In the late 1980s and early 1990s, WWE was ruled by two freakishly over babyfaces, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Chosen to be the next face of WWE by Vince McMahon, The Ultimate Warrior would go on to become a popular world champion. However, his limited skill set and his disastrous ego limited his success and cost him becoming a star for a long time.
At no time was Warrior more sabotaged by his own elevated self-esteem than just before summer festival 1991, when he was at the height of his popularity, he decided to cash in at the worst time and make the most exaggerated demands of Vince McMahon. The president did not back down and instead suspended one of his top stars. The Ultimate Warrior career would never be the same again.
UPDATE: 2023/07/016 09:00 EST BY ANDREW KELLY
Even though in the long run, former WWE Champion The Ultimate Warrior didn’t actually spend too much time under the WWE banner, he made enough of an impact in a short space of time to become a major star and one of the most popular stars of the era. This made the controversy and scandal even bigger when it came to SummerSlam 1991. Due to the tension between him and Vince McMahon, and some of the issues that came up, he was not the most popular individual among his co-workers, and he struck up heat with other big names at the time.
The Ultimate Warrior became the face of WWE
The Ultimate Warrior first came to WWE in the summer of 1987. His exciting entrance, high energy level, and wickedly cool makeup made him an instant star. A year after his debut, he would topple The Honky Tonk Man and become the Intercontinental Champion. Two years later, his popularity would be so immense that he would be on a par with Hulk Hogan, the most popular wrestler alive. The two faced off at WrestleMania 6 and, in a shocking conclusion, The Ultimate Warrior defeated the nearly unbeatable Hulk Hogan. The message was clear. Hogan’s star was waning. The Ultimate Warrior would take up the torch and take WWE to new heights.
That didn’t happen. Ultimate Warrior’s championship reign was a flop. There was no Hogan rematch. Instead, he defended his title against the likes of Mr. Perfect and Rick Rude before being included in a long history with the Legion of Doom. In January 1991, McMahon pulled the plug on the Royal Rumble, where The Ultimate Warrior dropped the title to Sgt. Sacrifice.
The Ultimate Warrior faced Vince McMahon
The Ultimate Warrior still had a high-profile match at WrestleMania 7, beating “The Macho Man” Randy Savage, but it was clear he wasn’t the next Hulk Hogan. He was popular with the fans, but he couldn’t be the only star to run the company. At SummerSlam 1991, The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan got back together as a team where they would face Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa and Colonel Adnan. It was set to be a fun match, with the heroic Americans confident of victory over the evil heels. Behind the scenes, however, no fun was being had.
A month before SummerSlam, The Ultimate Warrior sent a letter to Vince McMahon with a list of demands. He wanted an extra half million dollars. He also wanted fixed hours and a higher percentage of merchandise sales. His reasoning was that he was just as important to WWE, if not more, than Hulk Hogan. In his letter, he threatened not to appear at SummerSlam if his demands were not met. Not wanting to jeopardize his SummerSlam main event, Vince McMahon reluctantly agreed to The Ultimate Warrior’s demands, but the president had a plan. As soon as the match was over, he was going to fire The Ultimate Warrior.
Vince McMahon faces the Ultimate Warrior
When The Ultimate Warrior walked backstage after SummerSlam, he was handed a letter written by McMahon stating that he has been suspended indefinitely, effective immediately. “You have become a legend in your own mind,” McMahon wrote. The Ultimate Warrior, in turn, tried to leave WWE, but since he was still under contract for another year, McMahon refused, instead paying the number two star of his to stay home. The Ultimate Warrior was not seen again until the next year’s WrestleMania 8, when a desperate McMahon reached out that Hulk Hogan was set to leave WWE. The Ultimate Warrior received a standing ovation when he appeared at the biggest event of the year, showing up to help Hulk Hogan after Papa Shango and Sid Justice attacked him.
However, the magic could not be recovered. A few months later, after testing positive for steroids, The Ultimate Warrior was fired by WWE. He would return briefly in 1996 and appear for a short time in WCW in 1998, but his time was gone. His and McMahon’s egos had refused to budge when perhaps a simple conversation could have led to a positive outcome. The two would eventually reconcile, and the week before his death, The Ultimate Warrior was celebrated and inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He would also use the time to make amends with those he wronged. However, his career will always be a “what if.” If The Ultimate Warrior hadn’t sent Vince McMahon that letter in 1991, how would his career have turned out?
The Ultimate Warrior made enemies because of SummerSlamn 1991
In it Last Warrior Self Destruct DVD, it was revealed that those involved in the SummerSlam 1991 main event were willing to resort to drastic measures to set things right. Hulk Hogan, who at the time was a loyal member of WWE and Vince McMahon, along with his arch nemesis at the time, Sergeant Slaughter, were reportedly ready to join forces and physically resolve the issue with Warrior. Fortunately, things did not come to this, and McMahon, in fact, “resolved” the situation himself.
Hogan and Slaughter weren’t the only stars furious with Warrior, as Jake Roberts also had a lot of animosity towards him. Prior to SummerSlam, a feud was brewing between Roberts and Warrior, which would certainly have been strong given Roberts’ track record of big fights at the time. Roberts embarked on a sea change that would see him go toe-to-toe with a huge babyface megastar, but due to Warrior’s antics, this went out the window, leaving Roberts unhappy at the loss of business and money. On an episode of the Snake Pit podcast, Roberts revealed that in 2014, Warrior apologized in his own way.
“He was the one who apologized to me. He was going to leave him and thank God I didn’t because he turned and said, ‘Jake, I need to talk to you. I have to apologize to you, man.’ He said: ‘I know I really fucked with you a lot, man, and I really mean it. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,’ and that totally undid me. How are you going to hit a guy after he said that?” (H/T WrestlingInc)