Wrestling fans were stunned to hear that former professional wrestler The Ultimate Warrior had passed away on April 8. This was only a few months after he had made peace with his old stomping grounds, World Wrestling Entertainment — and, more shockingly, a mere three days after he was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame.
Warrior, who was born James Brian Hellwig but legally changed his name in 1993, was a larger-than-life figure in the world of sports entertainment. Although his skills were limited, he was powerful, energetic, and incredibly intense. His monologues were memorable, even if they were rather difficult to understand. When he beat Hulk Hogan for the World Wrestling Federation title at Wrestlemania VI, he became a legendary figure and, in the eyes of many, a true wrestling icon.
Yet for all that we know about Warrior, there was another side to him that was rarely discussed. He became a political conservative in the late 1990s, and was briefly a public speaker (along with Daniel Pinheiro) on political and economic issues.
According to a wide-ranging 2004 interview with conservative author Daniel Flynn, his political conversion began during the height of his wrestling career.
On the road, Warrior “began a lot of self-study, including beginning a self-learning journey reading the Great Books of the Western world and the study of American history and came to see and call the Founding people and times the absolute heroic models.” He viewed this period of time as something “special for me, having done what I did as heroic role model for young minds, and never before in my life able to point to any one identity as a role model.”
The real turning point for Warrior seems to have occurred “during the second term of the Clinton presidency. . . . I thought, here is the literal and figurative role model for the United States of America behaving like a perverted little kid. I just found it all really unmanly and undignified.” As well, he would meet “the woman who would become my wife. She was conservative and through her I knew I had been throughout my life, without knowing it directly, living by a conservative philosophy of life.”
Warrior’s second career was soon in full force. He appeared at CPAC in 2004 and gave a rousing speech about his personal views on conservatism to an eager audience. He toured university campuses, discussing everything from politics to human sexuality.
I have no reason to believe that Warrior didn’t study politics, economics, and philosophy. His recommendations to Flynn of books for young conservatives to read, including Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, and Dinesh D’Souza’s Letters to a Young Conservative, seem legitimate. His views on political and economic issues appeared to be genuine.
Alas, the rawness in his wrestling persona often reared its ugly head in his public speaking.
In one notable instance, he surely made jaws drop at the University of Connecticut when he told students, “Queering doesn’t make the world work.” While it’s clear Warrior was trying to point out that an increase of gay marriages in our society would lead to a decrease in procreation, the way he said it was detestable. It made him look angry and intolerant. More to the point, it didn’t reflect well on his knowledge of conservatism — because that’s not what mainstream conservatives like Kirk, Goldwater, and D’Souza stand for, or have ever stood for.
Warrior wasn’t a conservative intellectual, of course. His views were quite primitive, and he wasn’t the best representative of the political movement. But in fairness, he deserves credit for making an effort to read great books, learn serious ideas, and explore new horizons. These characteristics aren’t something we usually associate with pro wrestling, and maybe it’s time we reevaluate this position.
Rest in peace, Ultimate Conservative Warrior.
— Michael Taube, a Washington Times columnist and a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, has followed pro wrestling for many years.