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Reflecting on the Legacy of Eddie Guerrero

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I was four years old a decade and a half ago on November 13th, 2005. I grew up in a very wrestling centric household and was just starting to get into myself. I had some memories of Eddie Guerrero, but not many. I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate how good he was or the legacy that he was leaving behind. I didn’t comprehend how different the fabric of professional wrestling would change.

Fortunately, I grew up in an era where access to everything was premium. My dad had hundreds of tapes with eight to ten hours of wrestling on them a piece, then I had YouTube and WWE 24/7 Classics on Demand to fill in the gaps when I went all in as a diehard fan in my formative years. When I was younger, my life was awful and wrestling provided me with an escape (something it still does). The older I got, the more I appreciated Eddie Guerrero and what he did. Going back at seven years old re-watching his career all the way through, he’s a big reason why I fell in love with the sport the way that I did. When trying to decide what kind of piece to do for Eddie Guerrero on the fifteenth anniversary of his sudden passing, it was difficult to figure out what I should do. Should I do a career retrospective, like I’ve previously done this pandemic for Chris Jericho and Triple H? Perhaps, a ranking of Eddie’s best matches. Then, I realized I couldn’t just list every match he and Dean Malenko worked together.

Something like this, how much Eddie Guerrero means to me as a fan, and other fans in the industry I think does the most justice. Eddie Guerrero’s story is a beautiful but tragic one. He was born to a wrestling family, the legendary Guerrero’s and son of Gory Guerrero. He broke through teaming with a guy named Art Barr, the innovator of the frog splash. Art Barr’s personal demons ended up costing him his life as Eddie went and traveled the globe (and using the frog splash as a tribute to Barr). After breaking through in ECW and WCW, four best friends went to the WWF and altered the course of the Federation forever: Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Eddie Guerrero.

Eddie became the breakout star of the four. Despite all four being incredible in ring talents, Eddie was the only one that truly had personality. Anything that Eddie Guerrero did was must watch television, including the time he tried to sneak into Hugh Hefner’s mansion to keep “his mamacita” out of a certain magazine.

I wouldn’t have shared that segment specifically had I not just spent a long time looking for it last month when a friend asked if I could track it down, but might as well put it to use. The stuff with Chyna pretty much put him on the map as a sleezy heel that you couldn’t help but be glued to the screen for, in similar vein to a modern day Angel Garza.

Eventually, Eddie Guerrero was released not too long following the conclusion of the story due to substance abuse that culminated in an arrest for driving intoxicated. Eddie barely survived and had hit rock bottom before finding Christ. He cleaned his life up and returned to the company in 2002, before the company split brands. SmackDown, being notorious as the B-Show, wasn’t supposed to last very long. Until they built the show around six men: Kurt Angle, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Chavo Guerrero and Chavo’s uncle Eddie. It was Eddie who carried the show into prominence. The video below from WWE right before it celebrated episode 1000 is a tremendous watch.

Eddie Guerrero took a show that didn’t have many stars and became the highlight, with his eternally entertaining antics. He is the one guy who could consistently work as a heel but be so charismatic that you can’t help but cheer for him. He is the most naturally charismatic performer that professional wrestling has ever seen. There’s that natural gravitation toward Eddie Guerrero. Everything he said was just so real, just so fun. This following promo is a top five promo in wrestling history. He’s just so passionate.

SmackDown was known as “the wrestling show.” It’s his work with the SmackDown Six that gave it that reputation. The great thing about Eddie Guerrero is that not only could he work any style, but he always did something different. Whether it was something as simple as pulling the tag rope to the middle of the apron and finding creative ways to cheat or more subtle, intricate details that add to the story in the ring. I love breaking down matches, especially from 2003-2006 when ROH was at its peak with Paul London, James Gibson, AJ Styles, Jack Evans, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, The American Dragon, etc. WWE at the time had Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Rey Mysterio, Brock Lesnar and all of these tremendous young talents all on one brand. Wrestling was hit with a boom from a performance standpoint that changed the industry forever and it’s a fun time to look back upon. For me, one of my all-time favorite matches to break down is Eddie vs Kurt Angle at Summerslam 2004. It doesn’t get the recognition of their match at WrestleMania XX earlier in the year, but personally I think it’s so much better. I’ve broken down that match more times than I can count and every time I dissect it I still find something new. That’s how good and intricate those two talents were as storytellers. They were magnificent.

We can talk about Eddie’s personality. He oozed charisma and did so in spades. Perhaps, nobody has more personality in WWE history. We can discuss his in-ring work, an elite athlete who had a master mind for storytelling. But, his influence is so much more profound than that. Sasha Banks, the current SmackDown Women’s Champion, got into pro wrestling because of Eddie Guerrero. An entire generation of performers cite Eddie Guerrero as the reason that they fell in love with the industry. John Cena, John Layfield, Dave Bautista among other former champions credit Eddie Guerrero as the reason they got as far as they did. John Cena’s even gone on record to say that Eddie means more to his career than anybody else. What is Eddie Guerrero’s biggest impact?

While the WWE Championship had been won by guys like Chris Jericho and Bret Hart, both of whom are exactly 6′, the belt had never been held by somebody shorter than 6′ and even guys like Bret and Chris were considered small in World Championship standards. The belts history had been dominated by guys such as Hulk Hogan (6’6, 303 lb), The Undertaker (6’10, 309 lb), Triple H (6’4, 255 lb), and in some cases, guys like Yokozuna who weighed in at 590. It’s a big man’s sport by nature.

Brock Lesnar had dominated for two years and was on his way out. He had been working with bigger guys nonstop such as The Big Show, The Undertaker or tougher guys such as Kurt Angle and Bob Holly. When Eddie Guerrero defeated Brock Lesnar at No Way Out, the world of wrestling changed forever. While Eddie Guerrero was larger than life, he was only 5’8 and had been released previously due to a crippling drug addiction. The latter sent the message that no matter how far you fall from grace, if you pick yourself up and take advantage of your second opportunity, your dreams can still come true. In that regard, it is probably the most emotional World Championship win in WWE history. But, the other message it sent is that size doesn’t matter anymore.

WWE’s biggest male star right now is Seth Rollins. He’s not a big dude. Daniel Bryan is 5’10 and became one of the companies biggest stories of the last decade. CM Punk in 2011 broke down that barrier. AJ Styles is 5’10 and recently had a year long WWE Championship reign. Rey Mysterio has had multiple World Championships. Guys like Mustafa Ali are a big part of WWEs future going forward, even if they haven’t reached that level yet. These guys wouldn’t have had as much of an opportunity had Eddie not broken the ground that he did. Sami Zayn would still be wearing a mask working for PWG if it weren’t for Eddie Guerrero changing the game forever.

He was WWEs first big Latin superstar since Pedro Morales in the 1970s. Now, the WWE is a hotbed for Latin talent, with talents such as the aforementioned Garza, Lucha House Party, Zelina Vega, Andrade Cien Almas, among others. This is by far the most diverse roster that the WWE has ever put together and a lot of that is directly correlated to the success fo Eddie Guerrero. Representation always matters.

People can say a lot about Eddie Guerrero and they will. The 2006 WWE Hall of Fame inductee changed the game forever, is one of the greatest and most beloved human beings in the history of our industry and was a gaudy talent. But, more importantly, he personifies the American Dream. He gives every day people like us hope for something more and something better. He changed the industry by proving that those shorter in stature could still be larger than life itself. Orale, Eddie. Viva La Raza! We love you and miss you every day.

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