Starring: Warrior, Vince McMahon, Bobby Heenan, Ted DiBiase, Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Bruce Pritchard, Chris Jericho
“History tells us, Hogan, that a man’s legacy is built from the premise that within his life, the moments lived, once lived, become a piece of his history. Somehow, you have conveniently, even eloquently misplaced pieces of your history. In the one time, epical battle between us, Hogan, you were the quintessential influence of what was good, great, and heroic. But different than you may remember, and albeit you may have beaten myths, legends, giants, and other great men, you never, never beat a warrior. And certainly not the ultimate one.” (Warrior, The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior)
Even though I’m a self-confessed wrestling fan, I haven’t stuck anything wrestling-related on TWABM yet and I’m not sure I will again, at least not unless I come across another DVD as ridiculous as The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior. While a lot of wrestling these days could be considered “a bit mental”, that’s more or less par for the course and talking about it on here regularly would be like talking about camels on That Was A Bit Humpy – it sort of goes without saying.
If that camel was to suddenly start talking about another camel who pissed it off 20 years ago though, and went out of its way to assassinate its character in every way imaginable, then we’d have something worth talking about, and this DVD does exactly that. Except it’s about a wrestler, not a camel. Look, just forget I ever mentioned camels, that was a terrible idea.
Anyone my age (late 20’s) who was into WWF when they were younger doesn’t need an explanation of who the Ultimate Warrior was. He was easily the most intense and energetic of the WWF superstars, and though we never really understood what he was going on about or even enjoyed his matches much – even as a kid when everything was exciting – his crazy facepaint, sheer power and endless energy made him a fan favourite. Behind the scenes though, it turns out he was a few turnbuckles short of a squared circle.
Although WWE programming still consists of ridiculous storylines, unbelievable scenarios and expertly choreographed fights between two men that would finish each other in 20 seconds if it were real life, it’s still very rare that its staff openly and officially talk on camera about “kayfabe” – the behind-the-scenes stuff that shatter the illusion – how they come up with the storylines, how wrestlers work with others in the ring, how results are determined and the like. The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior, then, isn’t just an interesting look at one of wrestling’s most interesting characters, it’s a wealth of information on how the WWF (as it was then) was run behind-the-scenes.
The likes of Bobby Heenan, Ted DiBiase, Jim Ross, Bruce Pritchard (one-time WWF booker), Hulk Hogan and even the boss man Vince McMahon himself give candid interviews throughout this documentary, discussing all the backstage and in-ring issues they had with Warrior with a surprising degree of detail, even if you get the feeling the story’s a little one-sided. While events over the past decade or so make it clear that the man’s not playing with a full deck (he legally changed his name from James Hellwig to simply Warrior and currently sells mental artwork like this), the fact that Warrior wasn’t given the opportunity to tell his own side of the story should still be considered whilst watching.
And so the gang of interviewees embark on a step-by-step verbal smackdown of a WWF icon, from the fact that he was dangerous and unsafe in the ring (“he was the least professional person I’ve ever worked with”, sulks Triple H), to the way his pumping entrance music and exciting entrance were there to make up for his terrible wrestling, to his greed backstage (Hogan, McMahon and Sergeant Slaughter tell how he tried to blackmail McMahon for more money an hour before a Summerslam main event, after which he was promptly fired for the first time), right down to his ridiculous and rambling interviews (“I hear he does talks at schools these days”, quips Jim Ross, “I’d like to go along to one of them one day and see if I can understand what he’s saying this time”). Tellingly, the only people who have good things to say about him are Chris Jericho and Christian, the only two on the DVD who would have been young WWF fans when the Warrior was big.
It’s hard to tell why any real Ultimate Warrior fans would buy a DVD that rips the shite out of their hero so continuously, but those who do will be treated to a wealth of archive footage of the Warrior, from his early days in the UWF as Blade Runner Rock, to his WWF debut as the Dingo Warrior, right through to his bizarre WCW comeback. This is a particularly interesting section because it involves his rematch with Hulk Hogan, a match that WCW boss Eric Bischoff states matter-of-factly in this documentary is widely considered the worst of all time. Part of what makes this section so impressive is that, for once in his career, Hulk Hogan admits to a mistake and confesses that his inability to light some flash paper led to the match’s ending being ballsed up.
This whole documentary is a treat to watch, even though it’s not really clear who it’s aimed at. If you were a huge Ultimate Warrior fan back in the day you’re likely to be pissed off at all these WWE names past and present essentially lining up to stick the boot into your childhood hero without giving him the chance to stand up for himself. If you didn’t like him, chances are you wouldn’t buy a DVD whose second disc consists solely of his best matches. In a way, the package is almost as confused as the Warrior himself, as it can’t decide whether to praise the man who was a large part of the WWF’s success in the late ’80s and early ’90s or just call him a dick and leave it at that.
Personally, my thoughts are in line with those of Jericho and Christian, who thankfully get the last say in this documentary. As they put it, the guy may have had a bizarre career and he may have made many enemies in the process, but like him or not there was nobody quite like the Ultimate Warrior, and this film – one-sided though it may be – does a great job of explaining why.