1992 WWF Return

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Fans of WWF found themselves confused in the weeks that followed SummerSlam 1991 as the popular Ultimate Warrior character had vanished.  The internet did not exist, which meant casual wrestling fans were left to wonder where the superstar had gone.  Those who were more enthusiastic about sports entertainment were turning to newsletters and magazines to find answers.  In the September 6th issue of the “Wrestling Observer”, Dave Meltzer reported that that Hellwig had been suspended for 90 days over a financial dispute.  Meltzer wrote, “I believe the real story is that Warrior may not be returning, but the final decision probably hasn’t been made…”  This report was largely accurate, though the full story had not yet made its way to the public. 

 

Vince McMahon had been furious with his young star for threatening to sit out of all future events, including SummerSlam, unless he got the same pay Terry Bollea received for portraying Hulk Hogan.  In 2009, McMahon would be asked about the controversy over pay in a legal deposition, “I can’t have two Hulk Hogans, you know, appearing at the same time.  That would be a financial disaster for that event”.  The payout sheet for SummerSlam ’91 shows that Hogan, Warrior, and Randy Savage all received $75,000 for their participation.  However, Bollea was the only individual listed who received a bonus, in this case for $15,000. 

 

McMahon was clearly concerned about the long-term ramifications of trying to pay both Bollea and Hellwig the large sums of money involved.  Beyond that, there was the larger problem that if Vince gave into Hellwig’s demands: What would prevent Hogan, Savage, or other popular performers from making their own demands?  Perhaps the biggest issue was that paying Hellwig the same as Bollea was not worth the return investment.  McMahon had given up on replacing Hulk Hogan with Ultimate Warrior, which resulted in Hellwig having a comparatively brief title run.  Bollea had made the decision easier for McMahon by not going through with being mostly retired, allowing Vince to make him champion again. 

 

By the time Hellwig had made his demands, McMahon appears to have cooled on the Ultimate Warrior character.  That is not to say that the Ultimate Warrior was not hugely popular, or a valuable commodity, but Vince no longer believed he could build the company around him.  McMahon’s anger over Hellwig’s financial demands, combined with that lost faith, made Hellwig’s future in wrestling uncertain. 

 

Jim Hellwig returned to his new home in Santa Fe, and despite the uncertainty about his future, he was unrepentant about his dealings with WWF.  In October of 1991, Hellwig sent a letter to Vince that he wanted to officially resign.  McMahon replied later in the month agreeing to accept the resignation, provided certain mutual terms were met, one of them being the resignation would not be valid until September 27th, 1992, when Hellwig’s contract expired.  McMahon had suspended Hellwig in order to keep him under contract, rather than let him quickly jump ship to a competitor like WCW.  WWF had ownership of the Ultimate Warrior at this juncture, so there was no guarantee the character would be seen again.

 

The WWF had a strong roster in 1991, which had been enriched by the soaring popularity of Mark Callaway’s Undertaker, and the signing of Sid Eudy shortly before Hellwig’s dismissal.  The rich got richer when McMahon signed the legendary Richard Fliehr, alias Ric Flair, the reigning NWA world champion, who had been fired by WCW during the summer of that year.  Hogan was again the champion after deciding not to retire, and McMahon was taking every measure to ensure Hellwig would not wrestle for anybody else. 

 

Jim Hellwig’s well-being at the time is difficult to determine, but the evidence is that he was emotionally struggling.  His life had fallen apart in 1991 with his wife divorcing him, McMahon giving up on the plan to make him the new Hogan, and then losing his job.  For the first time since he began his bodybuilding career, Jim Hellwig ceased dedicating himself to maintaining his impeccable physique.  As he stated in 1992, “When I came back-- I had been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico for eight months, and my priorities weren’t how I looked or appeared every night in front of twenty-thousand people, so I came back at a lesser body weight, not as hard and lean--as muscular.”  By any normal standard, and even by the standard of his wrestling contemporaries, Hellwig looked great, but he was smaller and not as defined. 

 

One possibility for Hellwig’s loss of size is that he had stopped using steroids, either because they were expensive or unnecessary in his new situation.  He had made over $1.3 million dollars in the previous year, but he had also gone through a divorce, not to mention existing debts and expenses he had accrued over the past several years in his lucrative new lifestyle.  Another factor seems to be that Hellwig was struggling with depression over the dramatic turn his life had taken.  Evidence of this will be discussed below, but it appears Jim was having a difficult time processing all of the loss he had experienced, which included his relationship with Vince McMahon. 

 

Professional wrestling had been Hellwig’s world for the past six years.  The only family he had been close with was his wife, who was no longer around.  He kept his biological family at a distance, even going years without speaking to his mother.  Hellwig had embraced Vince McMahon like a surrogate father, and that surrogate father had just rejected him.  All accounts indicate that Hellwig was not particularly close with any of his colleagues, save Kerry Von Erich, and many felt ostracized by him.  Yet these were the people he had been on the road with three-hundred plus days a year, and now even that social engagement, however much or little that may have been, had also disappeared.  Considering he largely kept his co-workers at arms-length, it seems unlikely many were calling to check on his well-being.  Jim Hellwig was hurting and alone, but his career was not finished. 

 

As 1991 was coming to a close, McMahon began making changes that would open the door for the Ultimate Warrior’s triumphant return.  Terry Bollea’s workload would be reduced in 1992 in the way it was supposed to be reduced in 1990, when Hellwig briefly took the reins as the number one talent.  Bret Hart would be getting his first big push from McMahon that year, Randy Savage was back in action after a brief “retirement” in 1991, and Ric Flair rounded out a very talented, though historically small top roster.  McMahon’s proclivity for over-sized wrestlers had not vanished, but there were matters bigger than wresting at play. 

 

As early as 1989, Titan Sports had become aware that they may come under investigation over the use of illegal drugs, particularly steroids, in the WWF.  McMahon began to recognize the increased potential that the United States government could bring federal charges, which led to significant changes in 1992.  WWF launched a “Drug Testing and Rehabilitation Project” on March 16th of that year in the hopes of avoiding legal issues.  McMahon began incorporating smaller talent that was not overtly abusing steroids at the top of his roster, though he still had a penchant for massive wrestlers.  Sid Eudy had come in expecting to take Hogan’s spot, but McMahon reversed course and decided to make him the newest giant heel in the vein of Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, or King Kong Bundy.  Likewise, Mark Callaway’s Undertaker was a large, nefarious presence with growing popularity, but Hogan would be stepping aside from main events, leaving a void in the roster.

 

McMahon contacted Hellwig in early 1992 about returning to the WWF, approximately six months after their falling out.  This was the first of many reconciliations as part of a rocky relationship history that would only grow more convoluted over the next twenty-two years.  Had the two of them known how toxic things would be for decades to come, they may well have reconsidered doing business again.  Whether Hellwig or McMahon recognized it at the time, their once close relationship was never going to be the same following their mutually hostile letters in the summer of 1991.

 

McMahon was still the closest thing Hellwig had to a father figure, but Jim was naturally mistrustful and built new walls to protect himself from Vince.  On the contrary, McMahon never seemed to view Hellwig as a son, but he believed they were close friends before the fallout.  Regardless of their feelings, both men understood the value of the Ultimate Warrior character.  The Warrior’s sudden disappearance had not caused his fan base to disappear.  “Little Warriors” were still showing up at events with face paint, signs, and posters, many who still had no idea where their favorite performer had gone.  Vince McMahon is known for many things, but allowing personal feelings to get in the way of making money is not one of them. 

 

A new two-year contract was signed on April 2nd of 1992 to bring the Ultimate Warrior back in dramatic fashion.  This contract provided more specific details than the first contract about percentages to be received on matters of licensing, video specials, and other specific nuances.  WWF offered a standard 25% on many of these items, but Hellwig successfully pushed back for greater percentages, usually an extra 5% in each line item.  With the contract in place, Ultimate Warrior would make his return three days later at Wrestlemania VIII in the main event.  His return would both thrill fans and begin an urban legend that the original Ultimate Warrior had died.

 

The climax of Wrestlemania VIII was a match between Bollea’s Hulk Hogan and Eudy’s Sid Justice, which was billed as possibly being Hulk Hogan’s final bout.  The moment was set up beautifully with Hogan being caught in the ropes by Justice, and a new character, “Papa Shango”, attacking the defenseless Hogan.  As the crowd waited for reinforcements to save the wrestling legend, Jim Johnston’s “Unstable” theme song rang out and sent the audience into a frenzy, which reached a fever pitch when Warrior burst through the curtains and sprinted a lengthy distance to the ring.  Hellwig clotheslined Papa Shango, portrayed by Charles Wright, out of the ring, and after Hogan ran Sid Justice off the mat, the two icons from Wrestlemania VI were left to stand in the ring and play to the crowd.  McMahon had gone out of his way to replace Hellwig live on pay-per-view just seven months before by having Eudy close out the SummerSlam performance while Hellwig was being fired.  It is unlikely that the decision to have Hellwig close Wrestlemania VIII with Bollea was accidental after the SummerSlam insult.  This was a move of redemption, a theatrical gesture to rewrite an ugly moment, and the audience loved it, even as some of them thought they were seeing a different Ultimate Warrior. 

 

Hellwig was noticeably smaller than he had been the previous summer, and despite being in excellent shape, he did not have the shear size and definition that was standard for his physique.  Additionally, his hair was several inches shorter than it had been through most of his time as the Ultimate Warrior.  The combination of Ultimate Warrior’s sudden disappearance, then his unexpected return with a new look, led some to believe that the original Warrior had died and been replaced.  This wrestling urban legend persisted for at least fifteen years after Wrestlemania VIII, and it agitated Hellwig enough that on his “Warrior’s Machete” blog, this was one of the first items he felt the need to address.  “I am not dead.  Nor have I ever died.  Don’t laugh.  There are plenty of kooks (too many) who write and inform me that I am or that I have – and then demand I write back and confirm it!” 

 

The legend of a new Ultimate Warrior was understandable in a period where there was less access to information, and wrestling received a fraction of the media coverage it does today.  However, in the press conference that took place after the event, Hellwig did not stay in character and spoke as himself.  He was nearly thirty-three at the time and as he talked to the press, still in makeup but being Jim Hellwig, his excitement about being back was obvious.  The young wrestler had a beaming smile that complimented his expressed joy in returning to the public eye.  Hellwig was thrilled about the ovation he received, and told the press he had taken some time off to recuperate. Jim Hellwig’s life had been turned upside-down in 1991, but he was back in the role that had given him international fame. 

 

The reaction Ultimate Warrior had elicited from the crowd demonstrated that his enormous popularity was intact, and that he was still good for business.  A more pressing matter was how Hellwig would be received by the other talent after trying to ransom McMahon for more money.  Hellwig had already ostracized himself from much of the roster before his fallout with Vince, and the threat to sit out events in ‘91 offended some who saw it as putting the show, and their checks, at risk.  There are also serious questions regarding Hellwig’s mental state after suffering so much trauma the year before, and largely finding himself alone over the past seven months. 

 

WWF intended to push the Ultimate Warrior immediately by putting him against Sid Eudy, who they were promising to make the biggest heel in their history. However, this plan failed disastrously and WWF lost Eudy, at least in part, because of this pairing.  Eudy discussed the problem in an interview with “Title Match Network” (Watch Here), and attributes working with Hellwig to the reason he departed.  Hellwig and Eudy had a pair of matches two weeks after Wrestlemania VIII in Boston and Baltimore.  As Eudy describes it, Hellwig not only displayed bizarre behavior, he also insisted on matches filled with a bunch of clotheslines and powering out of the Sid Justice character’s finish.  Eudy did not agree to this as he had his own character and career to protect.  However, in the early show at Boston, Hellwig powered out of Justice’s finishing move, which angered Eudy.  Unwilling to allow this behavior to continue, Eudy went to the WWF brass overseeing the house shows and made it clear that if it happened again later that day in Baltimore, he would quit.  Perhaps the WWF did not take it seriously, maybe they caved to Hellwig, or maybe Hellwig did not care, but Hellwig did the same thing in Baltimore and Eudy was done.  He left the WWF that day, and next performed for WCW a year later, likely having to ride out the remaining time on his contract (Sid Justice Cagematch Info).  WWF had just lost an enormous and popular talent in Eudy, which probably could have been avoided had they taken his concern seriously.

 

Hellwig likely had a different take on these events, but whatever they were appears to be unknown. Eudy’s account is not flattering, though it is probably accurate.  In Hellwig’s third run with the WWF, to be discussed in a later section, he did almost the exact same thing to Paul Levesque at Wrestlemania XII, ruining the debut experience of the young Hunter Hearst Helmsley.  Whether Eudy’s account is the whole story or not, he left the WWF and would not return for several years.  Accusations like this followed Hellwig throughout his time in professional wrestling, and though several complained of his being difficult, this sentiment was not universal.

 

WWF paired Hellwig with Charles Wright, and the two worked dozens of shows together over a period of several months, getting along well.  James Harris portrayed “Kamala: the Ugandan Giant”, and not only did he work with Hellwig in 1992, he wrote glowing things about Hellwig’s kindness in his book, Kamala Speaks.  Harris shared stories about how Hellwig gave him rides in his limousine, and was very generous to Harris, who, not only struggled with diabetes, but was nine-years-older than Jim. Though Harris’s experience may not have been typical of how other talent saw Jim Hellwig, it reveals the good-natured side of the polarizing wrestler.  Hellwig and Randall Poffo also had a good relationship, and the two would once again work together in 1992.

 

Many of the indictments raised against Hellwig seem to be centered around his first tenure with WWF, and some claimed his arrogance had reached its peak when he was chosen to be Bollea’s replacement.  Jealousy may well have played a role in how others viewed Hellwig during that period, yet there is also evidence that Hellwig treated some colleagues poorly.  Such realities should not be surprising as Jim Hellwig was an emotionally scarred human being.  The highs and lows he underwent in his life, going back to his youth, had caused him to be distrustful, guarded, and self-reliant.  As he grew older, he would increasingly wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he took his former industry to task in both writings and speaking engagements.  Perhaps no longer being at the top of the roster caused his contemporaries to scrutinize him less, or maybe he had undergone changes in his absence, but 1992 appears to have run smoother than any other period of his time with WWF.  Regardless of what looked to be a better situation for all involved, the steroid issue was brewing behind the scenes, and several performers would be caught in the fallout.

 

The McMahons had implemented their stringent new drug policy in an effort to avoid Vince possibly facing charges for his role in helping talent obtain steroids.  In 1988 the federal government engaged in an effort to crack down on steroid trafficking, implementing new laws that made previous legal steroid distribution illegal (Dan O’Sullivan has written an excellent article on McMahon’s trial).  Dr. George Zahorian was a urologist from Hershey, Pennsylvania who, from 1984 to 1989, freely supplied WWF talent with steroids, pain killers, and anything else his prescription pad could provide.  Despite the stringent new laws passed in 1988, Zahorian did not stop providing this service, and the government began trying to make a case against him.  WWF became aware that Pennsylvania was eyeing Zahorian in 1989, causing Linda McMahon to send an inter-office memo to Pat Patterson saying they should no longer have Zahorian coming to their live events as a ringside physician. 

 

On March 27th, 1990, a grand jury indicted Zahorian on 15 counts of illegal distribution (Read Article), and on December 27th of 1991, he was sentence to three years in prison (Original AP Report). Four of McMahon’s wrestlers testified at the Zahorian trial, most notably Roderick Toombs, better known as Rowdy Roddy Piper.  The case further showed that 37 of the 43 wrestlers Zahorian sold drugs to were employed by McMahon.  The Zahorian conviction terrified the McMahons, which led them to launch their new rehabilitation policy on March 16th of 1992, just weeks before Hellwig returned to action.

 

Random urinalysis was conducted at venues around the United States, and the new drug policies made suspension or termination possible for positive tests.  WWF hired Dr. Mauro DiPasquale to oversee their program.  Jim Hellwig underwent eight tests between May and October of 1992, and the results tell an important story on various levels.  His initial test was conducted on May 4th, a month after his return, and it was evident to DiPasquale that Hellwig had been using testosterone.  A male normally has a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 1:1 to 2:1, though some men can have naturally higher ratios.  WWF established a 6:1 ratio as the line for a positive test, the same ratio used in the Olympics to declare evidence of drug use.  Every wrestler received a baseline test to begin, and each subsequent test would be used to determine if they were taking booster doses or getting clean. 

 

Hellwig’s first test came back 71:0.9, which is a T/E ratio of 78, consistent with someone who had been using testosterone.  WWF now knew that Hellwig had been using steroids, but the question was would he stop given the new policies. The next test was conducted on June 7th and his numbers came back 110:3.5, which equate to a T/E ratio of 31.  In other words, his body was adjusting and his T/E ratio was falling as the doctor expected with his system normalizing itself.  Another test on June 19th came back as 9.4:3.5, making his T/E ratio 3, and it appeared his numbers were on their way to complete normalcy. 

 

However, on July 31st Hellwig’s test came back 45:1.3, meaning his T/E ratio had shot up from 3 to 35 in a little more than a month.  DiPascale told Hellwig he did not like the surging ratio, yet Hellwig denied taking booster shots, and DiPascale did not declare it a positive test due to “mitigating circumstances”.  Then came the August 16th test where the ratio fell again, coming in at 50:3.5 for a T/E of 14, but Hellwig tested positive for a new anabolic steroid.  Once again, he denied knowingly using any banned substance, and once again DiPasquale gave the benefit of the doubt.  The doctor attributed the positive test to a possible accidental ingestion caused by “Yohimbe bark”, which Hellwig had received at the gym, and may have unknowingly been coated with the steroid.  The documented evidence leaves an impression that Dr. DiPasquale was giving an abundance of grace to the performers when it came to declaring positive tests.  It begs the question of how serious this testing program was given the leniency involved. 

 

Hellwig’s T/E ratio fell to 5.7 on his September 11th test, then shot up to 12 on the September 19th test.  The final urinalysis occurred on October 24th and the ratio had climbed to 17, which was exponentially lower than his first test, but was still much higher than it should have been.  DiPasquale never deemed any of these tests positive, despite what would seem obvious evidence to the contrary.  Regardless, additional troubles would fall on Hellwig when Titan discovered that he had attempted to acquire Human Growth Hormone (HGH).  Shortly after Hellwig returned to WWF, he gave David Smith, “The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith”, $5,000 to acquire HGH from the United Kingdom.  Dr. Zahorian was no longer available to give the wrestlers prescriptions for sale, which meant they had to rely on other sources.  However, when the package reached Hellwig in June, there was a note in the box that the vials had been seized by customs. 

 

Vince McMahon could feel the increasing pressure of potential charges against him, and in mid-November he tried to bolster his position in the eyes of the US government by firing some of his talent.  Jim Hellwig and David Smith were easy targets given their overly muscular physiques, and were fired during this purge.  Despite the fact that WWF’s own physician had not deemed Hellwig to have any positive tests, his attempt to acquire HGH gave them leverage.  Titan now had the ability to claim that Hellwig had illegally attempted to distribute HGH, and that such illegal activity was in violation of their policy.  It is unclear when Titan learned about the failed attempt to acquire HGH, but the fact that customs had seized the vials in June, and Hellwig was not terminated until November, raises questions about whether they were keeping this information as a trump card in the event they needed one. 

 

Survivor Series 1992 was marred by sudden changes to the product that WWF had advertised, most notably Hellwig’s Ultimate Warrior was supposed to perform with Randal Poffo as a tag team against Ric Flair and Scott Hall’s Razor Ramon.  McMahon’s failure to deliver the advertised product to his audience calls into question the criticism that he leveled against Hellwig for threatening to sit out SummerSlam the year before.  Both at that time, and for years to come, McMahon declared that Hellwig not showing up to an advertised event would cause irrevocable harm to the WWF.  Yet, this is exactly what McMahon did when he chose to fire Hellwig in November, just two weeks before his advertised appearance at Survivor Series. 

 

WWF’s own physician had not designated any of Hellwig’s tests positive, nor had Hellwig successfully obtained HGH.  This is not to say Jim Hellwig was innocent of any such violations, but regardless of what his tests seemed to show, the company physician had not found him in violation.  The fact that McMahon was willing to fire Hellwig, causing what was by Vince’s own standard irrevocable harm for failing to provide the performers he had advertised, reveals a double standard that undoubtedly left Jim embittered.  Hellwig would say in later years that he was scapegoated by Vince, which is true to the extent that he was not officially in violation of the new policy.  What McMahon seemed to be saying when he spoke of irrevocable harm caused by not providing the talent advertised, was that it was unacceptable damage if an employee initiated the change to what was advertised, but not when Vince himself called an audible. 

 

On the contrary, Vince’s hypocrisy may just as well have been a product of fear knowing that the government was mulling federal charges, and that George Zahorian was cooperating with them.  The untimely end of Jim Hellwig’s second run with the company was less a product of Hellwig, and more about McMahon’s ultimately vain attempts to protect himself.  Hellwig may not have been innocent of illegal steroid use, but the only real accusation WWF could bring against him was a failed attempt to buy HGH, which they also claimed he intended to distribute. 

 

Since none of the tests were deemed positive, WWF had to appeal to the “Discipline for Violation of Law” clause in their drug guidelines to fire Jim for steroid related behavior.  This clause reads, “Any WWF talent who is convicted or admits to a violation of law relating to use, possession, purchase, sale, or distribution of steroids or related substance...” will be subject to discipline.  Hellwig had not been convicted of anything, and no charges were filed, nor did he receive the HGH.  WWF fired Hellwig essentially for a failed attempt to break the law, but this was not consistent with their policy.  The first offense for a violation of law was being suspended without pay for six weeks, and a second offense was termination.  Even if WWF had wanted to cite positive tests, three of those were required for termination, and there is no record of Hellwig receiving any suspension during 1992 prior to termination.  The conclusion must be drawn that WWF operated in violation of its own policies when it fired him, never offering the suspension period they had outlined. 

 

There are many valid criticisms of Jim Hellwig’s wrestling career, and at times he was his own worst enemy, but 1992 was not one of those occasions.  Hellwig was attempting to put the pieces of his life back together following an extraordinarily difficult year.  The Ultimate Warrior’s return to the spotlight had given him an anchor to normalcy, a chance to portray the character he loved and make the money he had become accustomed to as a superstar.  Regardless of whether Hellwig took banned substances, he was used as a pawn by McMahon to demonstrate a supposed “crackdown” on steroids that bypassed the very regulations WWF talent was supposed to follow.  Yet the drug tests reveal a deeper, emotional struggle Hellwig was undergoing during that year.

 

The talent was required to list both the prescription and non-prescription drugs they were using before each test.  Motrin was the only drug listed on that first test, while the second showed nasal spray and Tylenol III, which is Tylenol with codeine.  The third test shows use of Excel, a treatment for gingivitis, and BuSpar, an anxiety medication.  Over a month later his fourth test reveals that Hellwig was still taking Excel, BuSpar, and had added Vicodin to his regimen.  Just over two weeks later he is still using Excel, BuSpar, and Vicodin, but was also taking Tylenol.  The extended use of gingivitis medication is interesting as steroid use can cause inflammation of the gums. 

 

Hellwig appears to have been struggling with both extended pain and anxiety as his sixth test came in September and he was using BuSpar, Excel, Valium for anxiety, Percocet for pain, and Soma, a muscle relaxer.  Eight days later he was tested again, and had developed an infection that required him to take the antibiotic Cipro, Penicillin, and he continued to use Percocet, Tylenol, Excel, and Valium.  By his last test, the drug use had expanded to Valium, Cortisone, Tylenol III, BuSpar, and an insomnia medication called Placidyl.  He further lists the use of a drug called Solmin which appears to be a spelling error and is an unknown substance, though it could be the previously used muscle relaxer Soma.  Lastly, Hellwig lists Palapmor, which also seems to be a misspelling, this time of Pamelor, used to treat depression and mood disorders.    

 

The medical documentation of 1992 is a chronicle of accelerated drug use in an effort to cope with pain, anxiety, depression, and difficulties sleeping.  Hellwig was taking a cocktail of drugs to address emotional issues that may have been exacerbated by being back in wrestling, though there are other factors to be considered.  The available evidence suggests Hellwig had been using PEDs prior to his return, and his attempts to wean himself from this use may have caused anxiety and mood swings.  His mental condition would not have been helped by taking the booster shots he was suspected to have used.  Then there is the fact that Hellwig was back to the challenging grind of professional wrestling, which included subjecting himself to physical pain and extensive travel.  Hellwig was also utterly dedicated to working out on a daily basis in a manner few other wrestlers could claim.  Painkillers are a well-documented staple of wrestling culture, and Hellwig was no exception to this as seen in his use of Vicodin, Percocet, and other pain relief agents. 

 

Years later, in 2008, Jim Hellwig would take the late Heath Ledger to task for abuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs that led to his death.  He called the actor “Leather Hedger”, and claimed his daughter was better off not having the bad influence in her life.  These comments are horrible, but his own use of such drugs during 1992 makes the critique truly baffling.  How it is that he could criticize Ledger to that degree, knowing he had himself leaned heavily on prescription and non-prescription drugs, and steroids?  Perhaps he felt free to condemn the young actor since Hellwig had not overdosed, meaning he felt he had done things “the right way”.  It also has to be considered that Hellwig was transferring deep-seeded shame he had harbored for years about his own drug use onto Ledger, failing the self-awareness test dramatically.  The motivation for saying such a thing may never be known, but what is known is that Hellwig had found himself struggling, and needing drugs to cope with his situation, when he also was a young performer. 

 

It is important to remember that by the time Hellwig was fired in 1992, he was just over a year from his initial parting of ways with WWF.  A lot had happened between August of 1991 and November of 1992, and psychologically he was still processing the loss of his wife, career, and the betrayal he felt from his father figure Vince McMahon.  Hellwig was a committed performer who had done four years with WWF the first time, and felt like he had just begun to hit his stride in 1992 when he was released once more. Now after a mere seven months he was once again without a job, and again felt betrayed by his mentor and surrogate father. 

 

The fact that WWF went straight to firing Hellwig probably left him feeling like he had been used as a pawn for McMahon to appear sincere in his quest to clean up the promotion.  It is valid to wonder if one reason McMahon brought Hellwig back, just around the time he launched the new drug policy, was to have Hellwig on roster in the event he felt the government noose tightening.  Historically, this would not be the only reason McMahon would rehire Hellwig.  Vince McMahon had succeeded in wrestling by making smart business decisions, and he knew the Ultimate Warrior was a character of significant equity, given he had been essential in building that equity.  Yet, it is not a stretch of the imagination to consider that Vince was thinking ahead about the optics of firing high-profile talent, should he feel the pressure build about his soft stance on steroids.  Whatever the reasons truly were, the end-result was that Jim Hellwig was once again without a job, and uncertain what the future held.

 

In the aftermath of these events, McMahon’s theatrics to avoid federal indictment failed, and the government came for him.  The United States brought charges in 1993 for defrauding and misleading the government, and distributing steroids.  Hellwig was called to testify before a grand jury on April 1st, 1993, and was given immunity for his story.  Hellwig claimed that the wrestlers were frustrated that they were not allowed to use steroids, while the talent in Vince’s “World Bodybuilding Federation” were clearly using and not being penalized.  He admitted to using HGH in 1984, and trying unsuccessfully to obtain it through David Smith.

 

McMahon’s case went to trial and he fully believed he was going to federal prison, possibly for a decade.  Vince called his friend Jerry Jarrett and asked him to take over the WWF when he was sentenced.  The McMahons were naturally terrified when the trial began in the summer of 1994, however, the 18-day affair was anything but a disaster for them.  The federal government failed to make its case that McMahon was engaged in illegal efforts to distribute steroids.  Though it was common knowledge that the wrestlers were using steroids, trying to prove McMahon was involved in a criminal conspiracy was a much bigger challenge. 

 

On July 23rd McMahon was found not guilty.  Vince was still on top of the wrestling world, and he was walking away from the steroid scandal legally unblemished.  Unbeknownst to McMahon, he would have years of litigation ahead of him, yet it had nothing to do with the federal government.  Vince would be defending himself against Jim Hellwig, who after a final run with WWF in 1996, took his one-time mentor to court over the rights to the Ultimate Warrior character.