I can't sit here this morning and pretend that I always loved Ultimate Warrior. His peak occurred during a time when I had drifted away from pro wrestling. What I caught in the late 80s and early 90s, or sought out after, revealed lackluster matches and gloriously insane promos that I was never sure how much of my enjoyment of them consisted of irony.
It doesn't matter why you enjoy his interviews as a wrestler. It does matter that some of his post-retirement "promos" contained elements that were hurtful to people just living their own lives, but if we look at those talks, he spent more time trying to motivate than to to disparage. The motivational ploys may have been as off the wall as his in character interviews. But just as he did at the Hall of Fame on Saturday and on Monday night's Raw, he emphasized the role that we all have to play in life, and how devoting yourself to whatever your job is can make you a legend.
Another take away from his appearances for WWE on WrestleMania 30 weekend was how, when you turned down the volume on his delivery, you could see how deeply hurt the man behind the character was by the company's Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior DVD.
He may have tried to joke about it - "If you really want the biggest bang for your buck, do something self-destructive, get exiled and still come back to headline the Hall of Fame," he said. But you don't devote a segment of your speech to defending yourself as a "good guy" if you don't believe that someone else has really tried to convince the world of that you are not.
In reality (as opposed to pro wrestling's "Reality"), Warrior and Vince McMahon/WWE both surely had a role to play in his tumultuous time at the top of the pro wrestling world, and both parties contributed to the acrimony that followed.
But amid the sadness and shock that all pro wrestling fans are experiencing this morning, we should take one final message from seeing the man from Parts Unknown on a WWE stage and in a WWE ring over the last several days.
Grudges linger, and resentments hurt.
Some day, we'll get a version of the story of how Warrior and WWE came to mend fences. The Hall of Famer alluded to it from the stage in New Orleans. The how isn't that important, though. Someone extended their hand, and the other party accepted it. That allowed enough of the pain to dissipate in order for the man, the company and the art form to properly celebrate the heights they had achieved together.
Tragically, it will be the final time they do so. But at least we got that.
The combination of on-screen and behind-the-scenes drama already made the story of Ultimate Warrior a quintessentially pro wrestling one. His passing and the days that preceded it are an eerily fitting addition to his legend.
With his cartoonish look and bombastic promos, Warrior rocketed to and over the top to get his character across. His death the day after prophetically telling us "the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever" is the latest and last larger than life occurrence from which we should all take one message.
Life is too short, too precious, to hang on to any ill will that you don't have to. Admit your mistakes, let go of your anger and celebrate the gifts instead.
Glad you got the opportunity, Warrior. I hope it brought you peace.