I violated the internet’s greatest tenet last week and broke my blog’s consistency, to the dismay of no one, surely. Still, I feel compelled to explain my absence, since last week should have been the week during which I should have written two, maybe even three blogs, instead of the usual one. Instead, I took the high road and published an astounding zero.
In all honesty, it was a week I couldn’t bring myself to articulate. Several times I sat down and tried to put into words the exhilarating highs and debilitating lows this nerd experienced last week, and each time I ultimately ended up watching these adorable dog videos to lift my spirits.
It was, for us fake sports fanatics, the greatest week of the year, a week that makes the other 51 shake with shame and inferiority. It was WrestleMania week, the culmination of the most important stories, the end to a struggle, the end of a saga, and the end of a legacy. Going into my ninth Mania week, however, I didn’t realize just how many things would end before the extravagant five days were through.
I don’t wish to step on any sensibilities in drawing the following parallels. I understand that the stories WWE presents on television are, like all the best dramas, the product of dozens of eternally grinding imaginative gears. I understand, to that end, that death is very real. I write these words with the most respect for James Hellwig’s legacy and his beautiful family that one soul can muster.
With that said, I’ll try to explain the emotional roller coaster of the last week or so. If you’re not a pro wrestling person, or worse, a staunch observer who refuses to read with an open mind, my words won’t make you understand. Thanks for reading, but I’m sure these silly cats will better entertain you this week.
The WrestleMania festivities were a meeting of nostalgia and newness. Wrestling legend Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ Hall of fame speech set the pace for the crazy outpouring of emotion the next few days would prove to be, with stories of his incredible success in the late 80s leading to suicidal drunken wretchedness over the next two decades, and finally a physical and spiritual recovery that let Roberts enjoy both his supporters and legacy one more time on a grand stage. If you saw the speech and were not moved, we probably shouldn’t hang out anymore.
The strange mix of feelings continued into the next day, WrestleMania day, with scruffy underdog Daniel Bryan finally triumphing over the markedly insurmountable odds put in front of him by an evil pair of oppressors. The months of “close but no cigar” made his final victory all the sweeter, a triumph that gave fans cause to throw their hands in the air and make monosyllabic declarations in as wild a manner as possible. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
But a dark cloud hung over this glorious show-closing celebration, as earlier in the night, the iconic 21-0 undefeated streak of The Undertaker was snuffed out by the awesome Brock Lesnar, a walking monstrosity whose very existence makes children fear for their well-being as adults. Again, for the uninitiated, the idea that grown men cried in New Orleans because a wrestler was beaten sounds absurd; but when Taker’s 20-plus streak was broken, that is precisely how passionate fans reacted. Undertaker winning at WrestleMania was just as much of a constant as the sun rising tomorrow, forcing one to ask, “What even is life?”
But again, I go back to this idea of the manufactured vs. the real. Of course, the last two happenings I described were the former. This next happening was most unfortunately very very real.
After years of cold detachment from World Wrestling Entertainment, wrestling icon The Ultimate Warrior made his triumphant return to the company to accept a Hall of Fame induction, where he broke a long-held silence and thanked his supporters in a surprisingly coherent manner. The following day, he appeared at WrestleMania, and the day after that he appeared on WWE’s “Raw” television show where he channeled the Ultimate Warrior character of old, violently shaking the ropes and decreeing that “the spirit of the Warrior is forever.” 24 hours after that, James Hellwig collapsed from a heart attack and was pronounced dead minutes later. He was 54.
I have been a fan of professional wrestling for almost 10 years now, and I have seen many of the people I used to watch on TV shuffle off this mortal coil. Never have I been so affected by a wrestling death than by that of The Ultimate Warrior. It took some time, but I believe I have figured out why.
As a kid, I was different. I tried my best to be one of the crew, and I succeeded. I wasn’t a freak, alienated or cast aside. I was a kid. But as accepting as my friends always seemed to be, there was no denying that I was different. I was shy. I couldn’t talk to girls. I liked different music. I got around differently. I had more to prove than most kids my age, particularly the fact that I belonged with normal kids my age.
As I sifted through my cousins’ boxes on boxes of old WWF VHS tapes, I became acquainted with The Ultimate Warrior and I found a conduit. Here was a man who was undoubtedly different. He wore tassels. He didn’t strut, but charged at full speed to the ring. He shook the ropes and then sprinted around the ring before finally getting into it. He growled and claimed to be from another planet. This guy was different, and he was the coolest. He wasn’t the best wrestler, but to 10-year-old Des Delgadillo, he was the cat’s pajamas.
I read something the other day that I had to share here. A friend wrote on Twitter, “We expect superheroes to live forever, and when they die, as a people, we are at our most vulnerable.” To me, Warrior was that superhero, and I believe what I felt when I heard of his passing was sadness, yes, but also a profound thing called vulnerability. This raving lunatic, this awesome raving lunatic who had inspired a strange kind of confidence in a 10-year-old me was gone.
I’m happy that Warrior did the same for countless kids in my situation for two generations, and I hope with services like the WWE Network, his legacy can touch generations to come, long after Warrior’s untimely passing.
This blog will undoubtedly solidify my status as terribly obsessive fanboy, but I care not. Next week I’ll be funnier, but I felt compelled to share this with you.
Until next week, “Bow to the power of The Ultimate Warrior!”