April 1, 1990.
Hulk Hogan versus The Ultimate Warrior.
I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting in the home of my friend who still to this day is a wrestling fan ever since he first introduced me to WWF nearly 30 years ago.
I remember the $30 that I had saved up, happily paying for the pay-per-view when my friend was unable to cover the cost of ordering the event.
I was NOT going to miss this moment, no chance at all.
I remember beause for me it was a moment that would stand the test of time. For many, many years it would be a moment that just brought me pure joy as “my guy” did the unthinkable. Someone I believed in, someone that made me smile.
24 years later he would teach me a greater lesson, one that will last longer than the happiness that original moment brought 2 1/2 decades ago.
The 15th year of my life was one of “those” years that stands out, never to be forgotten for many reasons. A year filled with tough challenges and important lessons to be learned. When those challenging moments came about, something that helped me out was what happened in Toronto, Ontario that day revolving around a man I would never meet (but did receive an email response from in 1998).
Think back to a memory from your own childhood that makes you happy.
I don’t care what that moment is, we each have our own interests, our own path, but the feeling is the same regarless of what race, gender, or age you are.
Childhood heroes are so important and while the man who would legally change his name to Warrior wasn’t my hero, he was a person that taught me it was okay to be your own person, to be different. The man taught me how it feels when someone you believe in exceeds and how you don’t have to follow the crowd in life.
At a moment when I needed something positive to grasp onto, I had a moment and it was special.
Pat Patteron (wrestler who has worked for WWE for many decades) would later report that after Warrior walked out of Toronto with arguably one of the biggest wins in professional wrestling history versus a man that never lost fair and square, he was found in the locker room sobbing. Repeating over and over again “thank you” for the trust that Vince McMahon and his company had in him. I am guessing that Warrior felt he had had one of those highlight moments of his life at the ripe old age of 29 years old.
He would later learn that that highlight moment would simply be a MOMENT in his life.
The TRUE meaning of this life would come later.
I didn’t know Warrior the individual any more than what I have read online so I cannot pretend to get inside his head, but his own writings, his own videos, and his own court depositions paint the picture of a very angry, jaded man.
I could go into minutia regarding his controversial political appearance in 2005 or his own writings after Heath Ledger died in 2008 but this would be pointless. Those 2 examples and laborious blog posts over the years seem to be the work of an individual that felt the need to “get back” at the world through the use of a grenade when a hug would have worked so much better.
Anger eats you alive.
Like a cancer, anger grows and grows and it will spread and become malignant, consuming someone if they are not careful.
Something changed in Warrior after 2008 though. Something good.
Gone were the nonsensical rants, gone were the vitriol-laced speeches, gone were the stories that would pop up on wrestling news sites about the latest crazy thing the man with the birth name of James Hellwig had said or done.
When I watched the heartfelt video Warrior made after his friend Randy Savage died at 58 years old in 2011, I remember emailing friends at how wonderful this was, so heartfelt, so normal.
In a world of professional wrestling where there is a minefield of talent who have died too young, Randy Savage (my other favorite wrestler when I was a kid) was just another name in the ocean of fallen souls. He wasn’t in his 30s or 40s, but 58 is still far too young to breath your last breath.
I could have never guessed who would join him 3 years later… and 4 years younger.
When it was announced that Warrior had made peace with WWE in the winter of 2014 I was shocked. Of all the bitter divorces, this was one that I thought had little chance of ever being mended.
But I think I know why/how this reconciliation came about.
“…the most awesome thing I will ever do is be your father” — Warrior, WWE 2014 HOF Induction Speech
For many people the birth of their children is the happiest moment of their life.
For me, every day I get to BE my daughter’s father is the happiest moment of my life.
I don’t know the man but I think that Warrior came to peace with the individuals who had made him so mad and felt so wronged by (whether he was right or wrong really doesn’t matter) because his love for his 2 daughters outweighed anything that had happened in the past. As his girls grew older he realized he had to lead by example and let the anger go.
Warrior decided that teaching forgiveness and love were much more important to the people he loved most of all. He realized that he could have a great future and no longer had to stowaway on a train car of infuriation.
The hand of fate can be very cruel.
Nearly a year ago and only 3 days after “my guy” made peace with World Wrestling Entertainment and was inducted in their Hall of Fame, Warrior dropped dead of a heart attack while walking outside with his wife.
From the highest high to the lowest low in a matter of hours, this was perhaps not so much a surprise. The Ultimate Warrior was a man who lived life hard and fast. On the “volume control” of life which has a range of 0 to 10, his was permanently set to 11.
Warrior was there for me when I needed something to make me happy during a time of my life when there were few things to smile about. He would teach me another lesson about love, and learning to let go and not hold onto anger when I was much older with a daughter of my own.
Warrior’s credo for the longest time is a fitting statement no matter how old one is…