Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nine Years Gone

Miss u, Eddie
Photo via
Nine years ago today, in a Minneapolis hotel room, the wrestling world lost a true icon. Eduardo Gory Guerrero, better known to his fans as Eddie or Eddy, passed away from heart failure at the all too young age of 38. Guerrero lived fast and hard, both inside and out of the ring, but while his premature passing was cynically not surprising, it didn't make the sting hurt any less, and it doesn't make the void he left in the wrestling industry any shallower. Guerrero came as close to being a universally beloved wrestler as anyone ever could have. He was rude and devious as a heel, and lovable and relatable as a babyface. And boy, could he ever put on a show between the bells. Guerrero may not have been the best wrestler of all-time between the ropes, but I struggle to think of ten wrestlers who clearly were better than him in all facets of the game.

Guerrero wrestled everywhere and left an indelible mark on any promotion for which he competed. His humble beginnings as a luchador rudo, teaming with Art Barr (another figure who died well before his time) while terrorizing the lucha establishment, led to his introduction into the highly influential channels of mid-'90s prestige wrestling. Whether working under the hood in New Japan Pro Wrestling as Black Tiger or with his face shown to the world in Extreme Championship Wrestling. As many ECW standouts ended up, Guerrero signed with World Championship Wrestling, where he became a cornerstone for the burgeoning cruiserweight division. His feud with Rey Mysterio, Jr. was the stuff of legends, and their Halloween Havoc mask vs. title lucha de apuesta could very well be the best match of the '90s, if not of all-time. Guerrero spent time bouncing between weight classes, and he had feuds with wrestlers from Konnan to Ric Flair.

By 2000, he became dissatisfied with his lot in WCW, and along with Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn, he jumped ship to WWE. He found initial success, but soon, his vices caught up with him and he was fired. Guerrero worked to sober himself up, and he worked in fledgling promotions such as IWA Mid-South and Ring of Honor that would become the backbone of the current indie golden age. Soon, he was re-signed to WWE, and his second act with the company proved to be his most successful. He not only won crowds over with his lovable cheater antics and masterful in-ring performances, but he won favor with the office that led to him beating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship and engaging in what everyone thought was going to be the most inspirational and memorable WrestleMania closing moment ever, embracing Benoit as confetti rained from the ceiling. Of course, Benoit's gruesome final days cast a sickening pall over that moment, but at the time, it was heartwarming.

In life, Guerrero was a flawed man, but who among the world's population is perfect? His substance abuse issues that ultimately played a role in claiming his life are minor compared to the warmth and energy he brought into an arena. He brought a light to WWE that was not replicated until Daniel Bryan began his ascendance. He was universally praised for his wrestling by his peers and his fans, and if anyone made it look easier than Guerrero did at his height, then I haven't found them out yet.

Eddie Guerrero was quite unlike any performer who came before him, and no one who has come after has come close to becoming the next him. The mold was broken when he was born, and now that he's been gone for almost a decade, it's become increasingly clearer how special and unique a performer Guerrero was. Rest in peace, and viva la raza.