Got a chance to speak with the Ultimate Warrior recently here’s how it went down:
Steve: Alright, what so what do we have going on? Who’s on the phone with me?
Ultimate Warrior: You got Warrior!
Steve: Awesome! Where are you located right now?
Ultimate Warrior: We’re in New Mexico right now, north of Santa Fe. Out in the country and we go back and forth from here to Arizona.
Steve: Nice! There’s a new ad campaign out for WWE 2K14 and a trailer…your trademark long hair is gone! When did you cut it off and what was the decision behind that?
Ultimate Warrior: My decision to cut my hair off was probably the same reason you decided to cut your hair off. (laughs) I guess primarily when people ask me that question over the years and I find it somewhat of an odd question.
The number one reason is because I wanted to. Long hair, as you get older doesn’t work for some people. I suppose it probably could have continued to work but it wasn’t like I was trying to hold on to my gimmick or be recognizable.
I made it easy on myself and got a shorter haircut.
Steve: I’m sure you got recognized a lot in public when you had that look. Did you like being in the public eye? Or did you hide from the fame?
Ultimate Warrior: I liked it but it wasn’t what drove me in my career. In fact, every time I left and came back, Vince would always ask me if I missed the fame or the limelight or being a celebrity, I certainly enjoyed it, I had all the perks that came with being a superstar in the business at the time but it wasn’t what really drove me and I never really missed it when I was out of it, I went on with setting other goals.
Ultimate Warrior: Ya know, a lot of successful people will tell you this, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” That’s the way it’s always been for me. When I got in it, I wanted to succeed in it. I sort of stepped back and set a plan for myself.
When I originally got into this business it was because when I had almost graduated from chiropractic college, I done all the academic stuff and I had still had to do some clinic stuff but I wanted to open a practice when I got out. I was in body building at the time and an opportunity came up to try out for professional wrestling, I was going to use the money from that to open up my practice. That’s how my journey in professional wrestling began.
I never really been big on the fame or the being a celebrity, especially today with it being such a fascination for it…it’s all kind of silly and stupid to me.
Steve: (Laugh) With fame comes opportunities, you have to admit.
Ultimate Warrior: Well yes, but also responsibilities. Young people today believe that with that kind of fame, happiness comes along with it but if you take a look at the magazine rack and look at the entertainment mags you’ll see who the most unhappy people in the world are.
Steve: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Ultimate Warrior: Um..yeah…or make sure you got good people around you so your head is always on straight.
Steve: Let’s talk about the WrestleMania mode in WWE 2K14. There’s 30 years of it! There’s the big fight with you and Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 6 and hardly anyone’s ever been able to pin him and take the title…you did both. Did you really appreciate the significance of that at the time?
Ultimate Warrior: Yeah I did! In fact, I think I did more than others. I’ve always been introspective about my life. I’ve always been philosophical in a way…more so today of course at 54 (my age now) than I was back then at that age. I was 30 then and I was just figuring out my philosophy of life. My father left when I was young kid and I didn’t have a mentor I had associated for years that I could turn to at these different stages of my life and say “how should I be processing all of this stuff that’s going on?” I had to figure stuff out for myself.
After it happened, I remember asking myself “What’s next?” What will the next goal be here? That might have contributed in the following years with the fallouts I had with Vince. Things had to be challenging for me as a person.
Steve: Lets talk about some of the biggest names in WWE history that are in this game…who would you go up against?
Ultimate Warrior: I always enjoyed working with people who had the intensity about things that parallels mine and the Macho Man was one of those people.
The only other guy who has the same kind of intensity that matches mine, and I’m not talking about just physically, I’m talking about where their head is, being totally absorbed in being where you are, no place else, that’s where you are in that moment and you’re not thinking about anything else, nothing is interfering you in performing and in this case, when you go into the ring to perform your match…and the only guy who had the same kind of intensity is Vince.
If you see him on TV, it’s captivating. You can’t take your eyes off of him. It’s like he’s not half-assed there…he’s all there.
The talent from back in my day…there wasn’t a writing staff or a creative staff. It was up to the talent to develop their skill set and showed that they had what it took. There wasn’t someone to turn to, to get ideas about what you needed to say or how to talk in a promo. A way of putting it, there wasn’t anyone there to help you develop your comic book universe that you brought up to life on that WWF stage on television.
It was all up to you.
Steve: Cool! Those were some great answers and thank you for all that insight. I guess it was more “the seat of your pants” back in the day, that they let you guys be your own personalities instead of nowadays.
Ultimate Warrior: Oh yeah, it’s totally like that. I mean, all the interviews you did…..everything, it was all up to you. Your costumes, your development of that, where you wanted your gimmick to go, how your gimmick wanted to react to people in the ring. One part of the business is getting to the top and once you get to the top, it’s all about sustaining your position.
Once you develop your character, refusing to allow it to do things that the character wouldn’t do, for instance, new guys would come in and they go to work with them in the ring and you go to setup a match and they want to punch you and they think that with a punch you should go down, you should sell it in a way that doesn’t fit your character.
Andre the Giant used let me put him in a bear hug and he would squeal like a pig! I could barely get my arms around him! But to the wrestling crowd, they believed in that. So once a character does something like that for you, once they do that for you like Andre the Giant, all over the country and all in these different towns, putting in a bear hug and watching all these sold out arenas and convention centers see that, for me, later down the road, they’ll let someone diminish what he did for the character. Something you don’t do. That’s a tough thing for some guys to do, it’s a responsibility that the talent from back in my time used to have and today it’s left to a team that handle the talent.
Steve: So here’s a question I’m sure you get this asked a million times in every interview: What are the chances the Ultimate Warrior getting back in the ring? Would you get back in the ring?
Ultimate Warrior: No, I wouldn’t do it.
When I did interviews before, they had a life size poster of the Ultimate Warrior behind us in the background and that guy was a different kind of beast. He came from a different place. I remember years ago when I talked about that character in third person, people used to think “God, that’s just weird” “Why is he doing that?” and now everybody does it! To me that was like…ya know, he was a whole different animal. As soon as I started painting my face, there was this whole place to get into of the mindset of that character. I think it would be disappointing to people today.
Now, like that commercial I did and the first question you asked me about the hair, where’s trademark hair? of course there were many features that are trademark characteristics of the Ultimate Warrior, not just outside of the ring, in his body and physical look but also many other unique, one of a kind features of him performance related inside the ring. That intensity!
That’s why people start talking about those things every time WrestleMania comes around. They see me, I do these videos, in the gym, after I work out or something and they see that I’m still in shape…they start fantasizing the Ultimate Warrior coming back! I think my intensity is enough, especially the way they do TV shows today, it’s much different. It’s not the same thing.
Steve: So what’s next for you? What do you do every day? What about the next 5-10 years?
Ultimate Warrior: About what you just said, you’ve been in the entertainment for years and you’ve seen a lot of celebrities come and go. They have websites made up with these whole before/after caricatures or biographies of actors and actresses and people who were once famous and stuff. Isn’t it depressing to look at some of those stories behind all that stuff? I don’t know how much you’ve paid attention or continued to follow wrestling but there are characters that I’ve worked with that were in the business in my time, you know, they aren’t alive anymore.
Steve: That is sad but you know with every depressing story of defeat, there are positive stories on the other side.
Ultimate Warrior: The interesting thing is that people are surprised. I always say to people that there’s nothing to be surprised about! We should be surprised by the people who drop the ball in their life and not surprised by those people who continue to get on and don’t let the past affect them in a detrimental way.
Steve: I agree with that! That should be the norm!
Ultimate Warrior: One of the questions you asked me was and we didn’t get to yet is: “what does it mean to you for a young fan to be able to play the Ultimate Warrior? A fan who might not have been old enough to watch you compete?”
Personally, I could only tell you that I’m humble when I get correspondence from people that say things to me about what that character meant to them back in the day when they were kids or what it means to them today. That causes me to hope that maybe they’ll find out a little bit of the background, my history, and what happened with me and my life…for them to know that they have a uniqueness. A unique creative spirit inside themselves to go out into the world and do something just as incredible and just as great!
So many people just don’t believe that.
If anything, my Ultimate Warrior career taught me to deepen my beliefs in that. I got it from nobody except from my own trial and errors. My own mistakes deepen my beliefs in that every one of us is so unique and different from everybody else even though we all walk around on two legs and we’re all human beings that go to the doctor. Anatomically, we’re all basically the same but there’s something inside of us that makes us different and unique.
We’re supposed to engage that. We’re supposed to exploit that in our lives and the Ultimate Warrior was my muse. Ultimate Warrior gave me that.
My own challenges and obstacles with becoming successful, having fall outs with Vince McMahon, people who had more money, more power and more influence than I did….my willingness to stand up and say “no, that’s wrong.” and “It’s okay that I think that it’s wrong.” “It’s okay I go in a different direction from other people” “it’s okay if I do my own thing.”, that’s a powerful thing and that’s what Ultimate Warrior means to me more than anything.
I’m now in a full-time fine-art career that I’ve built over the years and that keeps me busy during the day. I managed the license on my intellectual property which was another thing I fought for, that people years ago when I first did it, they thought it was just stupid…but it makes me a lot of money! To own that! To own the Ultimate Warrior and the trademarks rights of all that stuff.
I have two beautiful children and I like to spend as much time as I can watching them growing up now before they get old enough to leave home to do their own incredible thing. We do home schooling, we go about parenting in a different way and we never really catch ourselves saying “boy, it’s just flying by and we’re missing so much of it.” And that’s been important to me. We live out in the country, we have a lot of responsibilities and duties when it comes to the property we have. I’m always busy man!
It’s funny cause you grew up at the same time I did, I grew up in the mid-west, Indiana, hometown of 600 people and today we see so many young kids constantly being bored. I remember growing up in the country and I remember having nothing to do except go outside and find something to do and here’s my imagination and I can’t remember ever being bored!
Steve: Similar to me, I grew up in New England and we had a frozen pond, seven months out of the year and I was out there playing hockey. But some of the smartest people are behind the scenes of these videos games and they could take you places you were just dreaming about.
Ultimate Warrior: Maybe to end on that, meeting the 2K people, getting filled in on it, in New York with some of the developers that were there and how many people it actually takes, what kind of planning that has to be done, how long it takes the game to be done and that whole time you going through your plan that you originally set but you come up with ideas where you want to make changes but you gotta restrain yourself because you can’t, you gotta get the game out.
What kind of investments gotta be made throughout the course of developing the game and what kind of risks that are involved. It’s all really really incredible man!
Steve: Hey warrior! I know you have a busy day like I do, it was awesome talking to you, and I look forward to playing as you in WWE 2K14.