When I was deep into wrestling for the second time in my life–during the height of the WCW/WWF Monday Night Wars–and also during the internet boom that changed the face of wretling forever–I was asked repeatedly who my favorite wrestlers were. There was The Rock, of course–the best talker I’ve ever seen. There was Austin–a character unlike anyone before or after. There were flyers like Mysterio, wrestlers like Benoit, brawlers like Raven and Dreamer in ECDub. There were guys I respected for those specific, individual things they did better than anyone else. It was hard to pick just one guy who stood out–most of the time, my favorite wrestler depended on what I was looking for that day.
Eddy was pretty much always included in my answer.
Eddy was a guy who could do everything. He wrestled like Benoit, flew like Rey, could get down and brawl if he needed to. He made the most of his limited mic time in WCW, almost singlehandedly doing the talking for the Lucha Libre-based cruisers that made the WCW undercard light years ahead of anything the WWF could throw together. Eddy was pure charisma and pure dedication–dude lived to entertain folks in that ring. When he went on to become a World Champion later, it was, as corny as it sounds, an affirmation: if you love your job–nah, f*ck that: if you love WHAT YOU DO–and you do it right, it’ll guide you, it’ll help you overcome your struggles and your faults, and you will be rewarded.
Yeah, it’s only wrestling. It’s a silly form of entertainment–it’s not high art, it’s not brain surgery. But in Eddy’s matches, you could see the glimpses of poetry. You could start to understand the potential power of the form. You could see what pro wrestling COULD be, if everyone involved in it took it as seriously as Eddy did. He crafted a character that was so well-defined, he didn’t need to speak to get his points across. Eddy NEVER tanked an angle, never just floated through a story without a clear idea of who he was supposed to be–this guy was one of the better *actors* I’ve come across, because he lived that character. Dude set the standard.
I hated this Latino Heat thing. I hated the sterotypes: the low-riders, the “mamacita,” the cheat to win ethos that fellow wrestling fans would pass off as “those lazy Mexican–always taking shortcuts” — I hated it in theory. Eddy pulled it off. Eddy found the way to be Latino, be proud, be aggressively promoting his culture, his language, his family–and not have it be the only thing he was known for. Mexican culture was inextricably a part of who Eddy was. It was accepted as fact, so that even ignorant/semi-racist wrestling fans across the country–the ones who laugh at The Mexicools as glorified garedners, the ones who mock Funaki for poor English–they embraced him, they loved him, they viewed him first and foremost as exactly what he was, and exactly what he still is, even in death: a wrestler–one of the few truly worthy of carrying that inscription on his tombstone.