Ken Kidney takes a look back at the life and career of wrestling legend, Eddie Guerrero.
Today, November 13th marks the 8 year anniversary of the passing of WWE Hall of Famer and beloved fan favourite, Eddie Guerrero. Given the day that’s in it I thought I would dedicate this weeks Wrestling Rewind to a look back and the life and career of the in ring great. Celebrated the world over, the anniversary is often a time of reflection and rememberance for fans, to whom he gave so much.
Eddie was born in El Paso Texas to the famous Mexican wrestling dynasty that was the Guerrero family. Eddie Guerrero is the son of the legendary Gory Guerrero and brother of Hector, Chavo & Mando and uncle of Chavo Jr. As a young boy, Eddie Guerrero’s father allowed him and Chavo Jr. to wrestle one another during intermissions in the wrestling promotions that Gory held. Gory ran wrestling promotions for nearly 12 years in the El Paso Coliseum.
Guerrero graduated from Jefferson High School and attended the University of New Mexico as New Mexico Highlands University on an athletic scholarship where he wrestled before going to Mexico to train as a professional wrestler. There was no doubt in Eddie’s mind that he would follow in his Dad’s footsteps and enter the family business.
Eddie wrestled mainly for the famed AAA promotion (Asistencia Asesoría y Administración), teaming with El Hijo Santo as a replacement for his father. Guerrero eventually turned on Santo and allied with Art Barr as La Pareja del Terror (The Pair of Terror), the duo became arguably the most hated tag team in lucha libre history. In 1993, Guerrero began wrestling in Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he was known as the second incarnation of Black Tiger, winning annual Best of the Super Juniors 1996 tournament, one of the most prestigious of all New Japan’s many tournaments.
Guerrero’s big break in America came when he and Art Barr were noticed in late 1994 by the owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), Paul Heyman, and were approached about wrestling for the promotion in 1995. Barr, however, died before he could join ECW with Guerrero. Barr’s death affected Guerrero deeply as he had come to view Art as a brother more than a partner. Eddie won the ECW World Television Championship in his debut match for Extreme Championship Wrestling, beating 2 Cold Scorpio. He went on to have a series of legendary matches with Dean Malenko leading to both of them being signed with World Championship Wrestling later that year. After his last match for ECW against, the locker room emptied and the two were carried around the ring by their fellow wrestlers. Eddie had endeared himself so much to the ECW faithful the crowd chanted “please don’t go” as he paraded around the ring.
Guerrero landed WCW in late 1995 along with Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit with whom he had worked with in NJPW and ECW, these were to become the relationships that defined much of Eddie’s career.
In 1996, Guerrero received several shots at the United States Championship against Konnan at Uncensored and Ric Flair at Hog Wild. Guerrero was finally able to capture the title in a tournament for the vacant championship defeating rival DDP, whom he had feuded with for much of the year, in the final round at Starrcade 1996.
After losing the United States Heavyweight Championship, Guerrero feuded with Jericho focusing on Jericho’s Cruiserweight Championship. He wrestled Jericho for the title at Clash of the Champions XXXV but lost. The villainous Guerrero demanded a rematch and in the opening match of Fall Brawl 1997, Guerrero finally bested Jericho to win the Cruiserweight title. He had a series of outstanding matches with Rey Mysterio for the Cruiserweight title eventually losing losing the title to him at Halloween Havoc in a Title vs. Mask match which is still held in high regard by fans to this day.
Despite his success and popularity, Guerrero had been one of many wrestlers who were frustrated at never being given a chance to be main event stars in WCW.
On-screen, Guerrero responded by forming the “Latino World Order” (LWO), which was a parody of Bischoff’s New World Order. The group was an attempt to combat Bischoff’’s “refusal” to treat Latino wrestlers in ways they felt they deserved. Guerrero formed in the LWO with Héctor Garza and Damien.The group eventually grew to include nearly all the Mexican wrestlers on the WCW roster at the time. They mainly feuded with Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Billy Kidman because they wanted Mysterio to join the group. However, Guerrero was involved in a serious car accident on New Year’s Day 1999, due largely to his problems with drugs and substance abuse, cut short the LWO storyline. Guerrero survived the accident and returned to wrestling in a matter of months which some said was too soon given Guerrero’s problems outside the ring.
After his return on the May 31, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro, Guerrero became co-founded “The Filthy Animals” with longtime rival,Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Konnan. The group has minor success but when Vince Russo was fired as WCW booker and replaced by Kevin Sullivan, Guerrero asked for and received a release from his contract on January 19, 2000.
He signed with the then World Wrestling Federation days later along with fellow WCW stars Benoit, Malenko, and Saturn who all left on the same day. They debuted in the WWF on the January 31, 2000 episode of Raw as “The Radicalz”, shocking the wrestling world by showing up in the front row. However, the group was short lived and they soon went their separate ways, each finding varying levels of success in the company.
Guerrero didn’t long to find success as a single competitor defeating Chris Jericho on the April 3rd edition of Raw ,for the now defunct European championship, his first taste of gold in WWF. Eddie followed up with his first Intercontinental championship in September of 2000.
However, his career in WWE was about to take a turn for the worse. Eddie had developed am addiction to pain killers from his 1999 car crash and was instructed by WWE to enter rehab in May of 2011. On November 9, 2001, he was arrested for drunk driving and subsequently released from his contract three days later bringing his WWE career to a seemingly unceremonious end.
Guerrero had a notable run on the independent scene and was able to conquer his personal problems and get clean, due in large part to his accepting Christ and becoming a born again Christian. Guerrero credited his relationship with God and his family for turning him around and saving his life. The door was left open at WWE and he made his surprise return to RAW on April 1, 2002.
In late 2002, he aligned with nephew Chavo to form the much loved “Los Guerreros” tag team. Their slogan was “We lie, we cheat, we steal” and they were famous for their in ring antics which usually involved elaborate methods of cheating behind the referee’s back in order to gain a victory. At Survivor Series, Los Guerreros faced the tag champions Edge and Rey Mysterio and the team of Angle and Benoit for the title. Guerrero made Mysterio submit to “The Lasso From El Paso” to win their first WWE Tag Team Championship.
In July 2003, Guerrero competed in a tournament for the United States Championship. where he would meet Chris Benoit. At Vengeance, Guerrero turned to his cheating tactics, hitting Benoit with the belt at one point in the match.
Guerrero tried to get Benoit in trouble by placing the title belt on top of the unconscious Benoit. It did not work, however, since he knocked out the referee earlier with a belt shot to the kidneys. The match ended with interference and a Gore from Rhyno. Guerrero himself said that this was a major point in the life of his character, since he himself realized that the fans wanted to see him lie, cheat, and steal. Guerrero pinned Benoit and won the United States Championship.
Guerrero won a 15-man Royal Rumble style match on the January 29, 2004 episode of SmackDown! to earn a shot at the WWE Championship. Most fans wanted to see Eddie win the big one but gave him little chance against the reigning WWE Champion Brock Lesnar. At No Way Out, Eddie shocked the world relying on his old cheating ways to defeat Lesnar in the main event to win the WWE Championship. Many, including Eddie himself, never thought they would see the day where he would finally reach the top of the mountain. It marked the end of a long road to redemption for Eddie and sent the crowd in attendance into raptures of celebration. It is considered one of the greatest upsets in WWE history and is a moment that will live on in the hearts of fans for generations to come. Being a big Eddie fan at the time, this is my personal favourite moment and gives me goosebumps every time.
His next feud was with Kurt Angle, upsetting the odds again to defeat him at WrestleMania XX to retain his title in his first big defense. At the end of this event, Guerrero celebrated in the ring with longtime friend Chris Benoit, who had just won the World Heavyweight Championship. This brought their long journey together full circle with both finally getting the recognition they deserved on the “grandest stage of them all”.
On November 13, 2005, Guerrero was found unconscious in his hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by his nephew, Chavo. Chavo attempted to resuscitate him but Guerrero was pronounced dead by paramedics who arrived at the scene. He was only 38 years old. The autopsy revealed that Guerrero died as a result of acute Heart failure due to underlying cardiovascular disease that caused his heart to become enlarged. Guerrero’s wife Vickie Guerrero claimed that he had been unwell in the week preceding his death. Eddie was clean when he died but unfortunately years of abuse took their toll and the damage was already done.
Guerrero was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2006 by Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero, and Chris Benoit on the night before WrestleMania 22 in Chicago. His widow, Vickie Guerrero, accepted the induction. The next night at Wrestlemania, Rey Mysterio won the World Heavyweight Championship, and dedicated the victory and the title to the memory of his best friend.
Often imitated, never equalled, Eddie’s memory continues to live in the hearts of all his fans around the world. It is a testament to his memory that his name is still chanted at WWE live events, such was his connection with the fans. Despite his troubles, he always performed in the ring and gave us a treasure trove of great matches and memories that will stand the test of time. Viva La Raza: The Legacy of Eddie Guerrero” documents the Eddie’s journey to redemption and features many of his best matches. It even features an interview with Eddie himself which can be a bit emotional to watch knowing that he would be gone not long after. It’s a fitting tribute to his memory and still available online. The collection is essential viewing for all Eddie and wrestling fans alike.
Let me know what you think of this weeks Wrestling Rewind in the comments below or on Twitter @KenKidney. I’ll be back at the weekend with another Wrestling Weekly to fill you in on all the weeks major developments in the world of wrestling.
Pundit Arena. Ken Kidney.