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Full Career Retrospective and Greatest Moments for Eddie Guerrero

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2013

Photo Credit: WWE.com

November 13, 2005 is a date wrestling fans wish they did not have etched in their minds.

We wish it was no different than the 12th or the 14th, easily forgotten and rather nondescript.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Everyone remembers exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing when they heard of the passing of Eddie Guerrero. Some were enjoying a midseason NFL game, some were scrolling through wrestling news and opinion pieces while others did not find out about the tragedy until the following morning.

Regardless of what the case may be, Eddie's passing hit fans hard.

Recovering from his personal demons to go on to become the most popular star in wrestling—including winning the WWE Championship—is something that had eluded men of his size and style for years. That is what made us, the fans, feel closer and more connected to Eddie.

On this, the eighth anniversary of his passing, there is still a deep sadness that washes over fans when they think of Guerrero and the emotions he elicited throughout his career. He was the rare breed of performer who could make fans laugh, cry, cheer, boo and hiss.

He was as complete a performer as there has ever been in World Wrestling Entertainment. There may never be a Superstar who walks through the door with the total package of in-ring and storytelling ability, charisma, intensity and aggressiveness that Guerrero possessed.

The former WWE Champion was funny, sincere and had a charm about him that, no matter how underhanded what he did in the ring may have been, fans still loved and appreciated.

As unfortunate and sad as his passing may have been—and still may be—November 13 does not have to be an anniversary that is looked upon with tears. Instead, fans should take the day to remember their favorite Eddie match or reminisce on the moments in which he hilariously lied, cheated or stole in order to gain an advantage.

In memory of the once-in-a-lifetime performer, here is a look back at his legendary career and greatest moments.

Mexico

Eddie began his career in Mexico in the late 1980s, the same place where his father Gory had the majority of his success. He would work tag team matches and even do some jobs for the National Wrestling Alliance in the states. But the second-generation star would not begin to see his hard work pay off with any sort of measurable success until the early 1990s.

In 1992, he formed a team with El Hijo del Santo, they became known as La Pareja Atomica. Decades earlier, Gory Guerrero and the iconic El Santo formed a team of the same name, this was their children's tribute to them.

By the time the calendar turned and 1993 was upon him, Guerrero had turned heel and partnered with Art Barr in a tandem known as La Pareja del Terror. Guerrero and Barr were exemplary heels who knew how to rile and infuriate a crowd. 

Soon, Konnan joined the duo, forming a faction known as Los Gringos Locos. Others would join as well, but no one was as hot—or hated—as Guerrero and Barr.

The biggest match of their partnership happened on November 6, 1994 inside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Thirteen thousand fans jam-packed the arena to see La Pareja del Terror take on former Guerrero partner El Hijo del Santo and Octagon in a two out of three falls match.

If the heels lost, they would have their heads shaved. If the heroes won, they would be forced to unmask. Either way, it would be a humiliating scenario for either team.

Of course, Guerrero and Barr would lose the match, despite injuring Octagon late in the match and forcing El Hijo del Santo to wrestle the last fall on his own. Against all odds, he would catch Guerrero with a victory roll and pick up the win, securing his and his partner's masks, as well as gaining a measure of revenge against two of Mexico's most despised wrestlers.

The match would attract the attention of many different promotions across the United States, with Guerrero and Barr becoming hot commodities.

Everyone from WWE to WCW to New Japan had an interest in the talented tag team, but it was one small promotion in Philadelphia—a promotion that had taken the wrestling business by storm with revolutionary concepts and ideas—that coveted the team above all.

That promotion was called Extreme Championship Wrestling, and it would provide Guerrero with his first real exposure to an American audience.

Unfortunately, Barr would not be joining his partner. On November 23, 1994, he passed away at his home in Oregon.

Extreme Championship Wrestling

During his time in Japan in the early 1990s, Guerrero met and competed against both Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit. All three men were highly talented individuals who incorporated different styles from different countries into their wrestling and became better workers because of it.

It was only fitting, then, that they popped up in ECW at the same time.

Paul Heyman had their work brought to his attention and relished the opportunity to introduce them to his promotion.

On April 8, 1995, Guerrero made his debut at the Philadelphia-based ECW and made an instant impact. He defeated the dynamic 2 Cold Scorpio in a very good match, capturing the company's Television Championship.

From there, he would go on to have a series of matches with Dean Malenko that would change the perception fans had of ECW.

Rather than being a promotion known solely for its blood, guts and shock value, ECW was now able to tout phenomenal wrestling featuring some of the very best technicians in the sport. Guerrero, Malenko, Benoit and Chris Jericho were an integral part of ECW attracting more eyes and gaining a reputation as the best independent wrestling promotion in the United States.

Even if they did not stick around very long.

After word spread about the outstanding in-ring action ECW presented, it was only a matter of time before the same promotions who had initially expressed interest in signing the second-generation star to a contract once again pursued Guerrero, this time with greater intensity.

World Championship Wrestling

Year One

On August 26, 1995, Guerrero wrestled his final match for ECW. By that October, he had debuted in World Championship Wrestling. As was the case with ECW, he arrived alongside Malenko and Benoit,  wrestling his two friends in some of his very first matches with WCW.

He floated around aimlessly for his first few months, but by 1996 he was in the thick of the United States Championship tournament. In December, he won a tournament to capture the title, defeating recent rival Diamond Dallas Page.

It was his first major title in the United States, and he would do an admirable job carrying it. Matches against Page, Jericho, Syxx, Malenko and Benoit established Guerrero as one of the most talented wrestlers in either of the big two companies. He was an asset to WCW, even if they did not always treat him as such.

In 1997, Guerrero would turn heel and introduce some of the attitude he and Art Barr had displayed in Mexico to a brand new audience.

He was aggressive, ruthless, cunning and crafty. He was a cheapshot artist who verbally and physically abused opponents—and even his own family. Nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. found himself on the receiving end of bullying, as did Rey Mysterio Jr.

Halloween Havoc 1997

Mysterio debuted for ECW following Guerrero's departure. Much like the man who would go on to become one of his best friends, Mysterio would sign with WCW when the opportunity presented itself.

By 1997, he and Guerrero were embroiled in a personal rivalry that saw the latter attempting to take the mask of the high-flying sensation. For a luchador, unmasking is among the most disgraceful things that can happen to them. 

Much like his match against El Hijo del Santo and Octagon three years earlier, Guerrero would wrestle a match against Mysterio in October at Halloween Havoc. Mysterio's mask would be on the line and Guerrero would put his Cruiserweight Championship up to make it fair.

The match, the finest in either man's career, was an example of what can happen when everything from timing to setting to situation to performers clicks on every level. It was the epitome of a perfect match and one that to this day, some sixteen years later, is remembered for its greatness.

Guerrero would lose the match, but it would do little to hurt his standing in the company.

Frustration

Despite being a premier, elite talent between the ropes, he simply could not break through the proverbial glass ceiling that—considering the paranoid and protective egomaniacs at the top of the card—resembled more of an impenetrable concrete ceiling instead.

He would spend the final two years of his WCW career moving up and down the middle of the card with no real career advancement to speak of. There were no exciting storyline developments for him or the handful of talented wrestlers who shared his position.

The company simply relied on Guerrero and his friends Malenko, Benoit, Jericho, Mysterio and the rest of the cruiserweight division to provide the work rate on shows while the Hogans, Lugers, Savages, Pipers, Stings, Nashes and Halls clung desperately to their main event spots.

As the millennium came to a close, Guerrero and a host of other stars would see the writing on the wall and make a career move that would change their professional lives forever.

World Wrestling Entertainment

The Radicals

On January 31, 2000, Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn debuted on WWE television, weeks after walking out of WCW and guaranteed contracts. The risk was worth the potential reward.

All four men now had the opportunity to achieve a level of success they were not even allowed to approach in WCW. Some would capitalize on the opportunity while others would falter or suffer injuries that halted their pushes.

Guerrero was one of those who succeeded, but not without his fair share of bumps in the road.

In his first WWE match, he came off the top rope with his patented frog splash and landed with such impact that he dislocated his elbow. He would miss several weeks of action, but the Radicals, as the group of four was called, remained featured players on WWE programming, allowing him to remain relevant.

After returning from that injury, he revealed a crush he had on Chyna and leading into the April 3 WrestleMania 2000 event, did everything in his power to prove that she could not resist his Latino Heat. 

At the event, Guerrero would be pinned by Chyna in what would have been an embarrassing moment for a lesser performer, but Eddie understood his role and the comedic nature of his Latino Heat character. He fully embraced it going forward, resulting in one of the most entertaining stretches of his career.

Latino Heat

On the April 4 episode of Raw, Eddie captured the European Championship from Chris Jericho after Chyna turned on Y2J and revealed that she could not, in fact, resist Guerrero's Latino Heat.

The two polar opposite characters would come together to make for some memorable moments at a time where everything on WWE television was at its peak.

Prior to the Backlash pay-per-view, Guerrero was studying to take his GED, with the assistance of Chyna, all the while defending his European title. At the event, he and Chyna returned from the prom just in time for Guerrero to wrestle Essa Rios in a major title bout.

Guerrero would retain the title until July's Fully Loaded, when he lost it to former Radicals teammate Perry Saturn.

The on-screen relationship with Chyna would continue well into the summer, but jealousy on Guerrero's part would cause a schism that could not be repaired.

Guerrero used his cunning ways to win the Intercontinental Championship from Chyna, who had been knocked unconscious by Kurt Angle, then spent weeks trying to get her to believe that he did not intentionally take the title from her.

The fans knew better. Over time, Chyna knew better. Their split led to Eddie once again embracing his heel ways.

Unfortunately, personal issues and injuries began affecting his work.

Despite adding a second European Championship to his resume following a big win over Test at WrestleMania X-7, Guerrero's days in the company were numbered.

In May of 2001, he was sent to rehab. By November, he was released from his contract.

Independents

After cleaning his life up, Guerrero returned to the ring more determined than ever to prove himself again.

The dark days he faced a year prior had torn his life to shreds, both personally and professionally, and he sought redemption through reintegration. He hit the road and worked small venues across the country in hopes of getting back in ring shape and regaining his confidence.

While doing so, he worked with some of the best young talent in the country, including CM Punk, Christopher Daniels and Super Crazy. He revisited rivalries with Rey Mysterio and Psychosis, both of whom found work in the same promotions following the fall of WCW.

Perhaps most important was the legitimacy and attention he brought to a hot new upstart promotion based in Philadelphia and booked by former ECW associate Gabe Sapolsky, named Ring of Honor.

Guerrero appeared on the first few shows the company produced and was a large part of their success and survival. He helped bring eyes to some of the young talent who both plied their craft on those shows and would be a large part of Ring of Honor's growth over the years that followed.

For that, he does not get the credit he deserves from wrestling fans at large.

World Wrestling Entertainment, Part Two

The Return

Guerrero's work on the independent scene earned him a second look from WWE. That he had gotten himself clean added to the confidence Vince McMahon and management had that his second stint with the company would be different.

And better.

Making a huge impact on his first night back, Guerrero assaulted Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam on the April 1, 2002 episode of Raw, the first of the post-Brand Extension that split the WWE roster in two.

The attack led to a match between the two at Backlash, which Guerrero won in a rather dominating and decisive manner. Van Dam, who was being positioned as the top babyface on Monday Night Raw, was systematically picked apart by Guerrero, who picked up the win following a neckbreaker onto the Intercontinental Championship and a frog splash.

The feud would continue into the following month, where Guerrero would pick up another victory over Van Dam at the Judgment Day pay-per-view. The rivalry over the secondary title would culminate in the main event of the May 27 episode of WWE Raw, where Van Dam would regain the title in a critically acclaimed Ladder Match.

After the conclusion of his program with Van Dam, it appeared as though Guerrero would feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in what would have been his highest profile feud to date. Unfortunately, creative differences between Austin and Vince McMahon would result in the Texas Rattlesnake walking out of the company, leaving Guerrero to settle for more midcard work.

He teamed with the returning Chris Benoit in a feud with Bubba Ray and Spike Dudley. He had a very memorable match with The Rock on the July 22 episode of WWE Raw.

Despite that match and his outstanding performance in it, Guerrero was left in limbo as SummerSlam approached.

That would change significantly when he and Benoit were shipped over to SmackDown and the welcoming arms of booker Paul Heyman.

The SmackDown Six

Between August of 2002 and January of 2003, fans of World Wrestling Entertainment were treated to some of the best matches in the history of free television. This was thanks to the visionary Heyman, who realized the talent of six individuals and programmed them in matches against each other for four months.

Those individuals were Edge, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and Eddie and Chavo Guerrero.

Guerrero's first feud upon debuting on SmackDown was with Edge and would feature three matches that improved upon the other. The match went a long way in proving that both men were capable of succeeding at the next level.

At SummerSlam, Edge caught Guerrero with a spear for a come-from-behind victory. The following month at Unforgiven, Guerrero returned the favor, courtesy of a sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope.

The third and deciding match in their rivalry came on the September 26 episode of SmackDown, one of the finest episodes in that show's history, when they clashed in a No Disqualification match. They beat the hell out of one another using chairs and ladders. At the end of the night, it would be Edge who left the San Diego Sports Arena with his arm raised in victory.

Despite the loss, Guerrero made it to his feet and received a standing ovation from an audience who appreciated his hard work and the performance he had just turned in.

It would be the first hint that the WWE audience was ready to cheer Guerrero on to bigger and better things.

Before we could get to that, however, there was the matter of Los Guerreros lying, cheating and stealing their way to tag team superiority.

Tag Team Champions

Los Guerreros was the name given to Eddie and his nephew Chavo when they began teaming regularly in the summer of 2002. 

As family members who had grown up dreaming of one day sharing the tag titles, the Guerreros worked seamlessly together and rejuvenated tag team wrestling after it had fallen off significantly in the summer of 2001.

They, along with the aforementioned Angle, Benoit, Edge and Mysterio, proved that tag team wrestling was not only relevant but it could also headline shows and be responsible for the night's best matches, something McMahon had forgotten when he became fascinated in the single stars.

At the Survivor Series in November, the Guerreros defeated the teams of Angle and Benoit and Edge and Mysterio in a Triple Threat Elimination match to capture the newly-created WWE Tag Team Championships.

They would carry the titles into the new year, all the while developing characters who lied, cheated and stole. Best of all, they were not afraid to admit it.

The vignettes that aired featuring them conning mothers, the elderly and every other person they came across helped get them over on a level they could have never imagined.

Los Guerreros became one of the most entertaining aspects of SmackDown and helped get over the young upstart Team Angle (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin), who would go on to become the centerpieces of the tag division for the better part of the year.

Unfortunately, a torn bicep would sideline Chavo just as the duo was gaining steam.

Viva La Raza

Chavo's injury allowed Eddie to branch out into singles competition and, after a short period of teaming with Yoshihiro Tajiri, he would take advantage of his unexpected opportunity.

In July of 2003, he defeated Chris Benoit in the finals of a tournament to crown a new United States Champion. Despite every attempt to keep Guerrero a heel, the company had no choice but to turn him when the fans demanded it.

Feuds with John Cena and Big Show allowed Guerrero to continue to develop the character who would lead him to heights. Few could have ever expected from the El Paso native who endured so much political maneuvering in WCW, as well as personal demons, which nearly ended his career and life—all while hoping to achieve something.

After a short program with Chavo, who turned heel prior to January amid jealousy of his uncle's success, Guerrero won a SmackDown Royal Rumble to earn a shot at Brock Lesnar's WWE Championship at the No Way Out pay-per-view.

On February 15, Guerrero reached the pinnacle of sports entertainment when he defeated Lesnar in front of friends and family inside San Francisco's Cow Palace. In an emotional moment, he celebrated a lifetime of work in the industry his father helped build with his mother and brothers.

He also celebrated the win in front of the very fans who had championed his ascension up the ladder in WWE. The championship victory was as much their win as it was his.

At WrestleMania XX, Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle in a hell of a professional wrestling match, then would celebrate with longtime best friend Chris Benoit following his World Heavyweight Championship victory in the night's main event.

The sight of Guerrero and Benoit hugging in the center of the ring at the biggest event the industry has to offer, with both possessing the top prizes in the sport, was one that burns bright in the minds of fans to this day.

No matter how much World Wrestling Entertainment wishes they did not exist.

Title loss and heel turn

Guerrero's WWE Championship reign would come to an end in July at the Great American Bash at the hands of an unlikely opponent.

John Layfield had risen to main event stardom shortly after WrestleMania XX. Formerly an ass-kicking member of the Acolytes with partner Faarooq, he retired the black hair, t-shirts, blue jeans and boots and replaced them with designer suits, custom-made shoes and a white cowboy hat.

He rebranded himself John Bradshaw Layfield and became a New York businessman who achieved his fortune thanks to well-placed investments. He fashioned himself a radical Republican who denounced illegal immigrants and despised the fact that the WWE Champion was of Mexican heritage.

He would meet Guerrero at the May 2004 Judgment Day pay-per-view in a match that instantly became infamous due to a major laceration suffered by Guerrero, which would force him to require a transfusion after the bout.

At Great American Bash, JBL finally captured the title, bringing an end to the rivalry and Guerrero's five month reign atop the SmackDown brand.

Guerrero would continue to be the most popular wrestler on the blue brand as he feuded with JBL and Kurt Angle. But by 2005, the opportunity for a heel turn presented itself and he returned to the dark side.

In April, Guerrero turned on partner Rey Mysterio and reignited a rivalry with his former friend that would quickly become one of the most personal in the company.

After two straight losses to the cruiserweight great, Guerrero shocked the world by revealing that Rey's son Dominic was actually his own.

It added a new element to the feud and resulted in a great Ladder Match at the SummerSlam pay-per-view in August that saw a third straight win for Mysterio.

Eddie would rebound quickly, however, entering a program with Batista over the World Heavyweight Championship that saw the champion refuse to trust the deceitful Guerrero. As a result, he never fell for the lies of the number one contender.

Batista retained his title over Guerrero in a very good match at No Mercy in October.

Unfortunately, the story would never reach its conclusion as Guerrero passed away a month later.

Hall of Fame and legacy

On April 1, 2006, Eddie Guerrero was forever immortalized in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was inducted by friends Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit and nephew Chavo. It was an emotional moment as his wife Vickie made her way to the stage to accept the honor on her late husband's behalf.

The night served as a celebration of Guerrero's career, a career that saw him fall to the darkest depths and rise to the greatest heights imaginable.

Guerrero, despite his lack of size, proved to the wrestling world that a Superstar with unquestionable heart, unmistakable charisma and outstanding in-ring ability could still succeed at the highest level possible.

He achieved greatness in every company he ever competed in and exceeded the lofty expectations set for him by the father and brothers who came before him.

Guerrero's legacy is one of phenomenal matches, incredible lows and tremendous highs. He became a role model for a generation of fans who appreciated that he was able to overcome the demons that nearly destroyed everything he ever built for himself—both in his professional and personal life.

He was, arguably, the most complete professional wrestler of his generation, and his work will live on forever thanks to WWE's extensive video library and the home video releases it has produced celebrating his life and career.

The Guerrero lives on, thanks to his wife Vickie, who has become one of the most entertaining villains of the last decade, and his daughter Shaul who, under the name Raquel Diaz, recently returned to WWE's developmental program.