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Wrestling icon Ultimate Warrior dies at 54

Toronto Sun crime reporter Chris Doucette. (Sun files)

By Chris Doucette, Toronto Sun

On the heels of the WWE’s biggest celebration of the year, the wrestling promotion is mourning the unexpected death of one of its biggest superstars from the past, the Ultimate Warrior.

The 54-year-old, who was born Jim Hellwig and legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993, was with his family in Arizona when he suddenly collapsed Tuesday — just three days after his WWE Hall of Fame induction on the eve of WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans.

“WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE superstars ever, the Ultimate Warrior,” the company said in a statement.

Warrior was a WWE mainstay from 1987 to 1991. He returned briefly in 1992 and 1996, then wrestled for a short time in the WCW before retiring in 1998.

He recently returned to the fold signing a multi-year deal as a WWE ambassador and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday.

During his induction, Warrior joked about being able to return from “exile” after 18 years and still “headline” the Hall of Fame ceremony.

He also spoke directly to his daughters, 11 and 13, saying while he had done some “awesome” things in his life, “the most awesome” thing he has done was be their dad.

Warrior was reportedly outside a hotel walking to his car with his daughters and wife when he collapsed just before 6 p.m. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Warrior stood in the ring on WWE’s Monday Night RAW for the first time in 18 years delivering what would be his ultimate farewell.

“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own,” he told the Smoothie Centre crowd. “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 and makes them believe deeper in something that’s larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honour him, and make the running the man did live forever,” Warrior said.

“I am the Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever,” he added.

In 1985, Warrior and some fellow bodybuilders, including Steve Borden, decided to give wrestling a shot. He and Borden enjoyed some tag team success as the Blade Runners before moving on to singles careers.

Warrior rose to fame with WWE, Borden did the same with WCW as Sting.

Torontonians will always remember Warrior pinning Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6 in 1990 in front of 67,678 fans at the Skydome. His untimely death sent shockwaves through social media.

“We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away,” WWE CEO Vince McMahon tweeted. “Our heart is with his wife Dana and his two daughters.”

Warrior not only made amends with his old boss prior to his death, he also ended feuds with former colleagues.

Fellow Hall of Famer Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts tweeted he was “deeply saddened” by the death.

“We just had a great talk and buried a senseless hatchet, talked working together,” he tweeted. “RIP Warrior. Taking solace we made peace.”

And Hulk Hogan tweeted he had “only love” for Warrior.

“We talked, both forgave each other, we hugged, we shook hands as we told each other I love you,” the Hulkster tweeted.

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