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We last saw The Ultimate Warrior in 1992, facing Savage for the WWF title at Summerslam. Warrior left the company soon after, given the vultures were beginning to circle surrounding the steroid trial that would eventually take place in 1994, having one of their most prominent and obvious steroid users around wasn’t a good look. Warrior would resurface in 1995 (garnering a mention on one of Mean Gene Okerlund’s Hotlines), but only working independent dates. His return to the national scene would be at Wrestlemania XII a year later.
It seems like Jim Hellwig was simply not available to WCW at that time (he would appear in WCW, but in 1998). So if you can't sign him, copy him, right? That’s what the company did. They actually did it briefly in 1994 with “Jungle Jim Steele”. Steele was less of a direct rip off and more someone who had a similar build who was pushed in that direction. He appeared infrequently on WCW TV, defeated The Equalizer at Superbrawl 1994, before ultimately being released. Steele ended up working a number of years in Japan as “Wolf Hawkfield”, not before he made a one shot appearance in ECW mid-1995, writing off his Jungle Jim character in some style on the receiving end of six chokeslams from 911 in a memorable angle.
But fast forward to March of 1995 and Hulk Hogan began making promises of the debut of his “Ultimate Surprise”. Vader had formed an alliance with Arn Anderson and the currently retired Ric Flair, Hogan had Savage on his side but needed a third man. They couldn’t deliver Warrior himself, but there was nothing stopping them delivering someone very similar, right? They signed a relatively unknown wrestler called Rick Wilson, who other than being about four inches shorter had a very similar physique and similar length hair. They dressed him up in similar gear, painted a Red and Yellow “R” on his forehead, and even considered calling him “The Ultimate Renegade”, before rightly thinking better of it.
Renegade’s debut was actually very well executed. Hogan, Savage, Vader, Flair and Anderson were all in the ring, with the heels outnumbering the faces three on two. Then the Ultimate Warrior’s theme hit… well, something that sounded extraordinarily like the Warrior’s theme. Jimmy Hart did as Jimmy Hart could and came up with almost a carbon copy of the Warrior theme that barely had any difference. So much a portion of the crowd popped like it was the Ultimate Warrior. Wilson came storming to the ring, a la Warrior, and got right in Ric Flair’s face. The numbers were even, the Hogan/Vader match was on.
To Wilson’s credit, his debut was actually very effective. Sure, it’s easy to make an impression when you’re given carte blanche to go out and sell almost nothing – as Renegade did – but the story was an effective way to introduce the character, and played well into the wider storylines it was supporting. Hogan would end up winning the strap match by dragging Flair (yes, Flair, not Vader – who was in the match) around all four corners.
The problem WCW had was that while The Renegade was quite a cool concept in an enforcer type role, it just didn’t translate afterwards. Once they started putting Renegade into in ring action, even in pre-taped matches at centre stage, it became clear that Renegade was quite capable of copying Warrior’s negative traits – like his inability to work, but was incapable of duplicating many of the things that made Warrior so great – like his charisma. The company paired him with Jimmy Hart, a combination that reminded you Jimmy Hart was very capable of adding very little to an act when he wanted to, his impact on Hogan’s run in WCW was almost as non-existant, despite being by Hogan’s side at every turn.
So how did WCW respond to this development? They gave him the Television Title, of course. While we could handle him in pre-tapes holding a Championship belt meant that Renegade would also be gracing our screens on pay per view too. And this was the crux of the issue; Renegade wasn’t a bad wrestler – he was simply awful. They tried putting him with Orndorff, but Renegade was so bad the heel Orndorff actually started getting cheered. Mercifully, the Renegade matches were at least short, but that couldn’t cover the fact that he just wasn’t good enough for a role on a national stage. Eventually the company gave up on him, and he lost the Television Title to Diamond Dallas Page.
Renegade would stick around in WCW for another three years, but that was the end of his push and he quickly became utilised as a jobber for the remaining time in the company. Tragically, Wilson committed suicide just a few months after his WCW release in 1999.