There’s one regret I’ll always have: not being able to say goodbye to my friend, mentor and idol, the Ultimate Warrior.

When I was much younger, the larger-than-life superhero figure Warrior portrayed on World Wrestling Federation television programs came bursting into my living room. (He legally changed his name from James Hellwig to Warrior.)

Like many people between the ages of 25–30, the wrestling characters from that era represented heroic figures of good triumphing over evil; it would be hard to say that the Ultimate Warrior wasn’t the living, breathing embodiment of excitement, intensity and passion, which is why there’s been such an outpouring of grief surrounding his death.

As I grew older, I had the opportunity to befriend Warrior (meeting him at CPAC 2003 in Washington, D.C.) and embark on a long relationship with the man who was billed from “Parts Unknown.”

Though we only met in person a couple of times, we’d spend hours on the phone talking about life, politics, the state of the country, his growing family, and the hopes and dreams I had for my life. Rarely would we speak about the profession he was most famous for participating in, though when we would he’d mention the great respect he had for WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.

Back on March 26, 2010, Warrior and I exchanged an email that foreshadowed his return to the WWE. A friend and I were on our way to Wrestlemania 26 in Arizona, and Warrior noted he had turned down the opportunity to headline the Hall of Fame that year:

“Great to hear from you, always. Looks like you are headed to WM [Wrestlemania], probably already there … have a great time! I’ve been away and just returned, also finally(!) wrote a post about my declining of [the Hall of Fame] … up at my blog. Looks like you were expecting me to be there for some reason this particular weekend … hmmm!? … you dog, should know better! I’m still ALL Warrior. Except for the love I have for my girls, my heart and attitude have not softened with age, they’ve become more like stone. I think maybe one day down the road I will step up to the HOF podium, but not now – and not on Vince’s terms, on mine.”

And one day he did step up the Hall of Fame podium, four years later.

Most importantly – as he stated in the email to me – on his own terms.

Warrior was allowed to soak in the cheers and adulation of the thousands in attendance at the induction ceremony, Wrestlemania XXX, and then in his final public appearance on WWE’s “Monday Night RAW” program. Sadly, his return to the company was only three days before his untimely, tragic, heavily mourned passing, April 8, 2014.

We all have heroes in life, and the news the 54-year-old Warrior had died brought me to my knees in deep sadness. But I was able to reflect on not just the fond memories I had of him from his days as a performer in professional wrestling but from the inspiring conversations we had. Even though my mom always told me to turn off “WWF Superstars” on Saturdays, she sent me a text on the morning after he died letting me know she knew how much Warrior meant to me.

When my grandfather passed away in 2006, Warrior remembered what an inspiration he had been in life, remarking that the greatest of our countrymen were dying off (from the World War II era) and it was our responsibility to keep alive the flame of liberty.

Or else it would be extinguished.

In his last public appearance on “Monday Night RAW,” Warrior addressed the live audience and the millions of fans watching on television with a speech now haunting in its message and foreshadowing:

“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. 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.”

One short day after delivering these words, Warrior was dead.

We would always exchange ideas about books, literature and the latest treatise by a conservative he or I were reading. National Review noted on its blog that Warrior was a conservative, though he had made “detestable” comments that made him “look angry and intolerant.”

It’s a good thing Warrior will take many of his personal views to the grave (because they’d make his public “detestable” comments look mild by comparison), but I’ll always remember the more politically incorrect conversations we shared and how each passing day many of the worries he had about the world his beloved daughters would inherit came depressingly true.

Once, while discussing a long-dead conservative intellectual, he emailed this over:

“… had his bio page dog-eared, along with many of the other true classical liberal conservatives: Nock, Chodorov, Weaver, Ashbrook, Schall, Morley, Chamberlain, Harrigan, Goodrich, etc. … so many that founded the pure conservatism we long for now. Hell, these guys are the builders of the buildings that house the hypocrites, enablers, frauds and liars right now!

“Funny story, I called ISI to find out how to pronounce Chodorov’s name (as you know, Chodorov founded that org under the name “Intercollegiate Society of Individualists”) and I had to go through three people up there before any even knew WHO he was!! Rothbard wrote a great eulogy to Chodorov and mentioned that the people who took ISI over after his death changed the name to its now politically correct title the same year Frank died. Just unreal and ironic that ISI would publish American Conservatism: the Encyclopedia when not one of them has the guts to be a real conservative. These guys above were real fighters, real warriors. Real men with real integrity! In fact, Chodorov said, ‘If anybody calls me a conservative, I’ll punch ’em right in the nose.'”

He might have just been a professional wrestler to some. To others, he might have been an embarrassment to respectable conservatives in the Beltway – for he dared believe that those within the Republican Party and working in Beltway organizations/nonprofits had a duty to protect the American people, not just their positions of influence – who laughed at the idea a muscle-head could expound on dead white males’ ideas. But to me, Warrior was a mentor and a friend.

Living life on his terms, Warrior represents the type of personality many would deem combative, stubborn even. But it’s the principles he held so deeply – loyalty and honesty being the most important – that helped him become a legend millions the world over are mourning today; tomorrow, just as he said in his final address on “Monday Night RAW,” those millions will have the chance to tell the story of Warrior to others.

I’ll be lucky enough to tell stories of not just the entertainer, but also of my friend Warrior. RIP, Warrior.

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