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Some professional wrestlers are legends because of what they've done in the ring. Others become icons thanks to who they were behind the scenes, inspiring everyone around them on a daily basis.
Then, there are those rare, special individuals who simply have it all. Eddie Guerrero was one of those people. He came from the stock of Mexican wrestling royalty, but he would, in his short life, go on to become one of the definitive performers of his generation.
Yet, there will always be this tinge of sadness associated with the Eddie Guerrero story; a bittersweet melancholy which comes over many when they think of how much more Eddie could've achieved had he not passed away at the young age of 38 back in 2005. This isn't to say, of course, that Eddie's accolades weren't numerous. In fact, Guerrero was a decorated champion with numerous title wins to his credit.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In order to properly discuss the life of Eduardo Gory Guerrero Llanes, we have to first talk about two things: family and tradition. Eddie spent his early years in Texas and New Mexico, and it was at the University of New Mexico where Eddie first was bitten by the wrestling bug, having competed in the amateur division while there on an athletic scholarship. To be fair, however, there was probably no other career path Eddie could've taken, as it seems as if The Guerreros were simply born to wrestle.
The business was in their blood, and it all started with Eddie's father, Gory Guerrero. Just as names like El Santo, Mil Mascaras, and The Blue Demon are sacred in the world of Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling, so too was Gory Guerrero cut from this cloth, serving as one of the industry's most well-known names and pioneers. Eddie would move to Mexico to train with, among others, his nephew Chavo Jr., and learn his trade under the supervision of Gory. It was also here where Chavo and Eddie would watch some of Mexican wrestling's all time greats work matches on a nightly basis. It was a nearly perfect education.
Eddie would cut his teeth in Mexican promotions such as CMLL and the AAA in late 80s and early 90s, before flying over to New Japan Pro Wrestling to further expand his pro wrestling acumen. Guerrero was living the life of an indie wrestler, making towns and working under many different promotions, but it would be with two specific American companies that the name Eddie Guerrero would start to grow.
Paul Heyman's ECW and World Championship Wrestling saw Eddie competing as both a champion and a jobber, putting over established talent early in his career before capturing the US and Cruiserweight titles in WCW. The latter's cruiserweight division was where Eddie seemed to belong, and where he truly began to shine. This aspect of the company was always something WCW had over the WWF during the Monday Night Wars, as the cruiserweight division became known for show-stealing matches with some of the company's most exciting young talent.
Still, WCW's reputation of being "where the big boys played" meant that smaller guys like Eddie would never get a chance to truly show what they could do at the top of the card. This meant that it was off for greener pastures as the 90s entered the new millennium: Eddie Guerrero was off to the WWF. It was here where Eddie did arguably some of the best work of his career, but it's also here where we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room; specifically, Guerrero's history with substance abuse.
It's no secret to many of Eddie's fans that he was a man who struggled. He struggled with pain medication, alcohol, and self-doubt. But his story isn't a sad sack, "woe is me" tale; but rather, one of an uphill fight for redemption. Here was an "everyman" who represented the beating heart of all of us who want to work hard for our dreams, fight for our goals, and do everything in our power to make them happen. We want to see these people succeed, and come out of their own personal darkness. Eddie was one of these people.
He was already in a lot of nagging pain, thanks to a New Year's car accident back in 1999. An addiction to pain medication meant that Eddie's first run in the WWF in the early 2000s was memorable, but brief and fraught with injury. His "invasion" of the company alongside fellow WCW alumni Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit was over almost as soon as it began, as Eddie injured his elbow performing his patented "frog splash" finisher off the top turnbuckle. Guerrero would return in the Spring after some recovery time, but it wasn't exactly the sort of impact he had in mind.
It was after this return when Eddie managed to buck the trend of on-screen wrestling romances by entering into a program with The Ninth Wonder of the World, Chyna. Guerrero's "Latino Heat" character and television relationship with Chyna was legitimately sweet—a rarity in the business—and got the pair over big time. Eddie further solidified his reputation as one of the business' finest workhorses by putting together stellar matches, utilizing in-ring skill, psychology, and charisma to craft some of the industry's contests.
Old ghosts would catch up to Eddie during this first tour in the WWF, however, and he would be sent packing after a stint in rehab, brought upon by a continued substance problem. He would never leave the squared circle very far behind, however, and continued to travel the independent circuit, performing against the likes of CM Punk, Super Crazy, and Rey Mysterio. A return to the WWF, now the WWE would eventually be in the cards, however, and this time, Eddie Guerrero would fight to do it clean and sober.
If Eddie's first run for Vince McMahon was impactful, then his return in 2002 would hit even harder, as Guerrero teamed with Chavo to introduce the "lie, cheat, and steal" gimmick for their tag team, Los Guerreros. Eddie would win tag-team gold twice during this time, once with Yoshihiro Tajiri and later with Chavo, as well as the United States title. None of these impressive wins would quite touch the moment many fans remember best from this period however: the time Eddie Guerrero beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship.
On WWE paper, Eddie lied, cheated, and stole his way to victory. In reality, however, it was validation for Eddie Guerrero the man. Here was a living legend, overcoming personal demons to reach the very apex of his profession. The image of Eddie leaping into the crowd after his win says it all: Here was a man of the people, celebrating with everyone who believed in him from the start. This isn't to say that Guerrero wasn't feeling the daily effects of a lifestyle which has taken its toll. Eddie would make the most of the WWE's medical staff to try and alleviate the nagging physical ailments of fatigue and abuse; yet out there in the ring, it was as if Eddie Guerrero was immortal.
But Eddie wasn't immortal. He was human. He was also clean and sober, but that doesn't erase any of the damage done to his body over the years. Guerrero would work many other excellent programs during his final years with the WWE, alongside superstars like Batista, JBL, and the aforementioned Rey Mysterio. Ultimately, it wasn't an overdose or accident which took Eddie's life, but rather the real life results of a life well-worn and hard-earned. Guerrero would die from heart failure on November 13th, 2005. His body was found in a Minneapolis hotel room, with the official autopsy results stating that atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease was a major contributor to his death.
Today, the Guerrero name lives on, in the memories and matches performed in his honor by family and friends. Eddie's widow Vicki would become one of the WWE's most memorable heel authority figures after her husband's death, while Chavo continues on the family legacy wrestling for companies like Lucha Underground. Meanwhile, Eddie's daughter Shaul Guerrero worked as a wrestler herself under the name Raquel Diaz for the WWE's developmental program, proving that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
So is it heartbreaking that we lost Eddie Guerrero so young? Absolutely. One can only image how many more matches "Latino Heat" had in him, or how much more knowledge he'd be able to impart to today's amazing new generation of performers. Yet, at the same time, this bright star of the professional wrestling business had such an impact, that he remains somehow immortal; a strand of the industry's DNA that is intrinsically linked with the sport. So much so that he will never be forgotten.
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