The SmarK Rant for Dark Side of the Ring S03E04
I feel like this is going to be a drastically different angle on the Warrior story than the A&E biography was, and I’m HERE FOR IT. Bring on the chaos! I was pretty hyped for the Friends reunion show but even more so for this one.
So whereas Dana Warrior was the main connection to Warrior’s life in the WWE version, Dark Side introduces his ex-wife Shari Tyree. She met him when he was bouncing at a bar in between bodybuilding competitions, working towards becoming a chiropractor. And with a history of early death in his family, he was driven to make something out of his life early on.
Here’s a shock: Jim Cornette is not a fan of the Ultimate Warrior. He notes that Hellwig and Borden were both awful in Memphis, but they had a certain charisma, so Jerry Jarrett sent them to Mid-South and let them be Bill Watts’ problem. Jim Ross notes that he had never met a wrestler with less ability than Ultimate Warrior. Jim’s feeling was that he had a great body and great teeth, what more could promoters want? JR: “Maybe wrestling ability?”
Off to World Class, since the boys in Mid-South liked Sting better and wanted him to stay. They joke about the dumb origin of the Dingo Warrior name and cheap materials that comprised his gear. The pops for him got bigger, but so did his ego, and he didn’t really care about getting better, so Jim Cornette notes that there was only one home for someone with THAT attitude: The WWF. Oh, the snark is strong with this one. We get some rare footage of Dingo Warrior v. Barry Horowitz while his wife sat in the stands taking notes for him. Note #1: Dingo Warrior was a terrible name and Vince hated it, so he becomes the Ultimate Warrior.
This leads to a discussion of his nonsense promos, with Eric Bischoff and JR pointing out how wacky and unhinged they were, although Shari points out that he never really took himself seriously in real life. Cornette explains that they gave him rockin’ music, put him over everyone in the promotion decisively, and put the merchandising machine behind him, and that’s how you make a new star. But then that created friction with the other boys, notably guys like Jake Roberts and Bobby Heenan. Roberts notes that Warrior never took care of his opponents in the ring, in particular Heenan, and Shari thinks that those kind of criticisms really got to him. She reveals that Warrior had a severe anxiety disorder and was kind of a wreck outside of the crazy in-ring persona.
By 1990, he’s facing Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania and having anxiety attacks about it, but Vince made the decision to pass the torch from Hulk. JR is astonished that Hulk was able to carry Warrior to a great match and calls it a “miracle”. But then a couple of months into his title reign, Shari says that “Jim Hellwig left and Ultimate Warrior came home”. Specifically, he became erratic and disappeared for weeks at a time on the road, to the point where she was calling the hotel and getting wellness checks done for him. And then she discovered he was screwing around on her. With a LOT of women. Ultimate Warrior indeed.
In 1991, Warrior’s marriage is falling apart and he loses the title to Sgt. Slaughter. Jake Roberts says that Vince wanted him to work with Warrior for the title, so Jake went to talk with Warrior and they immediately got into an argument about it. But before Warrior could get the title back after Summerslam, he got incredibly paranoid and gave Vince an ultimatum: He wanted everything Hulk was getting or else he’s quitting and no-showing Summerslam. Vince is furious but signs the deal and then waits for Warrior to come back into the dressing room and then fires him. And then turns to Jake Roberts and snarks that he’s got some bad luck. Jake notes that he was pretty bitter at Vince about this for a lot of years. I don’t know about the idea that Jake was actually getting the title in 1991, but I can see why he’d be pissed about it.
After Warrior got fired again in 1992, he went home and legally changed his name to Warrior to get around WWF legal restrictions. By 1996, Vince is flying to Arizona to make amends with Warrior (and to prevent him from jumping to WCW). Jim Ross: “You’re probably wondering out there in TV-land, what the fuck is Destrucity?” Big laugh from me on that one. So they discuss the nuttiness of the comic books and motivational speaker ambitions. JR calls it a total waste of a trip. This leads to a discussion of Hunter doing the minute-long job to Warrior at Wrestlemania, and although the pop was big to start, everyone realized that he wasn’t the guy he was a decade ago. So with the comics not selling, Warrior leaves again and goes back to Arizona and makes amends with Shari. And then he becomes a “motivational speaker”, which Cornette notes was him being a right-wing nutcase who hated gay people.
By 2014, Warrior is back with WWE and going into the Hall of Fame, and Jake Roberts says that he was going to hit him with a roll of quarters and beat his ass, but Warrior apologized before that could happen. And then did his final promo on RAW and died the next day.
Gotta say, although this was a much more brutally honest look at his insane life than the A&E piece was, it was still the same basic narrative, except more condensed. Having Shari be the narrative voice for his outside life, instead of Dana Warrior, was a big improvement for me, however. And Jim Cornette and Jim Ross felt like they had way more cred as observers than someone like Pete Rosenberg and Sam Roberts. But still, everything between 1991 and 2005 was pretty much “yada yada’d” by this one as well, which in this case was somewhat understandable due to the shortened runtime, but they didn’t go into the drugs AT ALL. And the promised “smut and filth” was just accusing him of cheating on his wife in 1990. That’s barely even smut. For snark, this one wins, but for overall storytelling and honesty? I actually think the A&E one did a better job.