In 2015, the WWE introduced the Warrior Award, which was presented for the first time ever to Connor Michalek, a Pittsburgh native and passionate WWE fan who passed away from cancer. The award was created in the memory of WWE legend, the Ultimate Warrior, who died shortly after being inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame. The 2016 recipient of the Warrior Award is Joan Lunden. The WWE released a statement, as reported by Wrestling Inc, to announce that Lunden will receive the award during this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony the night before Wrestlemania.
“The Warrior Award is given to someone who has exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who lives life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior… In June, 2014, Lunden was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which required chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Lunden made the decision to take her battle public and has since shared her journey through cancer treatment, becoming a prominent voice in the breast cancer community.”
The Ultimate Warrior’s widow, Dana Warrior, will present the Warrior Award to Lunden, announced first on the Today Show, in which John Cena was the guest host. Dana said she is truly proud to present the Warrior Award, named for her late husband, to Joan Lunden.
“Joan embodies all that this award was meant to capture. She is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the quintessential Warrior woman. It will be an honor to recognize her at this year’s WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.”
Lunden was also humbled by the honor, releasing a statement herself, and also acknowledging the accolade on her Twitter account.
“After being diagnosed with cancer, my first thought was to survive, but soon after, I changed my focus from my cancer to the fight against cancer and my life took on a whole new purpose. WWE has welcomed me into their family, offering me warmth and support, as have so many of the WWE fans from around the world. It is a privilege to receive this honor.”
— Joan Lunden (@JoanLunden) March 28, 2016
Receiving the Warrior Award won’t be the first time Joan Lunden has been involved with the WWE. Back in October, 2014, Lunden appeared on Monday Night RAW to help spread breast cancer awareness with the help of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Jerry “The King” Lawler acknowledged many breast cancer survivors in the Brooklyn audience that night, and then introduced Lunden to the live crowd.
Rather than wallow in the sorrow that cancer can accompany, Lunden began inspiring others in her fight. She created JoanLunden.com as a way to help people living with and surviving from breast cancer. Lunden wrote her most recent book, Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival, which documents her battle with cancer and provides a reflective look back at her life and career. Lunden continues to be an advocate for those diagnosed with the disease, making trips to Capitol Hill, and as a special correspondent for Today‘s Pink Power series.
The first recipient of the Warrior Award, Connor Michalek captured the hearts of the WWE Universe and many of the WWE superstars as well, especially Daniel Bryan. Bryan, who was recently forced into retirement, introduced Connor’s father and brother at the 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony to accept the award on his behalf. In his honor, Connor’s Cure was created as a fund within Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation to support pediatric brain and spinal cord cancer research. To date, Connor’s Cure has raised $1 million and assisted more than 100 families around the world.
[Photo by Don Feria/AP Images for WWE]