Hello, “Waryahs.” This week we continue the world’s introduction to The Ultimate Warrior. While breaking down these early promos, one can already tell that Vince McMahon had high hopes from the Warrior right out of the gate. How could he not? Outside of Hulkster and a few others, no one else had a “look” like Jim Helwig in early 1988. The “face paint era” of pro-wrestling was in full swing. To this point, wrestling fans saw the likes of The Great Kabuki, Road Warriors, and Demolition—all talents that dawned their own brand of paint which made them stand out.

90_surs-90-09-1416239375Hawk and Animal were two men who not only had an intimidating disposition but also were physical specimens to boot. They were two big dudes who could rap about being the baddest men on the planet and we as fans believed every word. The difference between them and The Ultimate Warrior was the fact that Paul Ellering served at the Road Warriors’ manager. Often times in promo work, Hawk and Animal would knock it out of the park then leave it to “Precious” Paul to remind us that’s he’s smarter than us all. If you watch old LOD interviews, it would usually bounce from Animal, to Hawk, and then and Ellering conclusion. They all fed off of each other (as well as “danger” and “death”).

In the beginning of Warrior’s run in the WWE(F), the interview of focus today was something that WWF producers thought necessary to get Warrior over to the masses—as this applied to a lot of the talent. Moving forward, Warrior wasn’t a wrestler that was going to deliver a “5-star” affair in the ring. It would soon be up to whoever had the task of working with Warrior to help those matches get over. That didn’t necessarily work for promos though. You needed to sell the folks on an eventually mediocre match.

Today’s interview is an example of something Ultimate Warrior—like many upcoming prospects—needed to survive in his early stages. Who better than “Mean” Gene Okerlund to help set up the Warrior’s eventual success? Last two weeks gave us Warrior simply promoting himself and upcoming matches. Okerlund brings the “who’s” and the “why’s” to the surface of The Ultimate Warrior in the following interview.

“The paint is nothing but a preparation for battle…”February 6, 1988 – WWF Superstars of Wrestling 

Gene Okerlund has a voice that draws the attention of wrestling fans. As I mentioned last week, 1988 saw the end of the interviewer supporting the interviewee in pre-taped promos. Rather than the following interview focusing on a specific show coming up on the schedule, “Mean” Gene presents The Ultimate Warrior as new, up and coming WWF Superstar. His introduction is about all a little kid needs to hear in order to understand that Okerlund’s next guest’s success is on the horizon.

“You know, over the years I’ve seen a lot of promising talent in the World Wrestling Federation. My next guest—just by his mere presence here—is already a Superstar. I can only be talking about the young man they’re buzzing about across the country and around the world. Wrestling fans everywhere I go are asking me about this man. Come on in: THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!” 

Eventually, when these two were involved in pre-taped promos during Pay Per Views and Saturday Night’s Main Event, Warrior controlled the pace of those interviews. However, as this is one of the first one-on-one conversations between the two, Geno feeds Ultimate Warrior information to build upon. Warrior enters the shot looking a bit spacey, as if he’s searching for his words already. Again, Warrior’s look and rap is still developing. The “Ultimate Warrior blueprint” is a mere sketch, but as his confidence grows, you’ll soon see his appearances and promos become more defined. 

Okerlund continues, “Not that long ago you arrived in the World Wrestling Federation and certainly, you’ve seen the biggest and the best. Tremendous competition here. I can throw out names like, like HERCULES from the BOBBY HEENAN family.”

Remember last week when I talked about E-Wrestling interviews typed up by 15-year old kids? You would think that those kids watched promos like this over and over again. Warrior takes what “Mean” Gene gives him and runs with it the best he can. “Yeah, you’re right, “Mean” Gene. The biggest and the baddest and the best are in the WWF and that’s why The Ultimate Warrior has come to the WWF! You know, there’s a lot of ‘Warriors’ that come and go, but “The Ultimate Warrior,” I earned that title by beating the other warriors in the ground and leavin’ ‘em in the dirt!”

The overall “Philosophy of The Ultimate Warrior” is a little ways away. However, one could take this intro as a reference to the few others at the time who were also using the word “Warrior” in their name or moniker (i.e. “The Modern Day Warrior” or The Road Warriors). Thus, to get to this point Ultimate Warrior previously left all others claiming to be a “warrior” in the dirt. What does that make this “warrior?” Ultimate. 

Warrior then moves on to the subject of Okerlund’s suggestion. “Talkin’ about a man by the name of Hercules—one of the men I KNOW the power of the Warriors is gonna come to you, Hercules, because I’ve heard time and time again: [He’s] man that nobody can move. Nobody can break.” 

Now, that was kind of stupid. Hercules was a big dude, but by no means did he have the physicality where opponents couldn’t “move” him. I get it, Ultimate Warrior puts over the size of Hercules and the possible challenge ahead but I think even Warrior himself thought what he said was kind of silly. So, he steps on “Mean” Gene’s toes a bit. 

Okerlund tries to keep the ball rolling. “You know talk about—“ 

Warrior realizes he just said something goofy. He reacts. “AAAHHH!” 

Okerlund moves right along. “…About the power of Hercules. I’ve seen your, your tremendous power. I’ve seen it used and utilized very well in the ring, but let’s take a look at “The Ultimate Warrior”—your goals, your objectives? It’s a big year! We’ve seen that already. What are you looking for in 1988?” 

1width500height500appearanceid2version1534362664This is interesting. I almost feel like this is what Vince McMahon and other producers wanted to see early on. Gene opens a window for Warrior. There weren’t any scripts for these types of promos back then. All they needed to hear were three words from Warrior: FEEL THE POWER. Not a lot of babyfaces had a catchphrase outside of Hulkster and Macho Man. I always attribute those three words to Ultimate Warrior. “ALWAYS BELIEVE!” was something that I think Warrior would throw on autographed 8×10’s and somehow WWF eventually took that as his catchphrase. (Either that, or, Helwig may have trademarked “Feel the Power” later on preventing WWE from using it for promotion.) A few years later, WWF would tell viewers to “Feel the Power of the World Wrestling Federation when it comes near you!” If they tried to sell, “Always believe in the World Wrestling Federation,” they wouldn’t be keeping it Kayfabe.

Warrior delivers the aforementioned catchphrase when he says, “In 1988, I’m looking to pull all the Warriors out there that are WWF fans—makin’ ‘em Warriors, makin’ ‘em FEEL THE POWER of the Ultimate Warrior and coming down the road with me. The road to success! The road to greatness! That’s where The Ultimate Warrior’s headed and you better believe it!

To this point, the “who,” “where,” and “what” have now been covered by both men. To close out this interview, “Mean” Gene tackles the “why?”.

Okerlund asks Warrior, “You know, a lot of people, where ever I go in this… ‘great’ world of professional wrestling ask me some questions—some not exactly on the subject of professional wrestling—but one of the questions I’ve heard a lot of lately: Why does The Ultimate Warrior paint his face? There’s got to be a reason.” 

Here was a chance for Warrior to come up with something interesting. Sure, he could simply tell us that the paint was used to intimidate opponents—much like The Road Warriors. Instead, Warrior’s response is pretty captivating (for Warrior). He quickly responds. “The paint is nothing but preparation for battle, but when the paint wears off during the battle, the war really begins because underneath this paint there’s many different colors and many different personalities and you’re gonna see all of them in the WWF! BAAHHHHH!”

“Many different colors and many different personalities,” has to be one of the first quotes Warrior produced where you now wonder if Warrior had something in mind for his character. I honestly think this is just one of those things that I over-analyze when I’m considering Warrior to have more forethought that he actually had. Given his body of work, this explanation about his facepaint is sort of profound. We would eventually see many different colors and a few personality changes in the next few years. I know Jim Helwig’s backstage attitude changed as Warrior’s popularity grew. Again, this is me looking further into Warrior’s words. Either way, it is interesting nonetheless.

I also love how this interview is a shining example of a stereotypical pro-wrestling interview of this era. Warrior’s bellowing, “BAAHHHHH!” at the end is the exclamation point in his own animalistic way. I love that. 

“Mean” Gene closes out the interview with a few prophetic words. “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you. He is The Ultimate Warrior. My word, what a phenomenal physique. Truly a great competitor. I see a promising and bright, young star on the horizon in the World Wrestling Federation. A man we’re gonna hear a lot about in the weeks, months, and years to come.” 

He wasn’t lying. It’s been over thirty years since this interview premiered on Superstars of Wrestling and here I am blogging about the lasting effects. This is fun.

Until the next time, “Feel the Power!”

NEXT WEEK: The first part in a series of promos dedicated to The Ultimate Warrior’s showdown with Hercules at Wrestlemania IV! Get ready as I double-up for the next few weeks and examine the first of a couple Warrior feuds that looked great on paper but totally failed to deliver in the ring.

 

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Matt de Simone is a writer, podcast host, and procurer of pop culture. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and check out a few “back issues” of his soon-to-be-returning podcast!

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