Just three days after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame following an acrimonious 18-year split with the company that put him on the wrestling map, the legendary performer known as The Ultimate Warrior has died.
Warrior, one of pro wrestling's major stars during the '80s and '90s, passed away Tuesday evening at age 54.
According to witnesses, the iconic wrestler collapsed outside of a hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., while walking to his car with his wife.
Preliminary reports indicate that Warrior may have suffered a "catastrophic medical event" such as a massive heart attack. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.
Warrior was born James Brian Hellwig, but legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. The bodybuilder-turned-wrestler began his famous run with WWE in 1987 and became one of the biggest stars in company history, upsetting Hulk Hogan for the then WWF world title in 1990 at Wrestlemania VI at the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada.
Along with Hogan and the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage, the charismatic and high-energy Warrior was one of the top personalities and money-earners in the company.
Warrior's relationship with the sports entertainment juggernaut, though, had been strained until recently when he reconciled with the brand. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday night in New Orleans, attended Wrestlemania 30 the next evening at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, and made his first appearance on Raw in 18 years on Monday night.
He announced during his Hall of Fame speech that he had signed a multi-year deal with WWE to be an ambassador for the company.
Two nights later on Monday Night Raw, in what would be his final public appearance, Warrior delivered an incredibly poignant speech that at times eerily resembled a eulogy.
"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath," he said ominously.
He died less than 24 hours later.
News of Warrior's passing led to an outpouring of sympathy from his WWE family.
"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 posted on its website.
"Loss always has a way of reminding us to live and love as greatly as we can," Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wrote on Twitter. "My prayers and strength to his family. RIP Ultimate Warrior."
"Your strength of character is to be admired. There will never be anyone like you. Your spirit lives on in your family," tweeted WWE executive Stephanie McMahon.
"Shocked by death of The Ultimate Warrior, a legend in our industry. I was honored to introduce him as he took his rightful place in WWEHOF," posted former WWE CEO Linda McMahon.
"RIP Warrior ... only love. HH," tweeted biggest ring rival Hulk Hogan.
"Too soon. Warpaint was barely dry ... RIP Ultimate Warrior. An icon," wrote WWE star Sheamus.
The activities of the past week appeared to have assuaged the bitter feelings that had existed between the two sides over the past couple decades.
A scathing DVD that WWE released in 2005 called "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" had prompted a lawsuit. Fences, though, were mended earlier this year with Warrior's Hall of Fame selection, and a new DVD released last week, "The Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection," gave the wrestler a new beginning with the company.
Warrior is survived by his wife Dana and his two daughters, Mattigan Twain Warrior, 11, and Indiana Marin Warrior, 14.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.
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