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April 12, 2014

Colleagues remember The Ultimate Warrior

Colorful star of pro wrestling died at 54.

(Continued)

The Ultimate Warrior personified the larger-than-life cartoon characters who helped skyrocket the WWE into a mainstream phenomenon in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Warrior dressed in face paint, had tassels dangling from his super-sized biceps and sprinted to the ring when his theme music hit. He'd shake the ropes, grunt and howl, and thump his chest while the crowd went wild for the popular good guy.

In an era when the WWE targeted kids as its primary audience, Warrior was a perfect fit with a spastic entrance, blood-pumping music, flowing locks and always dressed in electric colors from head to boots.

His rambling, incoherent promos both energized and confused fans, and Warrior would often stare down at his hands as he spoke, as if he was summoning magical powers out of his fingertips.

He made his debut with the promotion when it was known as the World Wrestling Federation in 1987 and wrestled on and off for the sports entertainment empire until 1996.

The Ultimate Warrior became the first wrestler to defeat Hogan in a WrestleMania match in 1990 when he used his finishing running splash for the pin. He won the championship in front of 67,678 fans at Toronto's SkyDome in a match billed as "The Ultimate Challenge."

"It's one of the great WrestleMania main events ever," former WWE star Sean "X-Pac" Waltman said Wednesday.

The Ultimate Warrior would defeat Savage the next year at WrestleMania.

Savage, who died in 2011, Hogan and Warrior were all enormous personalities with gaudy costumes and memorable catchphrases. They led the WWE's transformation from a promotion running weekend arena shows and Saturday morning TV into one booking events at the largest stadiums around the world with millions watching every Monday night. More than 5.1 million viewers watched Warrior's final appearance Monday night on "Raw."

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