I often have multiple tabs open on my web browser, and Twitter is almost always one of them. It's convenient, too, because whenever a new tweet appears in my timeline, a little (1) appears to let me know someone I follow had something to say and I should probably go read it. That happened late last night.
So I clicked and I read.
Saddened to announce the passing of the Ultimate Warrior. Icon and friend. My sympathy to his wife Dana and his daughters— Triple H (@TripleH) April 9, 2014
This can't be right. Surely, Triple H had his Twitter account hacked and someone was playing a joke on us, a cruel joke that shouldn't be called a "joke" because nothing about it would be funny. Plus, reports of Warrior's demise had been greatly exaggerated dating all the way back to the early 1990s. Someone was always claiming he died, and he always kept coming back around proving them wrong.
Not this time.
And I couldn't have felt worse to realize it. Because just one night before I had been incredibly critical of his appearance on Monday Night Raw.
I was upset that he didn't run down to the ring and shake the ropes like the good old days. I said it appeared he came back to massage his own ego and deal with lingering insecurities created by WWE and its smear campaign against him. Then, I wrote this:
Honestly, I was fearful he was going to have a heart attack right there in the ring. Let's let that be the last time Warrior comes out and cuts a promo on WWE television, please.
I feel awful. My gut turns at this, having been so critical of this appearance.
I was wrong.
With the benefit of hindsight, I realize just how wrong I was. Do not mistake me; I stand by my words. I was reacting to what I was watching in real time and in real time, I did not enjoy seeing him out there like that, in part because he looked to be in such poor health.
But I was wrong because his speech is exactly what it so clearly was then but didn't make obvious until his passing: inspirational. That's what the Ultimate Warrior character was all about. I ignored that because of all the circumstances surrounding it and focused too much on the man delivering the message instead of the message itself.
If nothing else, this is a lesson in compartmentalization. I did not agree with the viewpoints expressed by Jim "Warrior" Hellwig, but the Ultimate Warrior character I grew up watching routinely inspired me and put a smile on my face time and time again. My older, more cynical self lost sight of that and now, it's Warrior who has helped me regain that sight. Because he didn't return to Raw as Jim "Warrior" Hellwig; no, he donned that mask, silly as it may have seemed at the time, to comfortably slide back into the Ultimate Warrior character one last time and say thank you to all the fans, just for remembering the good and persevering through the bad. For being both inspiring and inspired.
I'm happy he got to do that, and sorry I was so critical of it. I'm happy he got to come back to see the love so many had for his life's work. It's part of why this site even exists.
So, thank you, Warrior.
And I'm sorry.