Last Saturday, I watched the WWE Hall of Fame live. To close it out was the amazing speech giving by the Ultimate Warrior, now just Warrior. It wasn't amazingly good. It was amazingly ... try-hard. He tried so hard to be humble, to bury the hatchet, to talk about everything in his career honestly and openly, to put on a happy face, to thank the fans and those in the industry that gave him a chance, and to apologize. I really do believe he tried. He didn't do a good job, but he tried, and you could see it in his eyes.
Last Sunday, at Wrestlemania, I watched him walk out and get honored by 70,000+ fans for the legend he truly is.
Monday, I watched him come down to the ring on Raw for the first time in 8 years, grab and shake the ropes, then put on an Ultimate Warrior mask and give the craziest speech about legacy and living forever and immortality.
And yesterday, he died.
People who don't watch ask me very often how it is I can like wrestling. "It isn't real." No, it is scripted. There is a reality to wrestling beyond what you can see anywhere else. The pagentry, the athleticism, the sports-storytelling, all of that falls away when you see Daniel Bryan take only a single moment to let it all sink in and get teary-eyed at Wrestlemania after winning the biggest matches of his life. Or to see the genuine smile on the Big Show's face listening to Scott Hall and Warrior's speeches at the Hall of Fame. Or hear a heartfelt thank you from a hero. Yes, a fake hero, a storytelling hero, but one just as legitimate as Luke Skywalker is to many, or Indiana Jones, or Batman.
The Ultimate Warrior, the joke he became, the honor he received again, and the wrestler he always was, was a hero to me. As a kid, he was my favorite. So much so I tried to do his Gorilla Press Slam to my mother and she got upset and told me and my dad I wasn't allowed to watch wrestling anymore. He had boundless energy, intensity personified, honesty and integrity that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. That last part is a thing that I relate to quite well, mostly the rubbing people the wrong way part. I watched him do the impossible. And I watched the company turn on him. 8 years later, the company and he bury everything. Backstage handshakes and hugs and thank yous. And now an icon has died. An icon who left the business to have a loving family. An icon who finally got to be redeemed in the eyes of the company as a whole.
And he has passed away.
The tears I have running down my face are very real. They let me know that as a fan, Ultimate Warrior truly is immortal. He lives on forever in old magazines, dvd sets, and the hearts of fans and coworkers and new crops of wrestlers who looked up to him as a child. He lives on here, with me. Always will, deep down.
I pray for his family, his two young daughters who he was so proud of and loved so much when he brought them with him to the Hall of Fame.
Rest in Peace, Warrior.
Forgiveness in a single picture.