The Ultimate Warrior put on his signature airbrushed trench coat, shook the white ring ropes, and, for a few fleeting minutes, the wrestler billed as hailing from Parts Unknown was back home in the wrestling ring.
“Speak to me, Warriors!” he bellowed on Monday night’s “Raw,” back on TV after an 18-year absence.
He soaked up the applause from a New Orleans crowd chanting his name and pulled out a neon mask that replicated the face paint he wore in the ring for every main event battle with Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage in the 1990s. Warrior cut a promo to show how much he appreciated his return to the WWE.
Less than 24 hours later, Warrior, one of the most colorful stars in pro wrestling history, was dead. He was 54.
“We are all grateful to have had the opportunity to get the closure with him, to work to get him back on that platform,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, a wrestler and top WWE executive. “Knowing him now, there could have been no better send-off, really, for him, than that. It was everything he would have dreamed off.”
After ending his estrangement with the company, Warrior was in the spotlight again earlier this week, making appearances at WrestleMania 30 and on “Monday Night Raw,” and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of fame.
His last promo on WWE’s flagship show seems almost eerie now with his triumphant return overshadowed by his sudden death.
“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own,” Warrior said. “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, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”