WWE: A&E and Dark Side of the Ring paint a full picture of The Ultimate Warrior

The highlight of Wrestlemanie VIII at the Hoosier Dome in 1992 was Hulk Hogan celebrating his victory over Sid Justice. Hulk won with the aid of The Ultimate Warrior. Wrestlemania2
The highlight of Wrestlemanie VIII at the Hoosier Dome in 1992 was Hulk Hogan celebrating his victory over Sid Justice. Hulk won with the aid of The Ultimate Warrior. Wrestlemania2 /

The latest episodes A&E Biography and Dark Side of Ring constructed two different depictions of the Ultimate Warrior that serve as a full picture of a flawed man.

The Ultimate Warrior was one of the most popular wrestlers during WWE’s Golden Era. The only man to hold both the WWE and Intercontinental Championships simultaneously skyrocketed to the top in merely four years but personal demons and bigoted ideology tainted his legacy. So when the wrestling world learned that A&E Biography: WWE Legends and Dark Side of the Ring would both cover his career in the same week, viewers knew they would be in for a bumpy ride.

The A&E docuseries was created in conjunction with WWE Studios, so it has displayed its subjects through the discernable hue of rose-colored glasses. This made many fans curious as to how it would tackle some of the controversial aspects of Warrior’s life. Conversely, Dark Side of the Ring has set the standard for a no holds barred peek into the seedy underbelly of the pro wrestling industry.

If you didn’t know each version of The Ultimate Warrior’s story would be different, his wife, Dana Warrior, spelled it out when she said she didn’t take part in the production on Instagram. The widow even went on to say, “smut and filth do not rise to my note.”

That shouldn’t surprise anyone because Warrior’s wife has been extremely protective of her late husband’s reputation since he passed away. Honestly, that’s understandable because no one wants to see their loved one dragged through the mud when they’re not here to defend themselves. However, a documentary should be unbiased in its approach.

At the start of the A&E Biography episode, his Warrior’s daughter, Indiana, stated, “He would tuck us in at night so gently and read us our books, and if there was something sad or rough he would leave it out. And that was a beautiful thing for when we were little but there’s not that privilege anymore.”

“You have to tell the whole story and with the past seven years, you don’t want to censor anything,” she said. “This is the story of The Ultimate Warrior. Read the whole book.” It was a great sentiment and incidentally, both episodes gave two halves of the complete tale. To tell the truth, the Dark Side of the Ring episode wasn’t as tawdry as expected and A&E did attempt to delve into some uncomfortable topics.

Straight away, A&E and WWE Studios had the advantage of a two-hour runtime, access to behind-the-scenes footage. It also benefited from interviews with Ultimate Warrior’s family, his high school coach, and high-profile names like Sting, Shane and Vince McMahon, and The Undertaker. This meant Biography could give a more intimate look at his childhood and ambition to be a bodybuilder. It also made for a more in-depth account of his relationship with the CEO, key moments in his careers like SummerSlam 1988 and his monumental win at WrestleMania VI, his steroid and prescription drug use, and his acrimonious exit from WWE in 1992.

Dark Side of the Ring took a different turn because it included Warrior’s first wife, Shari Tyree. In contrast, A&E only didn’t cover his first marriage at all outside of a brief mention of their divorce. Tyree was an integral part of the first half of his career and she filled the gaps that were missing from the Biography episode, noting that WWE superstar’s infidelity instigated their split.

The counterpart coupled their divorce with the end of his reign as WWE Champion to create an arbitrary cause of stress that led him to write a letter to McMahon with a list of demands. In reality, Warrior confided in Tyree and shared the infamous letter with her. She even tried to talk him out of giving it to his boss and de facto father figure.

This omission makes sense because Dana Warrior was a part of the production of the Biography episode. Moreover, it isn’t nearly as egregious as the way the A&E special delved into her husband’s foray into motivational speaking and political commentary as a conservative blogger.

Dana made it seem like just a phase or a way “to fill the void” after WWE fired him. She also stated that the late talk radio personality, Rush Limbaugh, was a big influence on Warrior during that time. In fact, she called the loathsome conservative pundit a “great showman”, which reads as a justification as opposed to condemnation. Furthermore, her husband told the website, Flynn Files, in 2004 that she introduced him to these political views.

Even more, his racist and homophobic beliefs were minimized to brief lapses in judgment like his appearance at the University of Connecticut in 2005. Now, Dana Warrior made it clear that he realized that he made a mistake but it doesn’t sit well because the WWE Hall of Famer never actually apologized or recanted his remarks. That makes this feel like the latest attempt to whitewash this period of his life while telling us he earned his redemption.

Dark Side of the Ring handled this better and the episode also gave viewers an unfiltered glimpse at the way his peers saw like Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jim Ross viewed him. This was the biggest difference between the two depictions. During the Biography episode, Vince Russo made it seem like the other wrestlers were merely jealous because The Ultimate Warrior rose to the top of the company so quickly. That’s possibly accurate but it’s not entirely true because some of them had real grievances with him.

Next. Xavier Woods and the singles run we all want to see. dark

Admittedly, this week’s A&E Biography episode about The Ultimate Warrior was better in some ways, but Dark Side of the Ring added more context to his sordid story. The contrast between both editions illustrates why WWE shouldn’t be the sole orators of pro wrestling history. The company and its benefactors have no incentive to tell fans the whole story. Ultimately, the creators of the hit Vice series, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, are necessary because the truth is somewhere in the middle of these opposing depictions.