Yet another of wrestling’s greatest and most-beloved legends has departed for that glorious ring in the sky. When I heard about the Ultimate Warrior’s untimely & premature passing, I was like every other wrestling fan; absolutely shocked and deeply saddened.
What made the death of Jim ‘Warrior’ Hellwig so unfathomable was that the weekend prior FINALLY saw him take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, make his heroic return at WrestleMania XXX, and then address the WWE Universe (or rather his ‘Warriors’) the following night on Raw, delivering a heartfelt (and eerily ironic) speech, thanking his fans and saying that the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior would live forever.
One thing to take solace from this heartbreaking loss is that after years of fighting, Vince McMahon and Warrior were finally able to make peace and the 2014 Hall of Famer’s legacy has been honoured and celebrated the way it SHOULD be. The Warrior’s story has received the happy ending it deserved, so it’s with that content attitude (and desire to pay my respects) that I too purchased Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection.
Now, everyone doubtless remembers the LAST DVD based on this man; 2005’s infamous Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior. It was without doubt one of WWE Home Video’s most shocking and controversial releases, certainly its most shameless, which saw Vince, Jim Ross, Ted DiBiase and Bobby Heenan (among others) tear down Warrior with such profanity it was unbelievable! However, the DVD was one of my favourites due to its presentation, special-features and summary of Warrior’s career accomplishments. Yes, it was NOTORIOUSLY one-sided, but nevertheless outstanding.
THIS TIME round, Warrior was finally given the chance to tell his side of the story, and before & after the main-programme, he addresses his fans in typical Warrior character. Throughout the feature itself, Jim Hellwig recounts his life & career in a humble, respectful & (ultimately) grateful tone; certainly NOT as the psychotic, disrespectful & self-centred rogue DiBiase and Heenan (for example) labelled him several years back!
The presentation, format and insights from Warrior himself, certainly make this Ultimate Collection feel MUCH more honest & gratifying than its ‘Self-Destruction’ counterpart, but what makes the experience truly positive is that Warrior takes the time to praise all those who worked with him to help get the Ultimate Warrior over; not just legends like Rick Rude, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage and (of course) Hulk Hogan, but all the various jobbers who were fed to him to build-up his character. The level of Warrior’s gratitude to those who helped him, his honesty regarding his limitations and the remarkable thought-process behind the development of his character…it all speaks volumes about Jim Hellwig as a person, a talent and a creative genius.
One of the concerns I had about this 3-Disc DVD (admittedly) is if there would be enough material to spread out across the entire set. Warrior being the kind of performer/wrestler he was, technical fanatics obviously won’t find the same depth of rich viewing you’d expect from Ric Flair/Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels DVDs. But while this Ultimate Collection isn’t an overall masterpiece (compared to say the CM Punk and Chris Jericho sets), this production has nevertheless been very well compiled. You’ve got a variety of Warrior squashes, some thrilling matches, some classic ones, all interwoven with some fantastic Warrior promos and segments (amidst the discussions with Jim Hellwig himself). The balance & structure is superb overall, making this set not only a positive portrayal of the Warrior’s legacy, but a worthy one as well.
Matches range from terrible-to-enlightening-to-thrilling-to-legendary. There are many squashes included here (the majority being against jobbers to build-up the Warrior), but the most prominent of these is a fascinating UWF Tag Bout featuring the Bladerunners Tag Team (with Sting) and the spectacular domination of Intercontinental Champion, the Honky Tonk Man (from SummerSlam 1988). Of course, there are much meatier bouts which showcase the potential the Ultimate Warrior had, and how awesome he could compete given the right opponent.
A rare match against Harley Race is a fine example of this, and then the first Warrior classic comes in the form of the fantastic Intercontinental Title Match from SummerSlam 1989 against Rick Rude. Other legendary wars include the epic Career-Ending Match against Randy Savage (perhaps Warrior’s greatest in-ring rival) from WrestleMania 7, and (of course!) the Ultimate Challenge against Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 6; a spectacular battle-of-the-titans which sees Warrior become the only man to hold both WWE and Intercontinental Championships.
Other highlights include an absolutely thrilling WWE Title defence against Ted DiBiase from Main Event, a lively brawl against Sergeant Slaughter, a hilarious/effective ‘Weasel Suit’ match against Bobby Heenan and some rare, interesting bouts against Andre the Giant and the Undertaker. With regards to promos & segments, some of Warrior’s finest moments are here-to-be-found. Such as Warrior’s intense ‘Crash the Plane’ promo, his shocking WCW Nitro debut, ending Brother Love’s career with decimation, a sinister (and now doubly disturbing) appearance on Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlour, and absolutely terrific segments with Goldust and Jerry Lawler from 1996.
Alas, it’s not all good. The infamous WrestleMania 12 squash against Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) is somewhat unnecessary, and the Jerry Lawler bout from King of the Ring 1996 is unfortunate in that it’s a lacklustre affair that fails to live-up to such brilliant hype. A return bout against the Honky Tonk Man drags badly, the classic WWE title match against Savage from SummerSlam 1992 is missing, and it’s disappointing that Warrior doesn’t go into detail over certain issues (i.e. his departures and falling-outs with Vince).
Although a notably flawed release, Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection remains a terrific collection for fans, and a positive tribute to a man who will be sorely missed. To Warrior’s family, I give my deepest condolences for their loss. To Warrior fans old and new, purchase of this DVD is essential.
Rest in Peace, Ultimate Warrior. Your spirit will indeed live forever.