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By Stuart Carapola on 2011-06-21 11:00:00
With our old pal Warrior Warrior thrusting himself into the spotlight once more with his recent shoot interview where he buried Hulk Hogan for nearly an hour, it occured to me that a lot of today's wrestling fans might not really know who he is, or they know who he is and might have seen one or two matches, but don't really appreciate why he's remained such a legendary figure despite being one of the most chronically absent main event wrestlers of the modern era. You've heard the stories about crazy things the guy says or does, and that's probably what he's most known to today's fans for, but there is a pretty interesting story to his time as a regular in the business.

The Ultimate Warrior had an extremely successful career during his initial time in the WWF between 1988 and 1991, and despite his poor wrestling skills and incomprehensible interviews, he had a look and charisma that connected with wrestling fans and led to him getting the monster babyface push of a lifetime. He squashed the Honky Tonk Man to win the Intercontinental Title, ending Honky's record 14 month reign in the process, then became the only man to score a clean win over Hulk Hogan during Hogan's 1983-1993 WWF run, beating him in the main event of Wrestlemania 6 to walk out with both the WWF World and Intercontinental Titles. He went on to hold the WWF Title for nearly a year, and then had the best match at Wrestlemania 7 when he beat Randy Savage in a memorable Retirement Match. In the face of his almost completely nonexistent talent or passion for the business, Warrior was wildly successful and a major player in the WWF.

Then suddenly, he was gone. No angle, no injury, he just disappeared at Summerslam 1991 after chasing General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa to the back during the main event Hogan/Warrior vs Triangle of Terror handicap match. Warrior was nowhere to be found after that, but the WWF proved that they could do okay without him, bringing Savage out of retirement months later to have a heated feud with a heel turned Jake Roberts, plus the addition of Ric Flair to the roster and the elevations of the Undertaker and Sid Justice to main event status filled whatever void had been created when the Warrior left.

Still, his fans noticed he was missing and spent months clamoring for his return, and they got their wish at Wrestlemania 8.

The Ultimate Warrior's 1992 WWF Run

Warrior made his WWF return following the Wrestlemania 8 main event of Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice, a match that ended in a DQ (the only Wrestlemania main event to ever do so) and subsequently saw Sid and Papa Shango commence a 2-on-1 beatdown on Hogan. Suddenly, the familiar music hit and the Warrior made his return by tearing down the entry aisle at almost light speed, clearing Sid and Papa Shango out of the ring, and saving the day for Hulk Hogan to a huge reaction from the fans in attendance. Wrestlemania came to a close with the two men who had fought each other just two years earlier celebrating together in the ring as the pyro lit up the Hoosier Dome.

With Hogan leaving after Wrestlemania for a year-long hiatus, Warrior stepped in and began a feud of his own with Sid Justice, and the two of them were headed to what would surely have been a titanic collision of epic proportions, or some such hyperbole. It never happened, because Sid took a cue from the Warrior and pulled his own disappearing act shortly after Wrestlemania and didn't return for several years. Instead, Warrior found himself feuding with Papa Shango, and while Charles Wright would one day repackage himself as a more fondly remembered character as the Godfather, Papa Shango was representative of all the silly characters that pervaded the WWF at the time. He was a voodoo shaman, wearing a tattered voodoo jacket, painting a white skull on his face, wearing a top hat, and carrying around a smoking skull that he would use to cast curses on people.

Now, the problem wasn't so much the character itself, because we've seen characters that would seem to be way too cartoonish and surefire failures waiting to happen, but ended up getting over anyway, such as the Undertaker or the Honky Tonk Man. Truthfully, the Papa Shango idea wasn't all that bad and actually was kind of cool in an intimidating, child scaring kind of way, but then it went awry when he started casting spells on people. Every week, he'd come out for a squash match and would torture his would-be opponents with evil spells like making blood randomely leak down their faces, or (and I swear this really happened) catch fire and make them run screaming to the back to put themselves out. Eventually, Papa Shango turned his attention to the Warrior and started using his magical powers against him as well, making black goo ooze out of Warrior's hair during an interview segment and, in one of the more memorable visuals of 1992, made Warrior vomit in a sink backstage, on camera and everything, and the barf went everywhere because Warrior was also suffering from convulsions caused by the curse.

I'm sure you can imagine how much fun this was to watch as a fan, and after a run together on the house show loop, Warrior and Papa Shango seemed destined for showdown at Summerslam 92. Instead, fate intervened and Warrior was thankfully taken completely out of this stupid feud and inserted into the World Title picture, and would now challenge his old rival Randy Savage for the WWF Title at Summerslam in Wembley Stadium. Interestingly, no mention of their prior feud was made during the build to this match, though they did make up for it with a suitably intriguing storyline.

Prior to the announcement of the Savage-Warrior rematch, Savage had been feuding with Ric Flair over both the WWF Title and the honor of Savage's wife Elizabeth, whom Flair had besmirched by claiming to have had her before the Macho Man. Their personal and professional issues would have seemingly pointed to Flair getting the Summerslam title shot, but he ended up getting edged out in favor of the Warrior. Instead of a violent reaction, Flair decided to keep himself in the title picture in another way: by having his Executive Consultant, Mr Perfect, offer his services to both Warrior and Savage, with the highest bidder winning Perfect's services at Summerslam.

There were a lot of questions about how or why these discussions and allegations were being made. Why would either Savage or Warrior trust Perfect? More interestingly, why did each accuse the other of taking Perfect up on the offer, yet neither man denied negotiating with Perfect themselves? And perhaps most importantly, whose corner WOULD Perfect end up in at Summerslam? Nobody was talking, and all Mr Perfect would say when asked who he would be accompanying was that he would be in the winner's corner.

The answer, at least at the beginning of the match, was neither of them. Both men came out alone, but as the match progressed, Flair and Perfect eventually made their way out from the locker room and stood in a neutral corner. Both Savage and Warrior glared suspiciously at them, suggesting that even they didn't know who Perfect was there to help. Perfect made his first move by tripping Savage from the outside, casting suspicion in the Warrior's direction, but then Flair and Perfect came into the ring later on after the ref got bumped and knocked Warrior out with a chair. Savage didn't see the chairshot and went up top to hit the flying elbow, but then realized that he hadn't knocked Warrior out and hesitated. He realized it must have been Flair and Perfect, and dove at them instead, but took a chairshot to the leg from Flair on the way down and ended up getting counted out. Flair and Perfect viciously attacked Savage's leg as soon as the bell rang in an obvious attempt to injure the champion, but the Warrior recovered and chased them to the back with a chair. Unlike the previous year at Summerslam, Warrior came back to the ring and helped Savage to his feet, handed him the WWF Title belt, and assisted the champion to the back.

Perfect's game was revealed: he was never planning to help either Savage or Warrior, and the only reason they were out there was to injure Savage and leave him easy prey for Flair, who had ruined the Summerslam match because he thought he should have gotten the title shot to begin with. As it happens, Flair had a title shot just days after Summerslam and, with Savage's knee already injured coming in, Flair used the assistance of Perfect and Razor Ramon to beat Savage and regain the WWF Title.

Savage was now hopelessly outnumbered and needed help in his war with Flair and company, and he joined forces with the Ultimate Warrior since he was the one man he thought he could trust to watch his back. Savage and Warrior dubbed themselves the Ultimate Maniacs, and they were signed to face Flair and Razor in the main event of Survivor Series 92. Unfortunately, that never happened because the Ultimate Warrior again left the WWF just weeks before the Survivor Series, leaving the WWF high and dry and with a major hole in their PPV main event. Mr Perfect was hastily turned face and brought out of retirement to team with Savage at the PPV, and the Ultimate Warrior's involvement in the storyline was immediately and completely erased.

* * *

The Ultimate Warrior burned the WWF big time with the way he departed the company, and for the second time at that, and the WWF did their best to erase his existence from the company's history, not using his name or acknowledging him in any way for years. But time heals all wounds (especially when you're losing a Monday night ratings battle), and the Warrior eventually came back to the WWF for one last run. Next time, we flash forward to the Ultimate Warrior's 1996 WWF Run!

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