He was a modern-day Hercules whose many labors became the stuff of legend in the wrestling ring—a titan whose Olympian physique and primal cunning cast fear into the hearts of adversaries and onlookers alike.
It was a sad day when wrestling lost the Ultimate Warrior—mere days following the former champ’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame—but now the Superstar is recipient of a fitting (if posthumous) tribute in the forms of a statue…and beautiful coffee table book.
On Saturday, August 22, 2015, Dana Warrior joined hundreds in remembering her husband at The Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn, New York, where a life-size sculpture of the athlete was unveiled in conjunction with a launch party for Insight Edition’s photo memoir, Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived “Forever.”
We always suspected the Ultimate Warrior “borrowed” his striking face paint from hard rock singer David Lee Roth—whose full-length debut had a cover sleeve depicting the outrageous Van Halen vocalist in full aborigine attire. Insight’s new book sets us straight on Warrior’s makeup, debuted by the wrestler a good couple years prior to Roth’s Eat ‘em and Smile LP, and clears up other misconceptions about the man born James Brian Hellwig in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Written by Jon Robinson (ESPN, Sports Illustrated) with widow Dana—and boasting a forward / acknowledgement by one-time foe Paul “Triple H” Levesque—the Technicolor tome chronicles Warrior’s remarkable rise from amateur bodybuilder to aspiring WWF champion, with special emphasis on his many accomplishments, from his countless wins in the ring to his philanthropy in the “real world” at large. It’s the hardbound celebration of a sports entertainment icon and pop culture hero who thrilled millions with his impressive brawn and amusing banter.
Robinson turns back the clock to the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Hellwig’s father abandoned the family—leaving the 12-year old Warrior mentor-less but motivated. By the mid-‘80s, his weightlifting work earns the Marietta college student the title of “Mr. Georgia.”
But that wasn’t enough for Warrior, who idolized wrestler Robby Robinson as a kid. Forming a team with Mark Miller and Steve Borden (later known as Sting), Hellwig talks up promoters (like CWA’s Jerry Jarrett) while talking down his opponents. He becomes a “Blade Runner” with Jim Justice, masquerades with Borden as dynamic duo “Rock and Flash,” and assumes the mantle of Dingo Warrior while partnered with Lance Von Erich in the WCW.
Kicking his way into the WWF, the Ultimate Warrior captivated audiences with his running entrances—and by running his mouth. The book contains dozens of rare images of a mustachioed Warrior growing into the persona that would define him on the world stage, along with a list of his more memorable ringside rants. We’re treated to still galleries of Warrior’s greatest exploits—win or lose—and memorable matches versus Rick Rude, Andre the Giant, Dino Bravo, and—at Summer Slam 1988—Honkytonk Man.
Naturally, the volume devotes no small amount of ink to Warrior’s many WrestleMania appearances—including his 1989 “pose-down” with Rude and WrestleMania VI “splash” triumph over Hulk Hogan at the Skydome for the WWF Championship. We follow his title defenses against Mr. Perfect and Ted Dibiase, relive the excitement of Summer Series 1990, and guffaw once more over his loss to a turncoat Sgt. Slaughter, who cheated his way to victory (only to have Warrior best him the following year at WrestleMania VII).
We witness Warrior’s betrayal by Jake the Snake Roberts and evil Undertaker, scratch our heads over his hiatus (over a pay dispute with CEO Vince McMahon), and revel in his 1996 return. The book packs dozens of candid shots of Warrior’s melees with Triple H, Goldust, Jerry Lawler, and Owen Hart—and his WCW gig (opposite “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan’s New World Order) in 1998.
Robinson’s biographical sketches also paint a picture of a devoted husband and loving father who purloined his fame into teaching others (at Warrior University). Despite his intimidating visage, Warrior was a humble sportsman who went out of his way to recognize others, bestowing awards on wrestling fans and other behind-the-scenes folks (like Connor Michalek) whose enthusiasm makes it all possible.
Pound for pound, A Life “Forever” is the gorilla press of picture books—the biography of a “Born to Be Wild” brawler who inspired the imagination and scrapbook of a Superstar whose rope-rattling antics gave pro wrestling an adrenaline shot to the chest at a pivotal moment in history.
Younger readers will fetish over the book’s many removable “reprint” souvenirs, like the facsimile WrestleMania VI ticket, meeting notes, “pose down” promotional card, and Warrior paperboard mask. The pastel bookmark ribbons are a nice touch, too, and there’s music sheet with the score for Warrior’s most-used entrance theme, “Unstable.”
Our 11-year old smiled in recognition when we played the chords for him on guitar.
Guess we got it right. Just like Ultimate Warrior…and Insight Editions.