Ultimate Warrior and Sting (the former Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden) started out in the business together in 1985. Despite traveling the road together during their early run, they fell out of contact and kind words were hardly spoken about one another. Here, both men open up about the dues they had to pay and why their friendship fell apart.
“We lost our place to live, had just enough to eat peanut butter.”
-Warrior on his humble beginnings with Sting
“My plan was to become a chiropractor. I didn’t follow wrestling at all.
In 1984, I won the Mr. Georgia competition. From that, I went to the Mr. America competition that year in New Orleans. And there, there was a guy putting together a team of four guys to become pro wrestlers. He asked me if I’d be interested. One of the other guys was Steve Borden.”
“I was not a wrestling fan growing up. I don’t remember seeing any wrestling on the TV ever.
I got into the competitive bodybuilding scene at about age 21 and co-owned a Gold’s Gym in Southern California.
This guy called Terry Bollea used to come into the gym to work out, and some of the people would freak out: ‘Do you know who that is? That’s Hulk Hogan! He’s a pro wrestler!’
But I didn’t know. I was oblivious to it.”
“I thought I could make some money, come back to the chiropractic later. I decided to go for it.”
“Jim was a really intense kind of guy. We had different philosophies on wrestling, different philosophies on life. He looked at things in a completely different way than I did…”
“Turned out, within a couple of weeks, [I] didn’t have the money to float the beginning phases [of becoming a wrestler] and the bottom fell out. We lost our place to live, had just enough to eat peanut butter and make midnight snack runs at local grocery stores, eating in the aisles, funny stuff.
To top it off, as Steve and I later found out, this guy [training us] didn’t know jack about how the business operated on the inside. Even if he’d had the money to feed us and get us fully trained, his big plan still would have failed.
Steve and I stayed positive about it all, and really, our ignorance about things was a blessing.
We did everything together. Laundry, gym, groceries—always together. We had the one car. I’d sold mine so we could eat in California. We drove to the towns together. Sometimes 4-5 hours one way and with 4-5 guys in the car to cover the cost of gas. We slept in a fleabag hotel until we got an apartment then we slept on the floor, ate tuna fish out the can. It was rough, but we stayed positive as we could. I thought a lot about going back to school but didn’t even have the money to get back to Georgia, let alone re-enroll.
And we knew there was nothing we could do about it. It was about paying dues.”
“[Warrior] was definitely on the cutting-edge when we started. He had a physique that, well, not many guys looked quite like him…”
Ultimate Warrior and Sting paying dues: “I swear to God when we drove from California to Tennessee, we thought within a few months we were going to be millionaires. We were so pumped. Turned out we were only making $25 to $50 a night.”
“We sent pictures out to everybody on a list of wrestling organizations we had. We only had ten to fifteen hours of training, and that was lifting each other over our heads and dropping one another on the floor—on the basic gymnastic mats.
One of those regional territories was Mid-South, over in Tennessee, at the time Jerry Jarrett ran it. They saw the pictures. We were big guys. We were impressive in that way. We were all-American looking. And they gave us a call and told us to come on out. We just really got our bags and went for it with expectations that were way too high. I swear to God when we drove from California to Tennessee, we thought within a few months we were going to be millionaires. We were so pumped.
Turned out we were only making $25 to $50 a night.
We came [into Mid-South], and Bill Watts had this reputation for roughing up new guys, especially muscle guys; especially muscle guys that wanted to make it in the business and showed deference to him because he was the boss. After about two or three months, there was an instance where Watts wanted me to get down in the locker room in front of all of the other guys. I’d heard the story through the grapevine about what he did. He wanted me to get down on all fours like a dog, and he was going to show me how to throw a ‘working’ kick to the underbelly – or so he makes you think.
Well, I heard about what he did—he would kick the shit out of you and bust your ribs up. It was like a test to see if you would take the crap. And I knew what he was going to do and I said, ‘Look, if you want me on all fours you’re going to have to put me there.’ Of course, he wasn’t man enough to go for that. He wanted me at a disadvantage, to begin with. This is something that the whole locker room didn’t expect because guys come in the business and they really want to make it, and they do whatever it takes.
Steve just stood there and didn’t back me up, even though we had like this bond between ourselves that we were in this—good or bad—together. I was bothered by that. Eddie Gilbert and some of the others there got in Steve’s ear, and our relationship quickly fell apart after that. I was never afraid to think for myself; Steve more liked to be ‘handled.’
I picked up the phone and called WCCW over in Texas. And that’s when I went over there and started the Dingo Warrior…”
Early footage of “The Bladerunners” Ultimate Warrior and Sting in action:
“He was always really kind of paranoid…”
WARRIOR (in early 2009):
“Steve Borden is a piece of garbage. Just recently, I saw Steve for the first time since our time in WCW, and he didn’t even acknowledge me. He wasn’t even on tour with TNA, yet he was carrying his belt around like some kind of big shot. We were never friends, even when we did work together, but you would think the guy would at least nod his head at me or something…”
“He made his name and found a niche for himself there for a little bit, and I’m happy for him.”
Ultimate Warrior and Sting spent the first 12-14 months of their wrestling careers together but mostly fell out of contact after their time in Mid-South. In fact, Sting has alluded in interviews that he never really got to know Warrior all that well and found him to be too intense and paranoid. Regardless of the personal feelings that they shared for one another, they sure as hell paved a lasting impact on the business of professional wrestling on their own.
WATCH: A rare, unprecedented introspective with Sting on his history with the Ultimate Warrior, shot at his house in Santa Clarita, California on August 22nd, 2005:
Quotes above were compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.