Recently, Gunther made comments about the Ultimate Warrior and his Intercontinental Title reign and they weren’t exactly flattering of the WWE Hall of Famer. Granted, Gunther could have just been in character and just improvised what his character may say. That said, he went into specifics about about the Warrior as a performer that didn’t seem like it was Gunther in character but rather the opinion of Walter Hahn (his real name, BTW):
“Those are the real dark ages. He’s a showman. He’s not an athlete, not a professional wrestler, he’s a showman. Now, everybody knows why I have to be the one to keep this title for the longest time in history to wash its reputation clean and set it to a new standard.”
Here’s my real question… If we took Gunther (or Walter) and put face paint, bright tights, and tassels all over him, would he get over? Maybe we feed him a few supplements, too, and ask Gunther to grow his hair longer. Then, rename himself to “Ultimate Warrior”… Do you think he’d pull it off? Do you think he’d draw the type of money that Ultimate Warrior did back then?
This is what irks me about today’s wrestlers and also today’s younger fans. They see the “larger than life” cartoon character known as the Ultimate Warrior and don’t understand why he’s over. Yet, today’s in-ring technicians are NOT drawing the money that guys like Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Andre the Giant, and many others made. Fact is that before Roman Reigns finally GOT IT to become the “larger than life” character, WWE was on a downward slide with merchandise sales and attendance and probably would be if WWE didn’t convert Roman into a larger than life mob boss like character. That’s a FACT.
Was the Ultimate Warrior the greatest in-ring technician? Of course not… But Warrior made 100% of his money before his matches even began. While his promos were ridiculous and over-the-top, it played into his “larger than life” character. Who says these things? Nobody, which is why Jim Hellwig was unique. He was crazy and built the persona of the wildman you’d see in the ring. Then, that AWESOME Jim Johnston music hit and you’d see him running to the ring. The music was badass, but the guy sprinting to the ring to that theme music fit the part. Hellwig was jacked to the max, had cool war paint on, bright tights, and tassels moving in every direction.
The match that happened afterward was irrelevant. Kids wanted to be there, in attendance, for that entrance alone.
The FACT is that during 1988-1989, the WWE could split the roster into 2 separate rosters for Houseshows and both drew really well (to his credit, Honky Tonk Man was equally as successful during 1987-1988). Circuit A had either Macho Man and/or Hulk Hogan drawing as WWE Champion while Circuit B featured the Ultimate Warrior as the headliner and it drew really well. Packed houses with Warrior main eventing and that merchandising just kept pouring in.
Trust me, folks, if Warrior was NOT a draw, Vince McMahon wouldn’t have had him defeat Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6. The money was pouring in for Ultimate Warrior merchandise, at times getting close to Hulk Hogan’s stuff.
Sure, once Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 6, the rest of 1990 didn’t go as well but I’d argue weaker opponents were thrown his way. Warrior already defeated Rick Rude, so why would a WWE Title feud matter? Fact is that Warrior did quite well with his Macho Man feud through Wrestlemania 7, which is baffling why they didn’t try that earlier during 1990 instead. Regardless if Warrior peaked or not at Wrestlemania 6, the fact is that Warrior was very worthy to win the WWE Title there and nobody can debeat his drawing power from 1988-1990 before winning that title. His merchandise sales were always strong and his crap still sells well to this day.
And Warrior draws well to this day DESPITE how his 1991 run ended, how his 1992 run ended, how his 1996 run ended, how his WCW 1998 run ended, and the many controversial things said on his speaker circuit or his podcasts. However, when the Warrior began doing business with the WWE again by appearing in video games, allowing them to sell merchandise, and then appearing for their 2014 Hall of Fame, longtime fans embraced their old fan favorite once again. Go watch that RAW after Wrestlemania 30, as fans are eating up old man Warrior cutting a crazy promo like he used to. Then, on the very next day, go review the reactions of fans to his death. There’s a reason why the WWE keeps his persona alive because he mattered to many, many fans DESPITE the controversial things that he did or said.
If the Ultimate Warrior “wasn’t an athlete or a pro wrestler”, then why hasn’t his act been replicated yet?
WCW tried with the Renegade (may he rest in peace) and failed badly. Many Indy promotions had their own version of the Ultimate Warrior on their roster, as I remember seeing a local indy promotion having the “Iron Warrior” one time. Both WWE and WCW, themselves, tried to bring back the Warrior and even he couldn’t replicate his old self.
Come, WWE or AEW… Find a jacked guy, paint his face up, give him tassels, and have him sprint to the ring… Prove me wrong. I guarantee that your many attempts would fail because none of those guys would be Jim Hellwig.
That’s what today’s wrestling fans completely don’t get… Past wrestlers drew because they were “larger than life”, as they were walking and talking comic book characters that you didn’t see on the streets or anywhere. But if you did, you’d run scared… NOBODY and I repeat NOBODY on this planet looked or acted like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and of course, the Ultimate Warrior. ALL of those guys are still selling volumes of merchandise for years upon years and are advertised heavily by the WWE as legends to keep tickling the fancies of long-time wrestling fans.
Today’s wrestlers look like everyday people… If I saw Gunther wearing mechanical gear and changing my tires at Walmart, I wouldn’t think he was a pro wrestler on the side. However, if you put Jim Hellwig in that same uniform, I’m wondering where the hell Walmart found this guy? What the hell is up with that guy? THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE!
Wrestlers are too normal and too similar to today’s fans… They are on social media, playing video games, and sharing all of their intimate details of their personal lives. With Ultimate Warrior, you questioned whether aliens dropped him off to unleash holy hell on this earth. Let me give you another example… “Ravishing” Rick Rude. On camera, he’d shake those hips and seemed like a womanizer, YET in real life, he was a dedicated husband and family man. But you didn’t know that because Rick Rude didn’t openly tell you about it. Because you never saw the personal side of Rude, you assumed he was chasing tail in real life. Thus, because you didn’t have that life, you were jealous and paid money to see the Ultimate Warrior kick his arse.
You never knew about the Undertaker‘s personal life, as he refused to do interviews and purposely stayed away from fans to help sell the “larger than life” character. Gee, why did he draw money for 3 decades? The only time where Undertaker struggled was when he dropped the Deadman character and had his then-wife Sara involved in a storyline. Remember that DDP stalker stuff? When Undertaker became romantically involved with Michelle McCool years later, he actively tried to keep that out of the spotlight and his character never acknowledged it. Undertaker was also involved in politics, making various political contributions… But you never knew about that stuff until he retired. Now, you know all about him because he’s interviewing everywhere but you didn’t when he was an active wrestler.
Again, if Warrior wasn’t an athlete or a pro wrestler, and was “just a showman”, why can’t anybody replicate him? I’d figure that if it was soooooooo easy to be the Warrior, we’d have like 50 of them already doing the same thing. But we don’t.
Same goes with Bill Goldberg. All of you in-ring wrestling marks trashed that man when he came back during 2016 and really got enraged when he (a) defeated Brock Lesnar quickly at Survivor Series and then (b) took Kevin Owens’s title away. PLEASE… Everytime Bill Goldberg appeared on Monday Night RAW, he pumped that number up by at least 200,000 viewers and brought back many loyal WCW fans who remembered his great 1998 work.
Again, same thing here… If Bill Goldberg “wasn’t a pro wrestler”, then why hasn’t he been successfully replicated? WWE sure as hell tried with Ryback, but it wasn’t the same.
And you’ll have older nWo marks and even wrestlers, themselves, bashing Goldberg for just riding on the coattails of the nWo… Really? Then why did WCW actually PEAK during 1998 when Bill Goldberg was being pushed and not anytime during 1997 when the nWo was running wild? Fact is that the nWo was running its course during late 1997 and everyone wanted to see it end at StarrCade 1997 but Hulk Hogan said “I’m just not feeling it, brother” as he massaged his mustache. WCW could have really hit a massive decline during early 1998, but they had a secret weapon in Bill Goldberg to not only keep the momentum going, but to grow WCW even further than they did during 1997.
Goldberg was very similar to the Ultimate Warrior… Bill made 100% of his money BEFORE the match even began. He looked like a monster, like a jacked up and more scary version of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Yet, Bill Goldberg had the credibility of playing in the NFL behind him and WCW pushed that to the max. But that entrance… Goldberg had to be escorted by WCW security and that gave the impression that he was dangerous. That music was cool and epic, too, as only a real badass should come out to that. Then, he walks through fireworks spraying all over him and not only that, he blows out smoke after walking through that nonsense. That’s all he needed and you were hooked. Spear and Jackhammer looked cool, and that’s where I see him as having an advantage over the Ultimate Warrior. Warrior LACKED those trademark moves, as body press and splashes weren’t as cool to see. All Goldberg had to say was “YOU’RE NEXT” and that’s enough promo work.
Like the Warrior, Goldberg peaked at winning the World Title. After winning the WCW Title, Goldberg was an afterthought as Hulk Hogan was still stealing the spotlight. You know, that sounds familiar… Hogan makes a new star, yet he just can’t go away… Came back to win the WWE Title in 1991 and also came back to win the WCW Title in 1999. Gee, I see a pattern.
But again with Bill Goldberg, you cannot deny that late 1997 and most of 1998’s work. IT DREW money with minimal effort other than looking tough and having a great entrance.
Yes, Goldberg’s 2003-2004 WWE wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the best place at the time as proven by the quickly sliding viewership and attendance numbers before Goldberg even arrived. Doing stupid things like placing Goldust’s wig on his head or dealing with Triple H’s antics didn’t help… Yet, the famous decision made to screw with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 20 paid major dividends. Goldberg’s contract was set to expire at WM 20, but weeks before that event, Brock Lesnar wanted out of his contract. As punishment, WWE actually had Goldberg defeat Brock Lesnar in that match. Thankfully they made that decision, as Goldberg had credibility when he came back in 2016 and challenged Brock Lesnar.
Goldberg, in his 50s, could still look like he used to and still had that charisma that made the anticipation of a big match. Hence why Goldberg vs. Brock mattered at Survivor Series 2016 and why their match at the next Wrestlemania was huge (I personally love the Wrestlemania match). Then, for many years after that, Bill Goldberg could be counted on to make appearances and help draw on big Pay Per Views. Ever notice how Goldberg and Lesnar never wrestled on RAW or Smackdown? While you could argue that hid them from being exposed, but I believe in the concept of “LESS IS MORE” and making things feel special.
AEW was seriously considering bringing in Bill Goldberg, who is deep into his 50s, for their All In show at Wembley. It didn’t happen, but those discussions happened. With Sting being on AEW’s roster, I believe it would have happened if Tony was willing to pony up the cash. Sting is another example of a “larger than life” character that can keep finding high paying money. He’s wrestling in his 60s, folks, and yet AEW is cool with keeping him around and would keep employing him if he didn’t want to retire as a wrestler.
What many of today’s wrestling fans DON’T GET is that idea of the casual fan. Casual fans need more than just in-ring ability to keep them watching. They need excitement… WWE during 1995-1996 had lots of good in-ring work, yet their characters were lame and boring. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and the “Ringmaster” Steve Austin were boring characters. Yet, put Shawn and Triple H in Degeneration X and change Steve Austin to become “Stone Cold”, and they’re much cooler. What saved and grew the WWE through late 1997 and then exploded during 1998-1999 was pulling in casual fans who NEVER tried to watch pro wrestling before. They pulled in teenagers by the droves, which is why you have so many late 30s and 40-something year-old wrestling fans these days. Because WWE was sooooo good during 1998-1999, then converted casual fans to permanent loyal wrestling fans. Why? Because the hook of those characters drew them in.
Know what scares casual fans away? Turning Steve Austin heel. Getting Triple H away from his Degeneration X persona. Making the Ultimate Warrior feud with Papa Shango… Remember that nonsense of black liquid pouring from his forehead? You know what reminded me of that? When Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt (Fiend) wrestled and black stuff was spewing from Alexa Bliss’s head. The second you begin to do STUPID stuff with your “larger than life” characters, it drives away the casual fans in a heartbeat. Also, once you crown them champion, if you keep believing that Hulkamania will rise again and refuse to feed great opponents, the momentum will quickly go away and casual fans will be lost.
I want to keep stressing this over and over again…
If the Ultimate Warrior and Bill Goldberg weren’t great, then why can’t anybody replicate their success?
Come on, answer me that question… Plenty of ex-NFL players could be hired and act just like Goldberg. Same thing with bodybuilders. Plenty of jacked guys out there, yet they lack the insanity combined with charisma that Jim Hellwig once had.
These “larger than life” wrestlers are SPECIAL and that’s what all of you in-ring loyalist marks are missing… I don’t care how many stars Dave Meltzer gives his favorite New Japan, California Indy, or AEW promotions, none of those wrestlers in those 5+ star matches drew money like the Ultimate Warrior and Bill Goldberg did in much shorter matches. That’s a FACT. Freakin’ Ultimate Warrior died in 2014 and he’s still drawing money. STILL! Hell, Warrior didn’t appear in a WWE ring as a wrestler since 1996 but I’d argue his best years were through 1991, but he still draws money. Bill Goldberg mostly wrestled in his 50s and yet Saudi Arabia investors handed the WWE bags of money to put him on their cards.
Personally, I like Gunther and have really enjoyed his Intercontinental Title run… But do I get excited to see him wrestle like I would for Ultimate Warrior or Bill Goldberg? Personally, no, but I am comparing my thoughts of right now to a Tito through the age of 10-11 or witnessing Bill Goldberg during his late teen years. However, I fully understood why Bill Goldberg was highly effective in his WWE run since 2016. Again, it was what Bill Goldberg did BEFORE his matches that drew the money, not his matches. That said, the Spear/Jackhammer combination was sold strong by the WWE during Goldberg’s second WWE run and that matters.
I guarantee you that if the WWE wanted more Bill Goldberg, they’d gladly pay for it and help get upwards of 200,000 more viewers per show when he appears. That bad match against the Undertaker is the only thing causing some hesitation lately, as Bill is now 56 years old. Before that match, WWE was 100% OK with what Bill was contributing to the WWE.
Sorry Gunther, but you’re NOT the Ultimate Warrior. Your entrance, any attempt you make at promos, and your look isn’t as awe-inspiring as what Jim Hellwig once brought. Sure, your matches are 1 million times better than the Warrior’s. Zero dispute over that… But what are you doing BEFORE your matches to make any of your matches feel special? That stuff matters in the pro wrestling business. And again, dress yourself up like the Ultimate Warrior and do his full act… I guarantee it wouldn’t draw. You’re not Jim Hellwig, nor has anybody else that has EVER walked through the doors of any wrestling promotion. He was an exceptional talent, even if nobody today wants to admit it.
And you’re definitely not Bill Goldberg. Goldberg went from debuting to Main Eventer faster than anybody back during 1998 with only Brock Lesnar breaking that record a few years later during 2002.
Gotta be “larger than life” in this business to make it big in the Pro Wrestling business… Otherwise, you’ll have to work extra hard at the in-ring stuff to impress anyone. That’s YOU, Gunther… You’re working extra hard inside the ring because you’re lacking the intangibles that the Ultimate Warrior and Bill Goldberg had outside of the in-ring stuff. I could make several Gunthers before I could find the secret sauce that made Jim Hellwig (Ultimate Warrior) and Bill Goldberg great. That’s what a wrestler like Gunther is truly envious of and jealous of at the same time, hence his comments. Ultimate Warrior was definitely a pro wrestler in many ways more than Gunther has been thus far.
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