When I was 12-years old, I started watching WWE Smackdown every Thursday night. The World Wrestling Entertainment (then Federation) and WCW (World Championship Wrestling) were the big two companies of professional wrestling.
Extreme Championship Wrestling was somewhat of a major player that did contribute to some of the wrestling stars today, but almost all eyes were on WWE and WCW.
I was a Pro-WWE kid. To me and my siblings, WCW and ECW were the minor leagues. WWE was where it was at. Like any wrestling fan I was thinking how cool it would be if WWE wrestlers clashed with WCW wrestlers. Well, to me, that dream sort of materialized in the year 2000 when Mick Foley (as his Cactus Jack persona) brought along four WCW defectors: Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero.
When I first saw Eddie, I obviously did not know who he was other than he was just a WCW guy. But overtime, as I saw him in the ring and his character develop, he was slowly becoming a favorite. In addition to having an amazing wrestling ability, Guerrero had a swagger and wit that I couldn’t help but admire. The wrestler was funny and tough, and whether he portrayed a face (hero) or a heel (villain), he got the crowds in the arenas and those watching at home to react. He was that believable and he was starting to grow on me during a part of my adolescent years.
One of my earliest memories of Eddie was when he swept Chyna off her feet and started calling her his “mamacita” after winning the European Championship from Chris Jericho. I found it amazing that Eddie, smaller wrestler, would somehow charm the tall and muscular Amazonian Chyna who was portrayed as a no-nonsense female wrestler. But Eddie did it under the mantra of “Latino Heat” and I was intrigued by the chemistry he had with Chyna. Their romantic storyline got them over and it also had its funny moments. One moment was where Eddie accidentally pinned Chyna to win his first Intercontinental Championship and the look on his face was hilarious. However, things really came to a head when Chyna was announced to pose for Playboy. There were segments where Eddie would hilariously flip out. One notable scene was when he tried to go to the Playboy Mansion to get Chyna and bail. Ultimately, Chyna and Eddie would break up and Eddie would go back to team with his buddies, Saturn, Malenko, and Benoit. Eddie and his fellow WCW defectors would be called the Radicalz.
Around mid-2001, Eddie would disappear from WWE television and miss the WCW Invasion storyline. Little did I know at the time, Guerrero was fired from the WWE due to his struggles with drug addiction. I learned that the wrestler also almost lost his family. In this instance, Guerrero could have gone down a much darker path but he decided to fight back. He began wrestling in the independent wrestling circuit while working to stay sober. Overtime, his relationship with his family improved and before he knew it, the WWE was knocking on his door again. Eddie returned to the WWE in 2002 and won the Intercontinental Championship and became the inaugural winner of the WWE incarnation of the United States Championship (originally a WCW title). He also had two awesome reigns with the WWE Tag Team Championships with the likes of his nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Tajiri. It was around this time he and Chavo started the gimmick of lying, cheating, and stealing to win matches much to the ire of their opponents but to the amusement of fans.
When Eddie and Chavo’s uncle and nephew tag team, Los Guerreros, became popular, I learned that Guerrero came from a wrestling dynasty. The Mexican-American Guerrero Family has rich wrestling history that began with Eddie’s father, Gory Guerrero. Almost everyone in the family was involved in pro-wrestling. Eddie and his brothers Chavo Sr. Hector, and Mando grew up learning how to wrestle like their dad. In an interview, Eddie commented that growing up, “other kids had jungle gyms in their backyard, I had a wrestling ring.”
Another one of my favorite, and funniest, memories from that time was when Eddie tricked the Big Show in eating burritos that had a “special sauce.” During an episode of Smackdown around mid-2003, This occurred after the 7-ft and 500lbs tall Big Show attacked Eddie and Chavo. After Show ate the burritos, he was set to face an up and comer wrestler name Orlando Jordan. Big Show dominated Jordan early in the match but started to feel the effects of the burritos. Ultimately, Show decided to bolt out of the ring while favoring his stomach to give an easy victory to his opponent. The gigantic wrestler rushed to the bathroom and locked himself in a stall to take care of his business. However, Eddie was right there taunting him that he had his cousin Chuy make the burritos especially for him. The comedic segment ended with Guerrero kicking the stall door which hit Big Show. The massive Show was about to attack Guerrero but it was too late as Show still had to take care of his business.
But my favorite Eddie Guerrero memory of all time was when he was in a feud with Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship early in the year 2004. It was a David and Goliath story that pitted Guerrero as an underdog against Lesnar who had been a dominant force in the WWE. Eddie was a much smaller wrestler compared to Brock but during that feud, I was totally rooting for Eddie to win and believed that he could pull it off.
As their feud culminated, there was a fiery and passionate promo in which Guerrero and Lesnar were involved in. Lesnar alluded to Guerrero’s past demons by calling Eddie a drug addict and saying that he hoped that he was addicted to losing. However, Eddie fired back by saying that Lesnar was right in saying that he was an addict. He talked about losing his job, his wife, his kids, and himself and his loses compelled him to turn his life around. Eddie finished by telling Lesnar that he was addicted to proving people wrong and overcoming his demons. The promo got a huge ovation from the crowd and even usually unphased Lesnar seemed moved.
At WWE No Way Out 2004, Eddie would end up winning the WWE Championship against Lesnar to a massive ovation. It was around this time I was going through some tough times during Tenth Grade. I had moved from Mira Mesa, California to a small town in Murietta. My grades weren’t where I wanted them to be. In addition, I tried be someone I wasn’t by hanging out with the popular kids. But when I thought of Eddie Guerrero and what he accomplished, I began to take myself a little seriously and did what I felt he would do, reach for my goals and look cool while doing it while not giving a damn what people (especially the popular kids) thought of me. As I write this, I think that was what Eddie Guerrero taught me.
After defeating Lesnar at No Way Out, Eddie would successfully defend his championship against Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania 20. However, he would ultimately lose the WWE Championship to John Bradshaw Layfield and then turn heel to have another memorable feud with long time friend Rey Mysterio over the custody of a young Domink Mysterio (currently wrestling for WWE). However, Eddie would turn face after teaming with Dave Batista and would have his final match with Mr. Kennedy. It was said that he was set to become the World Heavyweight Champion but on Nov. 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero had passed away at age 38. The cause of death was Heart Failure.
I was saddened that a man who had some influence on my life was gone. Many wrestlers, friends, and family mourned Eddie’s passing. A tribute show was made in his honor. Rey Mysterio would pay tribute to Eddie by winning the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 22. His wife Vickie Guerrero would become part of the WWE by portraying one of the greatest heel authority figures.
To this day, Eddie is still remembered by wrestlers and fans alike.
To me, he was more than a pro-wrestler. He was also a superhero and someone who I looked up to during the tough times I had in my adolescent years while coming to grips with finding out I had high functioning autism and fighting to achieve my goal of going to college. Eddie reminded me that you did not have to be big or act like someone you weren’t to achieve your goals.
Eddie did lie, cheat, and steal his way to the hearts of wrestlers and fans like myself. And to this day, he still does.
Viva La Raza