My Letter to “The Ultimate Warrior”

-by Joey Figgiani, freelance writer, artist, musician and former childhood wrestling fan


After watching the documentary about your supposed self-destruction in the wrestling world, I feel your legacy was given a raw deal.  As a man, scholar, artist and enlightened individual, you have gone beyond the ignorant ring announcers, brown-nosing and jealous has-beens and rednecks who fit and perpetuate an unfortunate stereotype of the worst and sometimes “typical” wrestling fan.  The ignorance and contradictions from guys like Jerry Lawler, Gene Okerlund, and mostly Bobby Heenan revealed them (not you) as the very thing they accused the Warrior of: flashes in the pan.  The incredible build, the intensity in and out of the ring, the color, the flair, the intentional other-worldly rants and interviews all cemented The Ultimate Warrior as one of the most memorable wrestlers in the history of the sport.

For most of the film I don’t, however, see Hogan saying much negative about you in his interviews.  His commentary is mostly very positive, as he reminisced about you in calm and professional way.  But toward the end, his accusation that you just didn’t care anymore, agreeing with others who  accused you of being unprofessional and unappreciative of what McMahon, Hogan and the WWE did “for” you is absurd.

Flair particularly looked like a total ass, whose lackluster career doesn’t come close to what you accomplished in less time.  The biggest blunder of all, Bobby Heenan-a guy whose nickname of “The Brain” is a total contradiction of what he states at the closing of the film, that “nobody liked the [Ultimate Warrior].”  Earlier in the film, Hogan clearly says “I like the guy; I like Jim.”  McMahon, Slaughter, and particularly the younger guys all gave props to you, making Heenan, Lawler and the like look even more ridiculous and their words irrelevant.  If they all found you so difficult and unprofessional to work with, why did they keep showing up: money, Baby.  But you were above and beyond that.

It is, as you point out, a shame that these bozos don’t get the bigger picture of what you achieved, first as The Warrior, but more importantly as an ambitious young athlete who grew into an intelligent, talented speaker, artist and thoughtful man.  They miss how you as a wrestler exploded onto the scene, tore up the sport, conquered all hurdles and rose to the top.  They stupidly claim they didn’t get what you were saying in your interviews, missing totally the purposeful calamity and mystical quality you were fostering for your character.  The original and sometimes indecipherable outbursts you exhibited in and out of the ring were ingenious and intentional and only fueled the appeal of The Ultimate Warrior.

Who are these critics to say you should have remained imprisoned by your career, limited to the WWE as a tool, unable able to move on and flourish in new ways that would utilize all your talents, skills and passions.  If you eventually lost interest in remaining with the sport and all its trappings, that’s your business as an entrepreneurial, free and intelligent person.  Good for you, Brother.  I support and admire your tenacity in the work you’re doing now.

The most irritating thing about the documentary is, while these men slowly tear through your integrity and try to diminish what will always be your enduring legacy, how they never wavered to play their role with total support and enthusiasm during matches, interviews and any and everything that would assure them their own payday.  Hypocrites will falter.  Warrior lives on…  I have to buy an Ultimate Warrior t-shirt soon, and will wear it proudly.


Joe Figgiani
Staten Island, NY

If you don’t mind, I am posting this letter on my blog:


Weird & Synchronized Moments as Dyer’s “Power of Intention” Begins to Flow

-by Joey Figgiani

At this point in my life I’m again in transition.  I’ve moved from Illinois back to New York and have been working toward changing my career.   Yesterday a new friend gave me a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer, The Power of Intention.  It looked interesting enough, but I was already in the middle of a few other books and still had more I was planning on getting to.  Since starting this blog last week I’ve been obsessed with writing and getting noticed as a freelancer.  Today, after deciding on the Dyer book I started reading at a Barnes and Noble cafe’ on Staten Island, and amazing “coincidences” started happening.

Seated at a small table with a coffee I started the book.  I’m usually distracted by people around me but felt calm and ready to learn about The Power of Intention.  After only a few pages Dyer explained something called a “field of intention.”  I stopped to take in this idea, as I usually do when introduced to a heavy new concept.  While thinking, something temporarily had me look up at the guy seated in front of me.  His shirt read “Field House: Chelsea Piers.”  I looked back down at Dyer’s words about a “field” then back up toward the slogan on the guy’s shirt.  Field, field, field.  ‘Wow.’

This seemed odd for its timing, so I began thinking if there’s any reason the Chelsea Piers, a popular tourist spot in lower Manhattan, would be brought to my attention.  I remembered going on an audition at a studio there years ago for a bit part as a convulsing drug addict; (I didn’t get the part).  Looking up from my book, I saw a former coworker from the stock room at The Gap, where we once were employed.  He was now working at the bookstore (gathering magazines at the moment) and said hello right away.  He remembered my name, and as  I struggled to recall his name I said “Hey, Tim, right?”  The name just came out.  I instantly remembered how Tim had been an aspiring actor and listened now, as he said he still was pursuing it while working at Barnes and Noble.  ‘My acting audition at Chelsea Piers; Tim the aspiring actor.   Interesting.’

Tim got back to work, and  I kept on reading.  My attention then went toward a barista serving at the cafe’.  She was a young, friendly and quirky girl but a little too loud for an easily distracted reader like me.  When I took a moment to focus on her appearance, she reminded me of another person Tim and I had worked with at The Gap, Diana.  She wasn’t Diana but looked like a younger version.  Within an hour (and much to my astonishment) Diana herself appeared on-line ordering drinks for her daughter and nieces.  I had to talk to her.  She asked me what I was doing and seemed genuinely interested in my answer.  After telling her I was writing a lot and had started a blog, she said she used to work at this particular bookstore but was now working at “B and N” in publishing.  The abbreviation went over my head at first, but she confirmed that she was still employed by Barnes and Noble but now at their office in the city.  I asked if were possible for me to submit some work, and she said that sometimes the company will read a new writer’s blog to see if they find anything of interest.  I gave her my blog address and other contact info.  It’s not only odd that I somehow predicted this chance meeting with Diana and two former Gap coworkers, but I was just reminiscing days ago about my job in retail, and how we were once accidentally locked in the store during holiday season.  The girl I was reminiscing with is the same person who gave me the Wayne Dyer book.  Yikes.

Later, after getting back to the book I decided to ask Tim what he thought of me applying for a job at B and N.  When he passed by the cafe’ area again, I also asked for  his cell number to talk about maybe working together in some way.  While we chatted, the boisterous barista interrupted and shouted to Tim from behind the counter something about “strap hangers.”  A few minutes before, I was a dozen pages into the Dyer book where he made an analogy about tapping into the greater “power of intention.”  The writer’s example was of being a child on the train and trying to imagine being tall enough to reach the “trolley straps.”

This all happened within a couple of hours of beginning a book about the power of freeing your ego and tapping into an always-present force.  Dyer also emphasized how, if you’re able and willing , the energy behind this power would move very quickly and present you with signs and feelings toward what you hope for in your life and work.

Very wild, but there’s more.  After Tim got back to work, I remembered again how he still resembled an old female friend of mine.  She and Tim are both fair-skinned, Irish, similar in height, with dark hair and some freckles.  I thought also how I’d once felt the two may even hit it off romantically.  Before leaving Barnes and Noble, I went to the restroom upstairs.  On my way down the escalator I glanced casually over to the magazine section, and there was Kristen.

Amazing series of events tonight at Barnes and Noble.  I’m going to get back to my book, and who knows what else can happen…

Shame on The New York Post for Cheap Headline of Winehouse’ Tragic Death

-by Joey Figgiani

Again, another example of what goes wrong when freedom of press is in the hands of ugly, greedy people.  In the cheapest, most contrived and tasteless way, The New York Post covered its Sunday paper with a full-size color photo of Amy Winehouse with the headline: “They tried to make her go to rehab, but she said no, no, no.”

Anyone familiar with the bad press she generated the past few years saw this troubled musician as a human being spinning out of control.  A third-grader could have said that, if she does pass away from her addiction, this would be the obvious play on words for anyone who is too heartless to see addiction as a disease.

But these uneducated money-mongers, who ignore the truth in order to sell papers are out right lying on their Sunday edition.  Winehouse spent much of her time seeking help, entering rehab several times.  She was also given a clean bill of health days before she was found dead in her London home, according to postings on UK website dailymail.

Workers at a favorite neighborhood eatery in Camden Square said in recent months she ordered only soda and insisted no one offer her alcohol, because she was off it and absolutely needed to avoid it to stay healthy.   The article goes on quoting how ‘she would always come here with her bodyguards and play pool, sometimes twice a day.  ‘But in the last two, three weeks she didn’t drink. She said she had given up. She just had a Coca Cola. She told me, “I’m not drinking. Don’t give me anything to drink if I ask for it. I mustn’t have it”.’

Several negative and cruel comments are tarnishing some heartfelt memorials on-line, by people who fail to show basic compassion or face their own imperfections.  Regardless of personal struggles the proof she left behind shows a true singer-songwriter dedicated to her craft.  She did far more before the age of thirty than most people will ever come close to.  Amy’s left us with a brief body of work that will still stand as some of the best music of our time.

After googling the biblical quote about throwing a stone only if one is without sin, I found this poem by Ernest Clary, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”  It’s lines seem perfect to direct toward the harsh bloggers and careless New York Post.  I pity hateful people and tabloid trash  for spreading negativity over the internet and in their newspapers.  Far more serious issues are more newsworthy than the passing of an entertainer; I get that.   You disgust me by putting a biased and misleading article about Winehouse on your cover to sell your rag.  Especially now, in a world that is so badly in need of  some good news.

Back to the Top: Winehouse Rules iTunes with “Back to Black” and “Frank” Albums

Current iTunes Home Page for Monday July 25, 2011

-by Joey Figgiani

Maybe it seems morose to celebrate.  Or maybe some music fans are just now discovering her immense talent after her sudden death.  Maybe some of us who already loved her music are adding it to our computers or mp3 players for the first time.  Maybe even some doubters have realized there are other-more powerful-songs besides “Rehab.”  Whatever the reason: the soulful, young jazz and retro pop-influenced singer is being heard again all over the world.

Her biggest and most noted single “Rehab” is number 13 on the “songs” chart.  While it’s possible that listeners are purchasing the (now terribly eerie) horribly prophetic single out of some morbid curiosity.  But the entire “Back to Black” album is not only the number 1 downloaded record  on iTunes; another version of “…”Black” containing B-sides is also on the chart at number 6.  Amy’s second album “Frank” is currently number 3, as another version of “…Black” stands at number 8.

Amy Winehouse filled our ears with timeless music at a time when it was more than needed.  Now, if she can hear us, maybe this celebration of her unique and passionate artistry will send her a much-needed smile…

Amy’s incredibly beautiful interpretation of: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”

“The Misfits” Foretells the Modern World

A well-made horror movie can leave a viewer disturbed for days, curious and questioning what they just saw.  The 1961 film directed by John Huston and written by Arthur Miller, “The Misfits” is not a horror flick, but a profound drama about the personal struggles of four central characters living in a environment that is quickly changing around them.  There is no gratuitous violence, serial killings, or murders, though at least one character is maimed and others brutalized.  Seen through the eyes of four central characters, the movie is an unsettling lesson in the effects of progress and careless human behavior.  On its surface it is a western.  But like the darkness and desperation that lurks beneath each characters’ surface, The Misfits is as fortuitous as good science-fiction and far more unsettling than any traditional horror movie.

The history behind The Misfits is a disturbing story on its own.  Its stars, Clark Gable in his last film, Marylin Monroe, in her last completed role, and Montgomery Clift all ended up dead within a few years of production; (Gable and Monroe died immediately after and Clift-five years later).  Hollywood lore implies that Gable was possibly driven to his fatal heart attack after his impatience with the antics of a less than professional Marilyn Monroe.  After too much waiting around, the Hollywood tough guy performed many of his own stunts which may have led to his death.  Monroe never finished another film and was infamously found dead from prescription pills in her apartment.  Clift, after years of torment over his sexual identity, drug and alcohol abuse and a disfiguring car accident, would be similarly found dead at home after only two more acting roles.  Only Ely Wallach would go on to flourish as a memorable character actor, most notably in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and Francis Coppola’s 1991 film, Godfather III.

From the opening credits The Misfits’ musical score creates a grim and menacing mood.  Wild crescendos of spiraling strings imply darkness and leave you wondering what tragedies lay ahead.  Monroe’s Roslyn Taber is the first character introduced in depth.  She is recently divorcing and being coached on her new-found freedom by a cynical, but friendly landlord, Isabelle, played by Thelma Ritter.  As with many of Monroe’s film roles, Roselyn seems distracted, delicate and very lost.  She immediately encounters Guido, (played by Eli Wallach) a mechanic who disposes of Ros’s relationship-battered car, which she clearly wants no part of.  Guido is immediately captivated by the divorcee’s beauty and childlike innocence.

Guido and Isabelle escort Monroe to a train station while still encouraging her to stay in town.  There they encounter a freelance cowboy, Gay (Gable) who is also swept up in Monroe’s awe and potential.   Gay uses his immediate charm to join the conversation, promising to nurture this obviously troubled woman.   Gay’s carefree spirit and talks of the open land encourages Monroe to stay putt in the country; and when she asks for what purpose he says to “just live.”  Something compels Guido and the others to look after Monroe, and soon Guido offers Monroe to visit his deserted house in the country, a shell of the home he once shared with his late wife. All four “misfits” head for the country and celebrate their meeting with some booze and dancing in the still dust-covered bungalow.  Guido tries to seduce Roselyn with some fancy dancing, but after a tour of the empty home it’s clear he struggles with demons of his own.  His heart is as vacant as the deserted cottage, as the couple’s framed wedding photo still hangs above their empty bed.  A symbolic surrogate family is formed around Roselyn, with Gay as the father, Guido-the husband or crazed brother, and the elder divorcee Isabelle  as the mother.  But as the movie goes on, its clear that you are witnessing, not only the struggles of human beings dealing with human problems but with a changing way of life.

As progress grows and the cowboy way of life fades, animals are used up as commodities or domesticated for human amusement and companionship.  The natural landscape is battered by rodeos and carnivals full of rowdy tourists, fuel-powered biplanes and automobiles.  On the landscape a battle is occurring between humankind and its role in nature.  Beneath the surface individuals also struggle with their own primeval instincts and need for identity, love and companionship.  Human nature is becoming more about the human and less about the natural world.

After becoming more familiar with these four characters, their true nature is revealed.  To the seemingly settled animal herder and drifter Gay, things appear quite different beneath his rugged and smiling exterior.  You begin to question if Gay is taking his own advice; is he himself living?  At first Gay seems strong, independent and content with his freedom and career.  His leisure time is filled with boozing, boasting and infidelity.  The one thing he strives to avoid is “wages,” a term heard repeatedly that represents the role of complacency in choosing a career.  But the cowboy who boasts about his independence from wage-work is actually living in his own captivity.  He speaks of a wife who left him for his cousin and daughters, he sees once or twice a year.  After a long night of drinking, Gay is disappointed  by the disappearance of his daughters, though it is never clear if they had visited or were just trespassing on his imagination.  Calling for his daughters in a drunken public tirade, Gay displays a huge transformation from wise old man to a lost and lonely child who falls in tears from the hood of a parked car.

The bigger story beneath the human drama is how humankind has used up much of natures resources, depleting the landscape and its precious creatures to serve its own needs.  Animals are fenced in, beaten and tortured as Clift’s Perce character earns some freelance cash and glory at the local rodeo.  Animal cruelty is at the center of this amusing spectacle, carnival-like atmosphere of drunks, tourists and locals, who blindly follow the trend of modern entertainment.  Even the welfare of the bull rider is secondary, as he is kicked, blooded and beaten only to climb back on his horse to do it all again.  The faces and clothing have changed but Perce is eerily similar to a modern-day gladiator; bulls and wild horses are the tigers he is commissioned to slay to avoid his eventual mortality.

Guido makes a final attempt to excite Gay and Perce with one more good roust for freelance money and leads Roselyn and the men to what’s left of the frontier.  Here the men are to round up a herd of wild horses and leave them captive for a “boss” who will pay them for their efforts.  His enthusiasm is diminished as there aren’t many horses left where there once were thousands.  The men agree to hunt the mere six mavericks that Guido has spotted.  His rickety propeller plane shoots exhaust fumes and clouds the air as Guido leads the tiny herd to the others.  He flies close to their hides, using his fuel-powered machine much like a traditional animal herder would do on horseback.  As the animals run toward the waiting cowboys, Gay and Perce point out the insignificance of pursuing such a small amount of prey.  It becomes obvious to Gay that the act of rounding up hundreds of animals had previously disassociated these living things as precious and having any right to life.  They are in “God’s country” as Gay calls it; but clearly these animals had not been treated kindly.  The thrill of conquering a thundering herd of hundreds of wild animals is no longer glorious.  In a most revealing monologue, Gay notes how the act seems less admirable and more brutal when you’re dealing with only a few.

Regardless of the size of the herd the task is no less challenging, as the horses give the men a run for their money. The men stand in the back of a pick-up truck and struggle to lasso the passing horses.  When Roselyn asks about the purpose of capturing the animals, Gay explains how they will be sold off and used for dog food. Roselyn cries in disapproval.  Gay’s embarrassment is clear, as the act of rounding up mavericks for a decent pay day is seen as primitive and miniscule.  Ropes are tied to car tires and used as anchors, as the cowboys lasso the horses by their necks.  Roselyn winces at the sheer brutality of their act and runs off to the open field, shouting: “Murderers!  You’re all dead!”  Mother nature is being victimized, and her voice is heard through the violent outbursts of film legend Marilyn Monroe.  As the film comes to a close, Monroe’s disturbing cries are as frightening as the victim of a horror movie slaying.

In The Misfits most living things are victims, and neither animals nor their captors are truly free.  One by one, all main characters crumble emotionally, and the seemingly lost female, Roselyn, is the character through which all breakdowns are witnessed.  You feel the pain, loss and displacement as its filtered through Monroe’s portrayal and her mother nature-like persona.  At first weak, impressionable and vulnerable to hurt, Roselyn is the most stable character with conviction toward kindness to all living things, common sense and simplicity; Guido has given in to his role of lonely widower and discouraged war-veteran, looking to earn money at any expense; the veteran divorcee and witness to tons of failed marriages, Isabelle, leaves the group to pursue her ex-husband (now married to her best friend) for a bittersweet reunion of displacement and nostalgia; the rodeo bull rider willingly destroys his body and continues to relish in the empty promise of inheriting his deceased father’s ranch; and relic cowboy Gay fails to wash away his lonely bachelor-blues and the void of his missing family, no matter how much he drinks.

The Misfits is an intense black and white western about four sentimental individuals, whose past dreams and promises never panned out in an ever-changing world.  Set in the disappearing landscape of the old west, the imposition of capitalism and a growing industry is shown through the eyes of a fading plainsman, broken down bull rider, disenchanted mechanic and two former housewives.  In the new world earning a living is a troubling necessity, though these “misfits” desperately seek an alternative.  But The Misfits is more importantly a horrific human drama and as fortuitous as powerful science fiction.  Its climactic scene shows human beings’ physical, emotional and societal struggles and a careless means toward survival at the expense of the natural world.  The progress of industry, introduction of wages and capitalism in the old west warns society that while we keep chasing the promises of our forefathers, we seem less and less independent.  Like the tragic characters of this powerful film, as we become more “civilized,” treading on the earth and its inhabitants, we head only toward a less natural and dismal life on a depleting planet.

Reality Bites: The Blurred Line Between What’s Real and Fake in Professional Wrestling

The difference between what’s real and “fake” in professional wrestling is really blurry lately.  Like most big-name celebrities, famous Hollywood strong men serve as larger than life heroes for the common folk, like Steve Reeves of early television’s Superman and Sly Stallone’s Rocky.  Professional wrestlers have also become  icons for millions of fans worldwide.  Great wrestling rivalries have provided millions with entertainment and an escape from their often uneventful lives.  And if you’ve seen the movie “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke, you probably learned there’s more to this game than scripted vendettas, pulled punches and staged violence.  Many pro wrestlers end up permanently injured and emotionally broken from years of abuse, most never reaching the level of fame and wealth of Hulk Hogan, aka, Terry Bollea.  But with the popularity of internet blogging and sites like facebook, an even more vicious battle is occurring-outside the ring-between Hogan and a former opponent, The Ultimate Warrior.

Though he who was born Jim Hellwig, The Ultimate Warrior changed his legal name to Warrior in the early nineties. In the early 80’s the wrestling world was introduced to this wild, long-haired Adonis who was slated to be the next big champion for the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) as Hogan approached retirement.   In a very short time, Warrior accepted the heavy weight belt from a gracious Hogan at Wrestlemania 6 in Canada’s Skydome, as the WWF chose their next “champion.”  It is part of wrestling lore that Warrior soon either lost interest or wasn’t capable of filling Hogan’s boots, as the sport grew into a multimedia, money-making business and pop cultural force.  Eventually Hogan came back to reclaim the title, as (some say) he was more suited for the job.

Today, through the presence of his internet website, Warrior has been trashing, not only the Hulk Hogan persona that Terry made famous, but Terry the man himself.   After a series of videos posted on his official website, where Warrior trashes Terry and reveals bits of his personal life, Hogan is now taking the fight to a court of law.  The Ultimate Warrior of the 80’s and 90’s became well-known for his incredible physique and energy in the ring.  But when he spoke, through a loud raspy voice, his words were hard to follow and grew more and more incoherent throughout his short career.  As portrayed on his website these days, Warrior now comes across as a very intelligent, well-spoken guy, pushing his followers toward fulfilling their greatest potential.  Oddly enough, the animosity he shows in his series of recent Hogan-bashing videos totally contradicts a man of intellect and positive drive.  It almost seems he’s tired of living in the shadows of his once celebrated career and hoping to lure Hogan back for one final match.  Thankfully Hogan is not willing to let Warrior take him down personally, as he is now sewing him for slandering his name.

Bringing back these two big name wrestlers to supposedly settle a thirty year-old rivalry would mean huge money, and that is what pro-sports is mostly all about.  But normally, the wrestlers’ alter-egos, fictional characters, begin a verbal bout in public, and soon the match is scheduled as a comeback or return to the ring.  Rarely is the person’s legal name a part of the dispute.  Since Warrior embraced the name of his alter-ego so much that he now goes by it legally, is it possible he is losing touch with reality altogether?  Is he blurring together the fictional wrestling hero and the real man, and now seeing them as the same person?  Could this be a sign that fiction and reality have become so convoluted in pop culture a person’s true identity is no longer sacred?  With the massive popularity of reality television,  revealing celebrity bios and now internet blogging celebrities are continually exposed as real people beneath the fame and glory.  Stay tuned to see where this modern rivalry will lead…

 – Thanks to Todd Spayer; Darren Aronofsky and his film “The Wrestler,” and the documentaries: “Beyond the Mat” and “The Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” for their facts and history of the sport.