Podzilla 1985

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Ultimate Tribute

I guess I should put a disclaimer on this saying that this tribute probably won't qualify as an "ultimate" one. I'm sure there are better tributes online for the man in the face paint, but I felt the need to write my own and I'm too tired to think of an original title for it.

But it's not the title we're focusing on, right? We're here for a man named James Hellwig, an Ultimate

Warrior, who passed away yesterday at age 54.

54.

It seems like the Warrior has been gorilla slamming people into oblivion since the dawn of time, and it seems so incomprehensible to me that he was only 54 when he died. It's the new middle age and far too young to say goodbye. If it were the only farewell I had to make I probably wouldn't be writing this. 

Lucky me, because here I am.


It's been a painful week for me. As many of you know, my father passed away on Thursday after a agonizing battle with cancer. I watched him deteriorate from a larger than life figure to a frail old man, and I took every hit to the spirit that you could imagine. It wasn't enough that my father was dying slowly and painfully, but I was actually made to feel guilty about the fact that I couldn't provide around the clock care for him myself. I was even threatened by his hospice care, who couldn't seem to understand that I work a full time plus shift in public relations. I barely have enough time to take care of my own personal affairs, much less anyone else's. No, it meant nothing that the last family member I associate with was dying before my very eyes, I had to feel like a bastard and a bad son for it too. 

I went to go see my father at the sub par nursing home they confined him to on Thursday, and found him in a terrible way. His breathing was labored, he could barely speak, and when he did speak he asked me to get him out of there, over and over again. I felt helpless. When I left the nursing home I went over my options. I called off work and started to plan. I hated seeing my father like that, but I couldn't tell if he was truly in dire need because of where he was, or if he just hated being there because of his independent streak. Before I got very far in my plotting, I was called to his apartment to go through his things and take whatever I needed before they donated the rest and moved someone else in. Dad wouldn't need it anymore since he was going to live out his last moments in the home, so I obliged. I thought I had more time, but I didn't.

I got the call a few hours after I saw my father that he had "expired." That's the term they used. He expired, like old meat that they couldn't legally sell anymore. I was heartbroken. I cried. I still cry. I'm alone now, with no family to console me. And I still feel like a horrible son.

After handling my fathers affairs I spent the next day in bed with my fiancee. We watched movies, cuddled, and tried our best to find a reason to smile. It was a good day. It was probably the best day I've had in months, and I was thankful for a respite from my pain.

On Sunday, I decided not to cancel the social gathering I had organized for Wrestlemania. Good friends would be there, as would new friends, strangers, and coworkers. I wanted to get back into the world and not become a shut in like my father did when my mother passed. We watched Wrestlemania at the game store I run, and we had a great time.

It was there that I saw the Ultimate Warrior in a WWE arena for the first time since I had just turned into a teenager. He was older and grayer, but he still had that Ultimate Warrior spirit. I could see it in those eyes, which still burned with an intensity that is unrivaled even among the animalistic superstars of today like Roman Reigns or Batista. 

The Warrior tore down the house at his Hall of Fame induction the night before, and on the follow Raw after Mania he came out and cut another promo that has become the subject of much controversy since his death. His words have become almost prophetic. It was almost like he knew he was dying, and he wanted to say his final peace before laying down his tassels for the final time. The Warrior went out the way he wanted do, and his final days will become the kind of mystery that legends are born from.

His death may have been a mystery, but his life was anything but. He was loud, in your face, and goddamned entertaining. I can't remember much of what he said in his promos, but you can damn sure bet I was paying attention. How could you not love this guy covered in face paint as he snarled and shook his way through the ranks of the World Wrestling Federation? 

I admit, I was always a Hulk Hogan fan. My childhood friend Jeff was a Warrior guy. We always had a rivalry where we would always pick opposite sides. Hogan and Warrior, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, Ken and Ryu... When Warrior beat Hogan for the title at Wrestlemania 6 I never thought he would shut up about it. Of course, people still talk about that match today, as the two titans stood out in a sea of memorable characters.

I appreciate what the Ultimate Warrior brought to the industry. I respected the man for his contributions, and I mourn his loss. I know that some of the things he has said in the past have drawn controversy, and Lord knows I don't agree with a lot of it. I saw someone recently compare him to the Westboro Baptist Church, and I take serious offense to that. I don't recall James Hellwig showing up at public places of mourning to blame all of life's problems on homosexuality. He had his beliefs, I have mine, and I never felt like the man forced those beliefs down my throat like so many so called "good people" do with their own agendas. After all, who are we to cast the first stone? Show me someone who has never said anything vile, idiotic, or hateful of someone else, and then maybe we can point out all of Hellwig's flaws.

Until then, I will continue to tip my hat to the Ultimate Warrior as a wrestling fan. And, more personally, his death will remind me of the loss of my own father, who gave up on wrestling around the same time the old guard of the Hogans and Warriors slipped into irrelevance. 

I'll always remember the week that the world lost a legend, a legend lost his legacy, and a son lost his father. 



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