Warriors make Ultimate Fathers ...
There is something intangibly comforting about the concept of fatherhood. Even if a person is not blessed with one, there are fantastic examples of what a father can look like and be like. There are founding fathers, heavenly fathers and father figures. There are parts inherently nestled into the patriarchy that seal cracks for those without dads. Somewhere in the cellular memory of civilization, where there is a void, other great men step up. I see so many Ultimate Warrior dads among the WWE Universe as well as the men in every facet of WWE.
I do not have a biological father present in my life. I was, however, gifted with a granddaddy who engrained in me the existence of phenomenal, warrior men. I never forgot what the shine of his love felt like on my little towhead. My grandfather, Thad Cloer, was proof that honorable knights, who would slay dragons for their maidens, lived in the world. As a young woman, I made a promise to myself that the man I chose to marry would be the greatest gift I ever gave my unborn children. I over-delivered: He was actually Ultimate.
The foundation of our marriage was the desire to be parents. The birth of Indiana made Warrior what he always longed to be: a dad. No title ever suited him better. With the birth of Mattigan two years later, I watched fatherhood mastered. Our daughters bloomed beneath his beaming face that always spoke adoration and approval. Never had I seen Warrior more filled with effervescent pride than on the last weekend of his life. Flanked by his warrior girls escorting him at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony, they debuted. Dads have done it since, but never before had daughters escorted a recipient to the induction podium. He was proud of that fact. I sat in the front row, watching the love of my life — bookended by precious cupcakes — float to the spot where he finally made it home. Every WWE dad, mom, son and daughter stood to welcome him.
For all the toughness of this business, I've never seen so much love and heart. It pays to remember the genesis of WWE — a family business passed generation to generation. It then ends up in the hands of a man with technicolor vision, who grew it into the massive, entertainment, megawatt empire it is today. It stands to reason our Chairman, Vincent K. McMahon, would have raised children who chose to be part of the expansive legacy he envisioned from the start. Who knows if Vince McMahon knew the little girl who shares his glint and strut also shared his unparalleled vision for expansion.
“What’s it like being Vince McMahon’s daughter?” WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon wondered. “That was the question I was asked a lot during my childhood and often still to this day. He’s just my dad.
“I’ve never known him as anything else. He was always there to tell me a bedtime story — his stories were better than most books — let me stand on his feet when we danced — the same way he does with my daughters now —and wrap his big arms around me. He made me feel like everything was going to be OK, no matter what was happening in our lives or in the world. Most importantly, I have never doubted, for a second, that my father loves me. And the feeling is more than mutual.”
I’ve been privileged to see this father-daughter bond first hand. I am lucky enough to call Steph one of my dearest and most trusted friends. Watching these two head-to-head in “relaxed” moments of competitive corn toss or melting the dance floor gives me a pleasure I can’t aptly describe. I suppose I am fortunate to stand from a short distance and witness what I always wanted to provide my own daughters: a dad who can run the world, but who is wrapped around the finger of his little girl.
That’s a theme one might not recognize at first blush at WWE. Upon closer inspection, however, daughters dominate many areas of our WWE family. It is no accident there is such a press for the Women’s Evolution and such obvious respect for our female talent. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, with three glorious daughters of his own, has helped our women smash the glass ceiling and transform from Diva status into Superstardom. Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair are two shining examples, as they became the first women in WWE history to main event a pay-per-view and prove what we knew all along: Girls are bada**!
Is it any surprise Charlotte credits much of her drive to her father, WWE icon and 2008 Hall of Fame inductee, Ric Flair?
“Every morning, my dad is the first person to text me ‘Good luck,’ even on a day off!” Charlotte said. “The most important thing he has taught me is to know ‘who I am’ every night before I go to bed. When I was young, I did not like that he was hard on me, but he was preparing me for my future. He believed in me. He encouraged me to love passionately and work as hard as possible, no matter what I do in life, to show and give respect.”
What better legacy can any dad claim?
Natalya became an important friend to the girls and me through the loss of Warrior. Perhaps it takes another daddy’s girl to understand loss, but she has been present ever since. Nattie shows devotion and strength that she credits, in part, to her legendary dad, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.
“My dad taught me so much about being strong, like an Anvil!” Natalya said. “He showed me that being strong isn’t about how much you can lift, but more so that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get back up and keep fighting.”
Fathers set the tone for their children and how they will embrace life. Fathers pass on values, fortitude, work ethic and moral integrity. Fathers teach their boys to be men and their daughters how to be treated by them.
Warrior’s daughters were no different in receiving wisdom from the man who made them the first generation of Warrior Girls.
“I remember one time being so nervous to go on stage,” Indiana recalled. “I looked at my dad and told him that I just couldn’t do it. But he looked at me and said, ‘Good, when you aren’t nervous, you shouldn’t be doing this anymore. It means you don’t care enough. You need to care, Indy. You must always care and always, always believe.’ ”
Sometimes, I feel the loss of Warrior was hardest on Mattigan because they were two peas in a pod. People imagine Mattie is most like Warrior because of her desire to make a run to the ring, but in reality, she’s more like me. She knew how to charm her dad — often more effectively than even I could — all while co-opting my own game. It could have been easy to envy the way Warrior cast eyes upon his baby girl had it not delighted me so. What a father's love could be was all I ever dreamed of as a kid.
“My dad was Ultimate because he showed me what true love is.” Mattigan said. “The way he looked at me and called me ‘cubby bear’ (or grumpy cubby bear depending on the time of day) was so true and pure.”
It really, truly was.
I am blessed to be a mother, but I’ll never be a dad. Indy and Mattie sweetly take me to Father’s Day brunch, saying I fill both boots now and claim Warrior would agree. I am a mama bear, but I’m not a father. I wasn’t lucky enough to have one to offer my daughters once we lost Warrior, but I was smart enough to recognize he was indeed what I promised myself years ago: Warrior was the best gift I ever gave my girls. For my many failings, I believe in keeping my word … always!
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful Warrior men who wear the title with the pride and dignity of a true champion. The world benefits from the lessons you bequeath upon your sons and daughters. Being a father is an honor. Being loved as only a dad can love is a privilege. Fathers are the truest warriors among all other men. Dads who sacredly hold this job are the slayers of monsters, dragons and beasts. True Fathers are Ultimate Heroes in the eyes of their children, then, now and forever.