The Reality of Wrestling: Eddie Guerrero: The Wrestler, The Entertainer, The Legend

The Reality of Wrestling: Eddie Guerrero: The Wrestler, The Entertainer, The Legend
By Phil Clark & J.D. Speich

On Sunday, November 13, 2005 the wrestling world took a hit when it lost one of its best. Eddie Guerrero was pronounced dead at the age of 38 in his hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The shockwaves were felt as quickly as they were made. On Sunday night Christopher Daniels, Matt Bentley, and A.J. Styles donned black armbands in tribute to Guerrero and Konnan gave a shot-out to the Guerrero family at last night’s “Genesis” Pay-Per-View for NWA-TNA. That PPV opened with a dedication to Guerrero and the E would do more of the same dedicating both RAW and SmackDown! shows to Guerrero with wrestlers including Chris Benoit, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, and Rey Mysterio sporting armbands. To some it still doesn’t feel like it’s real that we won’t ever see that low-rider come down the ramp again, or see the in-ring greatness that was Eddie Guerrero. This week, it isn’t about point/counterpoint; it’s about looking back at a man who, in the wrestling world, could turn water into wine.

J.D. Says: Eddie Guerrero, a wrestler that could do it all from flat out wrestling to on-the-mic talk. The man was a living legend up until his death a day ago. Eddie was born and raised into wrestling, he knew the business inside and out and took it in with a passion like no other. He started his young career in Mexico, fighting and battling with his long-time friend Rey Mysterio Jr. From there he moved to the U.S. and joined the hardcore wrestling family of ECW, wrestling against another long-time friend, Chris Benoit. After ECW he made the transition to a new brand on the rise, WCW. Here is where Eddie started to shine as a wrestler more than an entertainer. In the year 2000 the biggest transaction in wrestling history was made, fresh off leaving WCW, the WWE picked up Eddie Guerrero along with his friends Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko. Through the first couple of months all four men stuck together as a click in the WWE, but you could tell that Benoit and Guerrero were on the rise.

Eddie and Chris moved up in the ranks rather quickly and were both in contention for the Intercontinental Title. Both held the title pretty soon and were on their way. Eddie’s career took a deadly turn in 2001 when the WWE cut him for drug abuse issues, but Eddie wasn’t finished with wrestling and wrestling wasn’t finished with Eddie. Eddie made his return in 2002 and once again rose to the top again and had a great match of the year candidate when he took on Rob Van Dam in a ladder match for the I.C. Title. In 2004 Eddie’s career pinnacled when he defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title. Eddie was shown later on WWE Confidential weeping on the phone with his wife after winning the match, a great picture for the young wrestlers in the business.

Eddie then held the belt for 4 months and lost it to THE WRESTLING BITCH, John Bradshaw Layfield. Toward the last few months of his career, Eddie was doing a feud angle with Batista and was once again carrying a storyline. Due to an injury that Batista encountered last week on Smackdown, a triple threat match between Batista, Randy Orton, and Eddie Guerrero was set to take place on the next Smackdown, which was taped last night. Rumor has it that Batista was going to lose the belt because of surgery, and Eddie was going to regain the WWE Title. The irony is too much to bear here.

As a huge fan of Eddie Guerrero I have to say that I couldn’t believe that he died at such a young age, drug and alcohol addict or not. I will definitely miss Latino Heat, with all his lying, cheating, and stealing. Tonight I say farewell to a great wrestler, entertainer, and all around good guy, Eddie Guerrero. Wrestling has just lost a great man.

P.C. Says: Eddie Guerrero was the modern day Ric Flair
I was at a loss for words. I know that may sound cliché, but I pride myself as having an opinion or at least something to say for any situation. This wasn’t one of them. Eddie Guerrero was dead. He was 38. It was a heart attack. The fact that he is gone is only truly sinking in right now more than a day after I was told the news.

People will likely want an explanation for why I believe that Guerrero was the 90’s answer to Ric Flair. It’s very simple: consistency. Like Flair, Guerrero wasn’t always the best worker on the planet, or the best on the mic; what he was was someone who could talk the talk on the mic and walk the walk in the ring. During his 18-year career, rarely would you have to doubt whether a match with Guerrero in it was going to be good or not. Rarely did Eddie disappoint.

Everywhere Eddie went, he impressed and molded his place in wrestling history. Think back to his feud with Art Barr against El Hijo Del Santo & Octagon in AAA during the mid-90’s that set all of Mexico on fire and made Barr & Guerrero two of the biggest heels in Mexican wrestling history. Those red, white, and blue tights on the two Americans taunting the Mexican crowds about Prop. 187 and finally getting their comeuppance in a ***** match at AAA’s “When World’s Collide” PPV. In New Japan, he was the second person to don the black mask and wrestle as Black Tiger. His matches with Koji Kanemoto, Jushin Liger, Chris Benoit, and others made sure that he lived up to the legacy the character had gotten in the 80’s. Then there’s ECW and the classic mat-wrestling exhibitions against Dean Malenko that got insanely over in Philadelphia, a city where hardcore wrestling was the norm. Even in WCW, Guerrero was able to pull a good match out of just about anyone and add a bit of flare to any WCW show that was less than stellar on paper. His reigns as U.S. and Cruiserweight champion were filled with quality matches and quality interviews. It was in WCW that Eddie began to hone the psycho-heel character that would make him a legend in the promo department. And who could ever forget Halloween Havoc 1997 and the match with Rey Mysterio?

However, it was his tenure in WWE that cemented his legend. The romance angle with Chyna provided a soap-opera type angle that was entertaining and funny at the same time. Even termination couldn’t stop Guerrero as a second stint in New Japan and helping Ring Of Honor get off the ground gave us several more classics from Guerrero against opponents like Super Crazy and Jushin Liger. His return to the E was phenomenal as a feud with RVD resulted in two high-profile ****+ matches including the T.V. match of the year for 2002, the famous Ladder Match for the IC-Title against Van Dam. His teaming with nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. gave Eddie a chance to re-visit his beginnings and show that he was still a masterful tag-team wrestler and once again allowed him to let his charisma flow like water with the “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” addition to his character. Finally, 2004 saw the culmination of it all as he beat Brock Lesnar in a classic for the WWE Title, his first and only world championship. The fact that he would only hold it for four months and it was taken off of him for basically no reason is irrelevant. The fact remains that the guy who was told he was too small, he “didn’t know how to work,” and he would never make it made it.

Guerrero’s personal life, unfortunately, fit the profession he was in. Wrestling is a sport of access and, unfortunately, Guerrero did live a life of access. While his demons nearly resulted in his downfall, they didn’t. And that’s why his story is such a good story and is still a good story. It was a story that revealed the best and worst sides of an already seedy business whose ways haven’t changed a significant amount since back in the days when the only places to watch “pro-wrestling” was in circus tents.

Still, the facts of his firing in 2001, his alcohol and drug abuse are things that are only remembered in the pages of history. When fans hear the name Eddie Guerrero, they’re going to remember him tagging with Barr, tagging with Chavo, and the matches with Benoit, Malenko, Lesnar, Angle, Mysterio, Van Dam, Austin, The Rock, Booker T, Juvi, Liger, Sasuke, and Batista showcased a talent on every level in the sport. This year, he made the shittiest possible booking of his feud with Mysterio into very entertaining T.V. and a best-selling t-shirt all thanks to his work on the mic. Is there any other proof needed?

Eddie, thanks for the memories. You’re place in wrestling history is sealed in my opinion.

The Reality is…the business has lost someone truly special. In the past three years, anything Guerrero touched, no matter how badly booked or written, turned into gold. However, Vince is right in saying that “the show must go on.” Guerrero’s death has unfortunately put the E in a tight spot booking-wise as Guerrero was more than likely going to be given a short WWE title reign so Batista could take time off for a surgery he needs. There’s a void on SmackDown! that likely won’t be filled and a fair amount of fans may have just lost their only reason for watching SmackDown! in the first place. It’s been a tough year for wrestling creatively, qualitatively, and with several untimely deaths, Guerrero’s only adds to the pain. He is now another in a long list that includes Art Barr, Louie Spicolli, Chris Candido, Shinya Hashimoto, Rikidozan, Rick Rude, Brian Pillman, and Owen Hart: men whose lives and careers were ended much too soon.