wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Ultimate Warrior Matches

June 6, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook

The Ultimate Warrior has a complicated legacy. Recently, we’ve seen A&E paint one picture of the Warrior’s life, where he was apparently misunderstood and lacking a father figure to shape his life the right way. We’ve also seen Vice show the Dark Side, which we already knew about because WWE told us that nobody liked the guy during his career, where he self-destructed.

I’m not here to judge the Ultimate Warrior as a human being. I didn’t know the guy on that level, all I know is what everybody else says. What I will say in defense of the Warrior is this: He had some good matches! As much as everybody wants to tell me the guy had no in-ring ability, he was involved in some really great wrestling matches. Maybe not as many as his peers, and I’m sure there are plenty of matches on WWE Main Event or AEW Dark that people will tell me are better than anything Warrior produced.

Today, we’re here to look at the Warrior’s seven most magnificent matches.

7. vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WrestleMania XII)

Would it be mean to say this was one of Triple H’s best WrestleMania matches? Yeah, it probably would, but it gave me more enjoyment than most of his other efforts. I mean, you’ll never convince me he had a better match with Sting or Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. Those were the drizzling shits and went on for years, this one lasted a couple of minutes and entertained me.

I mean, the Daniel Bryan match was good, and I liked the Undertaker match at WrestleMania X-Seven. The mixed tag was cool. Warrior still makes the top 5.

6. vs. Rick Rude (SummerSlam 1989)

There were two men that could bring the most out of Ultimate Warrior & have a great match with him any time. One of them was “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who rates as one of my favorite wrestlers of the 1990s that gets absolutely no talk today due to his limited career-span. Careers last a lot longer these days, back in my day people had to do more in a shorter timeframe.

This match is mostly known for one of the best commentary exchanges of all time. Warrior hit Rude with the Intercontinental Championship belt outside of the ring, and Jesse Ventura screamed about how it should be a disqualification. Tony Schiavone responded, and the rest is history:

Jesse Ventura : This should be a disqualification! That’s a disqualication! Where the hell is the referee?
Tony Schiavone : That’s outside of the ring, Jesse.
Jesse Ventura : So what?
Tony Schiavone : As much, it could just be a countout here.
Jesse Ventura : What are you gonna tell me, Schiavone? You can shoot somebody outside the ring as long as it’s outside the ring?
Tony Schiavone : Well, no…
Jesse Ventura : You know, you’re even dumber than Monsoon! I thought Gorilla was the stupidest guy alive!

It was a fine match otherwise, but you just need to know that to know it was good television.

5. vs. Honky Tonk Man (SummerSlam 1988)

For sixteen months, the Honky Tonk Man had paraded around as Intercontinental Champion, often retaining his championship through countout, disqualification or other somewhat lame way for a champion to retain their title. Fans had been ready to see him lose the strap since the day he’d won it from Ricky Steamboat. Honky kept retaining it, up until the very first SummerSlam.

Brutus Beefcake was the scheduled opposition, but an injury suffered at the hands of Ron Bass took him out of action. So Honky got a mystery opponent instead, and when the music hit, Madison Square Garden went banana. The Warrior ran through Honky Tonk in less than a minute for his first championship victory.

To me, the match illustrates something that a lot of wrestling critics tend to forget. The quality of a match isn’t so much in the number of flips or the proper application of holds as it is giving the fans what they want to see. Warrior killing Honky was what they wanted to see, and they got it. 

4. vs. Rick Rude (SummerSlam 1990)

It made sense to position Rude as the top challenger for Warrior’s WWF Championship for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Rude had defeated Warrior in the past, and now that he had cut his hair and become more serious in the ring, he was even more of a threat than he was before. Also, the office knew that Rude could have good matches with Warrior & make the man look even more like a champion. SummerSlam 1990 was a chance for the Warrior to look good in a steel cage with the Ravishing One, and that’s exactly what happened.

Even though it was a fine idea on paper, Warrior vs. Rude was definitely overshadowed by Hogan vs. Earthquake on television. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that Warrior & Rude had already feuded the previous year, and people wanted to see something different. Warrior versus a new opponent would have drawn better and gotten more attention, even if Rude was one of my favorites at the time and one of Warrior’s best opponents.

3. vs. Randy Savage (SummerSlam 1992)

There was something about the Ultimate Warrior & the Macho Man that just clicked. They were both completely out of their minds from time to time, but somehow on the same wavelength. There were a number of classic matches & moments involving them, including being one of the featured matches in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium.

Would Mr. Perfect be in Savage’s corner or Warrior’s? This was a key part of the build-up to SummerSlam, where it seemed like either man could possibly sell his soul for the WWF Championship. As it turned out, neither did, but Perfect & Ric Flair still accomplished what they set out to do.

While this match gets forgotten due to the Bret Hart/British Bulldog match later in the evening, it still lived up to the expectations set pretty high from a previous match they had that we’ll talk about here in a little bit.

2. vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania VI)

It was supposed to be the match where the torch was passed. Hulk Hogan would fade off into the sunset (or mid-card) while the Ultimate Warrior would reign supreme as champion for years to come. That isn’t what happened, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on this night.

Both men went out there and put on a performance that would go down as one of match agent Pat Patterson’s crowning achievements. Toronto loved them some Hogan, they loved them some Warrior, and good times were had by all with this WrestleMania main event that lived up to the hype.

There is a chance I may overrate this match because of the comparison to their match at Halloween Havoc 1998. One of the worst matches in the history of Western Civilization. The inmates ran the asylum. Here, there was a plan & vision, and it worked. 

1. vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania VII)

Back in 2014, Larry Csonka asked us 411 writers to rank our best/favorite WrestleMania matches for a big feature leading into WrestleMania XXX. Sadly I can’t find my list, but I’m pretty sure I ranked the Career-Threatening Match higher than anybody else did. It still rates as one of my favorite matches of all time, one that I still re-watch at least once a year. I got to write about it for the feature, and it still sums up my feelings:

The Ultimate Warrior’s tights for this match showing a picture of the WWF title belt with the phrase “Means Much More Than This” around it got some heat from some folks, but in a lot of ways it was 100% accurate. This was the first Career-Ending Match in WrestleMania history, and it was years before such matches aired every week on television. Warrior & “Macho King” Randy Savage were two of the WWF’s biggest stars. Both were WWF Champions, both had headlined WrestleMania against Hulk Hogan, and both had larger-than-life personalities. The buildup to the match was a good piece of business, as Savage cost Warrior the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble after Warrior refused to defend the title against him at a later date. That was enough for Warrior & Savage to decide that the WWF was not big enough for the two of them.

Lots of interesting stuff happened in this match. Warrior didn’t run down to the ring like he usually did. He walked down the entranceway and didn’t start doing his usual thing until he ran on the apron & shook the ropes. Randy Savage hit five elbow drops on the Warrior. People that don’t like this match often cite that as a reason why, but I’ve always thought that in the context of it being a career vs. career match it made sense. Also, Savage got to kick out of the splash so neither guy’s finisher worked. The bit with Warrior talking to his gods was weird, but it’s freaking Warrior so it worked for me. People also get pissy about Warrior pinning Savage with one foot, but in the context of a career vs. career match it’s the ultimate “screw you” from the winner to the loser. Sherri Martel had one of the greatest performances that a manager has ever had, and I don’t think she ever looked better than she did on this evening.

Warrior won the match, but that was just part of the story. Savage had broken up with Elizabeth a couple of years earlier, which saddened most of the WWF audience a great deal. Sherri beating Savage up after the match led to Elizabeth, who had been watching the match in the crowd, running down to the ring and disposing of the Sensational One. Savage was unsure of what happened & what to do at first, but he realized the error of his ways & reunited with Elizabeth. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Warrior would leave a few months later, right around the time Savage married Elizabeth & was forced to return to the ring by Jake Roberts’ evil deeds at the reception. So in the long run the career ending stipulation didn’t mean much, but at the time it added a great deal to one of the greatest pro wrestling segments in history.

Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think!

article topics :

The Ultimate Warrior, WWE, Steve Cook