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Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- A Wide-Ranging Look at the Life and Death of Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero died this past Sunday, November 13th, on the morning of a scheduled WWE TV taping in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like millions of other people, I have been very distraught over Eddie's death, and I'm just a fan. I can't even imagine what his friends and family are going through.

The WWE tribute show that aired on Monday night provided a glimpse into what the entire WWE roster is going through, especially the people who were like brothers to Eddie such as Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Eddie's nephew Chavo Guerrero. As difficult as it was for many people to witness the overwhelming sense of despair that was conveyed in those people's faces on Monday night, there is nothing that properly can convey the fact that a wife is now without a husband and three young girls are now going to have to grow up without a father.

The cause of death has been initially determined to be heart failure from a grossly enlarged heart. Eddie had just celebrated his four-year anniversary of being sober, but he would be the first to admit that he had many demons and addictions before that timeframe. Just one week ago, Eddie along with his wife and children were moving into a new house in the Phoenix area where he planned to eventually retire.

For the past several days, I have wanted to write a tribute to Eddie Guerrero, but I haven't been able to find the words to do so. I still can't. It still doesn't feel real. It still hasn't sunk in.

I wish I could just wake up and find that this is all just a bad dream... not merely for myself selfishly as a fan, but for Eddie Guerrero's family and for the many, many other people that he was personally close with.

I also wish I didn't have this sick feeling of dread that causes me to wonder who might be the next to die out of the group of wrestlers who go the extra mile (or several extra miles) to put their bodies on the line for the entertainment of the fans. I don't want Ric Flair to be next. I don't want Chris Benoit to be next. I don't want Kurt Angle to be next. I don't want anyone to be next.

Many different people have said and written many touching and poignant things about Eddie Guerrero in the days since his tragic death, and I wanted to share some of these articles and statements with you.

(If you would like to support Eddie Guerrero's wife and children, there is a special Eddie Guerrero Tribute T-Shirt that you can buy on WWEShop.com, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Guerrero family.)

This is Dave Meltzer's initial report on Eddie Guerrero's death, published on Sunday morning:
"Eddy Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room in Minneapolis this morning at the age of 38.

The only details available are that Guerrero came in yesterday for tonight's scheduled television tapings at the Target Center, where he was scheduled to be in the main event. He was staying at the Marriott City Center hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

He had an early wake-up call shortly after 7 a.m. that he didn't answer. Chavo Guerrero, who he was traveling with, called the room and again got no answer. When knocks on his hotel room door went unanswered, security got the door open and Eddie was found dead in the bathroom. The belief at this time is that he suffered a heart attack while brushing his teeth... Guerrero was one of the best wrestlers of this generation and immensely popular within the industry."

Eddie Guerrero's wife, Vickie, spoke about Eddie's autopsy report and gave the following public statement on WWE's web site:
"It was heart failure. It was from his past, the drinking and the drug abuse. They found signs of heart disease. She [the medical examiner] said that the blood vessels were very worn and narrow, and that just showed all the abuse from the scheduling of work and his past. And Eddie just worked out like crazy all the time. It made his heart grow bigger and work harder and the vessels were getting smaller, and that's what caused the heart failure...

As soon as they saw his heart, they saw the lining of his heart already had the heart disease. There was no trauma, and Eddie hadn't hurt himself in any way. It answered a lot of questions. I knew Eddie wasn’t feeling very good for the last week. He was home and kept saying he wasn’t feeling good and we thought it was just 'road tired.' So we thought he just had to rest. It answered a lot of my questions, too, because he was just so exhausted. She said it was normal because the heart was working so hard.

When he didn't call me last night and the night before I knew it was for real, because he would call me every night. I miss his phone calls... I loved his laugh. His laugh was the best.

We just celebrated his four-year sobriety last Thursday. We just thought we had life by the handful. We thought we had it all figured out. He worked so hard to make a better life for us.

I’m just overwhelmed by how people are coming out. It’s touched my heart a lot. Everybody was just in awe last night in how beautifully everything was put together [on the tribute show]. All my life was wrestling. All he did was take care of them and live for that. And I don’t know what to do now."

Eddie Guerrero's nephew, Chavo, said this to the crowd after his match at the Smackdown tribute show tapings:
"From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Eddie thanks you. Eddie gave his life to this business, to the boys in the back, and for you the fans."

Chris Benoit, who spent most of the past 15+ years on the road with Eddie Guerrero and was one of his closest friends, said this on the Raw tribute show:
"We laughed, we cried, we fought... Eddie was the one person that I could go to and pour my heart out to, no matter what was happening in my life. I knew he would understand and talk me through it. We would talk about life, past, present, and future... I love his family. My heart and prayers go out to his wife Vickie and his daughters. I can't imagine the sorrow they're going through... Eddie, I know you are in a better place. You made such a great impression on my life and I want to thank you for everything you've given me. I want to thank you from my heart and tell you I love you and will never forget you and I will see you again someday."

Dave Batista, who had become very close friends with Eddie Guerrero in the past few months, said this on the Raw tribute show:
"Eddie helped me out of some tough spots. Being in the position that I'm in with the title, there was a lot of weight on my shoulders. He would quote scripture to inspire me. He helped me through personal problems, keeping my head on straight. He was so funny, so easy to work with... Eddie always seemed to be in pain. He seemed to be in so much pain, but then he'd walk through the curtain and you'd never know it, the adrenaline would just kick in and he would put on a show for all of the fans... Eddie Guerrero loved this business. He found peace in this ring. My one comfort is Eddie is at peace. Eddie is with God... Eddie, I miss you, and I will never forget you."

Chris Jericho, who worked with Eddie Guerrero all over the world and was one of his closest friends, wrote this on his web site (using the Spanish spelling of "Eddy"):
"I am devastated by the news of Eddy's passing and I am so sad... I've lost a lot of friends over the years, but this one hurts the most by far.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eddy in Mexico City almost 14 years ago and we've been close ever since... He is one of my favorite people that I've ever met in the wrestling business, as well one of the greatest performers I've ever seen and had the pleasure to work with... He was also so humble and a true family man and most importantly a warrior for God. He taught me so much about wrestling and about being a man and it is an honor to call him a true brother and friend.

I have so many classic Eddy stories that I would love to share, but instead I'm just going to go and cry myself to sleep remembering what an awesome human being Eddy was and will always be. May God bless your family and your soul and may he keep you safe forever... I love you, my brother..."

Rob Van Dam, who worked with Eddie Guerrero in both ECW and WWE, said this on WWE's web site:
"I'm glad I had the chance to tell Eddie what he meant to me. One time, when there was nobody there in the dressing room, I had a serious moment where I said, 'Eddie, you know what, when I see you, you know what comes to mind? What I think of? Strength.' Strength comes to mind. I told him, 'You're overcoming your struggles and are so strong to do that.'

I'm glad that I got to tell Eddie that he definitely symbolized strength for me. I would be in a joking, goofing around mode, whatever I can do to get me through that time and sometimes I would look over there at Eddie, and he would be so serious and intense and I would see that he was strong and he was overcoming something. I don't know, maybe he was upset about a promo he had to do that night or maybe something personal in his life, I don't know but there were a lot of times where he was fighting, he was always fighting, and I respected him for that because he was always able to get everything done and he really seemed like he was juggling a lot and had a lot on his plate and I always felt like that about him."

Current WWE play-by-play announcer Joey Styles, who also knew Eddie Guerrero when they were both in ECW, wrote this on his web site:
Eddie was the last person I saw when I went up to my room on Saturday night because he was checking in with Chavo as I was going to bed. I spent a good portion of the day on Sunday looking for a private place in the Target Center to hide and let out a good hard cry. I will never forget how awkward I felt when WWE agent David Finlay and the entire roster of WWE Divas found me sobbing in the corner of the agents' room.

As for Raw, each time an Eddie tribute testimonial or Eddie highlight package came up on my monitor I wanted to cry, and I felt so nauseous with grief that I wanted to vomit but I just kept doing what I needed to do, counting the minutes until the show was over...

I am so upset posting this that I cannot do anymore, so just let me say that I look forward seeing Eddie again so I can share the story about Mr. Finlay and the Divas with him and Jesus and we can all laugh. God bless you Eddie."

Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch wrote the following about the Monday night tribute show:
"The show felt 98 percent genuine and two percent border-line exploitative. That's about the best margin possible in this type of situation. Putting all angles and promos aside made it feel like it was about Guerrero, not anything else...

Chris Benoit's crying and outpouring of emotion was as memorable as anything you'll see on TV this year... After Chris Benoit's moving tribute to his friend, it almost seemed like we were all voyeurs looking in on something we weren't really part of. But if one thing came through in the big picture, it's that Guerrero would have wanted everyone to be part of the tribute show - including if not especially the fans.

The way the night went, it was cathartic for everyone to be together on such short notice. How often does a public figure die, and at least half of his best friends in the world, most of his co-workers, and 8,000 fans gather within 12 hours to pay respects, laugh and cry, and share memories? ... Guerrero had such a vibrant personality and was so open with his emotions and open about problems in his life that fans felt a greater bond with him than most public figures. That showed.

WWE put together a tasteful, classy, memorable night that the Guerrero family can be proud of and look back on years from now (especially his young kids) whenever they want to get a feeling for the public, professional side of their lost loved one."

WorldWrestlingInsanity's James Guttman wrote the following about Eddie Guerrero and about the Monday night tribute show:
"There are some days that just seem to last forever. Yesterday, November 13th, was one of those days. It was the day that we all lost Eddie Guerrero, one of this industry's most talented, respected, and loved performers.

Eddie touched all of our lives. Whether you knew him personally or not, you shared in his art. You watched him compete and entertain. At the end of the day, you took part in his craft by watching him practice it.

At the time of his death, Guerrero was a top wrestler in World Wrestling Entertainment. Sitting atop the Smackdown totem pole, Eddie seemed to be a staple of WWE's programming. While no death is predicable, Guerrero's was especially shocking. I mean, we were still analyzing his performance on Smackdown last week and wondering if he would win the World Title at the next set of tapings. In an instant, that all changed and many of us were left asking why.

Death is a hard thing to understand for many people. How could someone so alive and vibrant one day be gone the next? ... The hardest part with handling a death like this is the immediacy of it all. Eddie was someone who many people had just seen. He wasn't sick. He wasn't incapacitated. He was up, smiling, and looked more alive than most. Now that he's gone, his voice is still vivid in our minds. It's a shock to the system when you realize that he's no longer with us. After all, if you close your eyes, you can still hear him. You can still picture him. It doesn't seem real.

It won't seem real for a while, if at all. There's some losses I've experienced in my life that still don't seem real. The most we can do is sit back and honor Eddie the best way we know how. We need to celebrate his life and achievements. Whatever emotions that brings out are okay. Some will be sad. Some will be angry. Some will be confused. Whichever emotion you experience is the right one because it's yours. Everyone mourns in their own way.

Tonight's Raw is not a normal episode. It's about the legacy of a good man who loved what he did. It's about someone we all knew in some small way and will miss very deeply. It's about Eddie Guerrero and the memories he helped create. Thank you, Eddie. Thank you for all you've given us. Tonight, we celebrate you...

... A video of Chris Benoit discussing Eddie Guerrero followed. This was the most heart-breaking thing I've seen in a long time. Benoit was overflowing with emotion and just broke down. I can't even begin to express how terrible I feel for Chris and how many fans who saw this must be hurting for him right now...

...I thought WWE did a great job with tonight's show. It was nice to remember some of the great moments that Eddie Guerrero gave us. The night was heart-wrenching at times, and you couldn't help but feel emotional watching some of Guerrero's friends and colleagues break down. There's nothing more to really say here. I'm just sitting here staring blankly. There's a lot of emotion to digest."

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer wrote the following after Monday night's tribute show on USA Network (edited for punctuation and paragraph breaks):
"I think everyone needed to cry and on a personal standpoint, I would like to thank the people involved in the show last night, in particular the people who spoke from the heart about Eddy Guerrero last night, because I don't think any of them realize how much they did for all of us watching. It is a tragedy that a great wrestler passed away too young, when he had so much to give the profession. But that is a terribly minor tragedy compared to the fact that a wonderful human being passed away.

I recognize that almost everyone reading this is hurting right now, and if they aren't, I'm very sorry for you, but there many people who lost a very dear friend. Unfortunately, something like this had to happen for the whole world to realize it, and if there is a such thing as him watching from above, I guess he saw it... One thing about these tragedies and it really is the most important thing, is that his children and his wife loved that man. He and his wife were childhood sweethearts and no doubt with Eddy she had the highest of highs, and unfortunately, she had to endure the lowest of lows a few years ago... The plight of the families left behind is rarely thought about. That is the real heartbreak here, and elsewhere.

For every wrestler, and everyone in wrestling who makes decisions, you should try to at least learn something from this, whether it's being a better friend, or being humble, because Eddy Guerrero had the talent of 100 people and was never arrogant about it, and he didn't get so good at his profession without loving to give people the kind of show that he perceived his father did. He had gigantic shoes to fill in the ring, and he more than filled them.

He had battles every day of his life with his own problems, and being in a world that in many ways is the worst world to be in for someone with depression and addiction issues. He appeared to be winning the battle. He achieved things that few would have ever thought were possible for a man of his stature. But there is a real truth here about the families left behind, and that this was not a freak occurrence but the result of bad decisions. Most of all, the greatest thing that can happen to celebrate Eddy's memory is not watching clips of him performing against Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko or Rey Mysterio... but if somehow this is learned from, and becomes a true watershed moment in the profession, and some families are saved from this in the future."

Here are a few excerpts from Wade Keller's in-depth news story about Eddie Guerrero's life and death:
"Eddie hadn't been feeling well for several weeks. According to friends and his wife, he had felt weak, run-down, achy, just not right. History has taught wrestlers, though, that you never slow down unless you have to or else you might 'lose your spot' to someone healthier who is deemed more reliable. The second you step aside to take a breath, someone else may swoop in, get over with fans due to an increased push and TV exposure, and knock you permanently down the card. So Eddie churned on, with the carrot of another World Title reign being dangled in front of him due to Batista's recent injury...

... The scene backstage at the event [the show taped on Sunday night] was said to be somber. Wrestlers and staffers were walking around in disbelief and shock, sharing memories and consoling each other. Before the show, on his way from the hotel to the arena, Batista - a close friend of Guerrero behind the scenes - hid his eyes behind sunglasses and hung his head. He moved slowly, deliberately, appearing to be overcome by grief. Later that afternoon, he'd break down and cry when talking about what Eddie meant to him as a person and to his career. That aired on Raw. He also later talked about Guerrero from center-ring for the opening segment of Smackdown.

Chris Benoit appeared to be the most emotionally distraught. To open Raw, all of the WWE wrestlers in attendance that night stepped onto the stage. A lot of tears were being shed. Benoit, though, was sobbing. Uncontrollably. He was grieving the loss of his best friend. The message was clear from what Guerrero's colleagues said about him - he was respected, loved, appreciated, and already missed...

... It has been brought up numerous times this week that he was the first Mexican-American to hold a major World Heavyweight Title in a national promotion. Perhaps more remarkably, he was the smallest wrestler to hold a major national World Heavyweight Title. Several inches under six feet tall, his climb to the top of WWE - known traditionally as a 'big man's promotion' with an owner who has a size fetish - may be the best indication of just how good he really was."

Dave Scherer of PWInsider wrote:
"As I sit here and type this, I am numb, blindsided by news I didn't see coming, from miles away. It was just Friday night that Eddie Guerrero was in the ring with Ken Kennedy entertaining us on Smackdown, and now he's gone.

His dying, far too young, is a tragedy. There is no other way to look at it. A wife has lost her husband, children have lost their father, and it's just downright sad, my friends.

I remember the first time I saw Eddie work [in New Japan Pro Wrestling]. He was a guy who, the first time I saw him, I knew would be a star in the business for a long time due to the simple fact that he was an amazing wrestler. As we would later find out, there was more to him than just wrestling prowess in the ring.

In the ring, there was no one like him, but putting his body on the line, night after night, would take its toll in the long run, as would the pride that he took in his work and the pressure that he put on himself to succeed.

The bumps that wrestlers take throughout their career hurt more and more as the years go on, and there were a lot of bumps on Eddie's body. It's also no secret that his run as WWE Champion took its toll on him emotionally as he put a ridiculous amount of pressure on himself to succeed.

Now, he's gone, at just 38 years old. It's still so hard for me to comprehend. It hasn't sunk in, really. All I can I hope out of all this is that Eddie has found peace and that the pain is gone."

(Note by Ivan Trembow: As much as we'd all like to pretend that no such problem exists, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that Eddie Guerrero was a victim of the way that the pro wrestling industry is set up. So, these last three articles focus on the problems of the pro wrestling industry, and how they specifically helped contribute to the death of Eddie Guerrero.)

James Caldwell of the Pro Wrestling Torch wrote the following (this is a series of brief excerpts from a much larger column by Caldwell):
"[I had been] inspired by Kurt Angle's promo on the November 7th edition of Raw where Angle delivered one of the more entertaining five minutes of television seen on a wrestling program this year, before moving into a heartfelt discussion of separating from his wife and making many sacrifices for the wrestling business. I considered the lifestyle that a wrestler must live to be part of the business. It's a lifestyle that can make it a struggle for a wrestler to make it to the next town.

Eddie Guerrero fought that struggle for many years and through the struggle, he put forth his best effort in the ring every night to make sure fans who bought a ticket got their money's worth. His dynamic personality and in-ring ability made him one of the top reasons anyone would tune to UPN on a Friday night to watch wrestling...

... Eddie Guerrero was a victim of the vicious pro wrestling cycle that eats up even those who go through rehab and take a stab at sobriety. Some will argue it's up to the individual to make the decision and address his or her own problems. Yes, many of Eddie's struggles came from his own decisions. However, the system is broken. It demands an unsustainable lifestyle that produces too many victims...

... Hopefully, Vince McMahon and the wrestling business will take Guerrero's death as the final piece of evidence that it's time to address issues that compromise wrestlers' health, like not demanding meatheads [heavily-muscled wrestlers] for wrestlers, and allowing wrestlers an opportunity to heal from injuries without the consequences of being questioned for their dedication to the company. Vince McMahon has the power to initiate change for the sake of the health of his business. More importantly, he can ensure that today's headliners live long enough to tell their grandchildren about their days as a WWE headliner."

Andrew Martin, who wrestled as Test in WWE, made a post on his web site on Sunday night. In a shocking move last year, WWE released Martin just a couple of months into a 12+ month recovery process for surgery to repair a broken neck, which was an injury that he suffered while wrestling for WWE. Here are excerpts from what Andrew Martin wrote (edited for punctuation and grammar):
I've been up all night and haven't really slept as everyone knows by now that Eddie Guerrero has passed away. Everybody knows Eddie had his demons, but he had been clean for a long time. It was way too soon for him to go, and he leaves behind three young daughters and a wonderful wife. My heart goes out to them.

Eddie was a huge help to me. He helped me progress in the ring, and we even wrestled each other at WrestleMania in Houston in 2001. Eddie, I pray that you are in a better place and I thank you for everything you taught me...

... Now, I'm actually wondering who's next. Who's next to die? How come [so many pro wrestlers die prematurely] while football players and hockey players don't? The answer is simple: Wrestlers, especially WWE wrestlers, work five days per week all year long, taking bump after bump in the ring. A doctor explained it to me like this: Every bump that you take in the ring is like being in a car and getting rear-ended by a car that's going 20 miles per hour. So, how many bumps per night do you take in the ring? Multiply that by how many times per week you work all year long, and that's all of a lot of whiplash and pain...

... I can remember hearing a conversation from some unnamed WWE head guys talking about how a certain wrestler needed to go to rehab, but they couldn't send him because he was too important to the show. That's the reality, people. That's how we are treated.

When Johnny Ace called me and told me that they were releasing me, I said to him, 'What kind of message are you sending the boys in the locker room? That if they get hurt and miss time, they are going to get fired?' So for all the guys who don't want to lose their jobs, what do they do? God forbid they say they are hurt and lose their job... I'm not going to name names, but I know of at least a dozen or so wrestlers who are addicted to these things [prescription painkillers] and that's the reason--- 'Get hurt, lose your job.' I just turned 30, my back aches every day, and I have a metal plate in my neck. You guys don't see the ugly side of this business. Yes, wrestling is entertainment, but the bumps and bruises are real, and sometimes they don't go away.

... The sad part is that Eddie was clean and I guarantee you that he won't be the last one to die in the next 12 months, so that's why I say 'who's next?' Don't take your life for granted. It's a gift. Don't go to bed mad, and always tell the people you care about that you love them because you never know. Take care."

Bruce Mitchell of the Pro Wrestling Torch wrote the following (this is a series of brief excerpts from a much larger column by Mitchell):
Eddie Guerrero should have been a natural. But he wasn't. Eddie Guerrero was too small, too short, too thin to be a star in the U.S. Well, that's not true. Eddie Guerrero was just too small to get a job, at least with either of the two national wrestling companies, WCW or the WWF. No matter what else Eddie Guerrero brought to the craft, he wasn't even going to get the opportunity in that era's wrestling world.

You see, Vince McMahon had a vision of what a professional wrestler should be. Hulk Hogan and The Road Warriors personified that vision. The fans ratified it. Eddie Guerrero didn't come close...

... For Eddie Guerrero, [getting hired by WCW] was the break he'd been waiting for and the continuation of an unnatural progression, because no matter how good he was in the ring, no matter how fans reacted to his charismatic grinning and sneering, the talk in the WCW locker room (and it was Hulk Hogan's locker room) was that he was too small.

So Eddie Guerrero did what it took to get bigger. It's easy to forget after watching him and all his peers who made their calling card their work ability and not their size for all those years, but Eddie Guerrero carried much more muscle mass than his frame was naturally built to carry...

He felt compelled to look like that, even if it was never enough, and that alone was going to take its toll over the years. Compounding that was the talent and desire that made Guerrero push himself beyond his physical limits in the ring year after year, month after month, night after night... Guerrero wanted the main event position, he wanted his family to have the financial rewards that came with it, and he paid the enormous price to get them...

... [This year] Eddie was facing up to a harder reality. He was 38 years old, his body was breaking down, his window of opportunity to stay a top performer was closing, and he had a young family that he loved and wanted to provide for, the same way he always had. He didn't always see that his acting ability and psychology might have carried him forward as a top performer for many years to come.

That was a heavy burden to carry for a man who wore every emotion he felt - his joy at delighting fans, his passion for working great matches, his love for his mother, his brothers, his wife, his daughters and his friends, his religious faith, his insecurity, and his despair on that expressive face for everyone to see.

And then, like so many times before, that burden was lifted off his shoulders forever."