Oh, the rough and tumble! In wrestling with a grappler today and and coming off far worse, I ventured into the archive and found a relevant relic. Here is Jim Hellwig, better known as The Ultimate Warrior, or alternatively THEE ULLLLLLLLLLTIMATE WARRRRRRRRRRRIORRRRRRRRR!!! Not exactly the biggest fan of his myself, I feel compelled to drop in that I painted this for a friend – it’s one of my better old pieces, I think. It was back in the days when I used to actually paint, rather than just sketch and optionally overlay with colour. I added the background today – I’m not sure it was entirely wise.
The Warrior debuted in the WWF in 1987 and within a couple of years found himself at the top of the industry, with hopes pinned on him becoming the next Hulk Hogan. It was really a confirmation of just how the industry had mutated in a few short years; The Warrior’s ethos wasn’t in the slightest about legitimate athleticism or gripping psychology – indeed, he barely knew one hold from another. It was all about the larger-than-life character and spectacle, ignited through his weird, often nonsensical interviews and a raucous, jet-propelled entrance. These parts often lasted far longer than his actual wrestling matches.
While unquestionably popular with the fans at the time, today one cannot hide the blemishes on his legacy; there are countless recollections of his poor backstage attitude, with many of his old-school colleagues feeling he never appreciated that astronomical push he was given. Not only that, but his demands for outrageous sums of money and no-showing events saw him hired and fired on several occasions, which I daresay eroded the relationship with many of his supporters, who turned their eyes to newer, more reliable heroes.
It all leaves me wondering whether he should ever have been a wrestler, really. He could captivate a large audience and make these people route for a creation (apparently) of his own, that much is clear – and I’m sure there are many who remember his inimitable on-screen presence with affection. You can’t write off his impact, which was very much the focus of my portrait. But it just seems as if he was conflicting with the business – and those in it – at every turn, making few allies. Fascinating, really, as it is wholly perplexing and quite sad. Perhaps the ascent was too brisk for him to handle – perhaps the fame went to his head? Who knows.
Fun painting, though.