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WWE Legend Ultimate Warrior Dies in Scottsdale

Pro wrestling legend James Hellwig, better known to WWE fans as the Ultimate Warrior, passed away suddenly last night in Scottsdale. He was 54 years old.

Hellwig, a longtime resident of Paradise Valley, was escorting his wife to their car last night in the parking lot of the Gainey Suites Hotel at approximately 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, when he collapsed.

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Scottsdale Police Department officials have stated that he was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead.

Sadly, Hellwig's death came mere days after one of the biggest triumphs, as he was inducted into the WWE's Hall of Fame and was featured prominently at WrestleMania, the company's biggest event of the year, this past weekend. He also made an appearance on WWE's RAW television show on Monday night.

Hellwig, a former WWE champion, was honored for his lengthy career in the ring as the Ultimate Warrior.

As pro wrestling fanatics like myself can attest, Hellwig was certainly one of the more unique and colorful characters in the often-crazy world of the WWE.

The Ultimate Warrior was famous for his manic and unhinged nature, and was a tornado of hyperactive energy and colored tassels -- all face paint, muscles, and fury -- both in and out of the squared circle. His interviews were quite histrionic (and sometimes undecipherable), while his matches were a bit wild and typically kicked off with him running to ring to his hard rock entrance theme.

As a pre-teen die-hard fan of the WWE's golden age, there was no one cooler than the Ultimate Warrior and he was one of my personal favorites.

But as famous as Hellwig was for his time with the WWE, he was equally famous for his battles out with the company out of the ring, as well as a few crazy stunts over the past several years.

According to Maricopa County Superior Court records and pro wrestling lore, Hellwig (who legally changed his name to "Warrior" to retain likeness rights) had a contentious relationship with the company and its head honcho Vince McMahon.

Hellwig sued the WWE on a couple of occasions over contract issues, character rights, and royalty concerns. He also repeatedly aired his beef with the company (and other wrestlers) on YouTube. (Hellwig, an outspoken conservative, also earned some major Internet infamy in 2004 when he declared "queering doesn't make the world work" during a speech at the University of Connecticut.)

The wrestler and the WWE eventually made nice and reportedly resolved their differences last year. It cleared the way for Hellwig to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend and have his moment in the spotlight mere days before his passing.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.