SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —
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 Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania when he used his finishing 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."
The Ultimate Warrior would defeat Randy "Macho Man" 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."
The Ultimate Warrior had a falling out with the WWE and did not appear on its TV shows after July 8, 1996, until last weekend. He reconciled with McMahon and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also made an appearance on "Raw" and shook the ropes one final time in front of another crowd that went wild for the Warrior.
"Speak to me, Warriors!" he bellowed, as the New Orleans crowd chanted his name.
Warrior put on a mask that resembled his famous face paint and cut a promo about 24 hours before his death that seems eerie now.
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own," Warrior said. "Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized."
Associated Press Writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.