After making homophobic remarks just three years prior, the Ultimate Warrior finished his career in an almost poetic fashion by facing off against the openly bisexual Orlando Jordan. This is the story of Warrior’s final match.
The Final Match of The Ultimate Warrior
During the late ’80s and early ’90s, The Ultimate Warrior was one of the biggest stars in all of wrestling. James Hellwig’s character was larger than life and was just what the then-WWF desired for their premier superstars. The bright colors he bared and the muscle-bound physique he possessed saw him rise to the top of the proverbial sports entertainment ladder.
He joined the WWF in 1987 under the moniker of the "Dingo Warrior" before eventually becoming a global household name as The Ultimate Warrior. Hellwig and his cartoon-like character were pushed to the moon, culminating in him achieving the unthinkable: pinning Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI at Toronto’s storied Skydome. He had reached the pinnacle – few in the game can say they pinned Hogan, let alone cleanly for the WWF title in "The Showcase of the Immortals." Who would imagine that just 18 years later, he would be ending his career in the middle of a ring in Spain? Probably not a fifteen-year-old boy by the name of Orlando Jordan, the man who would stand opposite Warrior for his final hurrah in 2008.
Warrior’s Final Opponent: Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan would proceed to attain the height of the big leagues in 2003 and would eventually become a staple of WWE’s blue brand. His breakout role would see Jordan aligned with WWE champion JBL in Layfield’s cabinet. Fans and critics panned the much-maligned, almost year-long reign as WWE champion, but in hindsight, JBL encompassed what a real heel should be – he was fiercely hated. Jordan ably assisted him throughout the majority of his title reign. It would all prove to be a priceless experience for Jordan conducting heat and being able to be involved in main-event matches and segments.
In 2006, after three years within the ‘E’ including a U.S. Championship run, Jordan was wished the best in all of his future endeavors, and the independent scene beckoned. A promotion relatively unknown to the U.S. would house Jordan and allow him to blossom into a star for one of the hottest promotions professional wrestling in Europe had ever seen.
It wasn’t unfamiliar for sizable crowds to attend Nu-Wrestling Evolution. The burgeoning company regularly garnered crowds of 5,000+, and for a show in Madrid on April 19th, 2008 – a reported 16,000 were in attendance to see Orlando Jordan crowned NWE Heavyweight Champion. Coincidentally, Ultimate Warrior was in town to receive an award and set the scene for Hellwig to compete in NWE. A confrontation between Jordan and Warrior took place. A match of considerable magnitude in the European territory was booked – Orlando Jordan vs. Ultimate Warrior for the NWE Heavyweight Championship in Barcelona, Spain, on June 25th, 2008. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was to be Hellwig’s last ever professional wrestling match.
A reported 15,000 fans turned out to witness Warrior’s comeback bout, ten years after he retired while working for WCW. For Hellwig to come out of retirement to wrestle in Europe, you can only assume he was paid a substantial amount of money, considering he had not been tempted to step out of retirement for a decade. The NWE had started in Italy and had also staged shows in Switzerland and Spain. A multitude of alumni from major professional wrestling organizations in the U.S. had made their way to Europe, including Rikishi, Scott Steiner, Christian Cage, Ultimo Dragon, Ken Anderson, Vampiro, and Gangrel. They were investing heavily in talent from North and South America.
As Jordan’s historic match with Warrior neared, my PWB podcast co-host and I phoned NWE headquarters to speak with Jordan, who was living in Italy at the time, promoting the intriguing contest.
"I’m excited to have the opportunity to be in Barcelona and have such a big match. For me, it’s a big deal," the champion said. "Warrior was a great, great competitor in his time. He had fans all around the world (and is) an icon today. Like you, I’m sure; I was a little warrior myself. But then, you know, it’s time to grow up (laughs). I’m an adult, and I’m moving on. I’m the NWE champion, and Warrior wants to make a comeback. That’s great, but I think he chose the wrong person to do that with, man."
"NWE’s the place to be (laughs)," Jordan told us. When quizzed on who, if anyone, NWE should add to their roster, he proudly exclaimed, "They don’t need anybody else; they got me."
Trained by Rocky Johnson, father of The Rock, Jordan spoke fondly and somewhat sadly on his time with WWE. "I had a very good time. Towards the end, some things didn’t go the way I would like to have seen them (go)," he reflected. "I wasn’t happy with some things, but that’s just life. You deal with it, and you move on. I had a home in WWE for the time that I was there. Now I got a new home in the form of NWE, and I’m very happy here."
As we concluded the interview, it was time to get Jordan’s final thoughts and parting words for The Ultimate Warrior. "June 25th, it’s me: Orlando Jordan, NWE Heavyweight Champion vs. The Ultimate Warrior. He’s a very controversial man in his views and everything, and I do my thing. You can tell by my playboy lifestyle and the money I spend, and the clubs I go to. So, me and Warrior have a conflict, man. Just remember this: I do what I want to, I say what I want to, and I act how I want to. You’re not gonna change that."
The ‘controversial’ term that Jordan referred to isn’t exactly a rare word to read in any tale regarding the wacky world of pro wrestling, but controversial Warrior most certainly was. Jordan lived an openly bisexual life, and Hellwig, at a Young Republicans event at the University of Connecticut in 2005, said (to the surprise of the crowd) that "queering don’t make the world work." Other derogatory comments regarding the late Heath Ledger, who starred in Brokeback Mountain, would also come to fruition. He didn’t hold back in his conservative views.
The match itself on June 25th, 2008, was much akin to any of Warrior’s matches. It was slow and deliberate. He was a showman – not a five-star worker or someone relying on highspots for attention. It was old-school and thus felt like a main-event from any 1990s WCW or WWF PPV. The large crowd was relatively passive throughout, surprising given the historical significance. Dana Warrior was ringside, and their two daughters even entered the ring before the match commencing. Utilizing his experience working lengthy matches on SmackDown, Jordan did a great job of creating spots for the 49-year-old Warrior to rest at certain moments.
Jordan got swept up in the excitement during the encounter and even planted a big, wet smooch on Warrior’s mouth. Warrior had no choice but to reciprocate, despite his history of vehement homophobia. Seventeen minutes in, two lariats and a shoulder block brought down the curtain in a slightly flat conclusion on what would be a Hall-Of-Fame career. Warrior celebrated with the Spanish fans as his daughters rejoined him, and he held aloft the NWE Heavyweight Title (albeit holding it upside down)!
Warrior subsequently grabbed the mic and bid his farewells to the NWE fans:
"I have something I want to say. First of all, I want to thank the NWE for its hospitality, friendliness, professionalism and bringing me over here to Spain to wrestle in this return match after ten years of being absent from the ring. I created and performed an incredible persona, the Ultimate Warrior. I talked about, during this return, how, when I become this character – there’s a transformation that takes place, and that’s indeed true. But, behind the face paint, there are certain personality characteristics of the Ultimate Warrior that are still mine in my everyday life. One of those that doesn’t happen to be Ultimate Warrior’s is modesty and humbleness when it’s needed. I was once, when I started- Orlando (Warrior motions over towards Jordan) if you’d honor me with your presence for a couple more minutes…"
Warrior continued, "When I was your age and got my first shot in wrestling and the WWF, I was one of those big young bucks. I was full of myself in good ways and bad. I’m twenty years older than you; I’ve learned a lot since then. I want to thank you for teaching me a lesson this evening and really stepping up and really working on the ring rust that is in this body. You, as you mature in your career, good guy or bad guy, attitude or humble, you’re going to be one of the greats in this business. I know that. I didn’t take this match to win this belt to take home back to America. It belongs here, with the NWE. And I want to extend an invitation to Orlando if he, rather than me, will now put it in a tournament and win it on his own professional, competitive merit because I know he can do it. When I leave this evening, the belt will stay. It will be your choice. Thanks again. I love the Ultimate Warrior fans from all over the world. I appreciate it."
He left the belt in the ring and walked away, never to compete again.
The Concluding Chapter of The Career of The Ultimate Warrior
In 2014, during WrestleMania 30 weekend, The Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall-Of-Fame. On the Monday Night Raw that followed, he appeared in-ring for an impassioned promo for one final time. Less than 24 hours later, James Hellwig suffered a heart attack and passed away at 54 years of age. I can still vividly remember hearing the shocking news after a week of fans celebrating his career.
June 25th in 2008 turned out to be the concluding chapter of The Ultimate Warrior’s career inside the squared circle. That night in Spain now possesses its very own piece of professional wrestling nostalgia and trivia not to be forgotten. 15,000 were there when the curtain dropped one last time.
Watch: The Ultimate Warrior faces off against Orlando Jordan in his final match
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles on our site:
- Ultimate Warrior and Sting | Their Broken Relationship and Fall Out
- Warrior on His Initial Refusal To Enter the WWE Hall of Fame
- Wrestling’s Gay History and Optimistic Future