WWE: Ultimate Warrior dead at 54
For Brian Myers, the Ultimate Warrior was "literally my first memory of wrestling."
Myers, a Glen Cove native, says as a 5-year-old everything was captivating about the Warrior, from his over-the-top banter on television to his picture on the cover of a VHS tape Myers' brother would bring home from the rental store.
Myers now wrestles as Curt Hawkins in WWE and just opened the Create a Pro Wrestling Academy in Hicksville.
"Now I’ve made a career out of it and I owe it all to him because he drew me into it," said Myers.
The Warrior, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last Saturday as part of WrestleMania 30 festivities, died Tuesday at the age of 54, according to a post on WWE.com.
Scottsdale, Ariz., police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark told the Associated Press he collapsed while walking with his wife to their car at a hotel, and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
He was born Jim Hellwig until legally changing his name to Warrior, and excited WWE fans in the late '80s and early '90s by sprinting to the ring sporting face paint and color-coordinated tassels and trunks.
In 1990, Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to become WWE champion at WrestleMania 6 in Toronto and later worked for World Championship Wrestling.
"We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away. Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters," WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon said on his verified Twitter account.
His induction into the hall served to bury the hatchet between Warrior and WWE. He was released from WWE for the final time 1996, and subsequently sued the company for the rights to his name.
"Warrior was a very unforgettable albeit polariazing attraction in the pro wrestling business," said WWE hall of famer and former play-by-play announcer Jim Ross.
In 2005 WWE released a DVD titled "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior," in which many affiliated with the WWE questioned his attitude, professionalism and lack of wrestling ability.
"The DVD was just wrong," Warrior said during his hall of fame acceptance speech, adding that it was "hurtful."
Ross said the only time he worked with Warrior to an extensive degree was as part of Mid-South Wrestling in 1986. In an industry where the newbies are often expected to defer to the veterans, the Warrior's mindset was unique.
"I think overall, he was somewhat of a philosopher at a very young age about the power of positive thinking, not making excuses," Ross said. "He was very set in his ways even as a young guy."
That philosophy was often expressed in his WWE interviews, which company veteran Chris Jericho best described on the 2005 DVD as "quizzical."
Ross added, "His words were motivational, and understandable to a younger demographic, where as an adult you might try to overthink it a little bit."
After years away from the company, Warrior appeared for WWE during last year's SummerSlam pay-per-view festivities to promote the company's "WWE 2K14" video game release, and along with the hall of fame induction agreed to a multi-year deal to become a WWE ambassador.
Warrior began his career as a tag team with multi-time world champion Sting in Memphis as one-half of the Bladerunners. Warrior debuted in WWE -- then known as the WWF -- in 1987 as the Dingo Warrior, a character he portrayed in pro wrestling's lower ranks before a name change jump-started his career.
WWE executive Paul Levesque, who portrays Triple H in WWE and was one of the WWE stars who criticized Warrior in the "Self-Destruction" DVD, was instrumental in bringing the Warrior back into WWE's fold.
Warrior noted Levesque's efforts in his acceptance speech.
Levesque on Tuesday night tweeted in part, "Saddened to announce the passing of the Ultimate Warrior. Icon and friend."
Warrior last appeared with WWE on Monday night's episode of "Raw." The crowd in New Orleans cheered when he donned a mask to replicate his signature paint job.
But Ross will always remember sitting in the front row at the hall of fame ceremony Saturday night next to Hulk Hogan and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and watching what he thinks was the Warrior's most memorable performance.
"It was classy," Ross said. "He was always kind of this mythical character with the music and the presentation and the promos. To see him with his little girls was humanizing, and that’s what I caught onto on Saturday night. Regardless of what he did in the ring, he said his greatest accomplishment was being a father. That's what will stick with me."