Meeting your hero can be an exciting moment. That person you have looked up to, admired, dreamt of being, is standing right in front of you. At that moment what do you do? Do you spill your soul to your icon? Will your hero be every bit as great as you want them to be? Or will they disappoint? For Dylan Postl, better known as Hornswoggle, meeting his hero was everything he thought it would be. In fact, it was picture perfect.

From 1987 to 1992 the WWF had a colourful and super-charged wrestler exciting full arenas and television viewers at home. The Ultimate Warrior was primal, he was powerful, he was explosive and he was flashy. The face-painted icon of young Dylan Postl would sprint to the ring with long hair flowing and neon tassels bouncing. This WWF superstar awed Postl like nothing or no one had before.

“Hornswoggle” Dylan Postl mugs for the camera after signing an autograph. Photo by Caleb Smith

“I didn’t have superheroes,” Postl said at a recent CWF show in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “I didn’t have Spider-Man or Batman I had the Ultimate Warrior that was my guy. Growing up I was a Warrior fanatic. I didn’t care about Hulk Hogan only the Ultimate Warrior.”

At four years old, Postl became enamored with professional wrestling and the Ultimate Warrior. In fact his earliest wrestling related memory is of his grandfather renting Wrestlemania VI for him. The main event featured World heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan against the Intercontinental champion, the Ultimate Warrior. Postl had his grandfather rent that video tape from the store so many times that his family eventually bought him a copy of the event.

Growing up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Postl did have the opportunity to see the stars of the WWF come to an arena near him on a few occasions. One time in particular stuck out in his memory as he got to watch his hero, the Ultimate Warrior, battle “The Macho Man” Randy Savage in a thrilling match. One thing soured his night and that was a high five.

“It was awesome and then my brother got his hand slapped by Ultimate Warrior,” recalled Postl. “It made me really angry because I couldn’t rush the barrier because I was three-foot tall and he was six-foot tall. I was very pissed off. My neighbour saw the Ultimate Warrior at the gas station; I was so mad. That was all I wanted to do was meet him.”

Even though the memory stung Postl, at the age of 27 he was finally able to meet his long-time hero in April 2014. “I wanted to see him and then I got to meet him at WrestleMania 30,” said a sentimental Postl. “I told him all this and it meant something to him. He brought his wife over and explained all this to her. I said to him, ‘You are the reason I got in to this business. You are the reason I am a fan.’ It really touched him. It was really cool and then he asked me to take a picture with him. It was amazing. It was awesome. I have it in my office.”

Then the Ultimate Warrior, who was born Jim Hellwig, asked Postl to have their picture taken together. The fan and the hero, for a moment switching places. Postl’s hero was more than he expected.

The magic moment turned tragic days later. After being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, appearing at WrestleMania 30, and delivering a passionate speech on Monday Night Raw, Warrior died on April 8th in Scottsdale, Arizona, of a heart attack.

Just as meeting the Ultimate Warrior had been a special surprise for Postl, there were forces at work that would help him in his grieving. Renowned artist Rob Schamberger had been friends with Postl for many years. In fact, Postl, working for WWE as Hornswoggle, was one of the wrestlers who brought Schamberger’s art work to the attention of the WWE. Soon Schamberger was commissioned to make paintings and prints of WWE superstars and legends.

Rob Schamberger’s painting of Ultimate Warrior and Hornswoggle.

“Swoggle is a really good friend and we talk frequently,” said Schamberger. “During WrestleMania 30, I sat with him (Hornswoggle) and his family during the preshow and we talked about Warrior quite a bit. My wife and I actually sat in Warrior’s box for the main show, as I had hand-painted the coat he wore the next night on Raw.”

Schamberger and Postl had the opportunity to connect with the Ultimate Warrior in their own way that WrestleMania weekend. “We’re headed back home that Monday and I got a text from Swoggle that he had just met Warrior before Raw and sent me a picture of the two of them together, and how he was still shaking from meeting his childhood hero,” recalled Schamberger. “When Warrior passed away the following day, it was actually Swoggle who let me know. I felt like it would be a great surprise for my friend if I could do that painting of their meeting, that it would be something truly special.”

It is strange when a person who was important to history or popular culture passes away. It is as if that person is forever young through the mediums of television and the internet. They are forever remembered at the apex of their beauty and career. In some ways it tears away a little bit of your childhood. Soon, Postl would get a gift that would raise his spirits and touch him deeply.

“Rob Schamberger, the artist, he surprised me,” said Postl. “After Warrior died he surprised me with a painting of that picture (from Wrestlemania 30). I had no idea. He said, ‘I am sending you something but I can’t tell you what it is or anything about it.’ I opened it up and literally teared up. He took time out of his day to make this painting, this good-sized painting, and Rob is a good dude. For him to do that really meant a lot.”

Sometimes when you meet your hero you can be disappointed. For Postl, his hero was everything he imagined and even more. Now, because of friendship he can cherish his moment with his hero forever.