The Ultimate Warrior, the WWF wrestling legend who was born James Brian Hellwig (and who, in 1993, legally changed his name to Warrior), passed away Tuesday at the age of 54.
While, sadly, the early death of a professional wrestler is all too common, this one is particularly shocking because he's appeared on WWE programming three times in the previous three days.
WWE.com confirmed his passing and added, "We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was also able to appear at WrestleMania 30 and Monday Night Raw to address his legions of fans. WWE sends its sincere condolences to Warrior's family, friends, and fans."
It was strange enough to see Warrior at WrestleMania for his Hall of Fame induction this past weekend; his last appearance with the company was in 1996, and the split was acrimonious. Lawsuits over the use of the name and likeness of Warrior and Ultimate Warrior flew back and forth; in 2005, WWE released an unflattering DVD called "The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior."
Little wonder that Stephanie McMahon, WWE's chief brand officer, someone who has been in the business literally since birth (she is the fourth generation of McMahon to promote wrestling) posted this just hours before news of his passing.
Fences were eventually mended. Last year, he appeared in the WWE 2K14 video game, and he was involved in the festivities this past WrestleMania weekend.
Despite past acrimony, there is no doubt that Warrior deserved to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. After Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, he is the single most recognizable face of pro wrestling's heyday in the 1980s. His physique and in-ring intensity made fans of children and adults alike. He was also an inspiration for many of the wrestlers working today.
Scott Hall, a fellow Class of 2014 Hall of Fame Inductee, like many, couldn't even believe it was true.
Most, though, have grown sadly used to announcements of wrestlers passing before their time.
His final words, to a crowd of 15,401 on Monday's "WWE Raw," were fitting last words for a man who defined intensity for a generation of fans: "I am Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans, and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!"
He is survived by his wife, Dana, and his two daughters, Indiana Marin and Mattigan Twain.
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