Hellwig’s drive to improve his body and become a competitive bodybuilder intensified. He moved to Georgia to continue his bodybuilding pursuits and there met Shari Rowe. The two were married on October 2, 1982, Hellwig being 23 at the time while Rowe was 21.
By 1984 Hellwig had become a total weightlifting package; both upper body and lower body had been transformed to make him a remarkable specimen. These photographs from the period reveal how truly massive he had become. Those who remember the Ultimate Warrior remember how incredibly muscular and chiseled he was as a wrestler, but that image does not do justice as to how large Hellwig was during his bodybuilding days.
A passion that had developed in high school had transformed the once diminutive Hellwig into a powerhouse. In 1984 he won the Mr. Georgia bodybuilding competition, which appeared to be a stepping stone to his previously revealed goal of Mr. Olympia. Hellwig’s physique was so impressive during this time that he was put on the cover of Dr. Darden Ellington’s book “Super High-Intensity Bodybuilding”. As can be seen from this photo of the cover, Hellwig was the largest he would ever be in his life. Yet in 1985, one year after his triumph in Georgia, he left bodybuilding to pursue a career in wrestling.
Why did he make the transition? Given his previously stated goal to win Mr. Olympia, it would seem natural for a man with Jim Hellwig’s drive to press towards the apex of the bodybuilding world. However, there were signs that Hellwig had started to become disenfranchised with the competitive bodybuilding industry. During my interview with Kenny Corey he shared that during one of their conversations in the early 80s, the outspoken Hellwig said there “too many fags” in the industry. He also said that judges will not vote for you “if you’re ‘not a fag’”. Hellwig’s anti-gay views are well-established following his heated 2006 speech at the University of Connecticut (which will be discussed in the “Personal Life” page at a later date), but it is also unlikely this was the reason for his departure. A man as success and career driven as Jim Hellwig does not pass up opportunities for advancement, something that can be seen in his wrestling career. More realistically, these are the comments of a 25-year-old in the 80s who had begun to realize that his dream of proving something to the disreputable people of Crawfordsville would not be achieved in bodybuilding.
Jim Hellwig was a small town boy from a poor family with the proverbial “chip on his shoulder”, but more than that he was an intelligent and exceptionally motivated human being. One needs look no further than the shape Hellwig kept himself in through the 80s and 90s. The countless hours he spent working on his body are evidence of that drive and devotion. Yet it is also evident from his career in wrestling and his personal life that he wanted to achieve a high level of financial success. In 1985 a young talent scout and business man named Rick Bassman proposed that Hellwig make the jump from bodybuilding to wrestling. This move would give Hellwig the opportunity to use his talents and become one of the most memorable and complicated icons in WWE history.