November 13th, 2005. It was a Sunday. But for professional wrestling, professional wrestlers across the industry, and professional wrestling fans around the world it might as well have been Friday the 13th because the news that was about to hit the wrestling industry and world was something that no one could have believed or expected. It was on this day that the wrestling industry and world lost Eddie Guerrero. It’s a day that a lot of wrestlers and wrestling fans around the world can remember like it was just yesterday. But rather than focus on that fateful day, let’s celebrate the career and life of one of the most beloved and inspirational performers of all time.
Eddie Guerrero was born on October 9th, 1967 in El Paso, Texas. The youngest son of the legendary Gory Guerrero, one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of Mexican lucha libre, amongst three older brothers, Chavo, Mando, and Hector already beginning to break into the business themselves, it was inevitable that Eddie would follow in the footsteps of his father and brothers. As a young boy, he would attend the wrestling shows put on by his father at the El Paso County Coliseum where his father would allow Eddie and his nephew, Chavo Jr., to wrestle each other during intermission. Eddie would attend New Mexico Highlands University on an athletic scholarship, and it was there where he began to wrestle amateur and collegiately, before moving to Mexico to begin to train as a professional wrestler.
Eddie Guerrero debuted on September 5th, 1986, and began wrestling as the original Mascara Magica in CMLL in 1987, before departing for the newly founded AAA in 1992. It was in AAA where he would have the first major success of his career, teaming with El Hijo del Santo as a new version of La Pareja Atomica (The Atomic Pair), the original version being Eddie’s father Gory Guerrero and the iconic El Santo. He would eventually turn on Santo, aligning himself with Art Barr as La Pareja del Terror (The Pair of Terror), becoming one of the most hated teams in lucha libre history as a part of the Los Gringos Locos heel stable. The team mostly feuded with Santo and his partner Octagon, culminating in a Hair Vs. Mask match at the first lucha libre pay-per-view in the US, When Worlds Collide, in one of the greatest tag team matches in history on one of the greatest pay-per-view shows of all time. During this time, he also worked for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, as the second incarnation of Black Tiger, winning the 1996 Best of the Super Juniors tournament and feuding with the likes of Tiger Mask III Koji Kanemoto, The Great Sasuke, and Jushin Thunder Liger. He would also work for Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) throughout 1995, having an acclaimed series of matches with Dean Malenko, before signing for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in late 1995.
It was in WCW where Eddie Guerrero would begin to make a name for himself at a bigger, national level in the US, however, his time in WCW was one of constant ups and downs and frustration. He came in feuding with the likes of Konnan and Ric Flair over the United States Heavyweight Championship, feuded with Flair and the Four Horsemen throughout 1996, and defeated Diamond Dallas Page at Starrcade 1996 in the finals of a tournament for the vacant US Title. After losing the US Title to Dean Malenko, he began to focus more on the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, where he would arguably have his most critically acclaimed success in WCW. He would win the Cruiserweight Title from Chris Jericho at Fall Brawl 1997, before losing it to Rey Mysterio Jr. in a Mask Vs. Title match at Halloween Havoc, in one of the greatest matches in WCW history. Despite his popularity and success, Eddie Guerrero, along with many others in the company never seemed to be able to break through into the upper echelon main event scene in WCW. And eventually these frustrations would lead to his defection to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) alongside the rest of The Radicalz.
The Radicalz, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn debuted in the WWF on January 31st, 2000. Although always entertaining, his first run in the company was a bit underwhelming, and truth be told he was not in a good place at this time in his life. Someone that experienced various substance abuse problems throughout his career and life, including alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers, he was arrested for drunk driving on November 9th, 2001 and subsequently released from the company. However, this was not going to be the end of the career or life of Eddie Guerrero, but rather it was at this point that his true legacy and redemption story was going to begin to be written.
After his release, Eddie Guerrero began wrestling on the independent scene, including on the first ever Ring of Honor show on February 23rd, 2002. He also had the chance to wrestle a young CM Punk, and briefly returned to New Japan Pro-Wrestling in March 2002. It was during this time away that he began to get clean and sober, and this would lead to his return to the WWF on April 1st, 2002. He became a part of the group of wrestlers known as “The SmackDown Six” and again like his first run, although always entertaining, was a bit underwhelming. However, in a story of overcoming adversity, a story of battling personal demons, and a story of perseverance and redemption, Eddie Guerrero would reach the pinnacle of his career, defeating Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004, in one of the biggest underdog upset wins of all time.
One of the most charismatic and entertaining performers of all time, the way Eddie Guerrero was able to play with the emotions of an audience was like few others. If Eddie wanted you to love him, all it took was one of his classic, fiery, and impassioned “Latino Heat” speeches. But if Eddie wanted you to hate him, he could be the biggest slime ball, one that you just wanted to see get his comeuppance. He could make you cry and laugh all at the same time. He would lie. He would cheat. He would steal. He stole the hearts and minds of his contemporaries and fans alike throughout his career. One of the greatest in-ring performers of all time, Eddie Guerrero was posthumously inducted into the WWE, Wrestling Observer Newsletter, AAA, and Hardcore Hall of Fames. Although he is not with us anymore, the influence and legacy of Eddie Guerrero on professional wrestling, professional wrestlers across the industry, and professional wrestling fans around the world, will continue to live on in all those stolen hearts and minds forever.