When it comes to technical prowess and seamless match flow, the school of thought on the Ultimate Warrior is often narrow minded. With his passing, sales of the Ultimate Collection have skyrocketed. On watching the Ultimate Collection, I will concede that the majority of the bouts featured were either squashes or awkwardly paced with their fair share of botched maneuvers. There is no intent of disrespect here. Ultimate Warrior was an icon, an enigma and a completely unforgettable presence in the business. Few could ever match his manic energy and unique promos. To honor his memory and to further promote the undeniable fact that when he had the right opponent, he could produce a classic, here is a list of the top five fantasy bouts for The Ultimate Warrior.
5. Ultimate Warrior vs Shawn Michaels (Post 2002 return)
Shawn Michaels’ last run in the business was by far his greatest. The list of five star bouts he gave to us with the likes of Triple H, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair and of course The Undertaker were such a joy to watch. They made you remember why you fell in love with professional wrestling in the first place. They were technically sound and thrilling enough to satisfy even the most discerning adult palate and imaginative enough to keep the young ones engaged. It is with that very notion, that I assert the following. A match between Ultimate Warrior in his prime and the HBK of the new millennium would have been solid gold. Imagine the grand stage of WrestleMania, tens of thousands of fans at a fever pitch, anticipating the arrival of the Heartbreak Kid. Michaels saunters down to the ring as only he can and stands confident. This is his event, a place where even in loss, he puts on the most spectacular show possible. He waits for the riff of the enigma to strike. Boom! It hits like thunder, and the Warrior sprints like a mad man to the ring. He shakes the ropes and it feels like he could very well shake the ring apart. A stare down keeps the crowd buzzing. I don’t know about you, but I have goosebumps.
Warrior starts out with the power display, beating Michaels in all the traditional tests of strength and leaving HBK slightly miffed, but he simply laughs it off and gives a golf clap to his adversary. Warrior goes for the Gorilla Press early, but that is where Michaels finds his first opening. He escapes and hits the ropes, knocking down the Warrior with a flying forearm and kipping up ready to kick the match into high gear. The two trade blows and Warrior finally gets the better of the exchange, tossing HBK over the top rope and forcing him to regroup. Warrior reaches to the Heavens for more power from Parts Unknown. Michaels is visibly frustrated and cautiously steps back into the ring. He backs Warrior into the corner with a flurry of knife edge chops and climbs up for a round of ten to Warrior’s head. But the power of the Warrior explodes out of the corner and launches Michaels across the ring. The two trade inverted atomic drops, suplexes and scoop slams. Michaels gets Warrior down and nails the elbow from the top, but the Gods will not let the enigma stay down. Michaels goes to the top again, but finds himself caught and this time, he is dropped emphatically with the big press slam.
Warrior goes for the splash, but Michaels avoids the impact. As Warrior makes it to his feet, he is nailed with Sweet Chin Music! One, two, kick out! Michaels pulls the Warrior back to his feet and without hesitation, nails the superkick again. HBK acts as if he was retiring Ric Flair all over again and says he is sorry. He goes down for the cover and to the shock of the crowd, it is another near fall. Warrior leaps up and no matter what blow HBK throws, it has no effect. Michaels sends Warrior into the ropes, and he counters with the big shoulder tackle. Michaels is back up. Warrior is primed to explode. He nails Michaels with his own Sweet Chin Music, knocking HBK into the next world. A big splash later, and the ultimate legend stands triumphant over Mr. WrestleMania. There is no denying, it would have been epic.
4. Ultimate Warrior vs Brock Lesnar (First WWE run)
When Brock Lesnar debuted on Raw in 2002, he came across as a mix of Bill Goldberg with the ruthless tenacity of Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle. He was unstoppable and more of a beast incarnate than he is billed as today. A primed Warrior standing against the young and carnivorous Lesnar would have been a legendary showdown of fury and brutality. Imagine Warrior sprinting down the isle, only to be beheaded by Lesnar who meets him with a clothesline before he hits the apron. Lesnar tosses Warrior into the ring and begins a methodical dissection of the legend. He nails thunderous back breakers in succession, and tosses Warrior over his head so many times, the crowd looses count. As Lesnar goes for the F-5 in hopes of bringing the bout to an early end, Warrior somehow manages to slide off the shoulders and hits the ropes for the shoulder tackle. He takes Lesnar down and follows up with five more for good measure. Now Warrior is the predator. He displays a more technical approach, working over Lesnar’s shoulders and back, trying to prevent him from delivering anymore of his devastating suplexes.
Warrior sets up and spikes Lesnar headfirst into the mat with a picture perfect pile driver. He goes for the cover and Lesnar powers out. Now infuriated, he attempts another throw on the Warrior, only to fall to the canvas in pain. Warrior’s previous tactics proved to be successful and one of Lesnar’s most effective weapons is disabled. Warrior feels it now. The crowd feeds him the strength to unleash a flurry of strikes, but the attempt at the clothesline is blocked and countered into a ring shattering F-5! Lesnar is not content however, as he picks up Warrior over his head and delivers the Gorilla Press to the man from parts unknown. Lesnar fires off the ropes with the intent of putting the legend to rest with his own Warrior Splash. Lesnar launches into the air and, splat! He misses as Warrior springs to his feet and lifts the beast incarnate up to the heavens, teasing the press slam. He surprises everyone however, and delivers the ultimate F-5! A Warrior Splash later, and the beast has been slayed.
3. Ultimate Warrior vs John Cena (anytime after 2005)
Some may argue this as the number one fantasy bout for Warrior, while others would say that it should not even be on the list. Diving into Cena’s in ring prowess is an entirely different series of articles, perhaps even a book. I am a pro Cena kind of guy, and have always caught flack for it. The fact is, he has produced more four to five star bouts than he has total clunkers. The passion that Warrior had for the business and the commitment of the leader of the Cenation would have given fans something special. Now let’s up the stakes. This bout would take place in Toronto at Skydome. The home of the original “Ultimate Challenge” is now going to see two of the biggest icons of their respective generations clash. After the energy fans showed Hulk Hogan and The Rock at Mania XVIII, the historic venue now has a reputation to uphold. The buzz is building to a fever pitch as the arena goes black. A large light display of Warriors various signature face paints overlap one another in the ring as the crowd hears sound bytes of some of the Warrior’s greatest promos. They too begin to overlap as an epic orchestral piece is heard in the background. The anticipation continues to build, bigger and bigger and then it all goes black again. A single spotlight hits the entry way. The iconic riff of Warrior tears through Toronto, every bit as ear piercing and heart ripping as it ever was. The man shows himself, as the spotlight follows his mad dash to the ring apron. Warrior shakes the ropes and the lights come up. He enters the ring and awaits a new ultimate challenge.
There are clusters of boos and jeers making there way around Skydome before Cena’s music ever hits. When that all too familiar prelude hits, the crowd comes out loud and hot at about a seventy-five to twenty five split. It is an ugly scene to say the least. Cena salutes his detractors and supporters alike, as he treats the crowd to his lively run to the ring, which is not nearly as impressive as Warrior’s. How dare he enter the hallowed ground where Hogan and Warrior had created one the most memorable clashes in Mania history, and think that he can even come close to creating new magic with an icon. Mr. Cena is about to, as he so often does, prove any naysayers wrong. The two gladiators stare each other down and the rafters are shaking with anticipation of the first blow. The feeling out process begins as expected, with a series of knuckle and headlocks, each man attempting to overpower the other. This back and forth would typically be met with little enthusiasm, but this is Skydome, and they are eating up every bit of it. Cena is launched into the ropes and catches Warrior with a big shoulder tackle, which rattles the legend and sends Toronto into a rage.
Warrior quickly recovers and hits Cena with a series of scoop slams and elbows for the first near fall of the contest. Cena quickly answers with a Fisherman’s Suplex and a rear chin lock. He pulls back hard, testing the will of the Warrior and showing Skydome that he will not bow to the pressure. Cena pulls Warrior to his feet and hits an impressive standing dropkick for a two count. Warrior is having trouble finding his footing, but ducks an attempt at a big clothesline from Cena and from nowhere, raises Cena up and hits an early press slam! Rather than going for the splash, he quickly drops for the cover and gets the two. Warrior then hits the ropes and knocks Cena out of the ring with a shoulder tackle. Warrior becomes a predator, stalking the dazed challenger to his legacy. In a shocking sequence, Warrior hoists up Cena yet again and press slams him through the announcer’s table. He reaches to the heavens for more power and hits the apron. No one in the arena is sitting, as the Warrior treats everyone to a first. He leaps from the apron onto the lifeless body of Cena with the biggest Warrior splash in history! Warrior stands and pounds his chest and the roof comes off of Skydome with a “This is awesome!” chant. He tosses Cena back into the ring and all seems to be academic. One, two…vintage Cena with the kick out!
Cena struggles to his feet and the two exchange big right hands, until the Warrior attempts to light a fire in his opponent with a straight slap to the face. Cena answers with a quick and thunderous Attitude Adjustment! Warrior kicks out, but before he can reach his feet, Cena tries to lock in the STF. Warrior reverses and locks in a Camel Clutch. After minutes of struggle, it looks like Cena may pass out from the pain, but before his hand drops a third time, Cena powers up with Warrior on his shoulders and turns it into another AA. Both men are down and the referee begins the ten count. Surprisingly, Warrior reaches his feet first and musters all of his energy for one more splash, but he comes up short. Cena rolls out and slaps on the STF. He pulls back with all his might. The crowd is going crazy, hoping that the gods can pull Warrior out of this predicament, but after his hand is raised and falls for the third time, John Cena stands victorious. Not many in Toronto are happy about it, but this is how it has gone down. Cena helps Warrior to his feet, but he pulls away and draws back. You can read Cena’s lips as he thanks the legend for the match and just like Hogan and Warrior did at Mania VI, the two share a hug and an unforgettable moment. All the doubters just witnessed a classic. Although this finds its place at number three, it might have been the most significant had it gone down.
2. Ultimate Warrior vs The Rock (1998-99 heel run)
When The Rock joined Vince McMahon and the Corporation at the 1998 Survivor Series, he began a classic heel run as one of the cockiest, nastiest and yet undeniably coolest characters of all time. Had the proprietor of the Smackdown Hotel ever found himself face to face with the ultimate babyface, not only would it have made for a great match, but we could have witnessed some of the most entertaining verbal exchanges and promos of all time. Imagine The Rock running down Warrior’s face paint and tassels, or commenting on what exactly lies in parts unknown. Or how would the Warrior have described the ominous “electricity” surrounding The Rock and what plane would come crashing into the towers which held McMahon’s evil corporation? An intense, comedic and eccentric build would have culminated in an “I Quit” match.
The Rock saunters down the aisle, threatening to lay the smackdown on ever other member of the audience. He climbs to the second rope and blankets the arena with the Corporate Eyebrow. This roody poo face painted freak is about to know his role. The riff of Warrior kicks in and during his manic sprint towards the apron, he is verbally cut off as The Rock steps outside. “Ultimate Jabroni, The Rock says you are about to have your fist pumping, pig snorting candy ass kicked right back where you belong. It isn’t parts unknown, but a suite in the Smac…” Pow! Warrior nails Rocky with a right hand, then picks him up and tosses him into the ring post. Warrior tosses his adversary into the ring, but when he slides in to continue his assault, the Great One meets him with a series of his own right hands, putting the traditional stank on the last one. Warrior goes down and The Rock mocks the signature rope shake of his opponent. He lifts Warrior to his feet and sends him into the ropes. Rocky wants a Samoan Drop, but is met with a thunderous clothesline. Rock springs back to his feet, only to be knocked down again and again. He finally ducks out of the ring, rattled and agitated.
Warrior follows close behind, only to catch a thumb to the eye for his effort. Rock then repeatedly slams Warrior face first into the announcer’s table, then grabs a bottle of water from the timekeeper. As he takes a sip, Warrior makes him regret the intent and launches up, catching Rock with his own Rock Bottom on the floor. After tossing Rock back in the ring, Warrior calls up to the heavens, but is ambushed by Big Boss Man and Ken Shamrock. The referee is occupied with Rock and a double team ensues, culminating with Warrior being slammed through the announce table by McMahon’s goons. The pair disappears and the referee looks confused by the chaos that has gone down. He reluctantly begins his ten count. Rock taunts the crowd and prematurely begins a victory celebration, but at a count of six, Warrior stands up!
He storms back into the ring and the two men trade huge blows, with Warrior winning the exchange. He hits the ropes and attempts the big shoulder tackle, but is sidestepped. As Warrior gets up, he turns into a scoop slam from Rock and it is time for a Corporate Elbow. Rock hits it! One, two, and Warrior tosses Rock off with authority. Warrior starts to get that extra boost he begged for earlier and every right hand Rock delivers doesn’t phase the legend. Warrior blocks a right and goes for another big clothesline, but is caught out of nowhere with a ring shattering Rock Bottom! Rock covers nonchalantly, convinces it’s in the bag. Warrior kicks out at two! Rock picks up Warrior and sets up for a second Rock Bottom, but it is countered into the big press slam! Warrior wildly charges the ropes and nails the splash for the one, two, three. The Great One takes a nap in his own hotel.
1. Ultimate Warrior vs Triple H (2004-2005 )
Ah, here we are. What else could have been number one? This rematch between Warrior and Helmsley in his prime should have happened, but unfortunately the planets never aligned the way they needed to. After being decimated in the ultimate squash at WrestleMania XII in 1996, the then aristocratic Helmsley never got a chance to avenge his loss. The squash was in truth, just one lashing in a string of punishments to Triple H for his involvement in the infamous “Clique” farewell in Madison Square Garden. Once he came out of the doghouse, main event status came relatively quickly for the man who would become “The Game”. Although his marriage to Stephanie McMahon and subsequent WWE title run in 1999-2000 was his first true assertion of dominance, Helmsley was arguably at his peak when he ran with the World Heavyweight Championship for the better part of two years with multiple reigns. His in ring work was second to none, brilliantly showcasing the technical savvy and raw brutality that has defined his career. If the Warrior had made a comeback around this time, he would have been fairly well rested and still in his forties. The potential for a new rivalry with the enigma of parts unknown and the Cerebral Assassin would have undoubtedly created unprecedented buzz.
Imagine a ruthless assault from Evolution on a poor and unfortunate jobber like a Eugene or a Hurricane Helms. The four on one is relentless and bloody. It is uncomfortable to watch as Batista, Orton, Flair and Helmsley all deliver their most devastating blows. Just as all hope seems lost, the arena goes black. The lights begin to flash in a strobe like fashion, chaotic to say the least. No one is quite sure what is happening. Then we hear it. The riff brings the crowd to their feet and the roof off the arena. The lights continue to flicker as the legend returns! He sprints down to the ring and the lights come up. He stands facing all four members of Evolution fearlessly. None of them are certain how to react, except for Helmsley who looks like he has seen a ghost. Batista attempts to strike first, but meets a big right hand that knocks him out over the top rope. Orton then lunges and meets the same fate. Flair goes for a series of chops, which have no effect. He gets hoisted up for the press slam. Warrior holds Flair over his head and stares down Helmsley with unprecedented intensity. Then, rather than dropping him on his face, he tosses the Nature Boy into the Game. Evolution retreats and the Warrior violently pounds his chest, putting WWE on notice.
Now for the match itself. Evolution is barred from ringside, as Helmsley has made it clear that he wants to slay his demons on his own. The World Heavyweight Championship is on the line. Triple H is out first with Evolution in tow. He hugs his brothers and sends them to the back. After the traditional spewing of H2O, Helmsley frantically paces the ring, looking both confident and uncertain all at the same time. Warrior is out next, and something isn’t right. He isn’t sprinting to the ring. In fact, he is clutching his ribs and has a slight limp. On the big screen, we see Flair, Orton and Batista a little winded, congratulating one another on getting the jump on Warrior. This was a last ditch, despicable ploy by Helmsley to get the advantage. Or was it? Of course, the Game acts as if the actions of his goons has enraged him, but he will surely cut Warrior off and capitalize on his wounded state. Helmsley charges a nails Warrior with a big knee to the ribs. He then circles and comes down with a nasty chop block. Warrior is down and already in a bad way.
Triple H picks up the legend and walks him over to the ringside area. He hits a hard Irish whip and Warrior goes ribs first into the steel stairs. He cries out in pain, something rarely heard in the Warrior’s career. The crowd is seething at Helmsley, who now has a demeanor if sadistic pride. He tosses Warrior into the ring and goes for the first cover. Warrior kicks out at two. Helmsley continues the assault to the ribs, driving furious knees and dropping big elbows. He picks Warrior up and launches him into the ropes, catching him with a AA spinebuster for another two count. From nowhere, Warrior catches Triple H in a small package for two, which only serves to enrage the Game further. He now targets the injured leg with a Figure Four. Warrior struggles towards the ropes, pounding the mat in agony. Then he seems to go into a trance like state, starring towards the heavens. He calls down for the strength to break free or to reverse the hold. Warrior fights with all the energy he has left and turns the tables, putting the pressure on Helmsley. The Game quickly gets to the ropes. Warrior is finally on his feet and clobbers Helmsley with multiple clotheslines. He then locks in a huge bear hug and tries to squeeze the life out of the Cerebral Assassin. After the arm drops twice, Warrior doesn’t allow the referee to check for the third time, as he turns the hold into a belly to belly suplex and earns a two count. He then hits the ropes and nails the Warrior splash. It looks like we are about to crown a new World Champion, but Helmsley barely kicks out.
Warrior tries to pick Helmsley up, but is met with a low blow that goes unseen by the referee. Helmsley rolls out of the ring and pulls his signature sledgehammer from underneath. The referee admonishes him, but is shoved into the corner and is out. Helmsley raises the hammer high above his head and looks poised to drive it into Warrior’s ribs, but it is all for not. Warrior springs up, taking Helmsley up with him, over his head for a huge press slam. Helmsley finds a way out however, driving the hammer into Warrior’s skull, causing both men to collapse to the canvas. Helmsley is up first, and sets Warrior up for the Pedigree. He mouths the crowd saying, “He is a ghost! An illusion! It ends now!” Triple H drives Warrior nearly through the mat with a Pedigree, but wait! Warrior springs right up! It’s a no sell just like Mania XII. Warrior is shaking and seething. Helmsley stands in total disbelief. He throws right hands, but nothing is going to stop Warrior now. Helmsley hits the ropes to go for the clothesline, but is caught and hoisted up again. This time Warrior nails the press slam! He hits the ropes and delivers the splash! One, two, three! We have a new World Heavyweight Champion. The Game was unable to exercise his demons as he lies motionless starring up at the ghost of defeat.
There you have it. As I wrote this piece, I truly wished I could have seen these bouts play out. My heart began to race and I was taken back to the highlights of Warrior’s career. He will never be regarded as the greatest pure wrestler in the history of the business. But his memory will forever live on and when you look at the body of work his produced in the ring, you might say some of it was too short, too botched or too cluttered. What you will never be able to say is that it wasn’t full of energy, entertainment and commitment to the show. For any mistakes he may have made, he more than made up for them in his greatest outings. This is only one man’s opinion of how these matches may have gone down, what’s yours?