411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2008: Eddie Guerrero
Some believe in destiny, things that were meant to be no matter what. If that is a fact, there is no doubt that when Eddie Guerrero was born that he would be a professional wrestler. Born the son of the legendary Gory Guerrero, and brother to Mando, Hector and Chavo Sr. it seemed as if Eddie had little or no choice. As Eddie grew into his teens his father was revered and his brothers reputations were growing. He and his nephew, Chavo Jr. were close in age and continually played around the wrestling ring. The business was not only in their blood, but also all around them, it was a part of everyday life. Eddie would go onto the University of New Mexico on an Athletic Scholarship and be a part of their wrestling team. But that wasn’t enough for Eddie, he asked his father for help and began to train full time to become a professional wrestler.
Trained by his father in a wrestling ring in their backyard, the craft came quickly to Eddie and in 1987 he would make his professional debut in the EMLL promotion. Guerrero would work primarily 6-man tag matches (with Chavo Sr. and Mando) while he developed and continued to master the craft he had chosen. By 1989 the trio of brother had captured gold when they won the WWA World Trios Title. Things were looking good, but Eddie wanted to strike out on his own, to see if he could make it as a singles star. In 1992 Guerrero debuted his new masked persona of Mascara Magica (or the Magic Mask) and quickly won the WWA World Welterweight Title. After dropping the championship, Guerrero would leave EMLL and jump to the newly started AAA. He would drop his mask and wrestle as Eddie Guerrero and things started to take off. He began to go on tours of Japan, and would make a name for himself quickly. He would wrestle in Japan’s Top of the Super Juniors Tournament (Super J-Cup) and have stellar matches with Dean Malenko, Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoit), 2 Cold Scorpio and Jushin Lyger while in Japan.
In 1994 the Japanese promoters placed the “Black Tiger” gimmick on Eddie. It was to represent a heel version of Tiger mask. He would tag with the Great Sasuke and win the Junior Heavyweight Super Grade Tag League, a title from the New Japan organization. Back in Mexico, Guerrero found himself as part of another tag team, but this one was special, it had history. Guerrero tagged with El Hijo del Santo, son of legendary Mexican Lucha superstar El Santo. Guerrero’s father had tagged with El Santo in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and this was viewed by Lucha fans as the second coming of both Gory and El Santo. They were called La Pareja Atomica, or the Atomic Pair. The fans loved the team, but soon they would learn to hate Guerrero.
With newfound friend “The Love Machine” Art Barr, Guerrero turned on Santo and he and Barr destroyed him. Eddie went from one of the top loved men in Lucha, to the most hated. He and Barr were dubbed “La Pareja del terror” or the Pair of terror. Eddie would turn his back on his Mexican heritage, wear the American flag on his tights and with new American partner Art Barr would terrorize the scene. They were on fire in AAA as 1994 began and even added to their ranks with Konnan and Louie Spicolli (Madonna’s Boyfriend) were added. The four men were referred to as Los Gringos Locos, or the crazy Americans. They were seen as a Mexican 4-Horsemen to many. They would win the AAA tag titles from Santo and Octogon in Chicago and there seemed to be no end in sight to the Gringos domination. Until November of 1994, when the AAA: When World’s Collide PPV took place. On this night Guerrero and Barr would face off with Santo and Octogon, but not in just a title match. It was a title match, with masks vs. hair on the line; and 2 of 3 falls. The match was an amazing effort by all four and when the night was over, Santo had full revenge, his tag title back and Guerrero and Barr had no hair.
Wrestling analysts dubbed Guerrero and Barr the best tag team in the world at that time. ECW wanted to bring them in to feud with their main team, Public Enemy. At this time the WWF and WCW also were very interested. They saw them as a way to add credibility to their tag divisions and also add a new style that they didn’t have. But it never was to be, as Barr was found dead 3-weeks later in his bedroom. Devastated by the loss of his friend and partner, AAA not happy with his high contract cost and with the “peso” devaluing by the day, Guerrero took leave of AAA and Mexico as a whole and departed for the US.
He arrived in ECW, a destination most thought he and Barr were headed to and he debuted with a bang. On his first night with the promotion Guerrero defeated former rival in Japan, 2 Cold Scorpio for the ECW TV Title. A mere one week later he would face off with another rival from over in Japan in Dean Malenko. The two would battle to a 30-minute time limit draw, and the Guerrero/Malenko classic was born. The two men engaged in a lengthy feud exchanging the TV title and putting on the most brilliant matches ever seen in ECW, and the best in North America at the time. Some analysts went as was to compare their feud with the Flair/Steamboat 1989 series of matches, something I agree with. During this feud WCW came calling to both men, and in fitting fashion their last ECW match was against each other, a 2 of 3 falls time limit draw which saw a standing ovation from the Viking Hall faithful.
Guerrero joined WCW and saw many of his familiar foes there. The biggest advantage for Guerrero was WCW’s working relationship in Japan, which allowed his to go back there and perform regularly. In 1996 Guerrero entered the Best of the Super Juniors again under the guise of Black Tiger, and this time he would win the tournament defeating Jushin Lyger for that honor. He became only the 2nd foreigner to win the J-Cup, the other being Chris Benoit. As 1996 ended, he captured his first WCW gold becoming the WCW US Champion.
WCW viewed Guerrero as a cruiserweight and felt his work would be best there, so after dropping the US Title, he headed into competition with the cruisers. It fit like a glove for Guerrero as he battled with Malenko, Benoit, Ultimo Dragon, Chris Jericho, Psicosis and many others capturing the WCW Cruiserweight title. In 1997, in what many consider Guerrero’s greatest match, he battled Rey Mysterio Jr. in a Mask vs. Title match. Mysterio would win the match and the title, but Guerrero walked away knowing he had just been a part of a match for the ages.
Unfortunately WCW was often confused with how to use Guerrero, often bouncing him around from division to division. He would feud with his nephew Chavo Jr., and eventually form the LWO, the Latino World Order. It was a group of disgruntled luchadores that felt they were held down and Guerrero was their leader. As things seemed to actually pick up for the group, Guerrero was involved in a near fatal car accident on New Year’s Eve of 1998. Guerrero fell asleep ay the wheel, a victim of his own painkiller and drug addiction. The LWO was ended, and even when Guerrero returned, he wasn’t happy with WCW. He would walk out on Nitro, and what would happen next would be huge in the scheme of the Monday Night Wars.
January 31st, 2000 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena was the sight of Guerrero’s next stop. He along with Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn walked through the crowd of Monday Night Raw and sat front Row during the opening match. They were called the “Radicalz” and seemed destined for huge things. The next night at the Smackdown tapings, as they were engaged in a set of 3 matches to “gain WWF contracts” Guerrero dislocated his elbow on an attempted Frog Splash (used in tribute of Barr since his death) and would be sidelined. A few months later he would return and win the WWF European title from former WCW foe Chris Jericho. Chyna had cost Jericho the match and Guerrero and her would engage in an “on screen” romantic affair as he called her “his mammacita.” They lasted through the summer and Guerrero would eventually beat Chyna for the WWF Intercontinental title. After being caught with the Godfather’s ho’s on GTV, the couple was no more.
Unfortunately Guerrero’s demons would surface again, and he would be sent to rehab in June of 2001 after showing up to a taping “in no condition to perform.” Most thought things were going well until Guerrero was arrested for drunken driving in November and was released form his contract.
Guerrero would get back into action in February of 2002 with the new Ring of Honor promotion, losing to Super Crazy in a match to determine the first ever IWA Intercontinental Champion. The next day the World Wrestling All Stars PPV aired and Guerrero defeated Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera to become the WWA International Cruiserweight Champion. In March he would perform for back-to-back days for the IWS Mid South promotion. Day one he defeated CM Punk and Rey Mysterio Jr. for the IWA MS Heavyweight title, only to lose it the next night to CM Punk. Guerrero was set for a tour of Japan in April, but cancelled as the WWF came calling again.
On April 1st of 2002 Guerrero returned to the WWF and attacked Rob Van Dam. They two men would engage in a feud over the IC Title as well as who had the better frog splash. On April 21st Guerrero would defeat RVD for the IC Title. Six days after that, full filling one last Independent booking, Guerrero appeared one last time for the Ring of Honor Promotion teaming with the Amazing Red to defeat Jose and Joel Maximo. This was dubbed “The Night of Appreciation” as the fans watched while the ROH wrestlers filled the ring to wish Guerrero a proper and classy farewell.
Guerrero would lose the IC Title back to RVD and seemed to be going into a program with Steve Austin, but Austin decided to leave the company leaving Guerrero in a booking funk for months. To help rectify this Guerrero was switched to the Smackdown brand. In September of 2002 things were in full swing for Guerrero, as week in and week out he was putting on great matches with a group dubbed the Smackdown 6. He would reunite with nephew Chavo Jr. and would battle with Edge and Rey Mysterio and Angle and Benoit over the newly made Smackdown tag titles via a tournament. He and Chavo would win those titles and feud with Team Angle for a better part of the year. In May of 2003, with Chavo Jr. out with an injury, Guerrero and new partner Tajiri would defeat “The World’s Greatest Tag Team” in a ladder match to win the tag titles. After 2 months, they would lose the titles back to “The World’s Greatest Tag Team” and he would attack Tajiri and blame him for the loss.
A week later, Guerrero found himself in another tournament for the NEW US Title for Smackdown. He defeated Ultimo Dragon, Billy Gunn and Chris Benoit to win the US Title. He would defend the belt against Benoit, Rhyno, Tajiri and even all three at once to keep his winning ways going. As Chavo retuned Los Guerrero’s would also regain the WWE Tag Titles. As the weeks went on the crowd quickly was turning Eddie face, and Chavo was getting jealous. In October at No Mercy, Guerrero would lose the US Title to the Big Show. The following week on Smackdown, Los Guerrero’s would also lose the WWE Tag titles. This was the beginning of the full-blown Chavo vs. Eddie feud, WWE version. Chavo would bring his father, Eddie’s brother Chavo Sr. (later named “Classic”) to “Mend” fences, but they ended up beating down Eddie. As 2004 started Eddie and Chavo would face at the Royal Rumble, with Eddie winning. That night Chris Benoit would win the Royal Rumble, and jump to Raw. This would be Guerrero biggest chance and he didn’t even know it.
Smackdown held a special Smackdown Royal Rumble, and even though he was attacked earlier in the evening, Guerrero would go on to win the title shot against Brock Lesnar. The next month at No Way Out, Guerrero would defeat Brock Lesnar to win his first World Heavyweight Title. At WrestleMania he retained against Kurt Angle, and at the end of the evening he and Chris Benoit stood tall in the middle of the ring, 2 friends, 2 champions in a true WrestleMania moment. Unfortunately the pressures of being World Champion were too much for Guerrero. He feared that his demons would resurface and with house show business down, he knew he couldn’t handle it. After feuding with John Bradshaw Layfield for near 2-months, Guerrero lost the WWE Title to JBL in a bull rope match at the Great American Bash. He had a return match in a steel cage, only to lose due to the interference of “El Gran Luchadore” which was old foe Kurt Angle.
For the latter part of 2004 Guerrero was involved with Angle in some fashion or another, always trying for revenge. In the November Survivor Series, Guerrero’s team defeated Angle’s team handily. In February of 2005 Guerrero and former foe Rey Mysterio defeated the Bashams for the WWE tag team titles. The harmony would not last though as he and Rey would begin a feud at WrestleMania that would last through this past September when Eddie finally defeated Rey on Smackdown in a steel cage match. He would go on to challenge Batista for the World Title at No Mercy, and come up shirt in his shot at winning the big gold once again. As the WWE went into tonight’s tapings, many thought with the injury to Batista that Eddie may once again with the big one, but that apparently wasn’t in the plans as he was found dead in his hotel room.
Why he was selected…
Eddie has always been someone that just clicked with me, and someone I always loved to watch. From his match at “When Worlds Collide” tagging with Art Barr vs. Santo and Octogon, to the incredible summer on 1995 when he and Dean Malenko tore it up like no one’s business; a series of matches I feel that is extremely underrated. His WCW stuff always made me tune in, from matches with Flair, to Benoit, to Rey and Jericho to about anyone. Then after mounting frustrations he left, and I was lucky enough to be in Pittsburgh PA for his WWE debut with Benoit, Malenko and Saturn. A new chapter for me as an Eddie fan had started. But soon after he had problems again, and I thought that I may never see him again. Eddie defeated his issues, worked in Ring of Honor and other places and earned his way back into the WWE, and back as one of the tops of my favorites list. He finally had climbed the mountain that is the WWE and won the WWE title, something that he had to be very proud to hold. He claimed the title that most thought would be impossible for him to get. Whether it be matches/titles in Mexico, Japan, ECW, WCW and finally WWE; Eddie Guerrero was a hall of fame performer, that’s the bottom line. And that is why he has been inducted into the 411 Hall of Fame today.