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Eddie Guerrero

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Bryan Alvarez comments...


I think it?s safe to say that the death of Eddy Guerrero Sunday at the age of 38 has affected more people in the pro-wrestling business than any death since Owen Hart fell from the ceiling of Kemper Arena on May 23rd, 1999.


Guerrero?s death caps off a five-week period in which it appears WWE, after years of weirdness following the collapse of the XFL, has finally struck the iceberg. It had been a month of panic and confusion brought on by UFC going head-to-head on a Monday night, awful TV written to allow Vince McMahon to address a person issue before five million people, wrestlers choosing to walk away from the company for the seemingly greener pastures of TNA, the Smackdown World Champion suffering an injury that will result in him having to be written out of storylines and drop the title with no challengers having been established, and finally this, the death of one of its most popular stars. But this was not just the death of a popular star, not just the death of a former champion and current main eventer, but the death of one of those human beings, humble to a fault, that everyone loved, one of those people that pretty much everyone will agree nobody ever said a bad word about. And it was the death of a man who, for whatever reason, was able to connect with fans to the point where millions of people who had never met him in their lives wept Monday night, devastated by the feeling that they?d actually lost a very good friend.


Everyone reading this knows the story of Eddy Guerrero. And perhaps that?s why so many felt such a bond with him. We knew more than just the story of his wrestling career; we knew the story of his family, their history in wrestling, and, most importantly, the story of the real Eduardo Gory Guerrero and all that he had battled and overcome in his life.


Born into the famous Guerrero wrestling family on October 9, 1968 in Juarez, Mexico, his first memories were almost certainly wrestling-related. He was probably being rolled around in the ring before he could even walk. His nephew, Chavo Guerrero Jr., noted on Raw that he could recall the two of them working out in the ring when he was around age five and Eddy was just a couple years older. He wrestled amateur in high school and college in El Paso, TX, and debuted for Paco Alonso?s EMLL in 1987, mostly in six-man matches with brothers Mando and Chavo Sr. in Mexico City and Tijuana. From the very beginning, he was determined to do the family name proud. For the next several years he worked under various guises for a number of promotions around the world; as Mascara Magica for the WWA, Black Tiger for New Japan (where he first met Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit), and under his real name in AAA.


Following a great performance as Tiger in one of the best junior heavyweight tournaments of all time, New Japan?s original Super J Cup, he returned to Mexico for his biggest run to date. His father Gory, a legend in lucha libre, had teamed for years with the biggest star in the history of the country, the original El Santo, so it was only fitting that years later Eddy should team up with El Hijo del Santo (Son of Santo). The revived the original team?s name, La Pareja Atomica (the ATOMIC PAIR~!) and were super over as babyfaces ? at least until Eddy turned on him and hooked up with good friend Art Barr, son of Portland?s Sandy Barr, to form the diabolical La Pareja del Terror (~!). Along with Konnan and Louie Spicolli, the two, as promised, spread terror through AAA. As a group they were known as Los Gringos Locos, and business in Mexico was absolutely on fire. Barr, a phenomenal heel who would dress in the red, white and blue and mockingly perform the back-stroke in mid-ring, caused many a riot. The feud culminated with a legendary double mask vs. double hair match at the When World?s Collide PPV in November of 1994 which saw Santo and partner Octagon beat them and shave them bald. The show was supposed to be promoted by WCW, but when WCW brass saw how much better this show was than their own pathetic fare, they ceased promotion completely. A few in WWE, however, saw the tape of the match and were so impressed with what they saw that they quickly signed one of the participants to a deal. The participant in question ended up being Spicolli, who at the time was juiced up to the 240-pound range.


Three weeks later, Barr was dead, the victim of a drug overdose (Spicolli died in a similar fashion four years later). With his partner dead and the economy in Mexico hitting the skids, Guerrero, devastated, returned to the US and found work in Paul Heyman?s Extreme Championship Wrestling. One of the most fondly-remembered feuds of the 90s consisted of his series of mat-wrestling clinics with current WWE road agent Dean Malenko. It was here that his addiction to pain pills and harder substances began. The two were eventually offered very good money to come to WCW, which at the time was taking off following the acquisition of Hulk Hogan. Head honcho Eric Bischoff, in possession of virtually unlimited funds courtesy WCW?s parent company Time Warner, and realizing after watching a stacked World Wrestling Peace Festival show that he could present a product that would blow WWF?s slow-moving dinosaurs out of the water, had been scouring the world for the best talent. Along with Rey Misterio Jr., who was scoffed at by those in the WCW dressing room on his first night in until they saw him work, and Chris Benoit, who the WWF had used in dark matches but not signed, Malenko and Guerrero helped introduce a new style of wrestling to the US audience.


Guerrero was so talented that he was soon mixing it up with wrestlers higher on the card, including Diamond Dallas Page, whom he beat in the finals of a Starrcade tournament on December 29, 1996 to win the his first title in WCW, the US belt. Arguably the best match of his career, and one of the single best pro-wrestling matches of the 90s, took place at Halloween Havoc 1997 when he dropped the Cruiserweight title to Misterio in a title vs. mask match which, until literally minutes before going through the curtain, Misterio was scheduled to lose.


On New Year?s Eve, 1998, Eddy, whacked out on GHB and driving 130 miles per hour, was involved in a horrific car crash that nearly ended his life. Despite the fact that he was in such bad shape that EMT?s on the scene couldn?t believe he?d survived, he not only recovered but was back in the ring just months later. Unfortunately, in order to do so, his drug issues became worse and it was during this period that he suffered his first overdose. Two months later, he suffered another. Despite the pleas of his family and close friends, he remained insistent that everything was fine. Of course, things continued to get worse, but he was so talented in the ring that he was somehow able to continue working at a high level.


?The edge,? wrote the late Hunter S. Thompson. ?There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.? It?s pretty safe to say that over the next three years, Eddy walked very near the edge.


In early 2001, Guerrero, along with Benoit, Malenko and Perry Saturn, collectively left WCW after requesting releases from Bill Busch over the decision to make Kevin Sullivan, whom they all hated, lead booker. Busch, in what was in hindsight an amazing act of stupidity and one of the eventual nails in the WCW coffin, actually let them go. Many of the WCW main eventers thought it would be no big deal, thinking these ?vanilla midgets? couldn?t draw for anything, and were no doubt stunned when the newly-dubbed Radicalz debuted on Raw and more than doubled Nitro?s ratings. Unfortunately, in his first match with the company, Eddy dislocated his elbow doing a frog splash and was out of action for some time. His personal issues had hardly eased up, and five months after a June 2001 incident where he was sent to rehab for showing up to Raw in no condition to perform, he was officially released after being arrested on a drunk driving charge.


He?d lost it all, not only the job he loved, but also the wife he loved. Vickie, unable to take anymore, had filed for divorce while he was in rehab. He was out of the spotlight for three months, working indy dates and overseas tours. Eventually WWE gave him a second chance, and several months later, determined to turn his life around, he quit drinking altogether. It wasn?t easy. He talked many times about how a person couldn?t completely beat alcoholism; every single day was a struggle for him. This wasn?t about making it the rest of his life sober, it was about waking up every day, telling himself his goal was to not drink that particular day, and congratulating himself when he managed to do it. During this period, he also set up lunch dates with Vickie, and slowly they began to put their relationship back together again.


And then one day WWE realized they had something special.


Looking back today, the original plan a few months back of turning him heel again was so clearly absurd. Sometimes, wrestlers get to the point where the audience simply has no desire to hate them anymore, and while they may ?go along? with the booing, as in the case with Kurt Angle, or legitimately love to boo a character, there really is no chance of that character ever being really hated again. So it was with Eddy Guerrero. The booking idea after SummerSlam was that Eddy would pretend to be Dave Batista?s friend while actually conspiring to perform evil deeds, and the fans, WWE figured, would see right through it. Well, they didn?t. Or they didn?t want to. And it was some time in mid-2003 when the WWE audience decided that they just absolutely loved Eddy Guerrero, and no matter what he did, including destroying Tajiri in a diabolical manner, they still loved him. It also became apparent that he was one of the few true draws the company had, particularly in cities with major Hispanic populations. And so, on February 15th, 2004 at the No Way Out PPV in San Francisco, CA, Eduardo Gori Guerrero, at 5-8 and 210 pounds or so, pinned Brock Lesnar and became the most unlikely WWE Champion since Mick Foley in 1999. One month later, at WrestleMania XX, in one of the most beautiful moments in wrestling history, Chris Benoit made Triple H submit to the crippler crossface to win the World Title, and the show ended with Benoit and Guerrero, best friends who?d traveled the road together for over a decade, and who both had been told countless times that they were too small to ever really make it big in the business, hugging and weeping as double champions of the biggest wrestling organization on Earth.


The plan was for Guerrero to have a long title run, but unfortunately the pressure of carrying the weight of the entire company on his shoulders was too much for him and he ended up dropping the title to John Bradshaw Layfield just a couple of months later. He continued to work near the top of the card, and his final major feud was with long-time friend Rey Misterio. It actually started around WrestleMania XXI and spanned all the way to SummerSlam. It was funny, because it was clear they loved working together, and seemingly every month there was some sort of storyline twist that allowed them to keep doing matches. It seemed to have run its course by July, but then Misterio came up with the idea of involving his real-life son Dominick in the angle. Eddy talked of having a secret, and it eventually came out in storyline that he was actually Dominick?s father, and that he?d given Dominick to Rey after Rey discovered he was unable to conceive. The entire storyline in many ways was absurd and seemed destined to flop, but everyone involved, including Dominick, played their roles so well that it became one of the biggest TV ratings hits of the last several years. There were segments on Smackdown where the three of them (and even, at one point, Vickie) would literally add 1.5 million new viewers, and after the feud finally ended at SummerSlam, the Smackdown rating dropped because hundreds of thousands of Hispanics stopped watching.


When it became obvious that the fans were taking Eddy?s ?friendship? with Batista seriously, and that it would be a terrible idea to turn him back heel again so soon, the decision was made to move him out of the planned title rematch with Dave at Survivor Series and into the ten-man Raw vs. Smackdown elimination match. But then last week, Batista tore his lat muscle and it looked like he wouldn?t be able to wrestle for several months. The company, in a panic to come up with some sort of solution, announced Guerrero vs. Dave vs. Randy Orton for the title at the following week?s Smackdown, which was to be taped this past Sunday night. The day before, with Batista unable to move his arm, it was clear they were going to have to take the belt off him, and among the ideas was to go back to the idea of turning Guerrero heel and having him ?steal the belt? from his friend, setting up a natural feud for Batista?s return.


But whatever the final idea ended up being, it was not to be. On Sunday morning, security called Chavo Guerrero Jr. and told him that Eddy hadn?t answered his wake-up call. Chavo called and also got no answer. He went upstairs and busted into the room, and Eddy was face-down and unresponsive. He turned him over, realized something was horribly wrong, called 911, and attempted CPR. But Eddy was dead.


I don?t think anyone will ever forget how they learned that Eddy Guerrero had died. I woke up late after my alarm didn?t go off, and I stumbled into the kitchen to get a drink of water and hit PLAY on the answering machine as usual. The first message was from Zach Arnold who said that WWE.com was reporting that Eddy Guerrero was dead. Because I heard it in that weird first two minutes of waking up, where you?re still trying to get your bearings and not even close to fully alert, I immediately assumed I was dreaming. But then I played it again, and I looked around the room and listened to the sound of traffic outside, and it hit me that I was awake, and this was absolutely real.


The rest of the day is really a blur. I remember very little outside the overwhelming sadness. I remember nothing of the afternoon. I remember moments on Wrestling Observer Live, particularly the first five minutes where I could barely talk, a point at about 5:30 when Billy Graham and Bret Hart were talking to each other, and a point around 6:30 when Dave was reading quotes from Shawn Michaels? book to Bret Hart. I remember being in Brent Kremen?s house while a creepy man tried to fix the heater, and the only memories I have of the TNA PPV are Christian coming out wearing his hood, Brother Ray and Devon showing their Eddy Guerrero armbands, and AJ Styles taking a German suplex into a barrier. I vaguely remember doing an audio update on the website Sunday night. And I vividly remember all day thinking that I was going to go to sleep and wake up a few hours later, and the entire day, all of it, would have been a dream.


But I woke up and it was Monday, meaning Sunday had been real. And then the haze sort of left me, and I knew he was really gone, and then I became another one of those fans whose e-mails and message board posts I read all day, who despite not being personal friends of Guerrero were nevertheless absolutely devastated by his death. And worse, I knew people that did know him, and were very close to him, and I knew that they were hurting far, far more than I was.


Things were at their worst at around 8:00 PM when I had the strange sensation that there was a possibility I might have some sort of breakdown. Part of it was a day-long fear of watching the tribute special, because I was in no way prepared for it. But I survived, and it was clear when the show was over that I needed it way more than I could have ever imagined. I think I speak for most wrestling fans when I say that.


So today, Tuesday, was the day when it was clear that for a lot of fans, other emotions were now rushing in, including anger that another wrestler who they loved had died so young. Much of this stemmed from the report on WWE.com that the cause of death, which many had expected, was confirmed as being from heart failure.


WWE.com wrote:


?After the untimely passing of Eddie Guerrero, WWE and the entire sports-entertainment community is still reeling from the devastating loss of a champion. The initial autopsy reports on Guerrero have come in. WWE.com spoke with Eddie?s widow, Vickie Guerrero, earlier today.


??It was heart failure. It was from his past ? the drinking and the drug abuse. They found signs of heart disease. She (the examiner) said that the blood vessels were very worn and narrow, and that just showed all the abuse from the scheduling of work and his past. And Eddie just worked out like crazy all the time. It made his heart grow bigger and work harder and the vessels were getting smaller, and that?s what caused the heart failure. He went into a deep sleep.


??As soon as they saw his heart, they saw the lining of his heart already had the heart disease. There was no trauma, and Eddie hadn?t hurt himself in any way. It answered a lot of questions. I knew Eddie wasn?t feeling very good for the last week. He was home and kept saying he wasn?t feeling good and we thought it was just ?road tired.? So we thought he just had to rest. It answered a lot of my questions, too, because he was just so exhausted. She said it was normal because the heart was working so hard.


??When he didn?t call me last night and the night before I knew it was for real, because he would call me every night. I miss his phone calls. I cried through the whole thing (last night).


??I loved his laugh. His laugh was the best.


??We just celebrated his four-year sobriety last Thursday. We just thought we had life by the handful. We thought we had it all figured out. He worked so hard to make a better life for us.


??I?m just overwhelmed by how people are coming out. It?s touched my heart a lot.


??Everybody was just in awe last night in how beautifully everything was put together.


??All my life was wrestling. All he did was take care of them and live for that. And I don?t know what to do now.??


?And Eddie just worked out like crazy all the time. It made his heart grow bigger and work harder and the vessels were getting smaller, and that?s what caused the heart failure.?


When Davey Boy Smith died in 2002 at the age of 39 and was discovered to have had an enlarged heart, I got a lot of letters from people claiming steroid use was completely safe. One person even said that Smith ran on the treadmill a lot, which probably lead to the enlargement.


Davey Boy Smith?s coroner said it was steroids.


While many wrestling fans have seen so many juiced-up bodies for so many years that they?ve become na?ve to what it is possible to achieve naturally, the line about the enlarged heart being the result of Eddy working out really hard resulted in an industry-wide debate Tuesday about what could be done about the steroid and drug problems in pro-wrestling.


Those who give the simplistic answer that ?WWE needs to start testing for steroids again? aren?t grasping the bigger picture. The issue is far, far more complicated. In fact, it is so complicated that I don?t think there is a solution.


First, and most importantly, a number of sports institutions, including the International Olympic Committee, test for steroids. Theoretically, because they test, there shouldn?t be anyone competing in the Olympics who has used performance-enhancing drugs. If you believe that this is actually the case, you are extremely na?ve. There is still, to this day, no test to determine if someone is using Human Growth Hormone. Designer drugs are constantly being created with the aim being to escape detection. And when successful tests are created, new drugs follow.


The major issue as it pertains to WWE, and I?m not demonizing him for this, is that Vince McMahon loves big guys. This is more than him just knowing in the back of his mind that when he did steroid testing for real in the mid-90s and everyone shrunk, his business shrunk as well. This goes much deeper. He loves big guys and I don?t think he can help himself. For the past 60 years, his entire existence, he has been surrounded by larger-than-life characters, and to him these characters equal big money, and I truly believe this is so deeply ingrained his psyche in that he?ll never be able to escape it. If, for the sake of argument, an absolutely fool-proof drug test was created tomorrow and every single person in WWE ended up clean, Vince would not all of a sudden push the best workers, or even necessarily anyone different than he is pushing now. He would still push the biggest clean guys. People will argue that in the early 90s when most of the roster was clean he moved to pushing Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, two very talented smaller guys. That?s true, but the reason for this was also because the bigger guys, who would have been bigger on or off steroids, either quit or were fired (two in particular were fired for trying to find their way around the tests). So because Vince will always push the biggest guys, clean or not, it will always encourage the smaller guys to try to get bigger, and with big money at stake, and the realities of gaining mass on the road, this will always result in them looking for ways to beat the tests.


Ok, you say, what if Vince McMahon retired or passed away and someone else ran the company, someone who wasn?t a mark for size monsters? Perhaps then things would change! Perhaps, but most likely not. Wrestlers are on steroids outside of WWE, in TNA, OVW, on the indy scene, in Mexico, in Japan, everywhere. Plus, every single one of us has gone to the gym or the beach or wherever else and seen the guy from Jiffy Lube or Wal-Mart or wherever who was quite obviously on the gas. I always told people that one of the reasons I had no desire to ever go to WWE was because I knew that with my frame, the only way I would ever have even the slightest chance would be if I took steroids, which I was unwilling to do. So they?d invariably ask: ?If you could main event WrestleMania and make $1 million a year, would you take steroids then?? Many wrestlers, obviously, would say yes. Mauro Ranallo on Figure Four Daily talked about a USA Today poll he?d seen where people were asked if it would be worth them to take steroids and die at 50 if they knew that until then, they?d make millions of dollars and be world famous. Well over half said yes.


But those guys at the gym and at the beach, they?re not working WrestleMania, they?re not world famous, they?re not making a million dollars a year. They?re on the gas for psychological reasons. It?s not all about doing this to get a push. Look at the former WWE guys on the indy scene who are still clearly juiced up. They don?t need that body to main event Mountaintop Championship Wrestling in Butte, MT. Look at the guys who have retired or are out of the business that haven?t stopped. For them, it?s not about making money anymore, it?s about still being seen as larger-than-life. That?s why many of them got into the business in the first place, and why they?ll keep juicing as long as they are able.


The problem is also with the audience. As individual fans, we can all say, ?I will support this business even if every single person looked like Zach Gowen.? But history has shown that no matter what anyone might say, more people are willing to pay to see size monsters than are willing to see guys who look like their neighbor.


And ultimately, just looking at steroid use is too simplistic. Eddy Guerrero?s coroner hasn?t stated outright that Eddy?s enlarged heart was due to steroid abuse, and whether he took steroids or not, he was still likely to have died young because he abused his body with various substances for a long time, and that was no secret. There are plenty of wrestlers who have only taken steroids and are still fine today after decades of use. I?m not about to say they?re safe, because the reality is that anything that messes with your heart is dangerous, and the steroid/recreational drug combo appears to have killed a lot of wrestlers. What I?m saying is that the problem is not strictly a steroid issue; it is a drug issue.


A lot of people want to find one specific person or group of people to pin this problem on, but the reality is that it?s a problem with all of us, every single one of us that has anything to do with the wrestling business at all, whether we are a fan or a worker or management. And that?s why there are no simple answers, why everyone fights and argues yet can never come up with a simple solution, and why this will not be the last death. This very business itself, unfortunately, breeds tragedies because of its very nature. Fans want to see larger-than-life characters, almost mythical beings, and the wrestlers, almost all of whom started out as fans, want to be those mythical beings, those superstars. The promoters give the fans what they want, and the wrestlers, in turn, do what they do to please everyone, including themselves. The most successful wrestlers make tons of money, and like with any anything under the entertainment umbrella, that can lead to easy access to drugs. But the key is that for each of us, what we choose to do with our lives is our own personal choice. If a wrestler truly didn?t want to take drugs, he wouldn?t. If a wrestler truly didn?t want to take a certain bump, he wouldn?t. If fans truly didn?t care whether wrestlers were big, or whether there was any perceived danger in pro-wrestling matches at all, their ticket-buying habits would reflect that. But the death rate in wrestling, the injury rate, the countless guys who cannot retire, what is promoted and what sells, and what does not sell, it?s all interconnected, it?s all the result of the personal choices of every single person who loves this business.


So for everyone who is looking for a single, all-encompassing Answer to the question of how to solve the problem of wrestlers ? or anyone in any form of entertainment ? dying young, the answer is that there isn?t one. Death is something that every single person in the world will have to face in their own personal way at some point, and so is the problem of helping others to avoid death. No single person is going to solve the problem for everyone else. If you really think that something should be done, then do something about it. If you are a wrestler, perhaps your personal answer is to take a stand and get clean and off the juice. If you?re a fan, perhaps your personal answer is to buy merchandise from wrestlers you believe are clean, and avoid buying the merchandise of those you think are not. If you are a promoter, perhaps you will not book any obvious neon signs. It is better to do something on your own, whether anyone has to know about it or not, then to sit there and do nothing but bitch and wait for someone to come along and solve a problem ? drug use ? that affects, really, more than just pro-wrestling and sports, but the whole world.


And in the end, while we can all mourn for Eddy Guerrero, what we should do is mourn for his family and celebrate the life that he did live for 38 years. Three children without a father and a wife without a husband is the profound tragedy in all of this; but the life of that husband and father, like many of his friends said Monday night, should be viewed as an inspiration. Eddy Guerrero really should have died many years ago, on a number of different occasions. But he didn?t, nor did the circumstances of his life, circumstances that would have completely broken most human beings, cause him to take his own life. He had ?that Guerrero temper?, he was a fighter, and he refused to quit and battled on and become more of a man than most of us who will live decades longer. He truly did cheat death, a few times, in fact, and in those extra years that he was blessed with he went on to overcome incredible odds, both in this business and in his personal life, and make most of his dreams come true. Though short, he packed so many lessons of life and love into those 38 years that nobody who knew him, either personally or through that weird, unexplainable connection that so many fans discovered they had after he was gone, knows their life would not have been quite as nice without him being a part of it.


?I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps ?Oh look at that!? Then, whoosh, and I?m gone ? and they?ll never see anything like it ever again, and they won?t be able to forget me ? ever.? ? Jim Morrison

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Guest Crucifixio Jones

I wanted to thank you, Will, for posting this.


Dave echoed a lot of the very same sentiments about Eddy that I wrote on my very own blog the day after his passing and he said what we all have said and known to be true about Vince for forever. It broke my heart to read it and see it broken down like so, but the truth has to be spoken. How many more guys like Eddy have to burn out chasing their dreams before we either just accept it as part of the business or NOT accept it and do something about it?

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