In the decade since Eddie Guerrero’s tragic death, the former WWE Champion’s legacy has only grown in stature, providing inspiration for a new generation of wrestlers like Daniel Bryan, Tyson Kidd and Sasha Banks. That said, as respected as Eddie Guerrero is, many still don’t realize just how accomplished and far-ranging his career truly was.
From lucha libre royalty to the bottom of the barrel, from Mexican flea markets to WrestleMania, Eddie Guerrero saw and did it all. Here are a few things you might not know about the life and career of the man who was born to wrestle, and did it better than almost anybody…
Eddie Guerrero wrestled (and won) his first wrestling match at the age of 9.
Frog splashin’ since he was a tadpole.
Born October 9, 1967 in Juarez, Mexico, Eddie Guerrero (real name, Eduardo Guerrero Llanes) was lucha libre pioneer Gory Guerrero’s youngest son (the other three being, in order of age, Chavo, Mando and Hector). Eddie was born, and first came to fame, in Mexico, but he was raised in El Paso, Texas and would continue to live there for most of his life.
There was a large age gap between Eddie and most of his siblings (Chavo was nearly 20 years older than him), so, as Eddie grew up, he not only had his father to look up to, but his three brothers, who were already active and successful in the wrestling business. The family had a wrestling ring in their backyard, and Eddie’s brothers would “teach him the ropes,” because what good is a kid brother if you can’t body slam him occasionally (or often)? When Eddie’s bros weren’t putting him through his paces, he was wrestling with his nephew Chavo, Jr., who was closer in age to Eddie than any of his actual brothers.
At an age when most kids aren’t allowed to cross the street on their own, Eddie wrestled his first match in front of an audience. When Eddie was only 9, he teamed up with a 6-year-old Chavo, Jr. to take on their dad/uncle, the legendary Gory Guerrero, at an exhibition show as a small, local carnival. Eddie and Chavo got the win over Gory, something even Mexican wrestling giants like El Santo and Tarzan López struggled to do. Clearly, this kid was destined for greatness.
Eddie had a brief run with WCW back in 1989.
Most Eddie Guerrero fans fondly remember his mid-’90s WCW run, but he actually had a brief run with the company at the tender age of 22. Terry Funk, who was friends with Eddie’s dad, brought him in to act as “enhancement talent” in 1989. He didn’t last long with the company, but Eddie and his barely post-pubescent mustache did make TV once in a match against Funk. You can watch the match, above.
He was a co-founder of the most hated heel faction in Mexican wrestling history.
I didn’t know Uncle Sam had such a beautiful mullet.
Eddie’s career really took off in 1993, when he turned on his tag partner El Hijo del Santo (the son of the original zombie and vampire-fightin’ El Santo) and allied with Art Barr to form La Pareja del Terror (The Pair of Terror). Eventually, Guerrero and Barr would add guys like Konnan and Louie Spicolli (under the amazing name, Madonna’s Boyfriend) to their faction to form a full-on heel stable, Los Gringos Locos.
While Eddie identified with and drew on his Mexican heritage for most of his career, during this period, he, a born-Mexican living in the U.S., and Barr, a straight-up white dude from Oregon, played the villainous outsiders. They’d fly the American flag and victimize Mexican heroes El Hijo del Santo and Octagón, and the crowds hated them for it. Being attacked with mace, rocks and flying bags of sh*t was an all-too-regular occurrence.
Los Gringos Locos weren’t just working on a character level, they were cooking in the ring, with the combination of Eddie, Art Barr, El Hijo del Santo and Octagón producing many acclaimed matches (including a tag match that got a rare five-star rating from the Wrestling Observer). American promotions began to take notice, and it looked like Los Gringos Locos were set to explode.
His career-defining ECW match against Dean Malenko was a last-minute substitution.
Unfortunately, the team did explode, but not in the way Eddie would have ever hoped for. On November 24, 1994, Art Barr was found dead in his home, his young son sleeping peacefully beside him. A cause of death has never been definitively determined, but it’s generally considered to be drug-related.
Eddie and Art were set to debut in ECW as a pair, but with Art gone, Eddie was left to continue on as a singles wrestler. Eddie debuted in ECW at the April 1995 Three-Way Dance event, where he beat Too Cold Scorpio to win the TV title on his first night in. The plan from there was to have Eddie feud with Sabu, but at the last moment, Sabu was fired for no-showing bookings. Paul Heyman would sub in another up-and-comer, Dean Malenko, and the rest was history.
Eddie and Dean’s first ECW match, a 30-minute time-limit draw at Hostile City Showdown ’95 is still considered by many to be the best match in the promotion’s history. When you can wow the ECW mutants with a time-limit draw, you know you’re doing something right. Eddie and Dean would continue to feud throughout the summer, and by the fall, ECW was established as a company that could deliver more than just “garbage” wrestling, and Eddie and Dean were on their way to a big pay raise in WCW.
Eddie’s wrestling training may have saved his life when he destroyed his car in 1999.
Unfortunately, Eddie’s time in WCW ended up being one of the worst periods of his life. While he had a lot of great matches with the company, he also hit the glass ceiling early, and slowly but surely, his drinking began to become a problem. He also started abusing the sedative/date rape drug/popular bodybuilding shortcut, GHB.
On New Year’s Day, 1999, Eddie Guerrero, still a little drunk from a New Year’s party, set out in the early morning to find a store that was still open and selling eggs. Eddie eventually found his eggs, and decided to celebrate with five “good-sized” shots of Renutrient, a liquid GHB supplement. Shortly afterwards, the drug would take effect and Eddie fell asleep at the wheel, crashing his Trans Am while going nearly 130 miles per hour. The car was obliterated; crushed like a Coke can with parts scattered throughout the nearby trees. The only reason Eddie survived was because he was ejected through the Trans Am’s T-top roof.
Eddie was still seriously injured. Compressed discs, a fractured collarbone, severe scrapes and trauma to his legs, a broken hip socket and a badly lacerated liver. About the only thing Eddie didn’t hurt was his head, which was completely fine. Both Eddie and his brothers figured the reason for that was that he remembered one of the most basic lessons any pro wrestler learns as he was flying through the air – tuck and roll. A lot of flukish things combined to save Eddie Guerrero’s life that New Year’s Day, but being a worker right down his core may have been one of them.
Less than six months after being shot 100 feet out of his car onto hard concrete, Eddie was back in the ring.
Vince McMahon and Eddie were secretly meeting for some time before he left WCW.
Eddie with a real loco gringo.
In January of 2000, Eddie, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn would jump from WCW to WWF in one of the most significant defections of the Monday Night Wars. The story that’s usually told is that The Radicalz left WCW because old-school booker Kevin Sullivan was put back in charge, prompting an “us or him” showdown. The reality, according to Vickie Guerrero, was a bit different.
In a recent interview, Vickie said Eddie had been talking to Vince McMahon in secret for some time before the jump, often sneaking off for clandestine meetings with the chairman.
“When Eddie was jumping over with the Radicalz to come to Raw, they were talking for a while. They were always talking and Eddie would go and visit with Vince, and they had these meetings. I didn’t know what they were about. Eddie kept it quiet because it was such a big deal.”
If it had got out that Vince was negotiating with a wrestler under contract to WCW, the legal ramifications would have been ugly, so things were kept hush-hush. But hey, all’s fair in love and Monday Night Wars.
Eddie wasn’t crazy about the lying, cheating and stealing gimmick at first.
Eddie’s WWE career wasn’t a rocket right from the start. He initially found himself in a fun, but ultimately go-nowhere storyline with Chyna, then in early 2001, he was sent home for showing up in no condition to perform (Eddie had become addicted to painkillers following his car accident).
After hitting rock bottom, Eddie found God, cleaned himself up and then, after kicking around ROH and the indie scene for a year, returned to WWE. Before long, he and his childhood tusslin’ partner Chavo Guerrero were teamed up as the lying, cheating, stealing Los Guerreros. Eddie wasn’t happy. He felt the new gimmick was stereotypical, and disrespected the Guerrero family name, and honestly, he was pretty much right.
That said, the lying, cheating and stealing thing also allowed Eddie to show off his personality, use a lot of his old Los Gringos Locos heel tactics, and gave him a plausible way to defeat larger opponents. Basically, the gimmick was an elevator perfectly designed to take Eddie to the top, and thankfully, after originally refusing, he agreed to film the classic “We lie, we cheat, we steal” Los Guerrero vignettes.
Eddie once got into a legit wrestling match with Kurt Angle backstage.
“Are those even real, man? Uh, no reason, just wondering.”
While Eddie Guerrero was loved by pretty much everybody who met him, he had a bit of a short fuse. Living the gimmick, I suppose. One night, Eddie, who was dealing with a lot of injuries, felt Kurt was too rough with him in the ring. He gave Kurt a verbal dressing-down backstage, things got heated and, before you know it, Eddie was going for Kurt’s legs, trying to take him down. Needless to say, that did not go well for Eddie.
Afterwards, Eddie was asked why in God’s name he would leg dive an Olympic wrestling gold medalist, and he replied the only way he could — “Because I’m stupid!” We’re all a little stupid sometimes, Eddie.
WWE was planning a major Eddie Guerrero/Shawn Michaels feud at the time of his death.
On November 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero was found unconscious in his hotel room by his nephew Chavo. He would pass away shortly thereafter. At the time of his death, Eddie was free from alcohol and drug dependency, but the years of punishment he’d inflicted on his body resulted in a case of acute heart failure. Eddie was 38.
As of his passing, Eddie was scheduled for a triple threat match with Batista and Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship. It’s long been rumored that Eddie was scheduled to win the belt, although, according to those in the know, that wasn’t the case (Orton was penciled in to win).
That said, there were big things in the works for Eddie. Apparently, WWE was planning to match Eddie up with Shawn Michaels in a feud that would have started at Royal Rumble and culminated at WrestleMania 22. It’s hard to think of two WWE stars whose styles were better suited to each other than Eddie and HBK, and yet the two never got a chance to wrestle. Just one more potentially wonderful thing Eddie’s departure robbed us of.
According to the man himself, his name is actually spelled “Eddy.”
Phew, okay, let’s open the windows and let a bit of the gloom out. Throughout this article, I’ve spelled Eddie Guerrero’s name with an “ie” because that’s how it was spelled in WWE and for most of his WCW run. It’s the canonical way to spell it. Well, brace yourself for controversy, because the man himself considered “Eddy” the proper spelling and always signed his name that way when doing autographs. Mind = blown.
So there you are, a few things you might not have known about the wild, accomplished, far-too-short life of Eddie Guerrero. Know any interesting facts I missed? Just have some favorite Eddie memories you’d like to share (how could you not)? Let’s (Latino) heat up this comments section.