Top-Down Smackdown: Belatedly Watching the Ultimate Warrior Blu-ray


The Ultimate Warrior, a.k.a. the man who legally changed his name to just “Warrior,” comes out passionately swinging at the beginning of his recent Blu-ray set, defiantly noting that for years, fans were told that there were no great Ultimate Warrior moments, and no good matches, but that the WWE archives tell “a far different story.” Now, he assures us, we are going to get the record set straight.

Yet his particular opinion on what comprises the right story is as unusual as the man himself.

No assessment of this “Ultimate Collection” would be proper without mentioning the prior DVD set WWE put out, entitled “The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior.” While that one featured many of his landmark matches – especially if you bought the retailer-exclusive version with the bonus disc, which features the nearly hour-long Warrior-Savage match from SummerSlam, arguably his best match ever – its primary purpose was to put Warrior down. Most of the disc featured his career history as discussed by talents who either disliked him or found him uncomfortably strange, and the overriding impression one would get from watching is, as Bobby Heenan puts it, “Nobody liked the guy.”

Faced with a chance to fire back, Warrior surprisingly opts not do it – every other wrestler he mentions by name is referred to in complimentary fashion, even if, like Heenan, they slammed him before (his particular affection for Randy Savage comes through, in match selection and his comments). This feels particularly striking to anyone who remembers Warrior’s immediate post-wrestling career as a right-wing blogger/speaker – in addition to editorializing on the virtues of conservatism (as he defined it, rather than how the Republican party did), he would rarely pass up the opportunity to note the death of any notable wrestler with a column about how they were a terrible person for doing drugs and deserved no pity. That the Warrior’s untimely death almost certainly resulted in part from steroid abuse was a weird kind of karma, and the way he presented himself both on the disc and at the Hall of Fame adds fuel to the fire that he knew his days were numbered, and why.

Most wrestler Blu-rays spotlight a given talents best and most significant matches – in the case of Warrior, you can’t avoid his SummerSlam 88 match with Honky Tonk Man, or his WrestleMania VI victory over Hulk Hogan. But anything short of that, apparently, you can – we don’t get the match where he lost the world title to Sergeant Slaughter, nor the tag team match with Hogan against Slaughter and the Iron Sheik, after which he was immediately fired. Instead, we get matches with the likes of Slaughter and Ted DiBiase that were never broadcast on the flagship TV programs, featuring commentary by the likes of Lord Alfred Hayes (who I’m increasingly convinced was drunk every single time he put the headset on) and Brother Love.

And then there are the “jobber” matches – LOTS of them. Warrior versus no-names, with Steve Lombardi being the only one you’ll likely recognize. And yet Warrior tells us why they’re included – he liked the way he was developing his persona in those matches. This is the key to the selection – much like the recent Paul Heyman set, Warrior’s “Ultimate” collection is less about the legacy of an in-ring competitor than it is about a guy who crafted a larger-than-life persona, and how he did it.

Still, the title of the set is the “Ultimate Collection” – and it isn’t. Perhaps more is being saved for a further cash-in set on “Warrior’s Missing Matches,” but fans shouldn’t have to seek out the borderline defamatory “Self-Destruction” set to get some of his great matches that aren’t included here. As a fan, I’m delighted to see the matches that weren’t prominently shown back in the day, but I also want the greatest hits – it reminds me of that first Red Hot Chili Peppers Greatest Hits compilation that included “Under the Bridge” and NOTHING else from Blood Sugar Sex Magic.

And yes, I know it sucks – but can’t we ever get the full Halloween Havoc match with Hulk Hogan and the most botched finish of all time? I don’t want to buy the full event just for that.

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