AS I SEE IT 11/13: One year ago, Eddie Guerrero died...
AS I SEE IT
It's already a year ago to this day that Eddie Guerrero died....since that Sunday morning I got the shock I'd gotten all too many times before...turning on my computer to read about someone's death in wrestling.
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
Below is the column I wrote that week:
Needless to say, this has been a rough week for anyone who's a fan of professional wrestling, and for anyone who admired Eddie Guerrero.
Zach Arnold of PuroresuPower.com was kind enough to interview me with others for a future Puroresu Power Hour online radio tribute show on Eddie Guererro. I was able to share with Zach some of the feeling that those of us who were able to see the Eddie Guerrero-Dean Malenko ECW matches in the spring and summer 1995, through their classic 2/3 falls farewell match at the Arena on August 26, 1995. I'll let readers know when the show is scheduled to air, so readers can hear the various Eddie Guerrero moments those on the show were lucky enough to experience.
I'd like to add my voice to those of writers like Mike Johnson, who came out for a change in the way WWE (and TNA, for that matter) handles the treatment of their talent vis-a-vis support of their workers. Mike's column is worth a read and can be found at this link.
It's not the first time that I've brought up this issue in AS I SEE IT. The sad thing is the words below come from an AS I SEE IT column...on January 28, 2000. Obviously there is no more WCW and ECW, but otherwise, the words ring as true as they did over five years ago and speak for themselves:
"It's time for WCW, the WWF, and ECW to make an effort to enact REAL drug testing. NOW.
By that, I mean LEGITIMATE drug testing. I don't mean the farce that results in stars being conveniently leaked times when testing will take place, but REAL honest to God testing. I don't mean the farce that allows dirty tests to be ignored if it will interfere with a major storyline and PPV main event.
It's time to start a policy of universal random testing within wrestling companies for the use of somas and other muscle relaxers, for painkillers, for cocaine, for Nu-Bain and other narcotics; as well as for steroids and other growth-enhancing substances...testing for the drugs being used by wrestlers today on an all too frequent basis.
Somas are one of the most widely used drug by wrestlers, used both to relieve physical pain from ringwork, as well as for "recreational" purposes...
Firing or suspending someone so they won't "die on my watch" (a phrase uttered by a promoter about a wrestler he fired who wound up employed in another major company shortly afterward, and died from a soma overdose shortly after that) won't help one bit. It'll just cause a wrestler to deny that he or she has a drug problem and more effort in concealing it than in ENDING the drug problem; just to save their jobs. That policy will just cause more wrestlers to die.
It is time for Time-Warner-Turner, WWF Entertainment, and ECW to enact an Employee Assistance Program to allow for drug/alcohol counseling of workers and office employees. Employee Assistance Programs are a common practice all over corporate America. These programs involve making counseling services available through a third-party who will not disclose the nature of the counseling to the employer, but will provide services that may save a life."
Yes, I know WWE sends workers to rehab, as they did, of course, with Eddie Guerrero.
Given the news later in the week about Nick Dinsmore, and various stories about a major name reputed to be on some sort of "death watch"...this seems to make even more sense.
Now...thoughts from fans on last week's column on the passing of Eddie Guerrero...
From PWBTS's own Victoria Lee:
"Eddie Guerrero's life has truly been an inspiration. After nearly losing his career, family, and even his life to addictions to pain killers and alcohol, Guerrero overcame his addictions and slowly but surely won back all that he had lost. His achievements in life are far greater than any championship one could win; his accomplishments greater than any victory inside the ring.
However, Eddie didn't need to sacrifice in-ring victories for his great victories outside the ring. Eddie Guerrero is a multiple-time Tag Team Champion - the most recent Tag Title reign being with his nephew, Chavo Guerrero. At Summerslam 2003, the United States Championship was introduced to SmackDown!, and Eddie was the first to win the Title when he defeated Chris Benoit, Rhyno, and Tajiri in a Fatal Four-Way bout. My mother had just become a fan a couple weeks earlier, so she went mostly with gut instincts in her predictions on who would win. She picked Eddie because she "liked his name." That was the first PPV I had ever watched, so it holds a significant place in my heart. Eddie, as well as others that night, put on an excellent show.
His title reigns exceded the US and Tag Team Championships: at No Way Out in February 2004, Eddie won the WWE Championship from now-former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. One month later, he defended his Championship against Kurt Angle, ending the night by standing in the ring with his good friend, Chris Benoit, as they both celebrated their long-fought and hard-earned victories.
Guerrero held the Title until July 2004, when JBL defeated him in a controversial Texas Bullrope match, but Guerrero showed himself to be a true champion throughout his reign.
Guerrero and his nephew, Chavo, created the "Lie, Cheat, and Steal" moniker. Eddie pulled off his sneaky tactics with such a charm, though, that he couldn't help but steal the hearts of all who had the privilege of watching him."
From Jeff Millar:
"Some people in life follow football or baseball, they make it their passion. They know facts and figures about the sport that befuddle the average person. They are more than an average fan... Others shake their heads in disbelief at the time wasted by filling one's head with information about people they will never meet, and facts that can only be used to use in conversation.
Well, I follow wrestling... I love wrestling... I live for it...
I have since I was eight years old. My grandfather and I watched Stampede wrestling out of Calgary when I visited him. I can honestly say that wrestling is a part of my life just like hockey, football and other sports are part of their lives.
And a little part of me chips away each time that the wrestling world loses a performer. Sure, there is going to be times when accidents and disease claim the lives of certain individuals. Older wrestlers pass away, their lives making a stamp, however large or small, to the world of wrestling.
I don't know the why, and I try to think that there is an ultimate plan out there that someone has to explain when someone's time has ticked down. And I hope for my sake, when that day comes, that I find an place that will be filled with all the wrestlers, talking their smack, pouring their blood out on the mat and just flat out busting their asses for their fans.
I am gonna miss Eddie Guerrero. He was a bright little spot in the big suck that the WWE has turned into over the years. Don't get me wrong, I never stopped watching the WWE as it became crappier, I just was more selective on who I would pay attention to.
From his days in WCW and ECW, and the shows from Japan and Mexico that I have watched over the years, he was truly a talent in the ring. He had struggled with personal problems and let the world know about that. That takes a special kind of person...
One more guy is bringing his boots and tights to a ring far away from this place. And he will lie, cheat and steal his way to victory at that place as well.
Thanks for entertaining me Eddie. I will never forget you."
From Jerry Wilson of Hoosier Pro Wrestling
"Eddie was, along with Chris Benoit, the best in wrestling all the way back to his days as Black Tiger and Pegasus Kid in Japan.
We don't understand why people leave us so soon and at such early ages. I lost a brother four years ago at 44...and Bam Bam Gordy died 3 days before that. I remember shooting a Nitro in Indy for the magazines; and was in Eddie and Chavo's corner. Eddie came out and used me as "protection" not to be hit.
It was cool and I will miss seeing "Homes" on WWE.
My deepest thoughts go out to Eddies wife, kids, parents and family. Thank you for all the memories and the run with Art Barr."
From Joey Williamson:
"Sunday morning I woke up to the news that WWE wrestler Eddie Guerrero passed away at the age of 38. Two days later I am still in shock but I want to tell people what Eddie Guerrero meant to me and wrestling. Eddie was truly an inspiration to many. He had been wrestling for almost 20 years. He came to be a superstar in the mid-90's.
In 1999 is when his world started falling apart. He became a drug addict and alcoholic. He lost his job with WWE, he lost all of his money and he lost is family as well. Two and half years went by and Eddie Guerrero started to recover. He made his come back in early 2002 and got everything back from his family to his job.
In 2004, Eddie marked the comeback by winning the WWE Heavyweight title, which made him the first Mexican wrestler to ever hold a heavyweight title. After that they made a movie of Eddie and his life called "Cheating Death, Stealing Life."
Eddie was an inspiration to me because he showed that anyone could make a comeback no matter how bad the circumstances. He was a born again Christian. Many wrestlers said that whenever they had a problem in their life they went to Eddie and he pulled out scripture from the Bible and help them. Fellow wrestler and Christian Shawn Michaels said that Eddie was the only who ever led the whole locker room in prayer, something that had never been done before.
It was hard for me to watch WWE Raw last night and it will be hard for me to watch WWE Smackdown this Friday. Eddie was truly a class act. He was funny in the ring and loving outside of it. As a wrestling fan, I am truly saddened by the lost of Eddie Guerrero.
As a Christian, I am proud that Eddie shared the Bible with other wrestlers who desperately needed it. I pray that Eddies story will inspire to get help if needed, and help others in their time of need. Eduardo Gory Guerrero will always be my brother-in-Christ.
From John in St. Louis:
"Being a longtime Wrestling fan from St Louis, I have had the privilege of seeing some of the best in the business ranging from Pat O’Connor to Dory Funk, Jr. to Harley Race to Ric Flair. In the Sam Muchnik days they all came to town.
Eddie Guerrero was in this talent pool. I was a mark at a very young age. As time passed and wrestling evolved into its current state, I was no longer the mark I once was. The entertainment value wasn’t the same as it once was. But Eddie made it entertaining. I will miss his ability to do that and how funny he was. I am an Eddie Guerrero mark."
From Staff Sgt Albert B. Hayes:
I'm sure you're flooded with emails about Eddie Guerrero. Normally, I read your column and move on. But today, I am compelled to write. I have been a wrestling fan for some 25 years, since I was about 5 years old. I have gotten the pleasure of watching some very talented performers, and met a few wrestlers in the Anchorage airport once, but have never seen a live show.
However, if I was ever given the opportunity, there are three individuals that I always wanted to meet. Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero. He will long be in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans. I am truly hoping that the fans, especially the true fans, remember him as the good man that he was. The last angle that he was involved in to completion, with Rey Mysterio, was sad, and I think did as much as could be done to drag a fine man's name through the mud.
Hopefully this is nowhere near the man that will be remembered, by me and by many others, as one of the true greats of the sport. I never saw him have a bad day or a bad match…and more importantly, whether he was winning or losing, good angle or bad, you could always see that twinkle in his eye, and you knew that he was having fun, and loved what he was doing. Thank you very much for your time.
Chip Hayes, SSgt, USMC
From Dave Cousins:
"I hate times like this.
I watch wrestling because I enjoy it, because I like the characters, the charisma that some of them bring to the ring, and the talent to make a style their own. The last time I wrote to you, Bob, I was mourning the passing of Curt Hennig. Now, all too shortly after, I am mourning the loss of Eddie Guerrero. This time its different, though. You see, I just turned 35 two weeks ago. Eddie died at 38. I don't really have the words emphasize how that it is much too young. We know of his out of the ring problems, but still, he turned things around and made himself better for it.
The best memories of Eddie I have come from a different place. I run a couple of miles each week with my best friend. He and I talk wrestling for most of the miles we run, and there isn't a day when we run when we don't laugh at what Eddie did during his "Lie, cheat and steal" antics were at their height, or how happy we were when Vince finally discovered that someone other than a giant could have 15 pounds of gold around his waist and be an excellent champ. We both wanted Eddie to have the world title again, because, without a shred of doubt, he was the best at "telling the story". The only ones who may have been his equal at it were Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. Now, Eddie's story is over, but is it really finished?
My other favorite memory of Eddie is seeing him with Art Barr in a AAA pay per view that was just before his jump to WCW. I has read about the Guerreros and their antics in Florida and Texas for years in the Apter mags, and thought "Man, this is neat....something different". Then I saw that pay per view and saw how different it really was. I wish I could have seen Eddie as the Black Tiger. I wish I could have seen more of him in WCW. But most of all, I wish I could have seen him live. Of all my favorite performers, he was the final one on the list that I wanted to go to see at an arena. Now the list is incomplete.
I hope Eddie's family is able to overcome this, and I wish strength for them. I hope that the wrestling world will not forget him all too soon. I hope that someone will get the chance to wear the big belt who isn't a muscle bound moron because of Eddie being able to carry the strap. But most of all, I hope that Eddie flies far beyond this world to whatever place it is we go to, in peace.
From Jack DeFranco:
"Today, is a sad day for all of us wrestling fans. Eddie Guerrero was a superstar who gave everything to this business. Whether he was a heel or face, you had to love Eddie. SmackDown will feel very different without Latino Heat every Friday night. The WWE superstars lost their brother yesterday, but Eddie's spirit will live on.
My deepest condolences are to the entire Guerrero family and to every wrestler who ever knew Eddie in any association. I think about Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and the rest of the WWE superstars who went up and down the road with Eddie throughout their careers and feel their pain as they have lost their brother.
I look at moments like Wrestle Mania XX and No Way Out 2004 and see all the moments that Eddie gave us fans that will last a lifetime. Thank you for the wonderful years Eddie. We love you and we'll never forget you."
From Jennifer L. Hernandez:
"Dear Bob Magee,
While I did not know Eddie Guerrero personally, I am deeply moved and saddened by his sudden death. Being a wrestling fan for many years I have always loved Eddie Guerrero. For me he was much more than an entertainer, a performer, a champion, a wrestler.he was truly and inspiration. As his last name translates from Spanish to English: Fighter; Warrior.he lived up to every letter and every bit of that meaning.
Eddie Guerrero stood out among other wrestlers for me personally because he represented for the "Latin" community, all of the potential, strength, and heart we could have if we just keep in the fight. What was so great about him is that, even though he meant a great deal to the Latin community, his message, his life, his presence as an entertainer transcended all cultural and communal boundaries and touched all of his fans alike.
Despite his personal circumstances and struggles somehow he made it to the top position in his field and made it seem so easy. His personality, his attitude, his presence was just the right spice that the wrestling world needed and the fans craved.
Watching him on tv was like watching a tight suited super hero come alive from the lively colored pages of a comic book, and bounce right onto the screen with an in-your-face persona that could not be ignored. He had the intensity of a lion with the sort of finesse and style that spurred jealousy and intense admiration/respect at the same time. You could just tell that in his eyes burned the fire of perseverance and because he has such loyal fans that flame will never be extinguished.
I for one will not soon forget what he brought to wrestling and what his life, story and struggle has shown us about enduring persistence. It's not enough to say that we will keep him in our memories because memories fade, but he will stay in our hearts forever more.as many other wrestlers have who have past on, to that great squared circle in the heavens."
From Robin McCune:
"I want to say we will certainly miss a great wrestler. But what we must remember is, as stated last night, on RAW he was a Christian, and he is in a great place.
I know every one is grieving and it is sad but, Eddie is with Christ. Even though Eddie was a wrestler he gave his life to Jesus and his teammates saw that he led by example.
When I watched wrestling last night it wasn't the same but for his teammates to say he shared the Bible with me and led by example. When you're a Christian, people dont usually say they watch more than any thing; and Eddie left a legacy tht will be in their hearts for a life time."
From Steven Sharp:
"Professional wrestling is a dangerous way to make a living. Not only are the risks in the ring great but the temptations out of the ring even greater.
My good friend Dan Hawkins died from heart complications that arose from serious steroid abuse. Road Warrior Hawk, same thing. Davey Boy Smith, same thing. Eddie Gurerro? It's not known yet how he died but it's my suspicion that the situation was similar. I truly hope I am wrong.
Many wrestlers who have died in the past few years I have crossed paths with at one time or another. Professional wrestling is a close knit business and at one time or another you cross paths with people if you stay active enough. I have been fortunate to have crossed paths with some of the bigger names in wrestling, even though my name never reached the heights I had hoped.
One person that I never crossed paths with though was Eddie Guerrero. Professional wrestling is a true art and Eddie was Picasso. Especially when it came to being a bad guy. A heel. I got alot of my "bad guy" mannerisms from watching him work. He was a true asshole and damnit he was good at it.
I remember when he started to get hot in WWE. He was receiving reactions that were on par with Steve Austin when he started to get hot. I remember writing how WWE was losing a winner by not making Eddie the champion. Finally he got his chance. The business was at a down point so financially he wasn't the biggest drawing champ. Character wise? He'll go down as one of the best there was. Ability in the ring? Eddy will go down as one of the top five best ever.
Eddie Guerrero leaves behind an army of fans, a batallion of friends, and a lucky family who can say for the rest of their lives. My husband, My dad, my brother, my cousin, my friend was Eddy Guerrero; One of the best there ever will be."
Since that column was written, WWE enacted a drug policy...we thought. That lasted until the July 4 arrest of Rob Van Dam screwed up WWE booking plans. Now we hear nothing about wrestlers going to drug rehabilitation. Instead, we hear about unpaid suspension dutrng which they are required to work their dates (a polocy wqhich would allow for an interesting argument with the IRS as to how WWE can force an independent contractor without getting paid).
Instead of Guerrero's death creating a sea change in the way that wrestling promotions allow their performers to manage pain, and to take care of themselves...its legacy seems to be the most tasteless angle of 2006, that of the continued use of Guerrero's death for ratings and PPV buys.
I first met Eddie Guerrero when he came into ECW in April 1994. There have been few people I've ever seen within wrestling who have ever been genuinely nicer or more approachable to fans than Eddie Guerrero was. Eddie was a kind, decent man who remembered his friends. The most notable example of that I saw was his remembering Hildebrand. I remember being the post-show bar scene at a WCW house show, when I saw Guerrero saying a prayer over his post-show meal...thought it was odd, and then later that night found out about Brian's cancer.
Now it's a year since that remarkable performer and remarkable person left the world.
It's becoming more and more painfully obvious that wrestling views its performers as commodities that will wear out...and that they'll ignore anything that gets in the way of the next hot quarter-hour ratings or buyrate. Who knows which one is next? Wrestling seems not to care, and won't unless they are made to care...most likely by some form of government regulation that is UNIVERSALLY enforced, requiring universal testing that is a requirement tro work within major states that can't be avoided by promotions... testing not just for indy promoters who don't have enough finanical clout to ignore what State Commissions say.
I'm tired of turning on my computer and reading the same news about a wrestler I read that Sunday morning; or of getting a phone call from someone.... and get the news I've gotten time after time after time: that yet one more wrestler was found dead in a lonely hotel room somewhere.
But I have the sad feeling that if Eddie Guerrero's deatht wasn't enough to make WWE and other promotions cleadn up their act...I don't know what else will.
Until next time...
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