The Ultimate Warrior dead at 54
APR 09, 2014 12:16a ET
The man born James Brian Hellwig, who earned a global following as professional wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, died Tuesday night, World Wrestling Entertainment announced. Hellwig was 54.
TMZ reported that Hellwig — who officially changed his name to Warrior in 1993 — "collapsed outside an Arizona hotel at 5:50 PM on April 8th ... while walking to his car with his wife. Warrior was transported to a nearby hospital ... where he was pronounced dead."
Hellwig's death comes only three days after The Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and just one day after Hellwig made an appearance on WWE's "Raw," his first appearance on the show since 1996.
Here is a clip from Hellwig's appearance:
According to WWE, The Ultimate Warrior was "one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever," joined the organization in 1987 and three years later was world champion, defeating Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI at SkyDome in Toronto. The match, billed as the "Ultimate Challenge," lived up to the billing in the eyes of most, a common staple in lists of greatest wrestling matches of all time.
Here is WWE's initial statement on Hellwig's death:
WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever, The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior began his WWE career in 1987 and quickly went on to become one of the biggest stars in WWE history. Warrior became WWE Champion at WrestleMania VI, defeating Hulk Hogan in an epic encounter. We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was also able to appear at WrestleMania 30 and Monday Night Raw to address his legions of fans. WWE sends its sincere condolences to Warrior’s family, friends and fans. Warrior was 54 and is survived by his wife Dana and his two daughters.
Hellwig and WWE had a contentious relationship after he left the company in 1996, battling one another in lawuits over ownership of The Ultimate Warrior copyright. WWE released a controversial DVD in 2005 titled "The Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior," which featured many wrestlers giving disparaging remarks about Warrior. That DVD led to yet another lawsuit.
His wrestling career over, the man who began his career as a bodybuilder had a brief turn as a motivational speaker.
Along with his enshrinement into the Hall of Fame and return to the ring in "Raw," The Ultimate Warrior character is to be included in the WWE 2K14 video game, another sign of his reconciliation with WWE.
Others in the wrestling world quickly took to social media to announce Hellwig's death and offer condolences and thoughts.