April 9, 2014 by Colin Kelly
I was shocked and saddened to hear this morning about the death of WWE wrestling icon the Ultimate Warrior at the age of 54.
In the late 80s and early 90s, when I was around 12 years old, this guy was a hero to me with more energy and passion than any other wrestler in the business.
You’ll read lots of memories and tributes everywhere else but since this blog is focussed on marketing, branding and business, I want to highlight one important aspect of Warrior’s life that I feel is being overlooked.
Unlike almost every other professional wrestler that’s achieved success in the last 30 years, Ultimate Warrior owned his character.
He owned the name, the trademarks, could create his own merchandise, and basically go wherever he wanted. In business terms, that’s a great result for Warrior. He lived life exactly as he preached it – entirely on his own terms.
That sounded great to my 12 year old ears, and to be honest it still has huge appeal now I’m 35.
But it all came at a price. Several nasty court cases, lost friends, ridicule and more. For years, he was an outcast in his industry. Was it worth it?
The feud with WWE owner Vince McMahon (who built a billion dollar business out of controlling owning and controlling wrestlers’ characters and suffered a very rare legal defeat to Warrior) only healed very recently and was marked on Saturday night when the company inducted Warrior into its Hall of Fame. On Monday night, Warrior made a speech to fans on Monday Night Raw. Hours later, he was dead.
None of us have any idea when our time is up. This is a powerful reminder that we shouldn’t let feuds foster, that we don’t always get time to let things heal and that sometimes we have to put pride aside, take the initiative and heal a rift. Some things are more important than business.
I talk a lot in this blog about the value of owning your content and controlling your own destiny. That’s hard in wrestling where characters and their success are a true team effort. A big part of what fans remember about the Ultimate Warrior is his ring entrance music. And that had nothing to do with him.
It might be hard in your industry too.
So the Ultimate Warrior passing away is a good time to reflect on how much we rely on the people around us. By all means own and control as much as you can; I want to make sure my vision is fulfilled and that life is lived on my terms and no-one else’s; but is it worth much if achieving that means falling out with the people that helped us along the way?