance with the company was in 1996, and the split was acrimonious. Lawsuits over the use of the name and likeness of Warrior and Ultimate Warrior flew back and forth; in 2005, WWE released an unflattering DVD called "The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior."
Little wonder that Stephanie McMahon, WWE's chief brand officer, someone who has been in the business literally since birth (she is the fourth generation of McMahon to promote wrestling) posted this just hours before news of his passing.
Fences were eventually mended. Last year, he appeared in the WWE 2K14 video game, and he was involved in the festivities this past WrestleMania weekend.
Despite past acrimony, there is no doubt that Warrior deserved to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. After Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, he is the single most recognizable face of pro wrestling's heyday in the 1980s. His physique and in-ring intensity made fans of children and adults alike. He was also an inspiration for many of the wrestlers working today.
This is absolutely horrific news. After just meeting my hero yesterday,finding out about @UltimateWarrior passing is unbelievable.Speechless— Hornswoggle (@wwehornswoggle) April 9, 2014
When I was in first grade, I was Ultimate Warrior for Halloween. I just watched his HOF speech two hours ago. I don't even have words.— Corey Graves (@WWEGraves) April 9, 2014
Scott Hall, a fellow Class of 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee, like many, couldn't even believe it was true.
Just heard a horrible rumor...please tell me @UltimateWarrior is ok ..,,,— Scott Hall (@SCOTTHALLNWO) April 9, 2014
Most, though, have grown sadly used to announcements of wrestlers passing before their time.
Loss always has a way of reminding us to live and love as greatly as we can. My prayers and strength to his family. RIP Ultimate Warrior.— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) April 9, 2014
Saddened to announce the passing of the Ultimate Warrior. Icon and friend. My sympathy to his wife Dana and his daughters— Triple H (@TripleH) April 9, 2014
We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters.— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) April 9, 2014
Break my heart. I love you forever #RIPUltimateWarrior— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) April 9, 2014
Heartbroken. My sincerest condolences go out to The Warrior's family. Seeing how much he loved his daughters and his wife this weekend...— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) April 9, 2014
... makes it all the more heartbreaking. The Ultimate Warrior was my favorite as a kid, and getting to speak to him this weekend was one...— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) April 9, 2014
... of my favorite moments. He was so nice to me. #RIPWarrior— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) April 9, 2014
The news of Ultimate Warrior passing away immediately after returning to the @WWE is unbelievable-I'm shocked. My condolences to his family.— Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) April 9, 2014
Shocked and very saddened to hear about Ultimate Warrior passing. Prayers go out to his family! RIP. Loss for words...— Curtis Axel (@RealCurtisAxel) April 9, 2014
Just after this weekend,after last night? Im shocked & so saddened to hear of the passing of @UltimateWarrior.My prayers are with his family— Summer Rae WWE (@RealSummerWWE) April 9, 2014
In such shock about the Ultimate Warrior! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family! #RIPUltimateWarrior 🙏🙏— Eva Marie (@natalieevamarie) April 9, 2014
Truly awful news about The Ultimate Warrior's passing. Thoughts go out to his family. RIP.— Bad News Barrett (@WadeBarrett) April 9, 2014
Saddened to hear of the passing of @UltimateWarrior. I'm glad I got to shake his hand.— Joey Mercury (@WWEMercury) April 9, 2014
That last interview he did on raw makes you feel like he knew #UltimateWarrior— Chris Masters (@ChrisMasters310) April 9, 2014
His final words, to a crowd of 15,401 on Monday's "WWE Raw," were fitting last words for a man who defined intensity for a generation of fans: "I am Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans, and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"
He is survived by his wife, Dana, and his two daughters, Indiana Marin and Mattigan Twain.