Less than a year after his WWF television debut, Warrior won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship, defeating The Honky Tonk Man in 27 seconds at the first ever SummerSlam on August 29, 1988. As champion, he captained a team at Survivor Series '88, where he was the sole survivor, pinning Outlaw Ron Bass and Greg Valentine in succession to win the match for his team.
As 1989 began, Warrior entered a feud with Ravishing Rick Rude over the Intercontinental title. The feud was sparked at the 1989 Royal Rumble, where the two met in a "super posedown." After Warrior predictably had the support of the live crowd in their judging of the contest, Rude attacked Warrior and choked him with a steel bar. This led to a championship match at WrestleMania V, where Rude pinned Warrior to win the title with the help of his manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who held down Warrior's foot from outside the ring as he was being pinned. This was Warrior's first pinfall loss in the WWF. At SummerSlam '89, Warrior defeated Rude to regain the title and become a two-time champion. Warrior then began a feud with André the Giant, leading to a number of matches on house shows where Warrior pinned the massive giant in a matter of seconds, firmly establishing Warrior as a main event level talent. The feud culminated at Survivor Series '89 where the two captained opposing teams. Warrior quickly eliminated André by knocking him out of the ring, where he was counted out. Warrior would go on to once again be the sole survivor, pinning Arn Anderson and Bobby Heenan to win the match.
The Warrior was heralded as the wrestler to become the biggest star of the 1990s, and the successor to Hulk Hogan, who had remained wrestling's biggest star throughout the 1980s. Following a few confrontations with Hogan, most notably at the 1990 Royal Rumble, the Warrior was written in as Hogan's opponent in the main event for WrestleMania VI at the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario. The match was billed as "The Ultimate Challenge", as both Hogan's WWF Championship and Warrior's Intercontinental Championship were on the line. Warrior pinned Hogan after a Warrior Splash to become the first wrestler to hold the WWF Championship and Intercontinental Championship simultaneously. Warrior vacated the Intercontinental title, as WWF rules at the time prohibited a wrestler from holding both singles titles.
After WrestleMania, Warrior successfully defended the championship against the likes of Haku, Mr. Perfect and Ted DiBiase. At SummerSlam '90, he retained the title over his old nemesis Rick Rude in a steel cage match. "Macho King" Randy Savage was also introduced as a potential rival after interfering in a Saturday Night's Main Event title match at the behest of DiBiase.
Warrior was inserted into the feud between The Legion of Doom and Demolition, leading to victories for the Warrior and LOD in six-man tag team matches on numerous house shows as well as the July 28, 1990 airing of Saturday Night's Main Event. The feud culminated at Survivor Series, where The Warriors (Ultimate Warrior, LOD and Kerry Von Erich) defeated The Perfect Team (Mr. Perfect and Demolition). For the third consecutive year, Warrior was the sole survivor for his team. He would go on to survive the "Grand Finale Match of Survival" with Hulk Hogan.
In January 1991, Warrior faced Sgt. Slaughter at the Royal Rumble. Slaughter's gimmick at the time was a traitor who had betrayed America by aligning himself with an Iraqi (kayfabe) military general, General Adnan. In the context of the Gulf War, this made Slaughter one of the most hated heels at the time. After rejecting an earlier request to grant a title shot to Savage, Sensational Sherri interjected herself in the Warrior's championship match to distract him. Her interference eventually led to a Savage sneak attack where he struck Warrior over the head with a metal scepter, and Slaughter pinned Warrior to win the title. Warrior would go on to feud with Savage, and the rivalry culminated in a 'Career Ending' match at WrestleMania VII with the Warrior victorious, forcing Savage to retire.
The next chapter of Warrior's career was an encounter with The Undertaker, after Undertaker and his manager, Paul Bearer, locked Warrior in a coffin on the set of Bearer's Funeral Parlor. WWF officials worked feverishly to break the casket open, finally revealing Warrior's seemingly lifeless body, and the torn fabric inside of the coffin indicating Warrior's desperate struggle to get out. Warrior was finally revived by the officials performing CPR. This led to Jake "The Snake" Roberts offering to give Warrior "the knowledge of the dark side" in order to prepare Warrior to take his revenge on the Undertaker. This involved Roberts giving Warrior three "tests" shown on WWF TV in consecutive weeks. For the first test, Roberts locked Warrior inside of a coffin for a second time.
For the second test, Warrior was "buried alive" by Roberts. For the third test, the Warrior entered a room full of snakes, to find "the answer" in a chest in the middle of the room. However, waiting inside the chest was a King Cobra, which (kayfabe) bit Warrior in the face. As Warrior weakened from the effects of the cobra's strike, Roberts was joined by the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, revealing the three were working together all along. Roberts then uttered, "Never trust a snake." The stage was now set for a feud between the Warrior and Roberts. However, the feud would never take place, as Warrior was involved in an alleged pay dispute with WWF owner Vince McMahon over the SummerSlam main event, where Warrior was teamed with Hulk Hogan in a handicap match against Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa, and General Adnan.
He made his comeback at WrestleMania VIII (to rescue Hulk Hogan from a beat down at the hands of Sid Justice and Papa Shango). Upon his return, he received a degree of creative control over his bookings. One storyline involved Papa Shango, a "witch doctor," casting a spell over Warrior, causing him to convulse and vomit in very odd colors. The Warrior was booked for a WWF Championship match against then-champion, "Macho Man" Randy Savage at SummerSlam in August 1992. The Warrior would win the match by count-out but not the title.
In November 1992, Warrior was scheduled to be the tag team partner of Savage, to be known as the Ultimate Maniacs to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon at Survivor Series. However, weeks before the event, Warrior was released for disputed reasons.
Warrior returned to the WWF in March 1996, squashing Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania XII. He made his first appearance on Monday Night Raw on April 8, where he gave an in-ring interview and credited the "voices" of the "warriors" (his name for members of the WWF audience) for his return; he was then interrupted by Goldust. Warrior challenged for Goldust's Intercontinental Championship at In Your House 7; Warrior won the match by countout, but did not win the title. The following night on Monday Night Raw, Warrior defeated Isaac Yankem. A rematch with Intercontinental Champion Goldust, on the May 27 edition of the show, ended in a double countout. Warrior defeated Jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring, and defeated Owen Hart by disqualification on the July 8 edition of Monday Night Raw. Warrior was scheduled to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson to face Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Vader at In Your House 9 later that month, but the WWF terminated Warrior's contract. He was replaced by Sycho Sid at In Your House 9.
On April 5, 2014, the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014. The next day, Warrior appeared at WrestleMania XXX, and the following night on April 7 he delivered a promo on Raw, his first appearance on the show since 1996.
The next day, on April 8, he died of a fatal heart attack.
WWE paid tribute to Warrior on the April 14 Raw with a ten bell salute and a video. The WWE Network aired a lineup dubbed "Warrior Week" in Warrior's memory. The lineup included a four-part special.