Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Birthday, Eddie Guerrero

Happy birthday, Eddie. No one was like you, and no one will ever replace you.
Photo Credit:
Eddie Guerrero would have been 50 years old today. Most people know the story. His nephew Chavo, Jr. found him unresponsive in his hotel room in Minneapolis, and he was pronounced dead due to heart failure. Years of taking drugs, both narcotic and steroidal in nature, took a toll on him, and he joined the laundry list of wrestlers taken from this earth too early. He remains to this day one of the most lionized and admired wrestlers in the world, for good reason. No matter where he went, he was instantly among the greatest wrestlers on that roster.

Whether it was in Asistencia Asesoria y Administración, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, IWA Mid-South, or WWE, Guerrero left fans in the seats breathless from his amazing feats of athleticism and unique handle on being able to tell a story. He was charismatic and relatable, especially in his post-Radicalz run in WWE. Sure, casual racism fueled a lot of his oeuvre, including the low-rider imagery, but no one owned an ethos quite like he owned "Cheat to win." He turned goofy premises into emotional stories, like the infamous "custody of Dominic" angle that culminated in one of many classics he'd have with Rey Mysterio, Jr.

Many people still go back to the ending of WrestleMania XX, when he and Chris Benoit embraced to close the show, both men as Champions of their respective brands, as a hallmark moment, even as it's been tarnished by how Benoit's life ended. Moreover, a popular talking point has arisen that when people praise Guerrero nowadays, that it's really code for how much they loved Benoit without really saying it. While no doubt some people probably do that, to make that insinuation feels racist as fuck at worst and it erases a tremendous career in Guerrero's. Either way, it's not a good look.

What is a good look, however, are the many classics Guerrero put on in the ring, whether under his real name or as a junior heavyweight in NJPW under the Tiger Mask hood. I'll leave you with perhaps the best-regarded Guerrero/Mysterio match of all-time. Halloween Havoc 1997 saw Guerrero put his WCW Cruiserweight Championship on the line against Mysterio's mask. It's not just the best match between these two; it's on a short-list for the best match in professional wrestling history.