Less than two days after the untimely death of the former wrestling superstar and WWE champion, Ultimate Warrior, the entire world is mourning and grieving over his passing. Just three days earlier, the Ultimate Warrior was at long last inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for the 2014 induction class. News reports indicate that Warrior was stricken by a “catastrophic medical event.” Despite no other sources or evidence relating to the cause of his demise, the discussion of the Ultimate Warrior and his death has lead to disappointing media commentary.
On the Wednesday, April 9 edition of Nancy Grace Tonight on Headline News, former WWE and WCW pro wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page (DDP), appeared in order to talk about Ultimate Warrior. During the broadcast, Grace tried to tie together the death of pro wrestlers age 40 and younger to steroid and drug use. What was absolutely astounding about the list is that neither Grace or her so-called list did not include anyone over the age of 40. Grace was attempting to argue that steroid or drug use for pro wrestling caused them to die at a young age. Ultimate Warrior (nee Jim Hellwig) was 54 years of age when he died. Also, her list dared to mention the name of Owen Hart. Owen Hart’s unfortunate passing in May 1999 was completely unrelated to steroid or drug abuse. In fact, there has never been any documented evidence to suggest Owen Hart ever used steroids or drugs at all. And yet, she showed off this list as a way to tie together wrestlers who have died young due to steroid and drug abuse.
DDP was so disappointed with what happened on Nancy Grace’s show, he released a statement on his Twitter account to explain his actions of his appearance. His statement reads: “I went on Nancy Grace last night expecting to discuss Warrior the man. Had I known the only topic discussed would be steroids I would not have participated. At the time I was also unaware of the list that was shown to the viewing audience. To imply that all of the wrestlers on that list died from steroids was wrong and for that they owe the families an apology. Again, my only intention was to discuss Warrior the man and share some stories about how dedicated he was to the wrestling business. I am saddened that was not what happened and my thoughts remain with his family.”
Besides the Ultimate Warrior and his death leading to disappointing media commentary from Nancy Grace, there were other unfortunate remarks from Colin Cowherd. On ESPN Radio’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd, longtime critic of professional wrestling, Colin Cowherd, decided to take aim at the Ultimate Warrior, wrestlers, and the pro wrestling industry. He went on say, “He wasn’t born Ultimate Warrior, that’s not his real name, but he’s got a schtick. He had that, and he passed away–out in the parking lot. This is one of those stories you can’t really be honest about. We all know the real story that five guys in their 20’s have died in wrestling. 25 in their 30’s. 45 in their 40’s. I’ve got all the lists here. NFL players may get concussions, [but] they’re not dying in their 20’s and 30’s and early 40’s very often, certainly not to this number. So you have to say, ‘It’s sad. It’s so unexpected. No explanation. God just decided it was his time.’ It’s so random.” He continued, “The story behind the story is … drugs, painkiller, HGH … it’s the roll of the dice that pro wrestling dudes with limited options not good enough to play pro sports [take].”
One hole in Cowherd’s poorly constructed argument was that Ultimate Warrior did not die in his 20’s, 30’s, or early 40’s. He was at a more advanced age in his 50’s. Now is it possible that steroids or drug use could have ultimately had an affect on his death? Perhaps, but there is still no evidence to prove this yet. His other mistake was by basically saying football isn’t as deadly in pro wrestling and football players are only getting concussions and not dropping dead from drug use. And yet, less than two years ago Junior Seau died from suicide. He shot himself, but opted not to shoot himself in the head so his brain could be tested for science. Those “concussions” that “football players may get,” well ESPN reported that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is described as a neurodegenerative disease that leads to dementia, memory loss, and depression. ESPN reports that dozens of players suffer from this, so there are likely many more NFL players that have prematurely died as a result of the long-term brain damage from concussions they sustained while playing football.
This was not Cowherd’s first unfortunate remark against a pro wrestler’s passing. He made some controversial remarks regarding the death of former WWE Superstar Eddie Guerrero in November 2005. ESPN Radio General manager Bruce Gilbert later criticized Cowherd’s comments suggesting Guerrero died due to steroid use. Gilbert says Cowherd making a reference about Eddie Guerrero dying from steroid use was regrettable. Gilbert also apparently had to speak with Cowherd “about the seriousness of implying things we cannot prove,” though it’s unknown if Cowherd was ever disciplined for his poor choice of words.
Ultimate Warrior’s death has raised a lot of interesting questions. But the idea of allowing an autopsy to be done and let those questions be answered in time is not an unreasonable thought. Unfortunately, it seems the Ultimate Warrior and his death, another high-profile wrestling superstar, will continue to lead to disappointing, misleading media commentary on the legendary Hall of Famer and pro wrestling regardless.
Opinion by Jeffrey Harris