Um.... Can We Talk About
In reviewing the WCW Official Annual 1996 last week, I noticed a profile on The Renegade and felt I needed to dwell on this character somewhat. After all, this was the WCW ripoff to end all ripoffs, as far as I'm concerned. Forget Arachnaman as a poor man's Spider-Man (which Tom Holland laughed about quite recently), or Big Boss Man's return to WCW being announced as "He's a big boss, man!" - this one persona takes the (ultimate) cake. Here's the background to this fascinating story....
When Hulk Hogan signed with WCW in 1994, he made some significant changes (beyond, you know, demanding he become the company's biggest star).
He brought in a bunch of his ex-WWF buddies, including Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Brutus Beefcake, Earthquake and The Honky Tonk Man. But the one guy he couldn't get was his WrestleMania VI opponent, The Ultimate Warrior.
In the weeks leading up to 1995's WCW Uncensored PPV, Hogan promised fans an "ultimate surprise" to counter his opponent Vader and manager Ric Flair. One video showed The Hulkster pointing to a muscular Ultimate Warrior-like figure behind him, obscured by billows of dried ice. So it would make sense that most wrestling fans would think it was, indeed, The Ultimate Warrior coming to WCW with a slightly new name to make Jerry McDivett happy (e.g. The Optimum Combatant).
Of course, it wasn't.
As Vader and Flair cornered Hogan at the beginning of their Uncensored match, a VERY familiar strain of entrance music was played, followed by a VERY familiar looking wrestler, with an "R" painted on his face in place of the usual Warrior symbol seen in the top left corner of this page.
We're not kidding about the music, by the way. Take a listen to the iconic theme of The Ultimate Warrior:
Got that theme in your head? Can you envision Vince McMahon screaming "Here comes the Alllllllll-timate Warri-yeah!"? Great, now check this happy little number out:
It's the EXACT SAME three-chord tune! Like, WCW wasn't even trying to be subtle. If I composed something like this and posted a video online, WWE would have YouTube remove it within 24 hours for violating terms of service.
Following the entrance of The Ultima.... I mean, Renegade, a ton of outside interference happened through Flair, Jimmy Hart, The Butcher and Randy Savage, leading to the following pose of old WWF icons, reunited inside a WCW ring.
Following his WCW debut, The Dollar Tree Equivalent Of Ultimate Warrior won the WCW Television Championship from Arn Anderson at The Great American Bash PPV, a match that Ric Flair criticized in his autobiography To Be The Man because the decision was pushed by Eric Bischoff despite Renegade being, you know, not that great a wrestler.
The Renegade would go on to battle the likes of future WWE Hall of Famers Paul Orndorff, Diamond Dallas Page and Stunning Steve Austin that year before Jimmy Hart turned on him and changed his name back to "Rick" (his legit name was Rick Wilson). Renegade briefly turned heel during the Monday Night Wars era as well, because.... hell, it was WCW.
In an interview several years later, the actual Ultimate Warrior claimed the move was done as a scheme to force Warrior out of retirement and head to WCW to battle his kind-of doppleganger. And guess what? The actual Warrior DID go to WCW, albeit three years later, at which point Renegade was used as a stunt double inside the War Games cage at Fall Brawl.... so maybe WCW knew what they were doing?
Ultimately (oooh, poor choice of words), Wilson was released by WCW towards the end of 1998 and killed himself a year later. According to Flair's biography, the man had severe depression after being fired by WCW, and Naitch angrily accused Hogan and Bischoff of building the guy up to meet unrealistic expectations.
A very sad ending to a career of someone who was never looked upon fondly in WCW. But I will.... always believe!