untimely demises of beloved characters that fans grew to love over their years in the squared circle, and it never gets any easier to digest. 10 years ago, on November 13 2005, misfortune struck one of the brightest stars in WWE’s storied history, as we were forced to bid farewell to Eddie Guerrero.
Guerrero was everything fans loved in a wrestler. He had a celebrated pedigree, as the son of the legendary Gory Guerrero. His passion for performing and mastering the art of the sport was unbridled and apparent whether he was the beloved babyface or the dastardly heel. He was funny, charismatic, and likable. And, Guerrero defeated his demons and beat the odds.
If his life had ended in 2001, which it very nearly did due to his drug habits, Guerrero would likely have been another footnote in list of deceased wrestlers that is sadly far too long. However, it is how he fought back from the brink and had such an emotional rejuvenation that makes his death at only 38 years old even more tragic.
I remember hearing the news that wretched day and not being able to comprehend it. I was still young enough at the time that I still saw WWE as near-enough genuine, but this changed everything for me. Guerrero’s passing and the fantastic tributes that followed it brought me to the realization of wrestling as sports entertainment, which probably only served to heighten my enjoyment of the product for years going forward.
But, those years would have been much more entertaining with Guerrero as a part of them. He exuded so much energy and his unique Latino Heat that you couldn’t help but be captivated every time he was on screen. Whether you were enamored with his irrepressible charm or jeering his dastardly deeds, whenever Guerrero was onscreen, nobody was looking away.
While Guerrero’s early days in Mexico, ECW and WCW led to some amazing matches and formed the roots of his most renowned rivalries with the likes of Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio, it was his run with WWE that earned him a permanent place in the hearts of fans worldwide.
His potential as a main attraction was briefly explored in his Mamacita run alongside Chyna, but it wasn’t until his second run that he really caught fire, both in the ring and on the microphone.
His habits kicked for good, Eddie Guerrero would reach the peaks of WWE Tag Team Champion, Intercontinental Champion and the first ever WWE United States Champion. His crowning glory would come though at No Way Out 2004, where his heart and courage saw him claim the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar, and showed to the world that dreams do come true.
That was the thing with Guerrero – when you watched him at every SmackDown, every PPV, every house show, you felt part of his journey. Beyond his catalog of extraordinary matches with Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and his nephew Chavo, his actions were a magnet for crowds to react in any way they seemed fit.
I don’t think there has been a more emotionally charged image in wrestling than Guerrero and Benoit at the end of WrestleMania XX, where two underdogs that had worked for decades with unbelievable matches finally got their time in the spotlight. Furthermore, it was vindication for a career that at one point seemed destined to tailspin, which was not only recovered but relaunched into orbit.
When Guerrero performed in the years prior to his death, you always could tell he was grateful for his second chance to put smiles on the faces of the WWE audience, and be alongside his close family and friends. His wife Vickie carried on his legacy with amazing style and personality, something he would have been eternally proud to have witnessed firsthand.
In the end, when remembering Eddie Guerrero, you can talk about the performer, the underdog and the man, as you will find positives in every one of those personalities. He lied to his naysayers, cheated death and stole the hearts of millions worldwide. Although his life was tragically taken from the world far too soon, Guerrero earned the respect of his peers and the retribution he fought years to achieve.
That’s why, even a decade after Guerrero’s passing, I will never forget the lowriders, the cheap victories, the Frog Splashes, and that infectious smile of his. He’ll never be duplicated, but will forever be imitated and revered, as WWE superstars of today demonstrate. As a wrestler and a human being he will forever be a hero of mine, and will continue to relive his Hall of Fame career for years to come.