Ivan's Blog

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Thursday, December 15, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- WWE's exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death (which I originally wrote about in this post) is no less sickening now than it was when it took place two weeks ago, which was just two weeks after Eddie's death. The difference is that now the mainstream media has started to pick up on it.

In a piece about the general decline of WWE's storylines, TV Guide (the most widely-read publication in the United States) included the following line:

"A recent plot focused on the 'killing' of the Undertaker - in poor taste in light of the November 13 death of Eddie Guerrero. Sure it may be sports entertainment, but we still wonder what past greats like Gorgeous George and Bruno Sammartino would think of the current state of their livelihood."

The popular satire web site, The Onion, wrote a parody story about The Undertaker as it relates to Eddie Guerrero's death (a story that you can read here). On the surface, one might think The Onion is making fun of Eddie Guerrero's death, but that's not the case at all. If you've read The Onion for any length of time, you know that the vast majority of their stories have the dual tracks of what is being said on the surface and what is being said between the lines.

In this article, the "reading between the lines" aspect is not particularly subtle. Clearly, someone at The Onion saw the episode of WWE Smackdown where the Undertaker's gimmick collided head-on with the memory of Eddie Guerrero, and where getting over characters was more important to WWE than not spitting in the face of Eddie Guerrero's legacy.

That episode of Smackdown was also booked in a way where Wrestling Booking 101 would dictate that Eddie Guerrero could run out at any moment to save Rey Mysterio from the heinous Big Show, or to save Undertaker from the heinous Randy Orton, if it weren't for the fact that as inconvenient as it might be for WWE, Eddie Guerrero is really dead in real life and not as part of one of their stupid storylines. Hence the Onion article's focus on the possibility of Eddie Guerrero making a surprise return, and an equal focus on Undertaker's dead man gimmick.

It didn't take long after I started reading the Onion article for me to start to realize that The Onion was actually ripping into WWE's exploitation of Eddie Guerrero on that episode of WWE Smackdown. Any doubt that The Onion's writers were going for that effect was eliminated with the following paragraph:

"'The Undertaker is starting to run his mouth just because Eddie's dead,' said Guerrero's nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr., staring at a Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story 2004 promotional movie poster hanging in his dressing room."

You don't put that in there unless you're trying to make the point that WWE exploited Eddie Guerrero's death and made it part of a storyline.

Most notably of all, the UK Sun (which is the most-read newspaper in the United Kingdom) published an article about WWE's crass exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death, as well as the fact that one week later WWE was making fun of Terry Gordy's premature death. The following are extended excerpts from the UK Sun article:

"When Eddie Guerrero died, the first thing we feared is that Vince McMahon would turn it into some sort of wrestling angle. But then our common sense got the better of us and we thought, 'Surely even the man responsible for Katie Vick and Muhammad Hassan wouldn't exploit such a real and amazing outpouring of grief.'

Sadly, once again, we underestimated what Vince and his head writer/daughter Stephanie will do for a ratings boost...

... [On the November 29th episode of Smackdown], Rey Mysterio came out in one Eddie's lowriders, prayed, and dedicated the bout to his friend... Then during the match the shock tactics started. Big Show, who was in tears on the episode of Raw after Guerrero's death, suddenly started using the lowrider to get heel heat. He powerbombed Rey on the hood of the car and clearly spat on it, too...

If a wrestler had 'died' as part of storyline, this may have been a justified way to continue that angle. But Eddie is really dead, and Rey Mysterio has really lost someone he saw as a brother, and Big Show had been crying real tears.

... Randy Orton has tried to 'kill' Undertaker a few times now [in WWE storylines], but we thought in the wake of a real tragedy the WWE may have decided on a more tasteful, not to mention original, idea for them. What we weren't expecting was Orton to put Taker into Eddie's lowrider and crash it into the stage, setting it on fire to 'murder' Undertaker once again.

Despite Chavo Guerrero going on Byte This to tell the world this was what his Uncle Eddie would have wanted, many family members, friends and fans were mad. Message boards and columns like ours have been bombarded with e-mails of complaint, and the Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer reporting that one of WWE's biggest stars of the last ten years wrote to him in fury...

... At the end of the day, there is no justification for using Guerrero's memory or lowrider to further a fictional storyline. It's not going to make people boo Big Show or Randy Orton, but it will make the millions of fans touched by Eddie's passing hate the company that Big Show and Orton work for.

It seems to be the vogue to use dead wrestlers for cheap heat, as [the next week on Raw] Edge overstepped the mark for the second week running in a segment with WWE road agent and former superstar Michael Hayes...

... The line was truly crossed when Edge asked Hayes why his Fabulous Freebirds tag team partner wasn't out there backing him up, then added: "You know why? Because Terry Gordy is dead!"

Like Eddie Guerrero, Terry Gordy gave his life for the wrestling business - dying in 2001 at just 40 years old. He left a son, two daughters, parents, a sister, and lots of other friends and family.

Gordy and Hayes were very close, with Michael helping organize tribute shows to help raise cash for his grief-stricken family.

Does the WWE really think this kind of thing makes people want to watch wrestling matches? Is this the sort of coverage they want for their product? Do they honestly believe it's a tribute to Eddie and Terry?

Or are Vince and Stephanie so wrapped up in their own world that they can longer differentiate between fact and fiction?"