James Hellwig, Wrestling’s Ultimate Warrior, Dies at 54 – NYTimes.com

James Hellwig, a professional wrestler known in the 1990s as the Ultimate Warrior — a frenzied mountain of muscle and face paint who was billed as the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan, but who then fell out of favor — died on Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 54.He and his wife, Dana, had just arrived in Scottsdale when he collapsed in the parking lot of their hotel. He died at a nearby hospital, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office said, adding that an autopsy would be conducted on Thursday.Mr. Hellwig had been inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame on Saturday in New Orleans. His induction ended a long personal feud with W.W.E.’s founder, Vincent McMahon, that had made him an industry pariah for most of the last dozen years.Mr. Hellwig joined Mr. McMahon’s organization, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, in 1987 and quickly rose in fans’ esteem with his feats of strength, his dervish energy, his orange tan and his quasi-mystical interview style. (Answering a ringside interviewer’s question about tactics, he gestured toward a fan in the crowd wearing face paint like his and said, “I know that that warrior is ready to make that sacrifice so that I shall live.”)Measured in ticket, merchandise and closed-circuit sales, he was considered Hulk Hogan’s equal in popularity by 1990, when the two faced each other in a championship match before a crowd of 68,000 in Toronto.The match, unusual because it pitted two wrestlers regarded as “good guys” against each other, came to be regarded as a classic moment in pro wrestling. The choreography was rehearsed only once, the night before the match, which may have helped give it an aura of suspense it never really had. Mr. Hellwig emerged victorious.In the mid-1990s, Mr. Hellwig and Mr. McMahon became embroiled in a contract dispute, and as a result his appearances were intermittent through the rest of the decade. Like many of the marquee names in the business, Mr. Hellwig also admitted to having taken anabolic steroids throughout the ’70s and ’80s, before they became illegal.James Brian Hellwig was born in Crawfordsville, Ind., on June 16, 1959, the oldest of five children. He attended Indiana State University for a year and was attending chiropractic school in Atlanta, studying to become a fitness trainer and therapist, when he won the 1984 Mr. Georgia weight-lifting competition. The victory earned Mr. Hellwig an invitation to become a pro wrestler.Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, his mother and a brother.Mr. Hellwig’s reconciliation with W.W.E. — and his triumphal return, like something out of a pro wrestling melodrama — resulted in part from the via James Hellwig, Wrestling’s Ultimate Warrior, Dies at 54 - NYTimes.com.

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