It’s Sunday morning as I’m typing this. I’d already finished Smackdown, Impact was already downloaded and I was getting ready to watch it to cover it for the Short Form. For some reason, I decided to check out the wrestling news sites before doing Impact. Five seconds later, I scrapped the Short Form.
No way could I do Impact and put that column up as is. My normal snarky manner just wouldn’t work at a time like this. Plans just went through my mind. I can reuse the lead from that column for Tuesday, I thought; it’s an anti-BCS rant, so I can just do a bit of reediting after the BCS rankings come out. Yes, selfish, I know, but good material is like your baby and you just don’t want to abandon it. But I was thinking about that to get my mind off the situation. I just didn’t want it to sink in.
Eddy was found dead in a hotel room in Minneapolis. My first thought was, “Brian Pillman was found dead in a hotel room in Minneapolis.” My second thought was, “Dear God, please, don’t let it be for the same reason.” The last thing that wrestling needs right now is another drug-related death. That made me reflect back on what I wrote in the past on him after his rehab. Here’s me from April 2nd, 2002:
Okay, let’s deal with it before someone calls me out on charges of hypocrisy. I said that I wouldn’t bring back Eddy Guerrero…and it’s true, I wouldn’t bring him back if I was holding the book. I’m a lot less tolerant of f*ck-ups on the scale of Eddy’s than Vince is. It’s good to have him back, but I wouldn’t have done it if I were in a position to do so, period. (He was released by WWE in November 2001 when he was caught drunk driving shortly after getting out of rehab.)
I stand by that statement to this day. I can also say with confidence (and have in the past) that I’m glad he proved me wrong. He gave us three and a half years of true greatness after that. The Smackdown Six, the world title reign, making misbegotten programs (viz. Rey-Rey) credible due to his intensity and ability, making good programs great (viz. what he was doing with Batista), showing the world what encompasses a true sports entertainer. At the very least, he fought his demons to a standstill. I’m just hoping for everyone’s sake that he conquered them rather than let them start another offensive against him.
I’m thinking of the workers. Obviously, we know what’s going to happen tonight in Minny at the supershow. Both locker rooms will be out there for the ten-bell. There’s going to be lots of crying from the boys; it’s going to be very strange to see Dave Batista and John Leyfield crying, but they’re going to, because they both owe a lot of their success to him. No one back there disliked him. He was someone you could point to as a role model. Was around the business from birth, had the right attitude and could teach it, was someone you could cite as a person who suffered for his dedication and insecurity but returned from the depths to even greater heights. They’ll honor him.
Will the shows do the same? Like me, “creative” is at a keyboard right now trying to figure a way out of this. If I could travel up there today (and it’s so simple for me to do it; I live right off I-35 and I don’t even have to change interstates to make it there), I’d tell them this: go Raw Is Owen on both shows. Most of SurSer is on autopilot right now. They can hold back on finishing the card until they get to Sheffield next week. Give the Mexicools the mic and have Juvi tell the audience what the Guerrero family means to Mexican wrestlers. Have Benoit talk about Japan. Have Tazz or Van Dam (if he can make it) talk about ECW. Have Booker talk about WCW. Have Ken Kennedy come to the ring and mention the fact that he was Eddy’s last opponent, and what an honor it was to wrestle him. Let the workers tell everyone what Eddy really meant to them. If Chavito wants to do it, have him abandon Kerwin White for a night (or forever) and put him in the ring against Chris Benoit and give them twenty. Have Bisch and Long do a backstage promo and agree that Eddy can’t be replaced on the Smackdown team, so Bisch will cut Chris Masters and the match will be four-on-four.
The point is, we want to grieve with them. WWE knows this. I just hope that they can follow through on this.
It’s going to help the workers that they’re going to Europe tomorrow. Putting distance between them and the situation will assist in the grieving. I had just arrived in Europe when my grandmother died, and I know that the five-thousand-mile separation helped me in that hour. It’ll mean that they can’t attend the funeral. Vickie will understand, of course. She knows the business, she knows that the guys can’t be there. The wrestling community will still be well-represented, though.
That leaves one final issue: why am I doing this? I mean, let’s face it, wrestling deaths are not exactly rare. However, deaths of wrestlers who were a constant presence on TV, in the upper-card, and at the peak of their in-ring and creative skills are rare. I didn’t have a column when Brian Pillman died. I didn’t have one when Owen Hart died. I do now, and there’s this clause in the social contract that obligates me to express my feelings. This is a Life Cut Short Situation, one in which the decedent had so much more to give us, the audience. This is a situation that leads to “What Ifs” in the future. I have a need, a desire, and a forum to try to fill in some of those blanks we’re going to have, to attempt to close things a little, so we don’t dwell on them.
But the major reason, I guess, is this: everyone knows that I’m not an emotional person. Right now, I’m hurting. I’m hurting for what was, what is, and what could have been. And I don’t like that feeling.
The least I can say, therefore, is “Thank you, Eddy, for everything you’ve done, and safe journey.”