REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS "WORLD CHAMPIONS" ULTIMATE WARRIOR
Mattel's line of WWE SUPERSTARS figures primarily focuses on currently active wrestlers. That's fine and well, as I am certainly a fan of the curreent WWE. But I've been a fan of professional wrestling for quite some time, and I'm pleased when one of the legends from years past makes his way into this basic WWE lineup from Mattel from time to time.
In 2013 , Mattel produced a series of WWE Superstars figures with the subtitle WORLD CHAMPIONS. This mostly featured individuals from the past, who, while they might have appeared in Mattel's costlier "Elite" or "Legends" collections, hadn't yet made their way into the Superstars line.
One of these was definitely of interest to me. He is best known as -- ULTIMATE WARRIOR!
This colorful character came on the scene, and for a time supplanted just about everybody in popularity, including Hulk Hogan, who was arguably the top player at the time, even capturing the top title and pretty much becoming the icon of the WWE, then known as the WWF, of course.
Eventually, disagreements arose, difficulties ensued, and the WWE and the Warrior were estranged for years. Only recently has the WWE acknowledged the impact of the Warrior. For myself, I never had a problem with the guy, I certainly enjoyed seeing him in the ring, and I'm pleased that there's one of these excellent, high-quality action figures of him.
Let's have something of a look at the background of the Ultimate Warrior, and then his action figure.
Warrior, and yes, that's his real legal name, was born James Brian Hellwig on June 16, 1959. He wrestled under the ring names The Ultimate Warrior, Warrior and Dingo Warrior. He is best known for his appearances in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from 1987 to 1991 and again in 1992 and 1996, and briefly in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1998.
He won the WWF Championship when he pinned Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI. Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. Warrior retired from professional wrestling in 1999 and embarked on a public speaking career. On June 25, 2008, he returned to wrestle Orlando Jordan in Barcelona, Spain defeating him in a match booked by the Italian Nu-Wrestling Evolution promotion. Warrior was described by World Wrestling Entertainment as having been "the ultimate archetype of strength and intensity", and "one of the most intense and physically impressive competitors to ever appear in the WWE".
Prior to his career in professional wrestling Hellwig was an amateur bodybuilder. Hellwig started training with weights when he was 11 years old and has described himself as "the small, insecure kid who wasn't into any sports". He moved to California where, after seeing bodybuilder Robby Robinson, decided to take up the sport. In 1985, after spending six weeks in California training for a bodybuilding contest, he was invited to join a group of bodybuilders – Garland Donoho, Mark Miller, and Steve "Flash" Borden – later professional wrestler Sting -- who were attempting to make the transition into professional wrestlers. Warrior accepted the invitation and abandoned his bodybuilding career and his plans to become a chiropractor.
Hellwig began his professional wrestling career as Jim "Justice" Hellwig of Powerteam USA, the group of bodybuilders trained by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman. Later, they wrestled as The Freedom Fighters (Hellwig was known as Justice and Borden was called Flash) in Memphis' Continental Wrestling Association. Later debuting in the Memphis, Tennessee-based Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion, run by Jerry Jarrett, the team played baby faces at first, but fans were actually slow to take to the hulking duo in a territory that had featured sympathetic "good guy tag teams" like the Rock 'n' Roll Express and The Fabulous Ones. They were quickly turned heel as The Blade Runners. The Blade Runners went on to wrestle for the Mid-South Wrestling promotion, which became the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in 1986. They were part of Eddie Gilbert's Hotstuff International group, before disbanding in 1986 when Hellwig left the UWF.
In 1986, Warrior debuted in the Dallas, Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) promotion. He has stated that he adopted the ring name "Dingo Warrior" after a member of the WCCW locker room remarked that he looked like "a warrior". Warrior formed a tag team with Lance Von Erich, and the duo began competing for the WCWA World Tag Team Championship. On November 17, 1986, Warrior and Von Erich defeated Master Gee (substituting for champion Buzz Sawyer) and Matt Borne to win the title. They held the Championship until December 1 of that year, when they lost to Al Madril and Brian Adias.
In 1987, Warrior began competing for the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, losing to Bob Bradley in a tournament final on January 12. He won the title from Bradley on February 2 of that year. The title was held up in April 1987 after Warrior left the WCCW. He was reinstated as champion upon returning, but vacated it once more upon resigning from WCCW to join the World Wrestling Federation, where he adopted the ring name Ultimate Warrior. Warrior began appearing on house shows in June and was initially billed as The Dingo Warrior in house card promos by Gene Okerlund, but soon had his name modified. There is dispute over who created the Ultimate Warrior name. Bruce Prichard stated that Vince McMahon did not know what a "Dingo" Warrior would be, but because there was the "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry von Erich and the Road Warriors there should not be one more simple warrior, but The Ultimate Warrior. However, Warrior claims after one of his first matches, McMahon had him do a pretaped promo. It was there Vince said we want you to do Warrior, but we don't want Dingo. The Warrior then proceeded to cut the promo and stated that he was not this warrior or that warrior, he was The Ultimate Warrior.
Hellwig joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in June 1987. First competing on house shows under his Dingo Warrior moniker, he defeated the likes of Steve Lombardi, Barry Horowitz and Iron Mike Sharpe. He made his television debut as The Ultimate Warrior on the October 25, 1987 airing of WWF Wrestling Challenge, where he defeated Terry Gibbs. The Ultimate Warrior was known for his high-energy ring entrances, which featured him racing into the arena at full speed, bursting into the ring, and violently shaking the ropes up and down. He was also known for his distinctive pattern of face paint. After several months of impressively defeating enhancement talent, Warrior faced his first true challenge in Hercules Hernandez. The two faced off on the February 7, 1988 airing of Wrestling Challenge, where Hercules was disqualified for using his steel chain. This led to a match at WrestleMania IV, where Warrior was victorious in his pay-per-view debut.
Less than a year after his WWF television debut, Warrior won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship, defeating The Honky Tonk Man in 27 seconds at the first ever SummerSlam on August 29, 1988. As champion, he captained a team at Survivor Series '88, where he was the sole survivor, pinning Outlaw Ron Bass and Greg Valentine in succession to win the match for his team.
As 1989 began, Warrior entered a feud with Ravishing Rick Rude over the Intercontinental title. The feud was sparked at the 1989 Royal Rumble, where the two met in a "super posedown." After Warrior predictably had the support of the live crowd in their judging of the contest, Rude attacked Warrior and choked him with a steel bar. This led to a championship match at WrestleMania V, where Rude pinned Warrior to win the title with the help of his manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who held down Warrior's foot from outside the ring as he was being pinned. This was Warrior's first pinfall loss in the WWF. At SummerSlam '89, Warrior defeated Rude to regain the title and become a two-time champion. Warrior then began a feud with André the Giant, leading to a number of matches on house shows where Warrior pinned the massive giant in a matter of seconds, firmly establishing Warrior as a main event level talent. The feud culminated at Survivor Series '89 where the two captained opposing teams. Warrior quickly eliminated André by knocking him out of the ring, where he was counted out. Warrior would go on to once again be the sole survivor, pinning Arn Anderson and Bobby Heenan to win the match.
The Warrior was heralded as the wrestler to become the biggest star of the 1990s, and the successor to Hulk Hogan, who had remained wrestling's biggest star throughout the 1980s. Following a few confrontations with Hogan, most notably at the 1990 Royal Rumble, the Warrior was written in as Hogan's opponent in the main event for WrestleMania VI at the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario. The match was billed as "The Ultimate Challenge", as both Hogan's WWF Championship and Warrior's Intercontinental Championship were on the line. Warrior pinned Hogan after a Warrior Splash to become the first wrestler to hold the WWF Championship and Intercontinental Championship simultaneously. Warrior vacated the Intercontinental title, as WWF rules at the time prohibited a wrestler from holding both singles titles.
Warrior was inserted into the feud between The Legion of Doom and Demolition, leading to victories for the Warrior and LOD in six-man tag team matches on numerous house shows as well as the July 28, 1990 airing of Saturday Night's Main Event. The feud culminated at Survivor Series, where The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, LOD and Kerry Von Erich) defeated The Perfect Team (Mr. Perfect and Demolition). For the third consecutive year, Warrior was the sole survivor for his team. He would go on to survive the "Grand Finale Match of Survival" with Hulk Hogan.
In January 1991, Warrior faced Sgt. Slaughter at the Royal Rumble. Slaughter's gimmick at the time was a traitor who had betrayed America by aligning himself with an "middle eastern" military general, General Adnan. In the context of the Gulf War, this made Slaughter one of the most hated heels at the time. After rejecting an earlier request to grant a title shot to Savage, Sensational Sherri interjected herself in the Warrior's championship match to distract him. Her interference eventually led to a Savage sneak attack where he struck Warrior over the head with a metal scepter, and Slaughter pinned Warrior to win the title. Warrior would go on to feud with Savage, and the rivalry culminated in a "Career Ending" match at WrestleMania VII with the Warrior victorious, forcing Savage to retire.
The next chapter of Warrior's career was an encounter with The Undertaker, after Undertaker and his manager, Paul Bearer, locked Warrior in a coffin on the set of Bearer's Funeral Parlor. WWF officials worked feverishly to break the casket open, finally revealing Warrior's seemingly lifeless body, and the torn fabric inside of the coffin indicating Warrior's desperate struggle to get out. Warrior was finally revived by the officials performing CPR. This led to Jake "The Snake" Roberts offering to give Warrior "the knowledge of the dark side" in order to prepare Warrior to take his revenge on the Undertaker. This involved Roberts giving Warrior three "tests" shown on WWF TV in consecutive weeks. For the first test, Roberts locked Warrior inside of a coffin for a second time.
For the second test, Warrior was "buried alive" by Roberts. For the third test, the Warrior entered a room full of snakes, to find "the answer" in a chest in the middle of the room. However, waiting inside the chest was a King Cobra, which bit Warrior in the face. As Warrior weakened from the effects of the cobra's strike, Roberts was joined by the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, revealing the three were working together all along. Roberts then uttered, "Never trust a snake." The stage was now set for a feud between the Warrior and Roberts. However, the feud would never take place, as Warrior was involved in an alleged pay dispute with WWF owner Vince McMahon over the SummerSlam main event, where Warrior was teamed with Hulk Hogan in a handicap match against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa, and General Adnan.
Following WWF's annual SummerSlam event, Warrior was handed a letter dated August 26, 1991 from Vince McMahon stating that Warrior would be suspended effective immediately. Upon receiving the letter, Warrior refused the suspension and left the WWF. Warrior formally sent a letter of resignation to the WWF in October 1991. The WWF refused to accept the letter since Warrior was under contract until September 1992. With Hulk Hogan about to leave WWF in mid-1992, McMahon contacted Warrior about returning. He made his comeback at WrestleMania VIII (to rescue Hulk Hogan from a beat down at the hands of Sid Justice and Papa Shango). Upon his return, he received a degree of creative control over his bookings. One storyline involved Papa Shango, though Warrior says he hated that story and had no control over it. The Warrior was booked for a WWF Championship match against then-champion, "Macho Man" Randy Savage at SummerSlam in August 1992. The Warrior would win the match by count-out but not the title.
In November 1992, Warrior was scheduled to be the tag team partner of Savage, to be known as the Ultimate Maniacs to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon at Survivor Series. However, weeks before the event, Warrior was released for disputed reasons. Between November 1992 and July 1995, Warrior was semi-retired. During his time away from the WWF, Warrior opened the short-lived "Warrior University", a professional wrestling school based in Scottsdale, Arizona. In December 1992, he wrestled as the Dingo Warrior against Hercules Hernandez in Billerica, Massachusetts, for Killer Kowalski's International Wrestling Federation. In 1993, Hellwig played the role of "the swordsman" in the action movie Firepower. In July 1995, he returned to the ring for the National Wrestling Conference (NWC) promotion in Las Vegas, defeating The Honky Tonk Man. He had also wrestled a tour of Europe for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association (CWA) promotion.
After three and a half years spent mostly outside the wrestling limelight, Warrior returned to the WWF in March 1996, squashing Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania XII. He made his first appearance on Monday Night Raw on April 8, where he gave an in-ring interview and credited the "voices" of the "warriors" (his name for members of the WWF audience) for his return; he was then interrupted by Goldust. Warrior challenged for Goldust's Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 7; Warrior won the match by countout, but did not win the title. The following night on Monday Night Raw, Warrior defeated Isaac Yankem. A rematch with Intercontinental Champion Goldust, on the May 27 edition of the show, ended in a double countout. Warrior defeated Jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring, and defeated Owen Hart by disqualification on the July 8 edition of Monday Night Raw. Warrior was scheduled to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson to face Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Vader at In Your House 9 later that month, but the WWF terminated Warrior's contract.
WCW signed Warrior in 1998 and gave him a degree of creative control over his matches. He created a storyline where he formed a stable opposing Hollywood Hulk Hogan's New World Order: the "One Warrior Nation." The acronym oWn (One Warrior Nation) was a play on the name nWo. Highlights of the storyline included Warrior kidnapping and "converting" The Disciple and frequent instances of "magic smoke" knocking out all of the nWo members except for Hollywood Hogan and covering Warrior's movement through a trapdoor in the ring. The Trapdoor was responsible for nearly paralyzing the wrestler Davey Boy Smith, when he awkwardly fell on it during a match at Fall Brawl 98.
Warrior only participated in three matches in WCW. The first was the War Games match at Fall Brawl, where he competed as a member of Team WCW, competing against 8 other wrestlers for a shot at Goldberg's WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Halloween Havoc. Diamond Dallas Page won the match by pinning Stevie Ray. On WCW Monday Nitro, he teamed with Sting to defeat Hogan and Bret Hart by disqualification, a match in which he had little participation; he was tagged in for a short exchange with Hart, then singlehandedly chased several nWo members down the entry way, whipping them with Hogan's belt. The third was his loss to Hogan at Halloween Havoc, in what is considered by Eric Bischoff to be one of the worst main event pay-per-view wrestling matches ever. In the Halloween Havoc match, the timing of the maneuvers and hits was poor; an arm injury that Warrior received at WarGames further slowed the action. An attempt to "blind" Warrior with a fireball backfired when Hogan faced complications igniting a piece of flash paper, causing the fire to go up in Hogan's face instead. The match came to an end when Horace Hogan hit Warrior in the back with a chair while Eric Bischoff had referee Nick Patrick distracted. Hogan then scored the pinfall.
WCW claimed that attempts were made to save the storyline though Warrior has claimed in interviews and convention appearances that the only reason he was brought back was so Hogan could get a win over Warrior in return for Hogan's WrestleMania job. Warrior's last appearance in WCW was on the November 9, 1998 edition of Nitro, when he came to the rescue of The Disciple who was being attacked by members of nWo. Warrior announced his retirement the following year.
During an April 19, 2008 Nu-Wrestling Evolution (NWE) event in Madrid, Spain, Warrior was presented with an award celebrating his professional wrestling career in front of over 15,000 attendees. During the presentation, NWE Heavyweight Champion Orlando Jordan mocked a fan of Warrior's, resulting in a heated argument between Warrior and Jordan. As a result of the exchange, a match between Warrior and Jordan was scheduled for June 25, 2008 in the Palau Municipal d'Esports de Badalona in Barcelona, marking Warrior's first match in nearly 10 years. After much hype, On June 25, he finally made his much anticipated return to pro wrestling when he faced Jordan for the NWE Heavyweight Championship. Warrior promoted the show on his website and trained with Rob Van Dam during the summer. Notably, the match lasted over 12 minutes - the Warrior did a top rope flying body press and a top rope superplex and defeated Jordan with his clothesline/shoulder tackle finish. After winning the match and the NWE Championship, Warrior spoke to the crowd for a moment and immediately vacated the title.
Although Warrior's relationship with WWE has been strained at times, more recently WWE has recognized him as one of the legends of the company. WWE described him as being "As devastating and intense as any Superstar who stepped through the ropes...", further saying that "The Ultimate Warrior may be the most enigmatic man to ever hold the WWE Championship." In a recent review of a fantasy match between John Cena and Warrior, the WWE described him as having been "One of the most recognizable Superstars in WWE history", and further spoke of his impact, describing how "The Ultimate Warrior brought Hulkamania to its knees on The Grandest Stage of Them All at WrestleMania VI, retired the Madness at WrestleMania VII and press slammed a slew of the greatest legends of his era." In WWE All Stars, in which Ultimate Warrior appears as one of the Legends, WWE stated that he was the "ultimate archetype of strength and intensity," and further stated that "without question, the Ultimate Warrior has etched his name in the pantheon of WWE greats".
So, how's the figure? Really excellent. Also very colorful. Today we are used to seeing a large percentage of WWE Superstars dressed in black. One look at my growing collection of WWE Superstars figures reveals this fact. The color palette is rather limited. This was certainly not the case in the 80's and into the 90's, and it most categorically was not the case with the Ultimate Warrior.
Ultimate Warrior was known for a distinctive pattern of face paint. The basic shape of it was akin to some sort of super-hero mask, with huge triangular shapes running over his eyes and down either side of his face, partially up his forehead, and an additional angular shape over much of his nose. This shape, as much as anything, was the Warrior's trademark. Ultimate Warrior was so popular for a time that his fans imitated this. I remember attending a "house show" (a non-televised event) and there was a kid sitting next to me who'd had his face painted like Warrior's.
The color pattern varied wildly. It could be almost any color scheme. The one used on this figure certainly works. It's concentric, starting with an outer thin border of black, a broad bright orange stripe, a broad bright pink stripe, a broad bright green stripe, and a black center. Very neatly painted.
Warrior's headsculpt certainly works. He is shown with piercing eyes and an open mouth. Usually I don't go in much for extreme facial expressions, but pretty much everything about the Ultimate Warrior was extreme, and he certainly had this expression on his face frequently. It's an excellent and very detailed sculpt, with an impressively deeply sculpted mouth and very neatly painted detail.
Then there's the hair. Ultimate Warrior always had very long, and very bushy, shaggy hair. That can't have been an easy sculpt, but the sculptors at Mattel did a superb job with it. It was obviously designed as a separate piece, secured to the head during assembly. It is very well detailed, a medium brown in color, and is flexible enough to allow the figure's head to turn, as well as to allow the Ultimate Warrior to throw his head back, something he was also known for doing frequently during his high-energy ring entrances, where he'd charge to the ring at full speed, jump in, grab the ring ropes, shake them viciously, and throw his head back and (one would guess) roar or something -- no doubt leaving some of his opponents wondering what they'd gotten themselves into.
Physically, Ultimate Warrior was always a super-muscular powerhouse. Mattel has a number of body types available for their WWE action figures. This isn't like the Masters of the Universe line (although Warrior looks like he could take most of them on) where a large percentage of the figures share the same body molds and get away with it. The WWE figures are based on real people and have to look reasonably like those people. Hence the need for multiple body types.
Obviously, the body type used for Warrior is one of the most intricately detailed muscular ones they've got, and it certainly works for the character. Ultimate Warrior stands about seven inches in height, which is pretty good sized, even for this line.
Ultimate Warrior also has wristbands in the same color scheme. His trunks are bright green, with the shape of his face paint imprinted on the back in pink. His knee pads are pink, with the face paint shape printed on the front in orange, with pink, green, and orange tassles hanging from them. The knee pads are molded from a flexible plastic that does not hinder Ultimate Warrior's articulation.
Ultimate Warrior's boots are white, and just as ornate as the resy of him. The tops of the boots, separately molded pieces attached during assembly, are curved, and there is a great supply of white tassles hanging from them. It's like someone combined the shape of a cowboy boot with the fringe seen in certain somewhat stereotypical costumes for Native Americans. The tops of the boots have the facepaint shape imprinted in pink. All of the painted detail on the figure is very neatly done.
Ultimate Warrior is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Now there are a few limitations. There is no mid-torso articulation, and the legs move forward and backward, but not outward. However, as I have said before with these reviews, these Superstars figures are pretty much Mattel's basic line. They do have the Elite and Legends Collections, which have more articulation, but you'll be paying a good bit more for it. I'm content at this level with these figures, really, and they're still really superb examples of the WWE Superstars.
So, what's my final word? I'm extremely impressed with this figure, and truly delighted to bring one of my favorite Superstars of years past into my current WWE Superstars collection. Whatever the down side of his history with the WWE may have been, and I've deliberately not gotten into it to any great detail in this review, I've always liked the guy, I greatly enjoyed his appearances in the WWE, and I'm glad to have him join my collection. Admittedly, he looks a little unusual next to the likes of John Cena, The Miz, Kofi KIngston, and some of the others, but I think there will always be a place in the WWE for the Ultimate Warrior, and if you're a WWE fan, then there should certainly be a place for him in your collection.
The WWE SUPERSTARS "WORLD CHAMPIONS" figure of the ULTIMATE WARRIOR definitely has my highest recommendation!