Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story

It's been 3 years since the passing of Eddie Guerrero now. The wrestling landscape has changed dramatically; unbeknownst to him, his best friend in the industry, Chris Benoit, suffered severe mental and physical trauma to his brain, from various sources and murdered his family and himself. His wife, Vickie, is now a full time personality on WWE TV where she married another performer after the company had used his name as a marketing tool and in various storylines. He's been treated as if he's an intellectual property, an object for them to use at their will for whatever purpose they deem fit. It's not been funny and it's certainly not been entertaining. It's been a bastardization of a great man and a great performer. He was inducted into the prestigious WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, a well desereved honor, but even then, internet fans were abuzz with talks of whether it was too early, or he simply was inducted because he died. Eddie's death alone has been a hard pill for hardcore fans to swallow and even harder for diehard Eddie fans, such as myself and the subsequent treatment of his name has been a downright criminal act, in my eyes. It's gotten to such a degree that I saw a Rey Mysterio dress up play set, complete with Eddie Guerrero armband in a store the other day. Now, there's a new 3 disc Best of set featuring loads of his greatest matches on it, a nice tribute, but ultimately it feels like another way to make some money off of his name. I bought the original Eddie Guerrero DVD, when he was still with us and felt there was no more appropriate time to honor him then by doing the best thing we can do on our little blog and that is to review it, unbiasedly and not handing over to anything on it, as our motto is. So, the following is such:

I'll start with the documentary video. It's only 43 minutes, which feels much too abbreviated to spend on a man with a career of 18 years under his belt. They start with the Guerrero family legacy, Eddie talks about each family member and what he learned from them. He talks about being very close to his father, legendary Gory Guerrero and his mother both, requesting she carry him until he's 3 years old. There's some neat footage of the ring in the Guerrero backyard, where all the brothers and probably neighborhood kids would gather and play in. They talk about Eddie' determination to become a pro wrestler and how good of a student he was, naturally picking up the skills necessary to compete in the ring. They breeze through his career wrestling in Mexico, Japan, ECW and WCW very quickly, briefly mentioning becoming friends with Malenko & Benoit, teaming with his brothers, his feud with Malenko, and a match with Rey from Havoc. WCW is a focal point mostly from a personal stand point, Eddie goes into great detail about his drug and alcohol abuse and the horrible tragedies that befell him and his family stemming from them. There are a lot of segments with Eddie during the video, mostly of him cruising his old home town, stopping at his old school, arena, and his favorite taco stand where he buys the whole restaurant food and drink. He stops briefly under a bridge that's been graffittied all to hell and he discusses it being the artwork of his people, even comparing it to the drawings of cavemen. Speaking about his love for Vickie and their rocky relationship are very gutwrenching and emotional parts, as well as his family talking about him OD'ing infront of their mother. Dean Malenko reveals that he and Benoit told Jim Ross to get him help behind his back, and Eddie finds out on camera and is hurt as well as admitting that they did the right thing but you can tell he's still hurt by the action.

Doc moves to WWE and Eddie hitting rock bottom, getting sent to rehab, Vickie leaving him, him relapsing several times and going to jail then getting fired from the company. Vince talks very highly of Eddie and Eddie mentions he appreciated the opportunity to be entertaining, such as the Mamacita stuff, the Los Guerreros promos and said he never saw himself like that but obviously the fans loved it. The mood picks up when after he hits rock bottom, he can go nowhere but up and started dating his wife again, gets remarried, starts working the indies and eventually gets rehired by the WWE, leading up to his match with Lesnar where he wins the WWE championship. It truly is an inspirational story. I remember a few years ago, I was living with my cousin, who was a recovered drug addict and we were watching this documentary together and it broke him down into tears, the remarkable story and struggle to become a normal human being again, while at the same time fighting addiction every single day. He related to that and there's a moment in the video where Eddie states that he hopes people who are struggling with what he struggled with can look at his story and help themselves, saying if Eddie can get clean, maybe I can too. It's such an emotional journey, while the doc is light on wrestling related stuff, the personal pain and hell he put himself and his family through and him rising above that is so amazing, it really propels this video high above most of the other ones I've seen.

The one glaring mistake and annoyance in this video was the loud rock and faux Latino music played throughout the entire thing, and played at the highest volume they could have given it. A lot of this doc has some very personal interviews and is spoken in quiet tones, so the music completely drowns out the voices during the early part of this, which is completely unexcusable. At the end, we get credits of all the artists and music featured, as well as having their actual videos on the extras section. If I bought an Eddie Guerrero DVD, you think I give a shit if Finger Eleven's latest vid featuring them on a chessboard is on it? Give me a break.

Disc 1

1) The Guerrero Brothers (Chavo, Hector, & Mando) v. Rock n' Roll RPM's/ Cactus Jack (Super Clash III 12/13/88)- 3

RPM's are shit. Mike Davis was much better after he found the moon rock. Even Foley was green as astroturf here, throwing really bad caveman punches at Mando and taking a backdrop outside on concrete with no aftersell, even after some really fancy leg work. This was clearly a vehicle for the Guerreros to display their flipping and flying and it barely succeeded at that. The brawl at the end to set up the finish looked like drunk employees at the company Christmas party trying to get togther for a picture.

2) Los Gringos Locos (Eddie/ Art Barr) v. El Hijo del Santo/ Octgon (2 out of 3 Falls Elimination Mask v. Hair Match; AAA When Worlds Collide PPV 11/16/94)- 6

This match doesn't hold up to my fond memories of it, although I noticed in the third caida it jumped forward a bit, not sure what or why the producers decided to cut out. The crowd heat was off the charts, the LA Sports Arena filled with die hard Lucha fans and Eddie & Art playing the best heels they could, making swimming motions as if they jumped in the drink to get there. First caida goes fast with the heels dominating for an easy win. Barr is such a natural at the sport, bumping huge and playing to the crowd so well. 2nd caida gets down to Octagon for the super comeback and featured one of the most beautiful Lucha dive spots of all time as Santo and Octagon hit picture perfect suicide dives to the floor- they were the very mathematical definition of "parallel." 3rd caida gets really dramatic, as Barr hits the dreaded piledriver (illegal in AAA) to eliminate Octagon and they do a whole stretcher angle for him, as the tecnicos 2nd, Blue Panther evens the score with his own piledriver. Barr and Octagon are superb, lying on the mat for the whole 3rd round as if in a coma. Eddie and Santo go out with Eddie hitting huge power move one after the other trying to put the legend away, but can't do it and gets pinned in a rollup for a face win. Some of the spots were pretty bad looking, as far as technical aspect and there certainly were some flubs, such as the Gringos trying to outdo the faces suicide dives and failing miserably, but all in all this is still a wonderful match and introduction into AAA at the time, probably the strongest match on this legendary card.

3) Eddie Guerrero v. Dean Malenko (2 out of 3 Falls; ECW 08/24/95)- 7

So, this is both men's final match in ECW and the emotion from the crowd is really superb, constantly re-starting a "Please don't go" chant during this long encounter. Each fall tells a distinct story, not to mention Joey Styles' stroking both men's dicks througout the whole thing like they deserved to be touched. First fall has it's problems but is all ground work, jockeying for position and armdrags and counters and they know each other so well it comes off well but there are a few missteps, which I feel can be accounted to wanting to put on a good match for the crowd. The match feels more like a performance than almost any other match I can recall, as if they are doing it solely for the audience's approval, not a paycheck or out of obligation. It makes the match feel more special, regardless of the few botched technical spots that happen. 2nd fall is all Dean, he goes to work on Eddie's leg and doesn't relent until he gets the tap out with the Cloverleaf. I had some selling issues in this, from Eddie's end where he neglects to sell the leg after Dean throws a nasty dropkick, and in my mind, I'm thinking he doesn't think the fall is going down that path, but that's where it goes so the non-selling looks really odd in retrospect. The 3rd fall is what makes this match memorable- it's all high spots and near falls, from the minute Gerrero gets back in the ring after taking a veteran like breather outside after tapping. There are some selling issues here, as far as ROH style getting back up after every move, but it's not as bad as you would think, heavy breathing and slowed movement on some moves are the subtle ways these guys sell the pain. The finish is a draw (not spoiling anything; if you haven't seen this match yet, you must have only started watching during our current Cena-era) while unsatisfying it feels like exactly what the fans wanted. Still is a classic match. You forget how crisp Dean is in the ring, probably one of the smoothest performers we've ever seen.

4) Eddie Guerrero v. Chris Jericho (WCW Fall Brawl '97)- 6

I liked the style of this match, it was very old school. Jericho kept pulling the armdrag into armlock, and Eddie kept going to the ref complaning about hair pulls. They used this formula for the first 6 minutes or so, throwing in little spots here and there. Eddie took over control and kept Jericho grounded with some locks that were used more for weardown than anything else. They broke out the high impact stuff too, but later on, such as top rope dropkicks, brainbusters and a German suplex release that had Eddie thinking he was back in a Barrio, wrapping a rubber tube around his arm and injecting misc. substances in while an old Friends episode was on TV. The finish worked and was really cool, actually, Jericho tried to hit a superplex and Eddie readjusted in mid air causing Jericho to crash hard on his head, and as soon as he hit the mat, Eddie sprinted up to the buckle to hit the frog and regain the Cruiserweight Championship.

5) Eddie Guerrero v. Rey Mysterio jr (WCW Halloween Havoc '97)- 8

This match has been talked about and talked about as the greatest cruiserweight match in WCW's history, even receiving the prestigious 5 star rating from Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer newsletter. I agree that every match should be graded on it's own merit and even though this one is 13 minutes and some change, doesn't mean it shouldn't be talked about as one of the greatest matches in the history of the US. So, is it? That's the question. I just re-watched it again, after reviewing it for Rey's Littlest Big Man set and I am sticking with my grade of 8, which is highly regarded and recommended for those of you who haven't seen it, you seriously need to wake the hell up and go back and see the reckless Rey, who could hit the cleanest craziest moves you've ever seen and Eddie when he was lean, mean, coked up machine who could go and was better than anyone in the world at that time. The pace is back and forth and they really keep the audience in the palm of their hands throughout. The story couldn't be better but the action even surpasses the in-ring story they tell with fast paced Lucha action at it's most American and at it's best. I think it's amazing in it's own right, and I think for the story they told, they kept it at the right length and it's the greatest example of the caliber of talent that WCW employed at that time, and that it wasn't pushed correctly. Playing Devil's advocate though, it's hard to be able to compare this match to some of the other greatest matches when most of those were hard, long bitter affairs of great length and even deeper storytelling. It's an interesting conundrum, be interested in what anyone else thought on it.

Disc 2

1) Eddie Guerrero v. Chavo Guerrero jr (Hair v. Hair Match, WCW Bash at the Beach '98)- 4

This was utterly ridiculous- apparently Chavo had 2 matches back to back, one vs. Eddie and one vs. Stevie Ray (funnycar racing fan) which even Schiavone admitted he had no idea why Stevie Ray was out there. well, Chavo gives up in a handshake, much to the chagrin of Eddie, who now has to face a fresh Chavo. There's a lot of stalling by Eddie and goofy antics by Chavo (a staple of his career, no wonder it's hard to take him seriously). There was some ass biting, some begging off, but overall the match didn't add up to a lot. Chavo was still fairly green at this point with no real selling going on with some of the offensive moves and not being able to properly sell Eddie's ground work. Eddie looked like he had just binged the night before because his facials seemed to indicate he was thinking more about what to order at Denny's that night than how to show how much that Euro uppercut hurt. They did the stealing finishers spot near the end, but the lack of crowd heat really was killing a lot of the match. Quick rollup from Eddie and Chavo plays the crazy man by shaving his own head, in the meanwhile throwing out the line "this is hard to do because I put so much gel in my hair!" and people paid for this!

2) Eddie Guerrero v. Rob Van Dam (Intercontinental Title Ladder Match; WWE Raw 05/27/02)- 5

Something was off about this match for me, some confusion and awkwardness in the work from both guys, like an unfamiliarity. Some spots came off well though, the first contact with the ladder was violent and popped RVD right in the nose. Eddie hit a sunset flip powerbomb that probably made Rob squirt out the herbal tea he had for lunch that afternoon. RVD hit his usual spots (something's wrong when you have "usual" spots in a ladder match) and were done with varying degrees of success except for the Frog splash at the end where he completely fell off the ladder. Eddie did some attacking of the leg which fizzled out halfway through, not sure where that was going. Ultimately, this match wasn't all tied together and felt more like a random assortment of moves than a complete match. The finish was pretty anticlimatic as well so can't really recommend this one.

3) Los Guerreros v. Edge/ Rey Mysterio v. Chris Benoit/ Kurt Angle (WWE Tag Team Title Triangle Match; Survivor Series '02)- 6

These 3 teams were having a great series of matches with each other back in late '02 when Smackdown adopted a Tag Strap, probably the last great series of tag wrestling WWE has had. Sure, two of the teams were thrown together, but they had great chemistry. Angle steals Steve Austin's hugging bit and does it better, even Benoit gives the perfect "what the hell are you doing" expression. The first 15 minutes is pure adrenaline, just constant action, almost like an intricate stage production where guys are coming in on cues and hitting big spots then rolling out. While the action is all really fun and high impact, there's little chance to sell anything properly, hiding under the ring while everyone else gets their turn doesn't count in my book. But, it's still a load of fun to watch. Benoit and Angle get eliminated first, who were the favorites, and after that, the match takes a complete down turn into a slow, plodding beatdown of Edge until Guerreros use a lame title shot to get the pin. The last 6 or 7 minutes was a complete departure from the energy the whole rest of the match had and brought the score down some- still worth watching though, as all 6 men are or were at this time dynamite in-ring performers.

4) Eddie Guerrero v. Chris Benoit (WWE US Title Match; Vegeance '03)- 6

This match was for the newly reinstated US title. I found it funny Cole kept naming former champions but neglected to mention the fact that both of these men had already held the title. Anyways, you could see right from the beginning they were into the story, which was that they were so evenly matched, they kept going tit for tat. Great armdrags, dropkicks, everything matching. Even superplexes which Benoit's back version looked like it blew Eddie's spine out of his back, like a Scorpion fatality. Their chemistry is what really makes this match, they can turn it on in an instant and just go, stringing moves and counters together in a beautiful violent tapestry then they can switch it back to a ground lock instantly. Benoit kept trying the crossface a lot, putting the pressure on Eddie. Classic Latino Heat transpired when the ref went down and Eddie took the belt and tried to get the win. Benoit kicks out so Eddie gives that classic smirk and blasts the ref with the title, lays it on Benoit's chest, then lays down next to the ref feigning he was hit. He keeps looking up from the ground but the ref never revives. This loses some major pointage for the interference of Rhyno, goring Benoit and giving Eddie the victory. Plus the ref bump stuff took way too long and pulled some of the fire from this match. Not their best by far, but still very good. Plus, I must mention Benoit's ridiculous tights- one leg said "Toothless Aggression" yeah that was selling a lot of T-shirts and the other had a visage of a growling wolf- wait a minute, I thought he was the "rabid wolverine." what's this disease ridden mangy dog doing on Benoit's left leg? Did anyone else notice this, as in the wardrobe dept? Completely stupid.

5) Eddie Guerrero v. Brock Lesnar (WWE Heavyweight Title Match; No Way Out '04)- 8

Let me start off by saying that when Eddie arrives into the arena (via a Lowrider El Camino in glossy cherry red) the Cow Palace is erupting like Mt. St. Helens, spewing mountains of admiration and love for Eddie like molten lava. This match shows the maturity Lesnar gained during his stint and may be his finest work. It's played as an overmatched challenege for Eddie, but his confidence is just beaming from his face, as if he knows he has a game plan. Lesnar keeps suplexing him and telling him he's overmatched, over and over again, great heel stuff. He hits a high knee in the corner early on, which is only important because he gets cocky and goes for it again, and Eddie moves, with the big man tumbling over the top to the floor. Eddie seeks opportunity and works Brock's knee against the post then punishes it with repeated dropkicks to the knee, which Brock sells fantastically. Later, he holds one leg up while throwing Eddie all over the ring. Brilliance. What's he see in Sable (nothing to do with the review, just wondering?)

Brock screams at Eddie several times, "Just die Eddie!" "Why won't you die Eddie?" It shows frustration aplenty on Brock's part. Your usual ref bump and the F5 but no count. Brock gets the title belt and decides to cheat to beat Eddie, but new enemy Goldberg comes in with the spear. Near fall but match not over. Glad it didn't end that way like the other match with Benoit, they basically just did to set up that shitty Mania match, but at least they let Eddie be the master of his own destiny. Eddie flashes that evil grin again and goes for the belt but Brock counters into another F5 but Eddie reverses into Tornado DDT, then up top for the frog splash, which he rests at the top for a moment, basking in the awesomeness of the moment. Eddie hits it and picks up the win and the WWE Title. It's a pretty amazing celebration that follows afterwards- you have to be a damn zombie not to feel the passion and excitement pouring through your TV set during this moment and it makes the whole match feel even more special. Eddie dives into the crowd, and you know WWE being very anti crowd interaction had some security dudes pull him out. He even celebrates with his madre and hijo Mando in a heartfelt moment. Both men played their roles to perfection and the match had deep story and went about 33 minutes. It's probably one of the longest Title matches in recent memory that wasn't filled with tables, ladders and chairs. The moment though, that even made me choke up, was Eddie getting to the top of the entrance ramp, and getting down on his knees and looking up, not to God, but to his father, the great Gory Guerrero and telling him "This was for you, Dad." It's been my honor to write this review.

Immediately after Eddie's tragic death, afforded fans the opportunity to say something directly to Vickie Guerrero and the Guerrero Family. You were able to write a message, 100 words or less, to them that would be compiled in a large book and given to the family with all of the messages from the fans. I'm including my message in conclusion.

"I don't know Eddie Guerrero, nor have I ever met him personally or spoken to him, but ever since his passing, I've felt like I lost a personal friend. After watching him weekly for the last 10 years, I feel like I know him better than some of my own family. His story is a courageous one, especially with myself having close relatives who have fought and are fighting the war against drug addiction.

So, I consider Eddie a friend, one who I've spent the last 10 years with and a friend I will deeply miss."


Didge said...

this might be the greatest review ever! thank you for this treasure in which i was born to love!

Jessie said...

thank you kind sir....i've always had a deep love for the mullet adorning eduardo....felt this was the best tribute i could give him...think it's more worthy than rey and shawn working some overbooked spots