It is hard to believe it, but on November 13, the wrestling world will remember the 12th anniversary of the sudden and shocking death of Eddie Guerrero.
I first saw Eddie perform, live and in person, at the ECW Arena in South Philadelphia. I was just in high school back then. Wrestling had not gained main stream acceptance that it has today. I grew up on the cartoony WWF, so just being at the corner of Swanson and Ritner was a wrestling culture shock for me. But it was the performers that really woke me up, in terms of what truly spectacular wrestling could be.
One of those stars? Eddie Guerrero.
He, like so many other performers from his era of ECW, were destined for greatness. As soon as you saw him perform in matches, you knew that it was practically a criminal act to keep his talents relegated to a warehouse once used to practice for the Mummers Parade and sometimes host midnight Bingo. He deserved to be on prime time, live wrestling shows week in and week out, not on taped, one hour segments airing on regional cable.
Thanks to Ted Turner’s deep pockets and quest for talent (or, desire to keep talent away from Vince McMahon), Eddie was brought to WCW in 1995. While he’d had exposure in WCW before, his entrance in ’95 was not as an enhancement talent, but as a showcase superstar. During his run, he claimed the US and Cruiserweight titles, as well as had notable runs in the nWo knock0ff Latino World Order, as well as the Filthy Animals. Eddie opted to exit WCW in early 2000 when WCW management removed Vince Russo from the head booker’s role.
With his release from WCW, it was not long before Guerrero, flanked by other ECW/WCW alums Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn, debuted on RAW, first as guests of Mick Foley but ultimately turning on him. Eddie and Chris were the two most successful members of the group while in WWE; the pinnacle of their success arguably came at Wrestlemania XX, with Benoit winning the World Heavyweight Championship and Eddie successfully defending his recently won WWE Championship. Eddie joined Benoit in the ring to celebrate following Chris’s victory, no doubt recognizing that they were at the top of the business that they had toiled in for so long.
At every stop of his career, you got a showman, a performer with an incredible flair. Plenty of emotion and passion for putting on the best possible show for the fans. I knew that a Guerrero match-even a Guerrero promo-was something you just had to see. Whether he was nailing his Three Amigos, or wrapping up a victory with his famed Frog Splash, it was always must-see.
He was taken from his family, and from the world of wrestling, all too soon at the age of just 38. No foul play was found, with the cause of death being an underlying heart condition that was exacerbated by Eddie’s past demons. It was a sad end for someone who had worked so hard to get where he was, and to overcome personal demons.
His death gave way to one of the more memorable tribute shows, and he provided WWE fans with another lasting legacy-his wife, Vickie. That may be one part of his legacy we would have preferred he kept to himself!
It’s hard to believe he’s been gone 12 years. Considering what other talents are still going strong at 47, it’s painful to imagine how much more incredible wrestling from Eddie we could have enjoyed. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him in WWE, and even WCW, but I was hooked on Eddie from the days of ECW, and he impressed me every day since. My fondest memories of Eddie will always be from his ECW days. His matches, especially with The Man of 1,000 Holds, Dean Malenko, were spectacular-mat wrestling, holds and counters at their finest.
What would be your favorite Eddie Guerrero memory?