When I first started to watch professional wrestling, my favorite wrestlers were Hulk Hogan, Jake “the Snake” Roberts, and of course, the run-as-fast-as-you-can-through-the-crowd, ring-rope-rattling, future co-holder of the Intercontinental and World Wrestling Federation Championship belts, the Ultimate Warrior.
As I grew into an adolescent and a teenager, many of my friends began to lose that love of wrestling that I still possessed, and even my brother – one of the hardest working writers and contributors to the IWC today – took a six- or seven-year layoff from programming that contained Fake Razors and Diesels, Berserkers, Repo Men, sadistic dentists, legends resorting to kiss my foot matches, and slop buckets as foreign objects. Throughout all of the bullshit put forth by WWF during these lean years, I still tuned into Raw to see what kind of magic might still occur, even if these memorable moments were more flickering instances – such as Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair, HBK vs. Bret Hart, anything involving Owen vs. Bret – than consistent classics.
My brother even admits that if it were not for a program called World Championship Wrestling – which managed to lure back former recognizable WWF Superstars like Hulk Hogan and combine their starpowers with 1) WCW’s own stars, such as Flair, Arn, Sting, the Steiner Brothers, etc. and 2) hard workers who were finally given the chance to make national names for themselves, like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero – he may not have even watched wrestling as intently as he currently does.
What people fail to realize about WCW’s run was how important it was for the WWF to be able to step back and realize that drastic changes were needed in order to truly stay competitive. The WWF Attitude Era may never have happened if not for Ted Turner’s deep pockets and Eric Bischoff’s engineering, and once Vince McMahon and Company did get back on track, they managed to swipe away some of those former WCW upstarts.
I was never more excited as a wrestling fan when Chris Benoit won the WCW Championship. Even more exciting, however, than seeing Benoit finally get his due, was seeing Benoit, with Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko, debut on Raw. It was the culmination of the directions WWF/E and WCW were headed, with WCW being run into the ground, and WWF/E picking up the contracts of those who they felt were worthy of the spotlight. Malenko and Saturn may not have had stellar runs in the Fed, but Benoit and Eddie – after having their moments of stumbling – became the two best wrestlers in the entire company for a period of time that I will never, ever forget.
I don’t know enough to pay a real tribute to Eddie Guerrero the man, or Eddie Guerrero the husband and father, and I don’t even know enough to pay tribute to Eddie Guerrero the professional wrestler. All I know is that Eddie Guerrero entertained me up until his last televised match with Ken Kennedy on Smackdown! He gave me fits of laughter in his vignettes with Chavo; he gave me tears when he and Benoit hugged as co-champions at the end of WrestleMania; and he gave me the impression that he was truly having a great time out there during his unexpected last WWF/E run as Batista’s friend.
Thank the wrestling gods that Eddie Guerrero was able to go out with the crowd chanting his name. Thank the wrestling gods that Eddie Guerrero was able to lie, cheat, and steal his way to one last victory. Thank the wrestling gods that Eddie Guerrero will be remembered by so many millions of family members, friends, and fans as a true class act. He may have had his demons, but Eddie Guerrero also proved that he could survive, overcome, and achieve.
I just wished he could have survived much, much longer …