The Ultimate Warrior

“His spirit will live forever!”

Wrestling fans both young and old were hit with shocking news this evening, as it was unveiled that WWE superstar and 80s/early ’90s icon The Ultimate Warrior had passed away tonight. The news hits especially hard given that the Warrior had gotten back on amicable terms with Vince McMahon and the company at the close of last year, first upon being put on the official roster for 2K Sports’ WWE 2K14 video game and then being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and appearing at WrestleMania XXX this past weekend.

Warrior collapsed in the parking lot of a New Orleans airport at 5:50 this afternoon while he was with his wife. He immediately taken to the hospital, and pronounced dead shortly after. The news of his passing was broken on Twitter by Paul “Triple H” Levesque and shortly after confirmed by corporate. He was 54 years old and leaves behind a wife, Dana, and two daughters, Indiana Marin and Mattigan Twain.

In the late ’80s, The Ultimate Warrior – born James Brian Hellwig though he legally changed his name to “Warrior” – dared to emerge as a figure as colorful and iconic as the WWE brand’s leading stars at the time, Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Adorned in neon face paint that was either yellow and red or blue and a myriad of pinks and yellows, his biceps tied up with streamers, it was The Warrior’s energy and intensity that made him a memorable figure and one whose star simply wouldn’t be a denied. He charged up crowds and barreled into the squared circle, shaking the ropes as pyros fired off in the background behind him. It was a star that even the company had to take notice of, so much so that The Warrior was pitted against Hulk Hogan in the main event at WrestleMania VII and won the WWE Championship. To say nothing of how The Warrior gave weight to a then-mostly irrelevant little white strap that bore the words “Intercontinental Championship.”

Though the Warrior would defect to World Championship Wrestling in the mid-90s – briefly resurrecting his feud with Hogan for a myriad of young new fans by beefing with the nWo – his legacy remained with The ‘E. And his influence on the business persevered for years. Goldberg all but mimicked his entrance. Chris Jericho posted up against crowds in the guardrails nearly a decade after The Warrior made it a staple for faces.

Perhaps The Warrior knew that his time was coming, and that’s why he made the efforts to make amends with the WWE in his last days. Even more sobering, perhaps, is the fact that the Warrior had just cut an epic promo on Monday Night RAW last night. Fitting, then, that the last promo The Warrior ever cut was damn near a eulogy built for an icon. Rest in Power, Warrior. We’ll Always Believe.