The Warrior Show

header

The last time I wrote about the Ultimate Warrior was in the 24 hours immediately following his death, which came as the sudden ending to his emotional WWE homecoming. I had a lot of feelings at the time, and a lot to say about the character that had meant so much to me as a child. Here’s me in 2014 about the Ultimate Warrior.

A startling combination of cosmic sixties beat-poetry and eighties self-help aggression, his promos involved snorting, talking into his hands, and breathlessly spouting thesauric fairytales of cod-mysticism and old gods, in one of his two speaking volumes; purple-faced yelling or a throaty stage-whisper. Should future civilisations unearth tapes of 1980’s WWF, between the acid-cowboy dervish of Randy Savage, Hogan’s bug-eyed non-sequiturs, and these three-minute bursts of biblical concept album performance art, they’ll think that Erich Von Daniken was probably onto something.”

While I did touch upon the almost entirely problematic man behind the paint, once you leave the arena of the still-warm eulogy, his various issues become unavoidable. Warrior’s run at the top of the wrestling business was brief, and by 1996, barring a short, dreadful run in WCW two years later, he was effectively retired. Having legally changed his name from Jim Hellwig to Warrior in 1993, he felt the Ultimate Warrior character was notable enough to market itself, and the nineties saw a slew of crazy, failed ventures, all with the Warrior branding, and playing like if Trump had got bitten by a radioactive ape. Along with the Warrior brand, each of these side-businesses strove to represent the fundamental tenets of his new belief system, which he called ‘DESTRUCITY’. Destrucity, as described by the man himself, was about living your life according to his eight defining principles, including Physical, Wisdom, and “Moment of Mastery.

01

Warrior’s desire to spread the transformative power of Destrucity led to the formation of the mysterious Warrior University, launched with a 1995 television ad which showed him shouting in a hi-tech, expensive looking gym, bedecked with murals of himself. On his WWF return in 1996, a 90-second commercial for this “academic institution” ran during episodes of WWF Superstars, stating that its campus was an ‘in’ to becoming a WWF wrestler, and attaining one’s destiny. For $9.95, prospective students could send away for an introductory pack, containing pictures of Warrior, motivational essays, and occasionally, surprise phonecalls, where he’d yell at frightened applicants over the phone to buy more Destrucity-infused photos. Those who Warrior considered worthy of his teachings were eligible to pay the first month’s fee of $5,000, and $1,000 every month thereafter. Judging by the adverts, it seems like Warrior U was a physical place, but despite the purchase of thousands of intro packs, if anyone ever actually enrolled or stepped foot in there, they’ve kept quiet about it. Maybe he never found a worthy student.

02

It was around this time Warrior published a limited-run comic, both starring and co-written by him, with one issue famously appearing to show him sexually assaulting Santa Claus. But it’s hard to motivate anyone through a comic, and in 2010, he was offering personal trainer services via something called The Warrior Workout Kit. For just $175, those wishing to make sick gains could receive a package containing a welcome letter from the Warrior, a CD of inspirational speech, a signed “frame-worthy 8×10 of your favourite Warrior quote” — plenty to choose from in the following section — and most frightening of all, “motivational phonecalls” from a man with absolutely no patience for anybody, particularly the sort of people who need to get into shape in the first place. I’m not saying the Warrior Workout Kit was style over substance, but a portion of the pitch bragged about the high quality parchment paper and printer ink on which he delivered the included ten-page essay. Once again, clearly intent on weeding out those who wouldn’t stay the course, as though clients were meddling with the dark arts, the kit came with the following warning: “DO NOT DISREGARD MY INSTRUCTION THAT YOU MUST HAVE THREE HOURS OF UNOBSTRUCTED TIME BEFORE YOU OPEN THE START Kit TO REVIEW THE MATERIALS!!”

Warrior University was relaunched in 2012, as an online service where $20 a month would get you motivational videos of him screaming at you, but why waste your time yelling at people to exercise when you can just yell at them for being gay? Where Warrior really started to find his niche was in the conservative speaking tour circuit. Pre-dating the Alt-Right, before InfoWars was mainstream, Warrior was a man tragically ahead of his time, with his public outbursts limited to websites that collated wrestling news, reporting the latest freak-outs from appearances where he threw around guff about “liberal loons” and “physically-repulsive butch-dykes slurping on one another’s tongues.” The man who’d once headlined a 67,000 seater stadium was now being laughed at by college students while rage-sweating through a tailored suit as he referred to Arab audience members as “towelheads,” and announced that “queering doesn’t make the world work.

03

As a self-styled conservative commentator, he was a prolific blogger, mining that rich vein of incendiary opinion that the likes of Katie Hopkins and co have since discovered is enough to build an entire career from. When beloved manager Bobby Heenan was diagnosed with cancer, in a gloating post, Warrior could barely contain his glee that Heenan would be “faced with emptying your own personal shitbag” and that “karma is a beautiful thing to behold.” After Heath Ledger died, he rambled about “Bendover Brokeback,” and Willie Nelson’s “queer cowboy song,” before judging Ledger’s death a noble act that removed a negative gay influence from his child. He mocked the survivors of Hurricane Katrina for being fat and poor, while wearing “designer clothes made by rap stars,” and that “their lives were already in ruin — self ruin. Ruined by the bad choices they made over and over.” At every turn, he viciously maligned the business from whence he’d come, and those who’d made a living between its ropes.

But then, despite it all, in 2014 he was back in the WWE fold. At least for a whirlwind 72-hour water-under-the-bridge tour, taking in a Hall of Fame induction, Wrestlemania, and Monday Night Raw, and culminating in his dropping dead in the hotel parking lot before catching the flight home. Subsequently, Warrior was passed into sainthood by the company in which he’d made his name, and with whom he’d spent so long publicly feuding. Backstage footage of him in the wings at ‘mania shaking hands with Hulk Hogan — a man he’d previously accused of being a “dope head” who’d pimped out his own wife — was seemingly enough to complete the turn from hateful lunatic back into good guy. Like one of WWE’s dropped storylines, all wasn’t just forgiven, but completely forgotten, with years of insanity and shit-talking blogs from his side, and the entire DVD they put out devoted to taking the piss out of him from theirs, wiped clean, as though it had never happened.

04

Now back to being an inspirational icon, he lives on in the annual Warrior Award, presented at the Hall of Fame ceremony by his widow Dana Warrior, to recipients who live life “with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior.” A brazen whitewashing of his past remarks, it’s like handing out the Peter Sutcliffe Award for Services to Feminism, and sits uneasily with the myriad bile he’s retched up over the years. It’s impossible not to picture the man himself looking down — or more likely, up — at those being honoured in his name, and wondering what he’d think. Having referred to Darren Drozdov, former WWE wrestler, and following an in-ring accident, quadriplegic, as “the cripple,” it’s possible he’d be shrieking at 2017 Warrior Award winner, paralysed football player Eric LeGrand, to man up and walk. As for 2018’s recipient, a black teenager and double liver-transplant survivor, given Warrior’s previous racially-charged comments about MLK, and his viewing illness as karmic punishment, it’s probably best not to think about it. Similarly, it’s pretty wild the man who took such pleasure in Bobby Heenan’s throat cancer has been posthumously made the public face of WWE’s Unleash Your Warrior campaign for breast cancer awareness.

05

A fascinating game in all this is to wonder what if? What if Warrior hadn’t died? Would he still be a walking symbol of bravery and courageous spirit, or would he have blown it by writing a horrible blog about George Michael? Thankfully, an incredible window exists, in the form of a forgotten television pilot; a window into the man himself, and his weird duality of wannabe guru and hateful fascist; but also a window into possible alternate futures, where his steroid-crammed heart hadn’t popped. In 2012, two years before his death, Warrior teamed with Ash Avildsen; son of John G. Avildsen, director of Rocky, and of the greatest movie ever made, The Karate Kid; to create and produce a pilot. The Warrior Show was a perfect outlet for his philosophy of finding yourself through extreme exercise and Destrucity, and while Avildsen’s involvement suggested contestants might be waxing cars or painting the fences at Warrior University, it was all a clear extension of those Warrior Workout Kits, where he claimed to transform lives and get people fit, by yelling at them so loud, the fat literally shook off their bones.

Like any good transformative life-coach reality show, The Warrior Show sought to fix weaklings of spirit, but unlike most reality shows, it never aired on television, rather, on an official Youtube channel hilariously named Mr. Ultimate Warrior (“Please, Mr. Ultimate Warrior is my father’s name. Call me Colin Ultimate Warrior.”). An initial press release claimed the unscripted, self-produced show was made for you to be inspired, laugh, cry and make you want to change your life for the better,” which Warrior expounds upon in his opening voiceover, so typically over-wordy, that he comes across like a rampaging Will Self. When he’s done monologuing, text appears across a black screen reading “THE WARRIOR has been summoned,” suggestive of an arcane ritual to tear open a sub-dimensional portal, before continuing, “to motivate the band ASKING ALEXANDRIA”.

06

My knowledge of popular music ends sometime around 2002. If I had to, I could pick Taylor Swift out of a line-up; ditto others who are more meme than musician, like your DJ Khaleds; but anything post-Durst, and I’m struggling. It’s definitely because my brain is filled with other cool stuff like literature and memories of sex with ladies, and not because I’m old. Consequently, I’ve never heard of Asking Alexandria, an English rock band with 1m Twitter followers, which is a thousand times more popular then me, and as such, an impressively big name to have been snagged for this show. I was expecting Scooch or David Van Day or something. My research led to this line on Asking Alexandria’s wiki page:

Ben Bruce has expressed the feeling that the band’s lyrical style before Reckless and Relentless was immature. According to Bruce, the band wanted to move on from yelling out lyrics like “fuck” and “you stupid fucking whore” to a more mature style with more meaning.

2012’s Warrior Show was produced right around the time of this ‘immature’ album — which presumably had a rousing anthem about a farting bum and a heartfelt ballad dedicated to poo and wee — making them the perfect foil for Warrior, as we’re told of their self-destructive, hard-partying lifestyle. There’s a terrible sense of foreboding, as shots of the band hedonistically drowning themselves in booze hard cut to a black screen carrying the angry red missive “WARRIOR will test their limits, to see if they can stay at the top, or succumb to FAILURE” It’s a smart, and definitely unintentional move, in choosing contestants so patently unlikeable, the audience is forced to side with the daft old racist before it’s even begun. Give ’em hell, big Jim!

07

A load of walking haircuts in leather jackets, the yawning pricks wait around a random parking lot at 10pm for Warrior to show. They’re already whining, all shit tattoos, piercings, and ripped skinny jeans. One of them has a cigarette stuck on his bottom lip; another faux-casually swigs from a bottle of wine. Random, giggling girls loiter like comets caught in the gravitational pull of a planet-sized wanker, and everyone is trying very hard not to care about trying at all. And then, there he is; not heaving himself out of a crack in the Earth, but calmly strolling over and shaking hands, with polite nice-to-meet-yous.

Warrior dismisses the girlfriends like birds off a hippo’s back, and leads the sniggering lads into a warehouse gym for a sitdown chat. The entire thing has the feel of a movie where everyone’s playing nice, but that one guy has a look in their eyes, and there’s a terrible escalating dread while the audience is just waiting for the turn. The band, only one of whom even knows who Warrior is (from “old wrestling videos”) will never see it coming. He disingenuously praises the wine-glugging singer, daring him “take a big swig of it, man, show me you can drink it out of the bottle,” like Kevin the Teenager’s mum congratulating Perry on the grown-up beard he’s biroed onto his chin. Warrior’s scarlet complexion is symptomatic of a resting blood temperature that’s volcanic, and everything they say and do further cranks up the dial on his rage. As the wine bottle gets down to its last mouthful, the first toot of steam blasts out. “You like being fucked up all the time?

08

As such a collection of hideous caricatures that I’d love to run over with a fucking lawnmower, of course, every response AA give to this seething psychopath is the worst possible choice. Sure, says the singer, he loves being fucked up, and when Warrior asks if they do any exercise, “our stage show!” In fact, when this little workout’s done, you have to come onstage with us, new friend! “No, I don’t have to go on any stage. I’ve been on stages. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody any more.” He lectures them about the runner’s high; more of a buzz than “the pot or the coke,” and the evils of fast food, which brings to mind the story about him on the road, back in the day, when he’d buy a bag of cookies, crumble them up in his hands and sniff the remains, before tossing them out of the car window.

As an ex-wrestler, he draws on his enormous collection of dead colleagues, who “dropped like fuckin’ flies,” and that being a party-boy isn’t the way to live (note: he is now also dead). Smartmouth asks if sex is exercise, only to be berated that he’s “shit at fuckin’,” which seems like a funny remark, until it cuts to Warrior literally asking their young, embarrassed girlfriends if that’s true. But finally, talk-time is over, and the workout must begin — “You gonna run in those fuckin’ cowboy boots, John Wayne?” Lined up on the floor are a series of multiple-page legal forms that, from what I can make out with a freeze frame, free WARRIOR LLC from liability in case of paralysis, total or partial disability, disfigurement or death. Of course, everybody signs, and he makes them change into Warrior-branded workout gear. All have terrible chest tattoos. One can’t operate the drawstring in a pair of shorts. Two of them sneak outside for a cigarette.

09

By now, Warrior resembles that meme of the kid at the desk with the veiny forehead, and orders them into a military line, to better shout his promo about souls and formulas, and rock n rollers all being little punks. Each violently-spat syllable makes him redder and angrier, as he yells “one way to develop the fuckin’ discipline, IS BY BEATIN’ THE SHIT OUT OF YOURSELF, AND YOUR FUCKIN’ BODY!” And still, they’re all trying not to laugh, like when you got called in the headmaster’s office with your mates. Then finally, it happens. The turn. “You drank a bottle of fuckin’ wine,” roars Warrior, now so red that I’ve gotten sunburn through the TV, and prodding a pulsating finger in the chest of the singer, “that is FUCKIN’ DISRESPECTFUL TO ME, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!

Remember when you were a kid and a teacher would suddenly snap? Like, really snap? Sure, you’d heard them yell before, but now they reached a volume that makes everyone sit back in their chairs and realise “this is a real person, and we’ve gone too far.” That time for me came when a Design & Technology teacher threw my entire desk out into the hall and literally roared his desire to give me a good hiding. For Asking Alexandria, the moment should be now. But millennials, man, even though he’s bawling in their faces and grabbing them by the shirt, they’re just stood there, arms folded, rolling their eyes and trying not to laugh. I hope they checked those contracts, as there’s probably a clause where he can legally fuck them to death with a barbell.

10

At this point, Warrior is the angriest human I have ever seen. We live in an era of professional shouters, like the cartoonish anger of Gordon Ramsay threatening to inject a restaurateur’s genitals with molten glass because their blueberry flan was a bit tart, but this is something else. Though I try to represent the volume of his rage using italics and caps, an accurate depiction would require a font so enormous it’d be readable from the surface of the moon. Stalking up and down, fists like hand grenades, he orders them “mind your fuckin’ manners,” and asks how many push-ups the animated monster on their merchandise could do. “Plenty,” shrugs a band-prick; “fuckin’ MILLIONS!” replies Warrior, demanding they all drop and give him fifty. This is his domain now, and we’re blessed with a speed-metal soundtrack to the visual of skinny-fat band lads really struggling to do push-ups. Next, they’re dragged into the carpark, where heavy chains are draped across their shoulders, in an over-laboured metaphor.

Forcing them to sprint up and down like Jacob Marley, Warrior turns his anger on the film crew, berating them for not being able keep up with the runners while laden with equipment, leaving everyone running for their lives, and the cameras wobbling like they’re being chased by the Blair Witch. Once his top is blown, it’s all coming out, like the final day of a gym teacher who’s no longer allowed to see his kids. He taunts the singer with “I saw that fuckin’ belly!” and yells “HERE’S SOME FUCKIN’ HEAVY METAL FOR YA!” while throwing chain on top of chain, tormenting the now-terrified band as they stagger round an abandoned industrial park at midnight. The mere sight of the girlfriends, peeking out of a door, has him furiously ejecting them; “I don’t need you around here. It’s fuckin’ silly.

11

Nobody’s laughing now, with a crazed Warrior declaring “I’m the chain master!” and ordering a hundred squats, to “build up your ass, so you can get prepared for THE FUCKING you’re gonna get when you’re NOT PREPARED!” Solid logic. The thunderous assault of enforced exercise finally wipes the smiles from their faces, with the shell-shocked and broken band, barely able to stand, still draped in multiple chains, forced on one final drill; a literal hands-and-knees crawl along the concrete towards their tormentor. As he gives the inspiring speech about how exercise changed his life, and it can change theirs too, they genuinely look like survivors of something terrible, like the last man standing at the end of a Saw movie. But Warrior’s calmed now, in that post-orgasmic bliss where you’ve brutally tortured a group of unsuspecting fools and they came out the other side. He extends his appreciation for coming, while one of them vomits. Then someone asks “I didn’t actually catch your real name.” Ooh, shit. “My real name is Warrior; it has been for 20 years,” he says, striding out of frame, one last blast of disgust and murderous anger painted across his face; “that’s it, just the one name.”

As a prospective reality show, The Warrior Show contained the genesis of a good idea. It’s hugely entertaining watching a bunch of swaggering jerks being Full Metal Jacketed by a man himself lumbered with an enormous amount of issues, who barracked them into signing away the legal right to not be exercised to actual death. People love that self-help, snake-oil babble, but funnelled through the psychotic shouting of a truly insane figurehead, I could see this having been a minor hit. There is one really striking fact of its production. The entire series of events, from first meeting Warrior to saying their goodbyes, happens over the course of two hours, which for the band, must turn the whole experience into just another drinking story. “I had a bottle of wine, and some guy invited us to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere and made us run around in chains until we shat.” If it ever got to be a real series, the thought of some poor fuckers being left to Warrior’s control and whims for, say, a week, is an exciting one, though everyone involved would have been dead by the third day, Warrior included.

12

The Warrior Show did tape one more episode, featuring the band I See Stars as victims of his mentorship. I’m not seeing the connection between the Ultimate Warrior and the weird niche of noisy young metalheads, but they’re a far less arrogant lot than AA, so this round of torture turns the volume down slightly. That said, it does begin with a livid Warrior hammering on the windows of their camper van with his forearms, like those people who wait outside the court for child murderers. Though there’s less puking, episode two does provide a couple of wonderful glimpses into the big guy’s life/mind. When describing his relationship with his daughters, he tells us how they’re not allowed to turn their heads or move their eyes when he’s speaking to them, having to look directly at him so he can “see inside their soul.” Then, when asking the band about their musical tastes, Warrior informs them he listens to “a variety of different stuff, and a lot of times, I just like silence… I like my own thoughts, I like my own ideas.

Warrior cuts an odd figure in these. He’s still a big guy, and vocally carrying himself like the Ultimate Warrior of old, but physically hunched and slightly buckled, with the round-shouldered posture of a clenched fist. It’s as though his intensity is so overwhelming, he’s being collapsed inwards like a dying star. He hobbles around on bandy legs, and appears to have shrunken vertically since his glory days, clearly shorter than each member of the band as he goes all crazed drill instructor in their faces. Tellingly, though his whole deal is physical fitness and big muscles, he never takes off his trackie top. If someone with that ego thought he looked good, he’d be swanning around in a little vest. Aging must be a particularly potent sting for those who’ve devoted their whole lives to sculpting their bodies, unable to stop the sagging and warping, no matter how hard they train, no matter how much ‘help’ they ingest, with workouts getting harder for less result, where just maintaining the very notion of who they are is like running up a slope that’s getting increasingly steep.

13

Of course, the show happily delves into his rage issues, while swerving the more problematic areas of that anger, barring the moment two of the lads are wearing moccasins, causing him to spit “are you guys fuckin’ Indians or what?” The character of the Ultimate Warrior, particularly given his iconic WWF entrance music, seems spiritually connected to the genre of metal, but I’m curious how he’d have coped with a party-hard group of rappers. Had this somehow gotten a full series, you wonder if it would have strayed further than bands who were white hetero bros. But had he lived, allow me to mindlessly speculate how things could have gone pretty differently.

A still-living Warrior could have slotted perfectly into the current political landscape, and it’s easy to imagine him yelling about cucks and soyboys, as a right wing darling in a roster of Scott Baio’s that’s sorely lacking in star power. With Vince McMahon’s wife, Linda, part of Trump’s cabinet, the WWE continued its status as a flag-waving Republican hellscape, having previously sent out their top star to announce the death of Bin Laden to a cheering live crowd, and where revived football spin-off league, the XFL, assures viewers there will be no kneeling. Warrior’s previous rants about Katrina or gays were stuck in the shadows of his personal blog, but as a hypothetical, it’s not hard to see a mildly toned-down version of the same act, power-suited and wearing the iconic face-paint, as the WWE Network’s Alex Jones. Maybe that does exist somewhere, out there in the only timeline that’s stupider than the one we’re currently stuck in.

This is from my new Patreon, where subscribers could read this a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, including lots more wrestling stuff, like this piece about No Holds Barred and Zeus.

There’s a bunch of posts live already, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, like my new novella, Jangle. Please give my existing books a look too, especially this one, which has chapters on Hogan and Pillman.

Advertisements

~ by Stuart on July 18, 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: