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Collecting the Ultimate Warrior.


"In Summerslam action"
To those uninitiated to its back-story, my brother spending $900 (£549) on a pair of colourful, twenty-three year old Spandex underpants with the words 'Out Of Control' carefully stitched into the fabric; complete with matching tassels and elbow pads, would seem an act of sheer lunacy. Add to this the knowledge he - on receipt of said attire, carefully framed them with pride and place upon the wall of his home office; and likely wore them at some point, it hardly helps the case for his defense. 

Of course, when I mention how these items are in fact attire worn by World Wrestling Federation legend, the Ultimate Warrior - during his world title run of 1990; including steel cage Summerslam tussle against the vastly undervalued Ravishing Rick Rude. To those who carry any level of love for the misunderstood wonder of professional wrestling, It is obvious my brother is as grounded as ever. Nonetheless, $900 ring-wear is a unique sale, and causes me to ask the question: how does a performer become so popular, that a full-grown man would place his pants on such a high pedestal? Forgiving the knowledge the fabric has likely felt the grip of men such as Andre the Giant, and Dino Bravo...

For those too young to remember, the character of Ultimate Warrior - portrayed by body-builder, chiropractic student, and Indiana native, James Hellwig, never so much arrived onto the pro-wrestling scene, as tore right through it; redefining key elements of the sports entertainment rule book, in due process. Making his WWF début in June 1987, and barely twelve months into his career, it took less then three years to find himself going from jerking curtains of arena house shows - squashing long-term enhancement talents like Terry Gibbs and the Brooklyn Brawler, to headlining the main-event of Wrestlemania VI; taking the clean pinfall over a face Hulk Hogan - the wrestling equivalent of headlining Wembley Stadium, above the Rolling Stones. All his actions were unconventional, yet the fans took to him and his merchandise like wildfire; which, ultimately, dictates the direction of talent in the wrestling industry.

Over the ensuing two decades - as a result of politics, changing natures in public perceptions of wrestling, and simply exploring other avenues in his life, Hellwig, who in 1992 legally changed his name to Warrior, became a distant yet passionate observer to the industry which helped make him a household name; experiencing an icy relationship with the internal world of professional wrestling, and making sporadic appearances. However, he has retained popularity beyond those walls with the fans, and this is the first reason why I believe my brother paid the money he did, to attain the pants he has. While many professional wrestlers listen to the viewpoints of their bosses, the agents, other workers, investors, or any internal avenue who feel they know better, I always felt he listened to no one else but the fans who emotionally invested in his character - filtered through personal ideas of progression. An entertainer will often take their fan-base for granted; the Warrior seems grateful for every last one of them.

"$900 later"
The second reason, is a mixture of a consistency and genuine nature; which showed in his character through the energy omitted to each crowd, and as a man in fan interactions; where he takes time and effort to converse and pose for each fan photo, till they are satisfied with the outcome. Where many other entertainers carry an abject disdain for those who supported them for so long, or have sold themselves down the river for a fistful of dollars and a subway sandwich, Warrior has remained resolute in his likes, dislikes, and outlooks on both the industry he excelled in, and the world he lives in. As we grow older, it becomes harder to find those true to their principals - and even through the ridicule of doing so, the Warrior has always stood firm in the face of adversity; and attacks by Hulk Hogan.

The final reason, and perhaps the most pivotal; beside just how darn entertaining his character was, is from his progression as a human being. Seeing him now at the age of 54; through vast collections of YouTube videos, website articles, paintings, and inspirational talks, I see a wiser, smarter man - still buzzing with desire to grow, yet aware he is no longer physically 32. Instead of appearing foolish by trying to hold onto haircuts and highlights of decades past - he seems devoid of the ignorance lost in ego, and comes across as a forward thinker; who genuinely cares about providing useful life advice to the younger generations. As someone none too fond of the still prevalent 'me' ethos of the baby-boomers, this attitude is both refreshing and inspirational; and a more considerate set of values, in this world we live upon. The pants have value not only as a representation of history, but also a memory of morality; easily lost with the passing of time.

The Ultimate Warrior - both man and character, is known as intense, passionate, single-minded, brutal, charismatic, and more than anything else... genuine. He gave to the fans, and the fans gave in return. This is why my brother - much like millions of other now full grown adults, and even a new generation of youngsters ready to stamp their own mark on the world, remain such true fans of all that encompasses this fine line between gimmick and reality. In a world loaded with bullshitters and scam-artists, he is simply an old-school soul, who calls each play as he sees it; at least, that is how I see it - I would love to hear your own interpretation, on my Facebook page.

Those Summerslam 1990 Spandex underpants remain framed; serving as a wonderful memory of popular culture, childhood, and how far we can reach when we truly believe in ourselves - and stop at nothing to reach the peak of that mountain. The Ultimate Warrior is one of pro-wrestling's true enigmas; no one else could have created this character, created by a character, unlike almost anybody else...

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