Days after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and a return to the company after an 18-year breakup, The Ultimate Warrior has died, according to a statement posted on the WWE website. He was 54.
The news, posted late Tuesday night, led to a flood of tributes from fans and WWE performers and officials and comes on the day the WWE released a DVD in Warrior's honor.
In the statement, the company said, "WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE superstars ever, The Ultimate Warrior. …
"We are grateful just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was able to appear at WrestleMania 30 and Monday Night Raw to address his legions of fans. WWE sends its sincere condolences to Warrior's family, friends and fans."
Warrior was known for his energetic style, sprinting down the aisle to the ring, and violent shaking of the ropes to psych himself up.
Warrior was born James Hellwig, but legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. He is survived by his wife Dana and daughters Indiana and Mattigan, who had accompanied him to the podium at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in New Orleans.
"We are all so sad that the Ultimate Warrior has passed away," WWE chairman Vince McMahon tweeted.
Tweeted Stephanie McMahon, WWE's chief brand officer, "Your strength of character is to be admired. There will never be anyone like you. Your spirit lives on in your family."
In his final public appearance Monday night, Warrior donned the long jacket with his image airbrushed on the back, similar to what he wore during his wrestling days, and put on a mask that looked like his trademark face paint. It was his first appearance on Raw since 1996.
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own," he told the crowd. "Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something that's larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers -- by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him, and make the running the man did live forever.
"I am the Ultimate Warrior, you are the Ultimate Warrior fans and the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever."
The weekend events were a homecoming for Warrior with the WWE and a chance for fans to embrace him.
"So happy I embraced Warrior with a hug when we saw each other backstage Saturday night," Kevin Nash tweeted. "My heart goes out to his family. Always Believe."
Tweeted Dave Bautista, "After all these years I finally got 2 tell him that me shaking the ropes was an homage 2 him. Blessed to have had that moment."
During his Hall of Fame speech, he credited WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque, a k a Triple H, for helping repair a relationship that had gone sour between Warrior and the WWE. Warrior had announced a multi-year arrangement to become an ambassador for the company.
WWE released a DVD in 2005 called "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" that featured negative comments about the Warrior's work and persona from WWE officials and other performers. The Warrior was not part of the DVD and its release came after litigation between WWE and Warrior. During his speech, Warrior made reference several times to the DVD and said it was "just wrong" and "I wasn't a bad guy."
Among the points of contention between Warrior and the WWE was who owned the name and likeness associated with the character.
In the new DVD, "The Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection," Warrior says why he thought the previous DVD was flawed and goes on to highlight his start in the wrestling business and provide commentary on some of his best matches.
Warrior began his wrestling career as part of a group of bodybuilders-turned-wrestlers in Southern California. His early career was marked by his work in a tag team known as the Blade Runners with Steve Borden, who would later become Sting. Warrior was known as Blade Runner Rock and Borden as Blade Runner Flash.
His first use of the Warrior name came in the Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling where he worked as the Dingo Warrior and was billed as being from Queens, N.Y.
Warrior came to the then-WWF in 1987 and was re-branded as The Ultimate Warrior. He held the Interncontinental title before "The Ultimate Challenge," the main event match at WrestleMania in Toronto in 1990. The bout against Hulk Hogan was for Hogan's WWF title and Warrior's Intercontinental title.
Warrior won the title and was embraced and presented the belt by Hogan afterward, in a passing of the torch from the biggest star of the 1980s to one of the biggest stars of the 1990s.
"RIP WARRIOR. only love. HH," Hogan tweeted Tuesday night. Hogan had said over the weekend that he hoped to mend some fences with the Warrior and lauded the Warrior's Hall of Fame speech.
Warrior would leave the WWE twice and then return before an ill-fated and brief stint in World Championship Wrestling in 1998.
"Devastated to hear of the passing of @UltimateWarrior," former wrestler Chris Jericho tweeted. "He was a childhood hero of mine & he vs @HulkHogan WM6 is still one of the best ever."