Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: Goodbye, Eddie.

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past – Goodbye, Eddie

This is very hard for me to write. I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank screen for a couple of hours and have been unable to force myself to start writing. I’m just going to say what I feel and you’ll just have to forgive me if I don’t make much sense in places or start to ramble.

I am a huge Eddie fan. When I heard about his passing, I couldn’t believe it and am still having trouble coming to terms with it. I knew I was going to do a tribute column to him, but the focus of this column’s always been to look back at a storyline and give my thoughts on it. The question is – which story? His feud with Chavo in WCW that resulted in Chavo going nuts and adopting Pepe? The Filthy Animals? The LWO? What about his jump to the WWF? The Radicalz? His love affair with Chyna? The war with Kurt Angle? Lie, Cheat and Steal? Teaming with Chavo? Winning the title?

The choice was easy. This week, we’re throwing out the normal. No analysis, no detailed history, just a quick rundown and my thoughts. Next week we’ll try and get back to Lenny and Lodi. This week demands something different.

Eddie started his career in Mexico, and really saw his star begin to rise in the AAA promotion. Konnan was also involved in the founding of AAA, and it’s from AAA that we got so many of the Mexican cruiserweights in WCW – notably guys like Juventud, Rey Mysterio, and Psicosis. In AAA, Eddie started teaming with Mexican icon El Hijo del Santo in honor of a tag team their fathers (Gory Guerrero and El Santo) had been in. However, it didn’t take long for Eddie’s natural rudo talents to rise to the top and he turned on El Hijo del Santo, joining Love Machine Art Barr in a team instead. Soon thereafter, the two helped form the Gringos Locos stable along with Konnan and Madonna’s Boyfriend (Louie Spicolli).

This feud culminated at a pay-per-view which would also mark Eddie’s introduction to the US wrestling scene. It was November 6, 1994. With WCW’s cooperation, AAA presented the When Worlds Collide show with Konnan vs. Perro Aguayo in a cage for the main event. The show is most remembered, however, for the mask vs. hair match – El Hijo Del Santo and Octagon vs. Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr (a match which many still consider to be one of the greatest lucha libre matches ever).

Sadly, that was also Art Barr’s final match. Barr passed away less than three weeks later. (One interesting note about Barr’s death – when he passed away, Mexican lucha magazine put him on the cover. Barr was the first non-Hispanic wrestler to be on the cover in the magazine’s 47 year history.)

When Barr died, he and Guerrero were scheduled to go to ECW. Guerrero went on his own, winning the ECW television title for the first time (he would win it twice) from 2 Cold Scorpio in his debut match.

Guerrero’s ECW run is best remembered for a series of matches he had with Dean Malenko. The final match in the tied series was set – it would happen on their final night in the company.

In this match, Guerrero and Malenko achieved something truly special. Whenever an ECW star left, whether it was for the WWF or WCW, the crowd let their displeasure be known with a traditional chant – “You sold out.” It seems like every wrestler who left heard that chant, all the way to the end of the company. Big names in the company like Shane Douglas, Raven, the Dudley Boys, and Taz all got that farewell. For Malenko and Guerrero, however, the chant changed as the match went on. “Please don’t go.”

The match? It ended in a time limit draw – also ending the series in a tie.

In 1995, Eddie found himself in WCW, where he would have a great deal of success. He would hold the United States title once and would also become a two-time cruiserweight champion.

By 1998, the New World Order was at the top of the pecking order in WCW, and other groups (such as the One Warrior Nation, and even the NWO Wolfpac) were forming. Eddie (who reportedly was getting frustrated backstage) formed the Latino World Order, consisting of the cruiserweights. One of their major storylines was the forced recruitment of Rey Mysterio Jr.

Another notable angle running at this time was Eddie’s feud with nephew Chavo. The feud started when Chavo lost a match and had to ally with Eddie, who forced Chavo to wear a t-shirt that proclaimed “Eddy Guerrero is My Favorite Wrestler” and ordered him to cheat in his matches. The feud ended when Chavo lost a hair vs. hair match to his uncle and immediately shaved his own head. Chavo would soon thereafter begin being accompanied to the ring with Pepe, a pet wooden horse.

The LWO would end when Eddie was involved in a car accident on New Year’s Eve – December 31, 1998. Eddie was driving (drunk, according to the police report) and crashed. From what I can remember, he was ejected from the vehicle through the windshield and would have been killed if he had not landed on a pile of sand.

Later in 1999, Eddie returned to the ring. The difference was that now he was in another situation – he was becoming addicted to painkillers following the accident.

Eddie shot to the top of wrestling news sites everywhere in January of 2000. Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera had been placed in charge of WCW and WCW management had had enough. Russo and Ferrera were fired, and Kevin Sullivan was placed in charge of booking. Chris Benoit (having married Sullivan’s wife Nancy (Woman)) saw the writing on the wall and immediately asked for his release. Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn did likewise. WCW did what they could to keep things on track. After all, Souled Out was that night, and Benoit, Malenko, and Saturn played prominent roles.

Malenko and Saturn wound up losing to Billy Kidman, who was being put through a gauntlet by the Revolution. Benoit would go on to defeat Sid Vicious in the main event to win the world title.

The story goes that Benoit arrived the next night to see Saturn and Malenko leaving. When he asked why, he was told it was because they had requested their releases. Benoit brought up the fact that he’d done the same and was told that it was OK because he was the champ. Benoit handed over the belt to a road agent and followed Saturn and Malenko out.

January 31st, 2000 saw the 4 men (soon dubbed the Radicalz) appearing on Raw in a truly surreal moment. Unfortunately, things would not go as planned for their in-ring debut.

On Smackdown, the 4 men were set to take on members of D-Generation X to earn places on the roster. Dean Malenko lost to X-Pac. Saturn and Eddie teamed to take on the New Age Outlaws, and wound up losing after Eddie injured himself on the frog splash. At the time, he was recovering from an elbow injury and landed the splash differently in order to protect his injured elbow. When he landed, he injured the other elbow, which forced Billy Gunn to pin him so that he could get to the back for medical attention.

To recover from this, the Radicalz were turned heel and Eddie found himself in the role of a manager until his arm healed. Still, the sling was useful. You could hide all sorts of things in there!

When he recovered, Eddie wound up falling for Chyna, and getting all sorts of heart-pounding storylines like Chyna teaching him to read. The Chyna story ran on for months, with Eddie eventually deciding that one woman wasn’t enough and began to stray. (Well, that and the fact that Chyna had the intercontinental title, which he wanted.) They broke up and Eddie returned to the Radicalz, who also returned to HHH’s side.

In May of 2001, Eddie’s issues with the painkillers were discovered and he was sent to rehab. In November of that same year, Eddie was arrested for DUI in Florida. Although the case was settled when he pleaded no contest (he got probation and was ordered to attend an alcohol education course), it was too much for the WWF to stand. Eddie was fired.

Eddie focused on getting himself cleaned up, and also competed for various independent promotions: among them Ring of Honor, World Wrestling All-Stars, and Britain’s Frontier Wrestling Alliance. After drawing attention with his outstanding matches (among them an FWA match with Doug Williams and a series of matches with CM Punk), Eddie was rehired by the WWE in March of 2002.

On April1, 2002, Eddie returned by attacking Rob Van Dam and allying himself once more with Chris Benoit. After trading the intercontinental title with Van Dam, Eddie was scheduled to go into a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. The feud never happened due to Austin leaving the company while the feud was being built up.

In August, Eddie and Benoit found themselves exclusively on Smackdown. Here, Eddie joined forces with Chavo to become Los Guerreros, a tag team that promised to lie, cheat, and steal their way to victory. They would become tag team champions at the 2002 Survivor Series – losing the belts to Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) the following February.

Unfortunately, shortly before a rematch at the 2002 Judgment Day, Chavo was sidelined with a bicep injury. Eddie joined forces with Tajiri and the two won the belts, losing them back to Team Angle on July 3rd. Eddie snapped, viciously attacking Tajiri by slamming him through the windshield of Eddie’s ever-present low-rider.

After a run with the United States championship, Eddie’s sights went even higher – he became focused on the WWE title. Eddie’s win came on February 15, 2004, when he defeated Brock Lesnar for the belt in the main event of No Way Out. Eddie would lose the title to John Bradshaw Layfield in June.

Eddie would go on to a feud with Kurt Angle, and then won the tag team titles with Rey Mysterio on February 20, 2005. Eddie grew frustrated with Rey, most notably when Rey defeated him in a one-on-one match at Wrestlemania. Finally Eddie snapped and attacked Rey, leaving him in a bloody heap. That led to another match at Wrestlemania, which Eddie lost by DQ.

That led Eddie to threaten to reveal a secret about Rey’s son Dominick. Even though Rey came out and begged Eddie not to, Eddie still let the threat stand. At the Great American Bash, Rey defeated Eddie in a match which would ensure that the secret would remain hidden.

No mere stipulation would stop Eddie. Instead, the next week on Smackdown, he announced that the secret was that Dominick was his own son (he’d supposedly cheated on his wife while they were having marital problems), and he’d allowed Rey and his wife to adopt him, since they were having problems having children.

How could this be settled? Put on a custody match! At Judgment Day Rey and Eddie faced off in a ladder match, with the prize Dominick’s custody papers. Rey won, only for Eddie to defeat him one final time on the next Smackdown in a steel cage match.

At No Mercy, Eddie was named the number one contender to face the world champion Batista. Eddie immediately proclaimed himself Batista’s friend, and began buddying up to him. The two would even team up to face off against Randy Orton and Ken Kennedy.

Eddie’s final match on television was on November 11th, 2005. He cheated to defeat Ken Kennedy.

Eddie passed away the morning of November 13, 2005. His funeral will be Wednesday, November 16 in Phoenix, Arizona. That will be the same day that this column goes live.

Eddie was an incredible entertainer, a gift he shares with few others. He had the Midas touch when it came to angles. A wrestling zombie or wrestling Elvis impersonator sounds absurd on the surface, and yet the Undertaker and Honky Tonk Man managed to use their natural charisma to overcome that and turn something absurd into something memorable. Eddie did the same – it didn’t matter how absurd the angle, he could squeeze something golden out of it.

I don’t know what else to say. All I can think of is thank you, Eddie.

Thank you for showing us that the loyalty of four friends could overcome the plans of a million-dollar corporation.

Thank you for the strength you showed when you faced your demons and defeated them.

Thank you for the courage you showed when you went public about your struggle.

Thank you for the determination you showed after you were released to get back into the WWF again.

Thank you for the hours and hours of tapes we have of you doing what you did best.

Thank you for the skill you showed in the ring.

Thank you for being able to take whatever pile of crap the writers gave you, touch it and turn it to gold, then serve it up to us with that trademark smirk.

Thank you for cheating 2 win.

Thank you for the Latino heat.

Thank you for lying, cheating, and stealing.

Thank you for making us fans love you.

Just like those ECW fans a decade ago, we want to chant “Please don’t go.” But you’ve already gone. Goodbye, Eddie. And thank you for everything. You will be missed forever.

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