Let's Rave On: Chapter 9 – Viva La Raza

***9*** Viva La Raza

This Friday, while I was finishing an essay for my Islam class, I realized that since term began, I had been inside every single Friday night. I had been either studying or reading or writing something scholarly-like. Firmly, I told myself, “Self, do something tomorrow night. Go out and get crazy.” Truth is, I’m pretty reclusive and a giant dork most of the time.

So Saturday night I’m studying. But I’m studying with other people, at least. Still, it’s not the sort of studying that involves pot or strippers (but theoretically could be at any moment). We’re studying for this Chaucer test that’s on Monday.

There’s music playing in the back ground. Not my choice of stuff, but Enter Sandman starts playing. I tell Joanne that a wrestler uses it as his theme song. I tell her that most of the time, a wrestler only takes about 20 seconds to get to the ring, but The Sandman takes six and a half minutes.

I do this because I can’t get my mind off wrestling this week. This is because I can’t get my mind off Eddie Guerrero, and have several times this week brought wrestling up to my friends who for all intensive purposes couldn’t give a shit about wrestling.

Joanna says “So, you actually like wrestling, don’t you?”

I say, “I’ve written essays and handed them into professors. I’m a damn scholar on the subject.”

“Huh,” She says.

Eddie Guerrero died last week due to heart failure. He wasn’t even forty. He was one of my Goddamn heroes.

Lately I’ve been telling just about everyone I’ve been around about how Eddie lived.

I tell Joanna that Eddie had a smirk on his face just about all the time. He did everything with such ease and poise. The stories he told were always so engrossing. It was impossible not to get lost in the idea of Eddie Guerrero.

Eddie was the ultimate smart ass anti-authority character. Eddie was so f*cking punk rock. Not only did he have serious problems with substance abuse, but his entire shtick was to buck the system. The term “Cheat To Win” belongs to Eddie Guerrero. He put it on his T-shirts. You couldn’t appreciate the idea of flipping off the Man and not love the work of Eddie Guerrero.

And just like a punk rocker, Eddie dying means that he wasn’t kidding. All the buzz propaganda of wrestlers putting their bodies and their lives on the line to entertain is usually cast off as simple shill work. But when one of them dies because of the work (and not because of the substances from the work) it shows us all that wrestling really does mean something. It isn’t the male soap opera everyone says it is. It isn’t the fake sport that most people have referred. It’s a form of theatre, and with any theatre there are multiple levels of quality.

I tell Joanna that Eddie Guerrero is similar to Chaucer. To truly enjoy it is to appreciate the form itself, and to realize that they are pinnacles in the field.

The fact is, any form of subject matter is an iceberg. There’s the common knowledge at the top that everyone has access to. In wrestling this common knowledge is the idea of guys like Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. To go any deeper than that is to become somewhat of a fan of the subject. Get a little deeper and you get guys like Triple H and Chris Jericho and Mick Foley. Go deeper still and you find the Benoit’s and the Hart’s and the Guerrero’s. By this point you don’t just like the violence or the story or the shock value. To be a fan of Eddie Guerrero is to be a fan of the art form of wrestling.

Wrestling is an art form. Eddie Guerrero is the thesis that makes that statement a fact. He took the mold of professional wrestling—a silly carnivalesque sideshow meant to be taken seriously by nobody—and made it into something quite beautiful. Watching a Guerrero match hits the same emotional chords as reading Beckett. It’s complicated. It’s abstract. But it’s there, and it makes all the toil worth the moments treasured.

I’ve been talking about wrestling to everyone lately because, for the first time since I was a kid, I’m no longer embarrassed to be a fan. Even when surrounded by wrestling fans, I felt pressure from my father and mass media and the general consensus of the world that wrestling was incredibly stupid. But Eddie made it intelligent. He made it subtle and interesting and funny and heartbreaking and scary as hell. Eddie made it all worth it.

Joanna asked me if I ever wanted to be a wrestler. If I did, I would model myself after guys like Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero. Not in terms of character, but in attitude. As in, ‘this is something to be taken seriously first, but never forget to have fun with it.’ Hell, I hope to be like that with anything I might do. That’s just about the best way to be, so far as I’ve seen.

The next time I’m talking about wrestling to somebody, and they decide to badmouth it, I’ve got Eddie Guerrero. There is no hole in the argument of Eddie. Wrestling was always quality with him. I don’t think he ever put on a bad match. I don’t think he ever did anything that would embarrass the art. He was solid, even when he wasn’t. And now we know that he loved it so much that he died from it.

Ask anyone who wears a Tupac shirt; Dying gives you more credibility than anything else, but only if what you’ve done while alive was something to be taken seriously. Eddie’s was. But so was anyone’s who lived every day to the fullest.

And just like that, not only am I comfortable with my love of professional wrestling, but I think I’m beginning to be comfortable with myself. Thank you, Eddie. For that and about a thousand things more.