The Ultimate Warrior, the retired U.S. professional wrestler who just days ago was inducted into the WWE hall of fame, has died at the age of 54.
The WWE released a statement on its website saying it is "deeply saddened" to hear about the passing of "one of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever." The organization sent "its sincere condolences to Warrior’s family, friends and fans."
Scottsdale, Ariz., police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said he collapsed while walking with his wife to their car at a hotel and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
There were no signs of foul play, Clark said. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office will conduct an autopsy Thursday, county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said.
RIP WARRIOR. only love. HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) April 9, 2014
He began his WWE (then known as the WWF, or World Wrestling Federation) career in 1987, and went on to defeat Hulk Hogan to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 6 in 1990 at Toronto's SkyDome in a match billed as The Ultimate Challenge. It was his only top championship in the company, and he successfully defended it for nine months.
Warrior personified the larger-than-life cartoon characters who helped skyrocket the WWE into the mainstream in the late 1980s and early '90s. He dressed in face paint, had tassels dangling from his super-sized biceps and sprinted to the ring when his theme song hit. He shook the ropes and grunt and howl while the crowd went wild for the popular good guy.
Inducted into wrestling hall of fame
He was inducted into the WWE's hall of fame at a ceremony on Saturday in New Orleans, and appeared at WrestleMania 30 the following day at the Superdome. It was his first appearance on WWE television since 1996, when he left the company after an acrimonious split with its chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon.
On Monday, the iconic wrestler addressed his screaming fans from the ring at a WWE Raw live event.
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own," he said. "Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath."
A man's spirit is immortalized by the memory of the people who honour him, he said while wearing a plastic mask that mimicked the multicoloured face paint he was known for wearing to the ring.
"You, you, you," he said, pointing at people in the audience. "You are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior."
Born James Hellwig in Indiana, he legally changed his name to Warrior in 1993. He is survived by his wife and their two daughters.