Ten years ago to the day, on November 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away from acute heart failure in a Minneapolis, Minnesota hotel room. Guerrero, nicknamed ‘Latino Heat’, is revered as one of the greatest performers professional wrestling has ever seen. Discussed below are just four of the countless performances that defined his legendary career.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Mr. Kennedy – Smackdown! 11/11/2005
Eddie Guerrero’s last match wasn’t a classic in terms of in-ring technique, but it did epitomize what made him great as a character. Towards the end of his life, Eddie’s character had taken his motto of lying, cheating, and stealing to incredible new heights.
Normally when a referee goes down in a match, the villain takes the opportunity to incapacitate his opponent through illegal means. The same could be said for Guerrero, except that it didn’t matter if he was a villain or a fan-favorite. He was going to win the match any way he could, and the crowd couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do next.
Towards the end of his match on the November 11, 2005, episode of Smackdown! (just two days before Eddie’s death), Eddie flung Mr. Kennedy into the corner and accidentally knocked the referee down in the process. As Eddie realized what happened, a smirk came across his face and everyone in the building knew something special was about to happen. Eddie then went ringside to grab a chair and positioned himself to crush Kennedy with it. Then, he noticed both Kennedy and the referee starting to come to their senses and realized what he had to do. As Kennedy stood up Guerrero tossed him the chair and fell to the mat, complaining to the referee that Kennedy had used it. Referee Charles Robinson disqualified Kennedy and the crowd erupted in cheers and laughter (that moment is attached in the video clip above). This type of shenanigans is what defined Eddie’s greatness towards the end of his career, and it’s something that fans miss to this day.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle – Wrestlemania 20
On the biggest stage of them all, Wrestlemania, ‘Latino Heat’ was granted the opportunity to defend the WWE Championship against one of the greatest in-ring technicians the business has ever seen – Kurt Angle. These two superstars were considered two of the greatest athletes in WWE, and proved it that night inside Madison Square Garden. Despite both guys being great characters, the match went down as a ‘mat-classic’ that went back-and-forth, but played on the idea that Angle was better than Eddie inside the ring.
Although Eddie didn’t have to lie, cheat, or steal he retained his championship in humorous fashion. Angle has his signature ‘ankle lock’ locked in and Eddie was desperate to get out of it. As Guerrero kicked Kurt’s arm off to temporarily loosen the hold, Eddie’s boot slipped off and he was free of the hold. Angle ran at him, only to get caught in a rollup for the pin.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio – Halloween Havoc 1997
In 1997, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had established itself as the biggest wrestling company in the world. Much of this can be contributed to the success of the New World Order, a villainous faction led by Hulk Hogan that had attempted to take full control of WCW. However, WCW also had a bevy of international talent and cruiserweights that made up an exciting and groundbreaking undercard.
In October 1997, Guerrero faced the most popular luchador to ever come out of WCW (and probably of all time) in Rey Mysterio, Jr for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. It wasn’t the first or last time the two legendary wrestlers would compete, but it was their best. The cruiserweight division revolutionized wrestling, and this match personified that revolution.
Guerrero had taken on a personal vendetta against the popular masked luchadors of WCW and vowed to take them out. Rey had gained popularity with his innovative skill set and the two put on a classic high-flying matchup that introduced national audiences to moves that had never been seen before. For example, one instance saw Rey flip over the top rope to hit Guerrero with a hurricanrana on the floor that has to be seen to be believed.
In the end Mysterio won the championship, but both men won the attention of wrestling fans everywhere with this one-of-a-kind performance. Rey probably gets most of the praise for the amazing acrobatics he pulled off in the match, but none of that happens without Eddie’s fluidity and technique.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship – No Way Out 2004
After winning a battle royal to become the number one contender for the WWE Championship on an episode of Smackdown!, Guerrero would challenge WWE’s resident beast – Brock Lesnar – for the title at No Way Out. The build-up to the match pulled at different story threads, including Guerrero’s underdog status against Brock, Brock’s ‘bad knee’ and the prospect of Lesnar overlooking Guerrero to face Goldberg the following month at Wrestlemania 20. The most compelling aspect of the story, however, was the incorporation of Eddie’s real-life addiction.
The match itself told a ‘David and Goliath’ story with Brock absolutely dominating Eddie for the majority of the match. Every time it seemed that Eddie would gain momentum, Brock was quick to suplex that away. Likewise, Eddie managed to survive every blow and maneuver that Brock would punish him with, even to the point where Brock repeatedly told Guerrero to ‘just die’.
As Brock was hitting his finishing move (the ‘F5’) Eddie’s legs knocked the ref over and the crowd knew shenanigans were about to occur. However, the shenanigans were more traditional than Eddie was used to (Goldberg hit Lesnar with a ‘spear’ shoulder tackle) and he had to rely on his wrestling know-how to finish the match. He reversed a second ‘F5’ into a ‘DDT’, dropping Lesnar face first on the WWE Championship. Eddie then went up to the top rope and hit his patented ‘Frog Splash’ to win the championship for the first and only time.
As Eddie celebrated with his family at ringside, wrestling fans knew he deserved the championship for more than just his legendary career. He had overcome his personal demons and made it all the way back to the very top of the professional wrestling industry. The run at the end of his life was the best of his career as he had embodied what the business is about both as an in-ring master and a thoroughly entertaining character. He had set a new standard for what a top wrestler in the company should be, and his legacy will forever live on in the current and up-and-coming superstars of the business.
Viva la raza!, and viva Eddie Guerrero.