In August, 1998, the world of professional wrestling got a wake-up call in the form of The Warrior, when he made his presence known on TNT's WCW Monday Nitro. Yes, this was the same man who used to go by the name The Ultimate Warrior back in the glory days of the WWF from about 1988 to 1992. After 1992, The Ultimate Warrior disappeared off the professional wrestling map, albeit making one more very brief appearance in the WWF in 1996. Since then, his mystique has grown, as has the controversy of whether he's still alive or not. Well folks, he is.
What you are about to read is an interview I did with The Ultimate Warrior back in 1990, when he had just beaten Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Championship. Now, 8 years later the scenario is about to repeat itself at the 1998 WCW Halloween Havoc Pay-Per-View when The Warrior will now face "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan to see if The Warrior's O.W.N. (One Warrior Nation) can defeat the nefarious leader of The N.W.O. (New World Order) Black & White Express, or N.W.O.-Hollywood as it's referred to. Back in 1990, it was the first time 2 popular, "good guys" did battle for the WWF title. Now it's Good (O.W.N.) Vs. Evil (N.W.O.).
It was tough getting this interview and I had to go through so much red tape to get this interview, that it was almost a two year process. Once I got the green light from the WWF, I had to submit questions, get them approved, then submit the article, which was then edited for content so as not to offend the other wrestler's in the WWF and to uphold the marketing of their top star at the time. I still considered it a triumph, even though what was printed in our November, 1990, issue of the NPC News was only about 2/3 of the interview. The triumph come's from the fact we were the first magazine, outside of the numerous professional wrestling magazine's, and the WWF Magazine, to be allowed access to a WWF wrestler for a legitimate interview.
Why The Ultimate Warrior you may ask? Because back then, he was the first professional wrestler to blast on to the scene with a true bodybuilding physique. He started out as The Dingo Warrior in the WCCW, (the precursor to the current WCW), then jumped over to the then more lucrative WWF. I also knew that he was former NPC bodybuilder Jim Hellwig, (which I was forbidden to mention), who had competed in a variety of NPC contests before turning to the professional wrestling scene. I thought his story would be interesting considering his bodybuilding background. And I still do.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit his official web site, http://www.ultimatewarrior.com and read his current philosophies on training and dieting in 1998. What I found refreshing was that pretty much the same training and dietary techniques that we touched upon in 1990, he still advocates eight years later. I also found lots of other entertaining and informative items, particularly relating to his leaving the WWF in 1992, his one shot appearance again in 1996, and the fact that he and Titan Sports are engaged in a legal battle over the trademark moniker The Ultimate Warrior. Hence his only being known as The Warrior in WCW.
Many things have changed in the last eight years. Now Jim Hellwig is no more as he legally had his name changed to Warrior Hellwig a few years back. That rumor was confirmed recently on the official WCW web site, http://www.WCW.com. But one thing is certain. When you see The Warrior, you'll see the man who literally set the standard for what most of today's top, muscular professional wrestler's look like.
As a bonus, what you are about to read is the complete, un-edited interview that has never been published before. Afterwards, I suggest you visit his official web site for more information. There, you can even purchase a video of his training methods.
I realized from the first moment I watched him on 'All American Wrestling' that he was a bodybuilder. Who he was at the time, that's what I didn't know. All I knew was he had the most tremendous physique of any wrestler I've ever seen, and he epitomized the look of a bodybuilder more than anyone else on television - and he was accepted for it! He wasn't considered a freak or fag or any of the other tags that the general public still labels bodybuilders with - he was appreciated. Now I really had to find out more about THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR.So my journalistic trek began over one and a half years ago.
I studied this man every week, watching every interview with him and making mental notes. I realized that he was an intense man and very serious when he comes into the ring for a match. He is the only WWF superstar that literally runs to the ring, slides under the bottom rope, bounces back and forth off the ropes and jumps right into combat. I'd never witnessed that much intensity in or out of the ring from any WWF wrestler before.
As fate would have it, The Warrior's career skyrocketed so fast that the next thing I knew he was the WWF Intercontinental Champion, a title he held for approximately one year before he unified the WWF Intercontinental and World Championships in Wrestlemania VI by defeating then-current champion Hulk Hogan. (As you now know, The Warrior relinquished the Intercontinental title to concentrate on his World Championship. Mister Perfect now holds the Intercontinental Championship title.) All this time, I was still trying to get my interview, and I knew that as The Warrior became more successful, the more difficult it would be to get an interview. I didn't want it to look like I was cashing in on his fame because I had wanted to interview him before he became the Intercontinental Champion.
Over the next year, I asked many people in the bodybuilding community if they knew who The Ultimate Warrior really was? I was thrown because of the face make-up he constantly wore and the length of his hair. I only needed to catch a glimpse of him to recognize him.
As naturally happens, when The Warrior sweats his make-up comes off. I looked at his face once and I recognized him. All I needed to do was confirm my suspicions. As I continued asking questions, I realized that The Warrior had really made the bodybuilding circuit. I spoke to many people who knew The Warrior and tried to help me get in contact with him like Jim Rockell, owner of Samson's Gym in Rochester, N.Y.; Peter Potter, NPC Vice-President and owner of the Hollywood Health Spa in Hollywood, Florida; Rick Poston, owner of Gold's Gym of Tampa, Florida; Dean Caputo, owner of Powerhouse Gym in Streetsboro, Ohio; Magic Schwarz of California and a regular at Gold's Gym - Venice; Marty DeMerjian, one of bodybuilding's biggest supporters; Kevin Wagner, an NPC bodybuilder from Texas and finally Ed Conners, co-owner of Gold's Gym Enterprises. Ed became my closest lead as he informed me he helped The Warrior get into wrestling. So close, I thought, but yet so far. As I would learn, it was still so far.
While standing in the Pittsburgh airport one afternoon with my father waiting for luggage, I looked across the baggage claim area at this tremendously tall man wearing a t-shirt and shorts and it was easy to tell he was a bodybuilder. When he turned towards our direction looking for his luggage, I said, "Dad, I think that's The Ultimate Warrior." He said, "Let's go see." We approached him and I tapped his shoulder and said, "Aren't you . . ." and he said to my father, "You're Jim Manion, right?" We talked for a while and I explained to him how I've been trying to get in touch with him for an interview. The Warrior explained that he'd love to, but the final decision wasn't up to him, but the World Wrestling Federation. Damn, another door slammed shut in my face.
I wasn't about to give up yet. As I was contemplating my plan of attack, the WWF decided to enter the bodybuilding arena with the new Bodybuilding Lifestyles Magazine whose editor was Rochelle Larkin, formerly of Female Bodybuilding. Since the magazine will be featuring NPC and IFBB stars, they touched base with my father. My father spoke to WWF chief Vince McMahon and I bugged my father to mention The Warrior interview. He asked Vince who said he'd think about it. I figured the worst he could say was "No". To my surprise, Rochelle contacted me and quizzed me about the type of questions I would ask and the focus of the interview. I gave her a synopsis which she said to put in writing and fax to her. She got back to me the next day and I finally had the green light! The interview would take place on Saturday, June 9th at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena as The Warrior was on the card that evening. My contact would be Jonathan Flora.
So folks, it's time to finally meet the NPC's most successful athlete to date - THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR.
UW:I started when I was 11 years old and like everybody else, I was just the small, insecure kid who wasn't into any sports. I entered a high school weight room once that had a Universal machine and it was just a one on one thing. The only competition was between me and the weights. UW:When I graduated from high school, I was 5' 10" and weighted 155 pounds. Now I'm 6' 3" and depending on how long I've been on the road, I stay between 275 to 262 pounds. UW:Yeah, it just happened. I never got into powerlifting or anything I guess because I was growing in height at the same time and had such long limbs and small joints. I was never into the 'ego trip' of working out with heavy weights.
UW:I started when I was 11 years old and like everybody else, I was just the small, insecure kid who wasn't into any sports. I entered a high school weight room once that had a Universal machine and it was just a one on one thing. The only competition was between me and the weights.
UW:When I graduated from high school, I was 5' 10" and weighted 155 pounds. Now I'm 6' 3" and depending on how long I've been on the road, I stay between 275 to 262 pounds.
UW:Yeah, it just happened. I never got into powerlifting or anything I guess because I was growing in height at the same time and had such long limbs and small joints. I was never into the 'ego trip' of working out with heavy weights.
JM:Did you learn your training methods from trial and error and asking questions?
UW:Yes. The scenario is the same as any other kid who wants to get his hands on all kinds of information. To be real honest, the main thing I kept was consistency and really worked-out hard. Just one exercise after another, boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. I didn't have a tolerance for people who sat around between sets in the gym, and this is before I had any type of physique whatsoever!
UW:Yeah, you had to hurt. That's all I knew and you had to do it that way with every work-out.
UW:It was a gym contest and I was living in Florida at the time and going to college. Peter Potter owned the gym and I won fifth place in my class.
UW:After Florida I moved to Marietta, Georgia. I was working out and getting bigger so I entered the Junior Atlanta contest and won that. Two weeks later I entered the Collegiate Nationals weighing only 209 and placed fifth in my class. I took a year off from competing and then came back in '84 to win the Georgia States and then went to the Nationals and don't even know if I placed (he laughs at remembering this). Then I went to the Junior USA in Beaumont, Texas and that was it.
UW:Yeah, I took fourth in the Heavyweights the year Ron Love won the Overall. I weighed 257 and was 253 the year I went to the Nationals . . . (pauses for a while) but I never seemed to get it together on the day of a contest.
When I was training for the Junior USA, I weighed 279 the week before the contest - big and hard and never had any problems with fat, only water!
I competed in that contest 20 pounds lighter! It was just stupid things with my diet. I restricted my water when I shouldn't have and I always looked better 2 days after the contest. I just got frustrated with the whole thing and wasn't making any money.
UW:I came back to Georgia and that's when Ed Conners contacted me. There was this guy in California putting together a wrestling team called Powerteam USA. I went out there and it all fell apart.
I did get some training and the log was put on the fire as to, 'This is what I've got to do'.
UW:I was in chiropractic college then went to California in '84 after the Nationals. I met Ed when I was training at Gold's Gym. He got in touch with me through a few other people. He didn't even remember me from the '84 Nationals and had to go back and watch the tape. I was the last man in the contest.
Ed said he'd like to bring me to California to train and give me a salary for it and if things work out, I'd be a representative for Gold's Gym like the other guys out there. So I went and the show I trained for was the one in Beaumont and it just didn't work out. No rhyme or reason, it just wasn't in my cards with the things I was doing to prepare for the contest - I just got married and I was just too loony tune to stay on a contest diet at the time.
Some guys get so caught up and lost in the sport though. You see it all the time - some guys look in the mirror and don't really see what's there!
I knew I had a chiropractic education to fall back on, so after Texas I went back to Atlanta.
UW:Yeah, the Christmas of '85.
UW:Three and a half years.
UW:When I came to the WWF I wasn't even on t.v. for a year. I was just working the smaller shows. It took about 15 months to become the Intercontinental Champion.
UW:I lost it once to Rick Rude in Wrestlemania and won it back . . . approximately one year until winning the World Championship.
UW:To be honest, before this I had never watched it. The main thing I loved was working-out and I loved being in the gym and busting my behind lifting weights. I love the challenge of making yourself better in the fight against the weights. The smell of the gym and the sound of the weights and just sweating, that's what I love.
UW:As long as . . . (pauses to rethink his answer) I'm not going to be one of the guys who's on top and in his final days is a loser, I'll tell you that! I'll always be a winner and when it becomes time not to be a winner, I'll retire in a good way and won't come back or anything like that or be a special referee in a match to be added to the card as a special attraction. Wrestling in the WWF has been very good to me and given me financial security so I can do that when the time comes. As long as my body holds up I don't see any reason why I can't go on another 6, 7 or 8 years.
UW:I still train as a bodybuilder, more so now than when I was competing. I know more about my body now. It's instinctive.
UW:That gets back to the whole instinctive thing, like on t.v. days which are once every 3 weeks. Those can turn out to be 14 to 16 hour days of just continuous taping. I may take 4 or 5 showers on that day alone, constantly repainting my face and becoming mentally and physically drained standing in a hot room doing interviews. It's just sweating and drying off, but I know when my body needs a little food.
Sure, I have those days when I feel good or look flat. Like I said, I don't have a problem with fat, only water, but I'm learning about that too.
I set our pay-per-view shows as little goals. I'll watch my food more closely and do mini-carbohydrate depletions. I'll carb up a few days before a show and take a day off from training to rest my body. I can actually feel it working and because I do it so much, I try to stay as close as I can to top shape for what I've got.
UW:My travel schedule has me on the road about 25 days a month and sometimes 29 days a month! Any bodybuilder can come on the road with me for just 10 days and they wouldn't believe it.
I know I'm where I am because I've spent 18 years of my life in a gym working-out with weights. It's not because I spent 15 or 18 years in a wrestling ring learning how to wrestle. I know my body. When I started wrestling, I was a lot heavier and bulkier. I just used common sense and saw the business was going with bodies. As long as I could keep my physique going, I had a better body than anybody at the time. I figured if I leaned down and chiseled my body like a real live cartoon, I'd be a winner for sure.
UW:Yes, but it's getting easier all the time. I know when my body needs a piece of cheesecake and when it doesn't need anything.
I know if I'm flying coast to coast what I need on airplanes. I don't eat any bad or junk foods, I adhere to a bodybuilding lifestyle. If I can't eat good foods, I eat tuna. I take lots of amino acids and just started using the Parrillo Performance line of supplements. I'm into nutrition as much as the road allows me to be.
As much as the road wants to make you crack and let your guard down, I don't do it. This is what makes me different than everybody else and why I have what I have and I can continue to have for as long as I want. I'm like something that stepped off the pages of a comic book.
JM:Let's get specific about your training schedule. How often do you train a week?
UW:I try to go to the gym every day, but with the way my schedule is with airplanes, there will be days when I just can't make it to the gym.
If I'm stuck in a horrible airport where I can't get good food, I'll refuel my body by drinking water and taking aminos.
UW:Usually I pick one body part that I really bomb with a lot of reps, sets and stretching. During the course of working the most out of that body part, I'll do some pump sets for other body parts. If I'm doing chest or back, I'll do some pump sets for biceps or triceps that day . The next day I'll pick another body part and bomb it.
If there's a day I had to miss, I'll pick up where I left off. There are no week-ends for me because I work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so I go to the gym on those days too.
UW:I have to work-out every day like I work every day. You just get up for it! I can be sitting back in the dressing room wondering, 'How am I going to run out there tonight?' But as soon as the music plays and the people pop, it just comes and it just happens.
Getting back to what you asked, every day I go to the gym, I bust my behind in whatever I train in the sense . . . I'm always moving. I'll do chest and between that I'll be stretching my chest and doing calves or abs or just stretching my hamstrings. I usually work the whole body every day in one way or another.
I do my calves and sit-ups every day. You don't see my calves in my boots, but I wear shorts in the summer, and I've got 20" calves so I'm different than other people. If I'm walking through an airport and I've got veins coming out of my calves, that sets me apart from other people. That's why I spend the time to do calf work.
UW: I just go by feel.
UW:I just stand there drenched in sweat and do as many as I can. I don't really count reps, but I know it's in the 20 rep range. I do that from the very first set because usually when I go to the gym, my time is really limited.
UW:Two hours at the most, but I like to catch a tan if I can. I spend an hour and fifteen minutes a day working-out in the gym. It's non-stop and that includes 10 sets for calves and 10 to 15 minutes of ab work.
UW:Well, I've been all over the country now, so I have my favorites or gyms that are convenient.
UW:As far as riding a Lifecycle, no. If you're going by the normal standards for how long you have to keep your heart rate up for a certain level of time, I'm usually in an arena every night and go for 15 minutes. When I come to the ring I'm always running. I always jump-start my matches. You'll never see me come into the ring, shake the ropes, walk around and lock-up. I only did that with Hulk Hogan.
When I came back from the ring every night, I'm huffing and puffing pretty good.
UW:I was always real strong in the Press Behind The Neck and used to do 315 for 10 reps using strict form with no bouncing.
UW:I don't eat at Denny's! I go to Marriott's and many of the cooks are fans, so they will go out of their way to throw a couple of plain chicken breasts on and make some rice.
JM:How many times a day do you eat?
UW:That varies too. I try to eat 2 to 3 good meals at the most. The rest of the time I'm taking 200 to 250 aminos a day if for nothing else than the placebo effect. I really enjoy taking aminos.
UW:I never count them because I don't really eat anything that's bad.
UW:As far as the intensity and getting fired-up to do it? Yeah! It's just something I do real quick.
Like NIKE says, 'Just Do It!' I use that philosophy in the ring and the gym. Screw the bullshit, do it! If I'm tired it doesn't really matter. I never had any tolerance for the whining bodybuilders who feel that someone should come and hand them something on a silver plate. What the Hell for?! Show some initiative!
UW:I pick up the magazines all the time.
UW:(pauses for a very long time to think) I don't know and understand it, but I'm not around that end of the sport that much either. (pauses again) Let's face it, there's politics in everything.
Look, I wish I'd never heard about steroids and I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way. My personal opinion is I'd rather go see the freaks. But you have to decide what's good for bodybuilding. 'Musclehead Gyms' don't make money, health spas do.
Another thing you want to see is personalities like Mike Quinn. I've never met the guy, but he's good for the sport because he's got personality.
UW:Yes. I knew there were already some big, bulky guys in it and I'd seen some of them up close and many don't have legs.
UW:Oh, yeah, that's one of my messages. Another one of my messages to the kids is that it's never too late or never be afraid of taking a chance at something that you really think you want to do or be successful at. Even if you fail, it's not as bad as never trying to do it.
UW:All those messages are right, but you can't just come out and say, 'Take your vitamins and say your prayers', because people will say, 'Oh that's just like Hulk Hogan'. But I can do it in my own way.
UW:It will be easier now that the design on my face will be smaller and I will speak in a more normal voice for the kids. You will see me in more normal situations, but still keeping the intensity up because at the end of each situation I will always burst through the curtains in full make-up to do combat. It leaves the people thinking I can come down, but when they buy a ticket to see me in the ring, there is no normalcy to that because I give everything I've got.
UW:At the time, the people had never seen anything else and that's all I knew.
UW:Vince is a body freak and Vince knows that people want to buy that now. Look at someone like Rick Martel - he's changed his whole physique. He trains like a bodybuilder now.
UW:The other guys were doing it, so I said I'm not going to do that because it would be expected from me. I don't try to overemphasize my body. I never wanted to push the fact that I used to compete, so look at me.
UW:Yes it is.
UW:Number one - look what you had to go through just to get the interview. Number two - nobody wants to know a loser. There's no reason to insult anybody's intelligence. The only reason people want to know me now is because I'm The Ultimate Warrior and I'm successful. That's the bottom line!
UW:That's good and I appreciate it.
UW:Most of them do.
UW:It's the way our business is. What blinds people from our conditioning is the fact that we told the public this is entertainment. It's really hard work and really physical. It takes a lot out of you to get in the ring and get the crap kicked out of you every night.
A curious person who gives us no respect only need be taken to a match and sit in the front row to see how physical we really are.
I've never met a bodybuilder who didn't have respect for us, though, but the general public is different.
UW:Yeah (laughs heartily) I'm the big, dumb, musclebound wrestler (he continues laughing at this thought).
A lot of people who have that opinion about what we are have good reason to feel how they do because 97% of the wrestlers are obnoxious and in the business because they want people to know they're wrestlers. There's a few that are true professionals like me and if the general public talked to me or one of them, their opinion would change.
I get the opportunity to do just that on planes. It's your chance to open it up to people. Then they tell someone and so on and so on.
That's why the WWF is so successful, because we have character. We don't push 'blood and guts' wrestling. Kids don't want to see that.
UW:At this particular time I've been married for eight years and have a great wife, so that makes it easy. She went through the bodybuilding with me and didn't meet me as The Ultimate Warrior. She slept with me on the floor for the two to two and a half years prior to having any success at all.
Right now, there's things I want to do, but I only get home three days a month. The things I want to do can't be done because of the things I have to do and that takes all three days. That's the sacrifice I have to make because it won't last forever. Hopefully I'll be able to do and enjoy those other things when I get out of wrestling.
UW:I've got a long road ahead of me as World Champion. I've just started and I'll have many challenges with new talent coming through the WWF There's also the challenge of what people will buy from me and what they believe I'm all about. I think about that all the time.
Finally, I would like it to be know that this interview would not have been possible without the tremendous help and support of Jonathan Flora, Rochelle Larkin, Vince McMahon and the blessings of the World Wrestling Federation. Thank you all very much.