The Ultimate Warrior, a former pro-wrestling champion known for his frenetic in-ring style, snarling, stream-of-consciousness interviews and outspoken views on practically everything, died Tuesday at the age of 54.
His longtime employer, World Wrestling Entertainment, announced the news on its website, calling the Warrior “one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever,” and soon after, stars like Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took to Twitter to echo similar sentiments. A cause of death has not been reported.
The Warrior, whose real name was James Hellwig, began his WWE career in 1987, but thanks to his massive muscles, flowing locks and neon face paint, soon became a hit with fans. He quickly rose up the ranks, winning the Intercontinental Championship in 1988, then defeating Hogan in an era-defining match at WrestleMania VI to become the Heavyweight Champion.
Within two years, after feuds over money and accusations of steroid use, he would exit the company and announce his retirement, but the wrestler subsequently returned for a brief run with the WWE’s chief competitor, WCW. The lasting legacy of his match against Hogan (and an ultra-intense series of interviews he gave leading up to the bout) became the stuff of legend, cementing his status as an oddball icon amongst fans.
In his time away from the sport, Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior, became a motivational speaker and launched a website where he preached self-empowerment, among other things, telling fans, “I have built an incredibly empowered life on my OWN terms … whatever I am doing–wrestling, writing, working out, even weaving pot holders–I am going to do it with action and intensity.”
Warrior ended an 18-year hiatus from the WWE just this past Sunday, as he was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 30, and appeared in the ring the next night on its flagship “WWE Raw” telecast.
According to the WWE, he is survived by his wife, Dana, and their two daughters.