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ONLINE ONSLAUGHT
Eddie Guerrero, Dead at 38 
November 13, 2005

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Forget sleeping in, forget lounging on the couch all day watching football... not on a Sunday when you are awakened early by the most tragic wrestling news of the year, and when you probably won't be able to shake the confusion, sadness, and frustration all day long.
  

WWE.com and many Minneapolis media outlets are reporting that Eddie Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room this morning. He had just turned 38 last month.

And while there has obviously been no official word on the cause of death, there is also absolutely no reason to pretend that we aren't all very aware of Eddie's battles with the 

wrestling industry's favorite euphemism, the Personal Demons. His past abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs has been well-documented and his use of steroids and/or other performance/cosmetic enhancing substances is widely-suspected. It is only human nature to look at those facts, and wonder. If nothing else, the toll Eddie's uses and abuses took on his body in the past now seems to have been a steeper one than anybody could possibly have imagined.

A toxicology report and an autopsy will provide us some answers in the coming weeks. But for now, all wrestling fans have is yet another difficult-to-explain, too-soon death of one of their favorite superstars.

As hard-to-accept as Eddie's death might be, it's almost equally as hard to believe how he ended his life on top of the wrestling industry after very humble beginnings. Eddie was the youngest son of Mexican wrestling legend Gory Guerrero, and seemed destined to follow in his family's footsteps; realistically, that probably meant aspiring to stardom in Mexico and among small pockets of lucha libre fans in the southwestern US, and not much more. 

After being trained by his father, Eddie made his debut at the age of 19, and started wrestling throughout Mexico... however, it wasn't long before Eddie was teaming with his older and more-established brothers, Chavo Sr. and Mando. Eddie's own identity was slow to form, and the first several years of his career were rather lackluster as a result.

Still competing almost exclusively in Mexico, Eddie saw things start to change in 1992, as he began establishing himself as something more than just another Guerrero. The first of many staggeringly successful heel runs came for Eddie in '92, as he abandoned his tag partner at the time, El Hijo del Santo. Eddie also took on new partners, frequently some of the most dastardly gringos to be imported for major Mexico City shows.

Ironically, some of Eddie's associates in a group that I believe I remember being dubbed "El Gringo Locos" included the late Art "Love Machine" Barr (an exceptionally well-regarded worker who worked for WCW) and the late Louie Spicolli (who was in the middle of re-inventing himself after breaking into the business as a renowned WWF jobber). Jake Roberts was also affiliated with Eddie at times, and is the unlikely surviving member of the team. I guess it's true what they say about truth sometimes being stranger than fiction....
 
For close to two years, from '92 through '94, Eddie was one of the top heels working in Mexico. His first titles came during this stretch, as Eddie held titles in two of Mexico's three big promotions at the time. It was Eddie's work in AAA that eventually led to his being "discovered" by American fans.
 
With the wrestling business in America in a slump in 1994, and with WCW struggling massively as the distant #2 promotion in an already decimated marketplace, the company was willing to experiment on fresh ideas. One of those ideas: partnering with Mexico's AAA to bring lucha libre to American fans. An event was staged in Los Angeles, CA, and taped for broadcast on a pay-per-view called "When Worlds Collide."
 
Featuring few stars recognizable (at the time) to US wrestling fans -- 2 Cold Scorpio was already known to WCW fans, but after that, I remember the most recognizable name on the show as being Tito Santana -- "When Worlds Collide" was a financial flop. But among the few who purchased the show, it was a massive critical success; over the years, the significance of the show has also increased, as it wound up being the US PPV Debut for many of today's top stars, including Eddie, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and Konnan.

Eddie's match on the show was widely-regarded as the show-stealer, and also ended up being a strong Match of the Year Candidate in year-end voting. Eddie and his partner, Art Barr, put their hair on the line against the masks of El Hijo del Santo and Octagon, and in the climactic best-of-three-falls end to their red hot feud. Eddie and Barr were losers in the match, but almost instantly saw their stock rise as a result of the amazing performances.

Eddie had already begun drawing attention from Japan, after 7 years of wrestling almost exclusively in Mexico. But with the "When Worlds Collide" PPV, American promoters started calling, too. One of them was Paul Heyman, who was very interested in bringing Eddie and Art Barr to ECW as a tag team. Barr, however, died (of drug-related reasons) less than a month after the PPV, and never made it to ECW.

So Eddie came into ECW alone in early 1995, and quickly found himself across the ring from guys like Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko, who had come to ECW's attention more for their technical grappling work in Japan than for high-flying. The association of Eddie being more a technical wrestler than a high-flying continued to strengthen as Eddie also started working for New Japan Pro Wrestling; he'd miss the same ECW shows as Benoit and Malenko, in the name of touring Japan. The trio even became known as the "New Japan Three" towards the end of their stint in ECW.

Ironically, during this period, both Benoit and Guerrero were wrestling under masks in Japan: Benoit as "The Pegasus Kid" and Guerrero as "Black Tiger." It's funny to think that as successful as both men were to become, much of their initial success came with the anonymity of wearing a mask. Benoit actually unmasked, amid much hype, in the mid-90s; but as late as 1996, I remember Eddie still wrestling as "Black Tiger" anytime he toured Japan.

About eight months into their ECW stint, the "New Japan Three" left for WCW. Although the popular myth at the time had New Japan Pro Wrestling pressuring Guerrero, Benoit, and Malenko to leave ECW for WCW if they wanted to continue being booked in Japan (NJPW and WCW had a working relationship), the truth is that the New Japan Three were free to wrestle wherever they wanted to in America, and simply took the better financial offer from WCW. 
 
With WCW starting Monday Nitro in September 1995, Eric Bischoff knew he not only needed more bodies to help fill up the additional TV show, but that he needed something fresh and distinctive to set WCW apart from the WWF. By pursuing guys like Guerrero and Benoit, Bischoff effectively killed two birds with one stone: he hired guys who could effortlessly fill up 20 minutes of TV time without breaking a sweat, and he hired guys who could have the kinds of matches that the WWF of the day simply was not putting on TV with any regularity.

Bischoff experimented with other things -- you might remember a comically underwhelming attempt by WCW to present a family-friendly TV-PG version of Sabu for about 6 weeks in the fall of '95 -- but had the greatest success when he'd import excellent workers, be they technical wrestlers or high-flyers. As Nitro expanded to two, and then to three hours (and as WCW added an additional show, Thunder, on Thursday nights), these workers became an increasingly important part of WCW's product.

Though almost completely excluded from the main event storytelling and from the climactic final hour of Nitro every Monday, guys like Guerrero, Benoit, Jericho, and (by mid-1996, the cruiserweights, led by Rey Mysterio) were carrying the load on the undercard. They weren't allowed to feud with Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, or Lex Luger, but in their own little isolated preliminary-match-ghetto, they were providing the ultra-sturdy foundation upon which the rest of WCW's (frequently shaky) feuds and matches were built.

By the end of 1996, Eddie Guerrero was looking like the biggest catch of the "New Japan Three," as he'd not only won Japan's prestigious Super J Cup, but he also captured the WCW United States Title. But politics dictated that Eddie's successful run was about to be derailed. By mid-1997, the US Title was effectively wrested from the grips of two of the "New Japan Three" (Eddie and Dean Malenko feuded over it, with Eddie turning heel in the process)... and while the US Title was passed through the less-worthy hands of men such as Steve "Mongo" McMichael, Eddie found himself busted back down to the lower card.

Out of the US Title chase, Eddie was re-cast by WCW as a Cruiserweight. And while the combination of Eddie's undeniable heel charisma and opponents like Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio made for a ton of excellent memories from this period, they are memories that almost always took place in the opening hour of Nitro, out of the spotlight and divorced from the "important" events on each show. Though appreciated by fans (and with ratings indicating that people were no less interested in the first hour of Nitro than in the third), it seemed to many that there was a lack of institutional respect for these guys.

By mid-1998, it got to the point where it was such an obvious problem that WCW tried to turn it into a storyline. Eddie Guerrero went on TV and (in a shoot-style promo) accused Eric Bischoff of disrespecting Eddie and the cruisers and holding them down in order to focus on his buddies in the NWO. This spawned the tongue-in-cheek "Latino World Order." Not surprisingly, the second that the LWO showed signs of catching on and stealing the spotlight away from the anointed main event WCW stars, the plug was pulled on the concept. If you've got an LWO t-shirt, it's a collector's item from a very brief period in time when Eddie Guerrero, by sheer force of his personality, sold a concept so well that the audience immediately bought into it. And management immediately got intimidated by the ease with which Eddie connected with the audience in a way that was almost completely opposite of, oh let's say, Horace Hogan or Virgil (who were NWO mainstays, I kid you not).

WCW's stance, at the time, was that the initial 3-year contracts that brought Eddie and others to WCW in 1995 were about to expire, and they didn't want to invest energy in pushing a guy who was about to become a free agent. WCW wanted commitments from them that they would stay, commitments that, especially in Eddie's case, were difficult to make because of disillusionment over how he had been (mis-)handled over the past 18 months.

Following the second of what would become countless feuds with his nephew Chavo, Jr., and following the plug-pulling on the LWO, Eddie actually became nearly invisible on WCW TV for the fall of 1998, due to contractual issues. I am not positive, but I even have a vague memory of Eddie accepting indie bookings for a few months in '98 when the negotiations with WCW were at their most frigid. What I *do* remember is that in December '98, the "New Japan Three" were once again lumped together as WCW announced that the trio had finally all agreed to three-year contract extensions.

And you'd assume that from there, WCW would want to re-push their newly-signed talents. But you'd assume wrong. Benoit and Malenko were tossed together in a tag team, and were dubbed "The Vanilla Midgets" by backstage power-broker Kevin Nash in reference to their lack of size or charisma. This didn't exactly inspire much confidence that things were going to be much different for the New Japan Three, despite their fat new contracts. When management felt like the "Vanilla Midgets" had hit their ceiling, Malenko was ousted and replaced by the more-convincing-looking Perry Saturn as Benoit's full-time tag partner. [This treatment prompted Chris Jericho to choose differently when *he* was faced with the "sign a contract extension or get de-pushed" option early in 1999. He'd seen enough to know that nothing was gonna change as long as the Old Guard were so firmly in control.]

Meantime, Eddie Guerrero was almost immediately side-lined after signing his new contract. A New Year's Eve car accident resulted in Eddie cracking a hip and puncturing his liver... the accident was significant in other ways, too, as it was likely alcohol- and drug-related to begin with, and also provided the impetus for Eddie to become hooked on painkillers as he rushed his recovery. 

And rush he did: only about six months after the very serious car wreck, Eddie decided to return to action. Self-medicating himself, Eddie managed to approximate being at full speed despite coming back months sooner than originally estimated.

While the LWO was a thing of the past, Eddie again surrounded himself with amigos, launching a faction known as The Filthy Animals over the summer of '97. Along with Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, and Konnan, Eddie led the group straight into another one of WCW's brainfarts: this trio of talented workers (and Konnan) was asked to feud with the Insane Clown Posse (a pair of rappers with nominal wrestling training who somehow managed to work for all of the Big Three wrestling promotions of the 90s). For 2 or 3 months in the autumn of '99, Eddie and the Filthy Animals were stuck in a circus side-show feud.

As 1999 concluded, WCW lured the WWF's two head writers away, and despite some of the harebrained schemes cooked up by Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera, the one thing you can say about the two is that they loves them some Factional Warfare. Everybody started forming up factions, and that meant the Filthy Animals were looking for an upgrade in terms of opposition. As 1999 came to a close, the Filthy Animals were primarily feuding with "The Revolution," which included Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Shane Douglas.

Unfortunately, Eddie suffered another setback that November, injuring his elbow, and requiring surgery. He was out of action for about 2 months, as I recall. In fact, he was just getting ready to return to the ring in January, 2000, when something remarkable happened.

A tumultuous week leading up to the Souled Out PPV event led to the wrestling world being turned upside down. WCW learned that their champion, Bret Hart, would be unable to compete after suffering a concussion at the hands of Bill Goldberg. Writers Russo and Ferrera cooked up a plot in which UFC has-been Tank Abbott would win the WCW Title. Writers Russo and Ferrera were told to kindly go screw themselves, cuz WCW wasn't gonna let that happen... after a few months of unsatisfactory results, that was the end of the first Russo Era in WCW.

In the chaos, a temporary booking committee -- headed up by the Usual Suspects who had preceded Russo/Ferrera -- came up with a fix for the Souled Out PPV. Chris Benoit wrestled, and defeated, Sid Vicious to win the vacant WCW Title. But backstage, battlelines had been drawn up: many felt that the departure of Russo/Ferrera meant nothing less than a return to the Old School Crony-ism that had run rampant in WCW over the past several years. Putting the title on Benoit was seen by many as an empty gesture, one made purely to placate the troops and keep them from revolting once they met the new boss and realized he was, as the song says, Same As The Old Boss.

It didn't work. At the next day's TV tapings, upwards of a dozen WCW wrestlers -- most of them the talented and under-appreciated workers who had toiled on WCW's undercards for years -- demanded to be released. All were told to wait, cool off for a week, and think this through before doing something rash.  That seemed wise, and most of the wrestlers wound up doing just that, and decided to remain with WCW.

But four men would not be swayed, and demanded to be cut lose on the spot. In order to get them out of the locker room and prevent them from fomenting any additional mutinies, WCW relented and granted Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero full and unconditional releases. Just 13 months after signing lucrative new 3-year contracts with WCW, the "New Japan Three" (plus Perry Saturn) were once again making a major career move together.

Two weeks later, the foursome debuted together on Monday Night RAW. Chris Benoit, by virtue of winning the WCW Title in his last televised match, was clearly the leader of the group, and most fans and observers assumed big things were also in store for Perry Saturn. But I would like to take you all back to January 26, 2000, when the following passage was included in a midweek Online Onslaught column:

Chris Benoit, flat out, can be a major star.  No doubt about that.  [...] Of the remaining three, Perry Saturn obviously has the best "look" and is widely expected to get over on those strengths. But don't be surprised if Eddie Guerrero turns out to be a big-time sleeper in all this. He's not got the standard WWF look, but I defy anyone out there to tell me he's not done some of the most under-rated heel work of the last year or two while in WCW.  And he's done it without a whole lot of mic time or major storyline development.  He's one of those rare guys who tells a story WITHIN THE MATCH, which is something I love.

At a time when Eddie Guerrero was widely considered to be #3 on the "Radicalz" depth chart, OO was right there expecting big things for the guy.

Of course, Eddie got off to a rocky start: his first night in the WWF, and he re-injured his elbow. A painful dislocation no doubt provided additional motivation for Eddie to self-medicate, and it also meant his in-ring WWF debut was pushed back about 6 weeks. But Eddie was still able to get well in time to be a part of WrestleMania 2000, teaming with Saturn and Malenko against Scotty 2 Hotty, Grand Master Sexay, and Chyna.

That feud actually provided the start of Eddie Guerrero's break-out stardom. After feuding with Chyna, the Radicalz actually welcomed Chyna into the fold as she turned heel and assisted Eddie in winning the European Title from Chris Jericho.  The partnership led to Eddie coining the phrase "Latino Heat" as he wooed his "mamacita" Chyna... and as would be the case more than once during his WWF/E career, Eddie was so good at being bad that the fans started to warm up to him.

The Radicalz disintegrated over the summer of 2000, with Eddie very clearly establishing himself as the second most valuable of the foursome. With Chyna at his side, Eddie feuded with Saturn over the European Title, and eventually became the IC Champ. Although: that's where things started to get confusing... Eddie won his first IC Title by pinning Chyna in a three-way match. Shortly thereafter, Chyna caught Eddie in the shower with two women (one of whom was destined to stick around and become Victoria). Needless to say, the jig was up for Eddie, who was outed as a vile heel who cheated on his sweetheart Chyna.

Somehow, in retrospect, one finds it hard to be upset with Eddie over that particular decision, but at the time, Chyna was not yet the cosmic-joke of a Courtney-Love-caliber trainwreck that she was to become, and this had the effect of turning the fans against Eddie. Without his girl, Eddie also lost the IC Title and joined the rest of his fellow Radicalz in spinning his wheels. Which is how it came to pass that just 10 months after debuting together, the Radicalz regrouped and got back on the same page once again. No more in-fighting, no more worrying about girls, just time to get back to taking care of bidness.

While Benoit chased the IC Title, Eddie once again found himself in the Euro Title hunt, winning the belt back at WrestleMania 17. But it was to be a short-lived reign, as WWF officials were beginning to doubt Eddie's reliability. His abuse of alcohol and pills reached a point during the spring of 2001 that Eddie was actually sent home from a TV taping as he was clearly unfit to perform. 

In June of that year, the WWF sent Eddie to a rehabilitation center to get clean, telling him he would not be welcomed back until he got his life in order. Eddie completed the program, but before the WWF deemed him fit to return, he was arrested for drunk driving. Frustrated with Eddie's inability to address those Personal Demons, the WWF finally decided to cut Eddie loose in the autumn of 2001.

For about six months, Eddie worked indie shows and overseas tours to keep money coming in. But his firing and the struggle to keep food on the table also had the effect of "scaring Eddie straight." For the first time, he seriously tackled his drug and alcohol problems, and by most account, defeated them within weeks of his arrest/firing. A successful March 2002 tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling is what finally ended up opening a lot of eyes, as it was apparent to anybody who knew Eddie that he had turned over a new leaf. It showed as much in his work as in his behavior outside of the ring.

With word of Eddie's successful rehabilitation reaching the WWF, the company was once again interested in doing business with Latino Heat. Following WrestleMania 18, Eddie made a surprise return on RAW to attack InterContinental Champ, Rob Van Dam. Later in the year, Eddie captured the title from RVD, but only held it for about a month.

At this point, the newly-renamed WWE started trying to re-integrate WCW cast-offs who had been left without much to do in the wake of the badly-bungled inVasion angle, as they also launched the infamous "Brand Extension" concept. Trying to create two distinct talent rosters, WWE sent Eddie Guerrero over to SmackDown! where he was joined by his long-lost nephew, Chavo Jr. Together, they managed to win the new SD! Tag Team Titles by year's end. In fact, for the latter third of 2002, Eddie, Chavo, Benoit, Angle, Edge, and Mysterio were referred to as "The SmackDown! Six," as they had non-stop awesome matches en route to legitimizing the newly-created title.

Though cast as heels, Eddie and Chavo were just too good to boo, and their lying, cheating, and stealing ways endeared them to fans as 2003 kicked off. Although the "SmackDown! Six" dispersed, Eddie and Chavo became massively popular as the feuded with Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) over the tag belts.

When an injury to Chavo meant that Eddie was free to pursue a singles agenda -- Eddie actually defeated Chris Benoit to win the newly-revived United States Title -- WWE tried desperately to cast Eddie as a heel again. The fans simply refused to accept it. Try as they might, WWE could not get the fans to boo Eddie Guerrero. It got to the point where I felt the need to compare Eddie to Mick Foley, and suggested that like Mick, Eddie might be on the cusp of being one of the unlikeliest main eventers ever. Devoid of the size or "look" craved by WWE, Eddie was armed with something that money can't buy: the unconditional adoration of the fans.

Less than a year later, everything I wrote in that memorable column had come to pass. Looking back on what I wrote, I think it can be safely said that I was more surprised that I turned out to be right than I was vindicated to have jumped to the right conclusions.... I look back, and see myself as being hopeful about what COULD be in store for Eddie, but far from confident that any of it would come to pass.

Starting in the fall of 2003, fans got a taste of what was to come, as Eddie's El Paso, TX, homecoming welcome was so amazingly thunderous and lengthy that SmackDown! had to edit out upwards of 5 minutes of cheers. Whether that night was the moment the switch was flipped and WWE considered Eddie to be a viable main event commodity or not does not matter... what matters is that as the autumn progressed, Eddie was slowly moving up the card as a singles wrestler.

It all started with the dissolution of his partnership with Chavo. Chavo grew increasingly frustrated with his uncle's singles success, and eventually the two were locked in a feud. Chavo's father even showed up to contribute what he could against his youngest brother. It wasn't enough: Eddie emerged the clear victor of that feud.

Eddie seemed to be on the fast-track to a WrestleMania 20 match-up against SD! champ Brock Lesnar... but then, circumstances changed and dictated that Eddie face Lesnar sooner, rather than later. With Brock contemplating leaving his wrestling career behind, WWE didn't want fans going into the biggest show of the year knowing Brock was going to lose his title... instead, Eddie Guerrero faced Brock Lesnar at 2004's No Way Out PPV in February (before fans were fully aware of Brock's mindset), and defeated him to win the WWE Title. Brock would go on to close out his WWE career with a memorably-awful WM20 match against Bill Goldberg, while Eddie Guerrero went to WrestleMania 20 and successfully defended his title in an excellent match with Kurt Angle.

Later in the night, Chris Benoit won the World Title, and 2004's biggest wrestling event ended with Benoit and Guerrero celebrating together in the ring, holders of the wrestling industry's two most prestigious trophies, after a combined almost-40-years of blood, sweat, tears, and toil between them. Sadly, in many ways, that will now stand as the pinnacle of Eddie's career.

Things started going south in a hurry after WrestleMania 20: SmackDown!'s roster was decimated as Brock Lesnar quit the business and both Kurt Angle and Big Show were in need of time off to address injuries. Although the first "Draft Lottery" could have been used to rectify the situation (my stance at the time was that it made all the sense in the world to have Triple H go to SmackDown to start fresh and help "make" Eddie as champion; instead, HHH was drafted to SD! and traded back to RAW the very next week, because heaven forefend that HHH leave the "A-show" behind), WWE pretty much bungled every aspect of SD!'s post-WM20 creative direction. Even when SD! drafted Booker T over from RAW and had him turn heel, they didn't utilize Booker as a challenger to Eddie; instead, they turned him into a voodoo enthusiast and fed him to the Undertaker. Ugh.

And it got worse, as WWE's choice for the first serious challenger to Eddie Guerrero was Bradshaw. A month after splitting with his long time APA partner, Faarooq, Bradshaw was re-invented as John Bradshaw Layfield, a caricature of a Rich Texan. Fans had no choice but to look on in shock and awe as WWE suddenly pushed this career-mid-carder with zero credibility as the top challenger to the WWE Title. Well, strike that: the fans did have a choice, because they could also just stop watching entirely if that's the best WWE could serve up.

A lot of them did, and SD!'s ratings, buyrates, and house show attendance took hits. As is usually the case, the company blames such things on the champion... and despite having one of the least credible challengers of all times, Eddie apparently heard it enough of the whispers that *he* started to blame himself, too. In subsequent interviews, Eddie admitted that the self-doubt and pressure made the latter stages of his title run a miserable experience.

Though it stands as one of the most confounding decisions in wrestling history, Eddie said he was relieved when WWE opted to take his title and put it on JBL. It only compounded SD!'s problems, as JBL as champion was even less compelling than him as challenger until his character finally found his "voice" about 3 months into the reign... but it was probably best for Eddie's mental health.

After going through the requisite rematches, Eddie found himself back in the tag team scene by the autumn. Eddie was partners with Booker T, and the primary competition included Rey Mysterio/Rob Van Dam and the Basham Brothers. When Rob Van Dam was injured, and when Booker decided to focus his energy on going after JBL's WWE Title, that left Eddie and Rey to form a marriage of convenience. After jelling together as a team over the end of 2004 and start of 2005, Eddie and Rey won the Tag Titles from the Bashams at February's No Way Out PPV.

But at the same time they were having such tag team success, Chavo Guerrero was rearing his head again, and had Eddie's ear. Going back to when they were on opposite teams during late 2004, Rey had always gotten the better of Eddie in a handful of matches; Chavo was quick to point this out, and accused his uncle of a "If you can't beat him, join him" mindset. Predictably, this didn't sit well with Eddie. The doubt festered, and Eddie eventually got up the courage to challenge Rey to a special match at WM21: two friends (and the tag champs, to boot) going out to put on one hell of a show, and may the best man win.

Rey won. Eddie was not happy.

The two kept up the semblance of friendship for a few more weeks, but miscommunication led to both men losing key singles matches, and also losing the tag team titles. Eddie cemented his heel turn by viciously attacking Rey following a tag team loss. More matches between the two were scheduled. Rey kept on winning them, much to Eddie's chagrin.

Even with the ultra-sympathetic underdog, Rey, providing his opposition, Eddie still got more than a few cheers despite being ostensibly a heel. A poorly-told and ridiculous storyline involving Rey's son probably didn't help much in terms of generating the desired crowd reaction, but I'm sure Eddie's innate charisma and personality were a big part of the reason fans weren't unanimous in their hatred of Eddie Guerrero.

After finally defeating Rey in his his seventh or eighth attempt, Eddie established himself as the top contender to SD! Champion Batista. Respecting (and perhaps fearing) Batista's animalistic power, Eddie took a unique approach to his title shot: he befriended Batista, and swore up and down that he just wanted to have a good, clean wrestling match. On the surface, it looked like a simply ploy to have Eddie suddenly start cheating in their first PPV match, angering Batista, and returning the two to a standard heel/face alignment.

It didn't quite pan out that way. Eddie was so good, and his chemistry with Batista so believable that WWE had the two perform their PPV as a completely clean, scientific affair. Batista happened to be the better man that night, and Eddie shook his hand. Batista and Eddie, quite surprisingly, remained friends. In fact, their on-screen friendship grew, as Eddie proved himself time and time again by taking bullets for Batista. Batista was won over, as were the fans. In recent weeks, that sense of inevitability (that Eddie would be turning on Batista) was gone, replaced with a sense that Eddie really is a full-fledged babyface again.

Of course, the great thing was that, no matter how it now felt to fans, it *was* still inevitable that Eddie would reveal his true colors. And when Eddie *did* turn on Batista, it would be all the more shocking and memorable to fans who had been suckered in, and all the more motivation for Batista to be viciously angry at having been fooled, too. It was going to be a thing of beauty, and likely the start of a second World Title Reign for Eddie, and a chance for him to succeed where he failed the last time, a chance to match or exceed his previous career pinnacle.

Those plans seemed to take a bit of a detour last week, as Batista suffered a serious back injury, perhaps short-circuiting the original timetable for any such storyline. In fact, many suspected that the "work-around" would involve putting that story on hold until Batista's return to 100%, and that the title would be taken off Batista, likely tonight at joint RAW/SD! TV Tapings (being held as a result of both rosters leaving for a tour of Europe that starts on Tuesday).

Tragically, the conventional wisdom is that Eddie Guerrero passed away on the morning of the day he was going to win the World Title. Tonight's tapings in Minneapolis were scheduled to include a Batista vs. Eddie vs. Orton World Title Match, and the consensus was that WWE would use that match to have Batista lose the title without actually having to be pinned or made to submit (due to the vagaries of WWE's triple threat rules). Once you start thinking along those lines, it becomes very simple to envision Eddie Guerrero taking the title and defending it in honor of his "friend" Batista until some later date when Batista would come roaring back to action.

As I approach the 3 hour mark of struggling through this career retrospective, it's still impossible for me to comprehend that Eddie's gone. At far too young and age. And while arguable at the very top of his game and mere hours before he was likely to win the World Title. 

And if we, as fans, are rendered stunned and confused by this news and the implications it has for our wrestling TV shows, I cannot even begin to fathom what this must be like for all of Eddie's family and friends who've lost a lot more than a favorite wrestler or TV character. I'm sure I speak for all of OO Nation when I say our condolences go out to all of them. 

I can think of nothing else pertinent to say right now. Any additional details will be reported in tomorrow's standard-issue OO column. For now, it's enough to try to wrap our heads around the fact that Eddie Guerrero -- one of the unlikeliest champions in history, a very rare man who was so good that fans recognized his excellence and forced (sometimes-unwilling) promoters to recognize it, too -- has passed away at age 38. He will be missed.


  
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E-MAIL RICK SCAIA

BROWSE THE OO ARCHIVES

Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

 

 

 


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