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DENNY'S DUNGEON
The Redemption of Eddie Guerrero
May 28, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

As I sat and watched the Eddie Guerrero documentary "Cheating Death, Stealing Life" that aired on UPN Wednesday night, one revelation kept repeating in my head. I'd never stopped and thought about it until I saw Eddie weeping on camera, describing his near-death experiences with drugs, alcohol, and automobiles - or until I watched Dean Malenko explain how he, Chris Benoit, and Perry Saturn ratted Eddie out to Jim Ross because they feared if they didn't, they'd find Guerrero dead in his hotel room before long.

What kept running through my head the entire time was that Eddie Guerrero is Brian Pillman with a second chance. He's Pillman with a guardian angel. And if it weren't for the help of those around him - and his own will to live - Eddie would probably be where Brian Pillman is today.

The two men shared strikingly similar propensities for self-destruction. Listening to the current WWE Champion describe getting wasted on all the usual poisons - and then wrecking his car doing 130 mph into a curve while high - I couldn't help but think how much that sounded like Pillman's accident.

Eddie got a second chance. And really, calling it a second chance is very generous, since the accounts given by his family, friends, and co-workers on the documentary seem to indicate that Eddie got more like 10 or 12 "second chances."

What Guerrero repeatedly explained, with good reason, is that he had no control over his addiction. Guerrero will never, ever kill his addiction to drugs and alcohol. It is with him for the rest of his life. It is with him ever time he steps into the ring on Smackdown. He's not a recovered alcoholic. He's a recovering alcoholic. It might sound like a subtle difference, but given the example Eddie gave of his post-rehab relapse - where one glass of wine turned into a binging excursion and a trip to jail - the difference is huge.

Eddie went into that relapse thinking he was recovered. But there is no such thing. Eddie was merely recovering, and he'll be recovering forever, because addiction is impossible to completely remove. It's always there. The trick is stomping it out, one day at a time. Guerrero will concentrate on going the rest of the day without a drink or a pill. Then tomorrow, he'll focus on finishing that day. And so on.

When a wrestler like Brian Pillman dies, fans wonder aloud how such a vibrant guy could have perished. Pillman had so many friends; how did nobody see that he needed help? He was with the WWF every day; couldn't the McMahons have put their foot down? Why didn't anyone stop Brian Pillman? Why didn't anyone HELP Brian Pillman?

Lord knows I certainly don't have those answers, and I'd bet that if anyone does, they're the people closest to the situation and they don't want to talk about it. But I'll say this: God bless Dean Malenko for going behind his friend's back.

If you missed the documentary, Malenko described how Eddie Guerrero began showing up for work so visibly wrecked that one day, the fear of seeing Eddie die grew so big that he did something about it. Malenko, Benoit, and Saturn confronted Jim Ross as a group, and secretly informed him that Eddie needed help. Eddie had no idea they did it. But Ross and the WWF took it to heart, and sent Eddie to rehab.

That was one "second chance." Then Eddie gave in to his addiction one more time, and they fired him. Eventually, Eddie wound up losing his wife, his job, and people's respect. About the only thing he hadn't lost was his life. And as he said in the documentary, he was beginning to care less whether he lost that, too.

Fast forward to 2004. Eddie Guerrero has his wife back. He's got the respect of his family, friends and fans back. He was given yet another chance with WWE, and this time, he made the absolute best of it. He looks great in the ring. He is the WWE Champion. He's where he wants to be. He is successfully fending off his addictions.

He's everything, unfortunately, that Brian Pillman didn't become.

Our WWE Champion is a rare bright spot in an industry rife with tragic statistics. Bravo, Mr. Guerrero. And here's hoping more of your contemporaries will follow your lead.

E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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