James Hellwig, a former professional wrestling superstar better known as the Ultimate Warrior, has died. He was 54.
The news comes just days after Hellwig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
WWE confirmed the news on its website:
WWE is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever, The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior began his WWE career in 1987 and quickly went on to become one of the biggest stars in WWE history. Warrior became WWE Champion at WrestleMania VI, defeating Hulk Hogan in an epic encounter. We are grateful that just days ago, Warrior had the opportunity to take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame and was also 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 54 and is survived by his wife Dana and his two daughters.
In addition, WWE chief Vince McMahon shared the news on Twitter:
There is no word on cause of death.
The Ultimate Warrior was a brash and colorful character known for face paint, arm tassels and big entrances where he would race to the ring and then run around inside it, shaking and pulling on the ropes as if he was trying to rip them off the posts.
Although billed as hailing from "parts unknown," Hellwig was raised in Indiana.
He defeated Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI in 1990 with one of his signature moves, "the big splash," to become champion of what was then known as the WWF (World Wrestling Federation).
He was also known for the gorilla press, and at one point managed to pick up and slam the 7'4" 520-pound Andre the Giant.
However, Warrior and the organization had a falling out, with lawsuits filed over the name and character. In 1993, he legally changed his name to Warrior to help with his effort.
The two eventually settled, but didn't reconcile until recently, culminating in his Hall of Fame induction last week.
“If you really want the biggest bang for your buck, do something self-destructive, get exiled and still come back to headline the Hall of Fame," Hellwig told the Orlando Sentinel last week.
On Monday night, he appeared on WWE's "Raw," donning a mask that mimicked his old face paint.
"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath," he said at the event. "And if what that man did his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper and something than 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."
Fellow wrestlers paid tribute to the Ultimate Warrior on Twitter:
An earlier version of this story said James Hellwig legally changed his
name to Ultimate Warrior. In fact, he changed it to Warrior.