LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — An autopsy is scheduled Thursday for iconic professional wrestler The Ultimate Warrior who died suddenly Tuesday, less than 24 hours after his final appearance on television.
Warrior, who was born James Hellwig, collapsed while walking with his wife at the Gainey Suites Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. He “clutched his chest” just before falling to the floor, according to TMZ. The wrestler was rushed to the hospital where doctors pronounced him dead a short time later. He was 54.
Former WWE star Sean “X-Pac” Waltman attended the Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday where Warrior was honored and saw the inductee before he went on the stage to make his speech.
“I got a sense he wasn’t well,” Waltman said. “It was sad to me. He was kind of hunched over. He used to have such great posture. You just had this sense that he wasn’t well. But he was in great spirits. He came up to (other wrestlers) and gave them hugs.”
A preliminary investigation revealed a “catastrophic medical condition” caused Warrior’s death, according to Scottsdale Police. Authorities say there are no signs of foul play.
Following an 18-year absence due to a very bitter real life feud with WWE chairman Vince McMahon, Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday. Then on Monday, he put on his signature airbrushed trench coat, shook the white ring ropes, and, for a few fleeting minutes, the wrestler billed as hailing from Parts Unknown was back home in the wrestling ring.
“Speak to me, Warriors!” he bellowed on WWE’s flagship television show “Raw.”
He soaked up the applause from a New Orleans crowd chanting his name and pulled out a neon mask that replicated the face paint he wore in the ring for every main event battle with Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage in the 1990s. Warrior cut a promo to show how much he appreciated his return to the WWE.
Less than 24 hours later, Warrior, one of the most colorful stars in pro wrestling history, was dead.
His last promo on WWE’s flagship show seems almost eerie now with his triumphant return overshadowed by his sudden death.
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own,” Warrior said. “Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”
Warrior, who legally changed his name to his wrestling moniker, personified the larger-than-life cartoon characters who helped skyrocket the WWE into a mainstream phenomenon in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Ultimate Warrior had a falling out with the WWE over various issues, including money, and did not appear on its TV shows after July 8, 1996, until last weekend.
Levesque said he spent 18 months getting to know Warrior and both sides put hard feeling aside to bring him back into the WWE fold. He said Warrior was like a “kid reborn” to headline Saturday night’s Hall of Fame class. Warrior had signed a deal to work as a WWE ambassador.
“It was time to move on and get past all of it,” Levesque said. “In some ways, when you’ve been in this business and in the WWE, you’re all brothers. Can we get back to being brothers?”
Warrior was the only Hall of Famer feted with his own moment on Monday. His final words to the crowd are ones wrestling’s fanatics will surely take to heart.
“The spirit of The Ultimate Warrior will run forever,” he said.
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