RBTR – For Eddie…

Mitchell Gadd

A message from Jared Balstrup regarding Eddie Guerrero’s passing:

Reading the news I felt sick and it’s such a shame that Eddie is no longer with us. I take great comfort in knowing Eddie truly did come full circle, rebuilding his family, his career, his personal identity and ultimately his life. While it is such a shame I am so thankful that we can all remember Eddie so positively, and he worked so hard to get that back. Millions of tears have been shed around the world with this news, God bless Eddie for touching us all. He was a great character and a fantastic entertainer and athlete. My thoughts are with his family and friends, R.I.P. Eddie Guerrero.

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Reading Between The Ropes. I was three-quarters of a way through my column on Sunday when news began filtering through of Eddie Guerrero’s passing. Many thoughts wandered through my head – denial, shock, anguish. How could Eddie be taken from us so soon? The wrestling family lost another brother on Sunday… but not just any brother. Without sounding heartless about the other deaths in wrestling over the past 6 years, this is definitely the biggest loss to the wrestling industry and will be the toughest to deal with since Owen back in 1999.

I somehow managed to finish Sunday’s column, but my head was elsewhere. Well, in reality it was nowhere. I kept wandering up and down my corridor aimlessly, as if searching for something, only to sit back down again. As a wrestling fan and someone who is lucky enough to have a column to express his love for wrestling, I feel I owe more than just this one column as a tribute to the man. I’m sure most of the other writers feel the same. However, the truth is that we’ve probably collectively written hundreds of columns that act as a tribute to Eddie. The countless show reviews and PPV columns, the favourite wrestler lists, the most memorable matches count-downs – all of which will have included Eddie as more than just an honourable mention.

The shock of Eddie’s death is heightened be the fact that Eddie was such a survivor. To overcome his problems and to turn his life around after being told he was on the brink so many times. His car crash, where doctors were amazed he escaped with his life, and his drug and alcohol addiction that seemed like it would lead to his demise as an athlete and as a human being. But it’s a testament to the man that he turned his life around and reunited with his loving wife. Anyone who watched the Eddie Guerrero DVD will know how heart-warming the story of his reconciliation with his wife was, and how they began dating again once he overcame his addiction and got clean. It was – it IS – such a great story. I have nothing but respect for a man who can overcome such difficulties and demons and clean himself up. Eddie scraped himself off of the bottom of the pit, and rose to the top like a true champion.

That’s what made Eddie a survivor and, subsequently, what makes his death all the more shocking and hard to swallow. The denial and disbelief of Eddie’s passing turned to a slow acceptance and sadness on Monday night when it became clear that this wasn’t some horrible dream that we were all about to wake up from. This was real. Eddie was really gone. I have not often been brought to tears since adulthood, and I wasn’t quite sure just how I would react to Monday’s broadcast. The question was soon answered once I saw the faces of the athletes on the roster, and then the tribute video accompanied by the beautiful, haunting and extremely emotional “Hurt”, by Johnny Cash. I sat alone in my living room bawling my eyes out and uttering the words “It’s not fair. Why Eddie? Why did it have to be Eddie?”. I’m not too big of a man to admit that fact, and nor am I to say that the video tributes from people like Chavo, Stephanie Mcmahon and Chris Benoit brought further tears to my eyes.

It’s amazing how someone you’ve never met can make you feel that way. It’s not just me, however, it’s millions more. Eddie had the ability to really reach out to the heart of the fans. If he was a babyface, you cheered him, and if he was a heel, you still couldn’t help but cheer for, or smile at his antics. Eddie revolutionized the way fans react to certain things. Years ago fans would never have cheered for someone who hit someone with a title belt or cheated their way to victory. Fans respected and idolised wrestlers who were honest and fought a fair fight. However, Eddie broke the mold. Despite his cheating antics in the ring fans couldn’t help but love the guy. He had that cheeky and mischievous look and domineer that was so endearing to the wrestling world.

Eddie Guerrero was one of the guys that really made wrestling FUN. Someone who could really captivate a crowd and get them on their feet. He could make the fans go through so many different emotions in such a short time-span. Yet, the bottom line is that he could entertain you and he made it FUN. Wrestling was always fun to watch when Eddie was on. Whether is was back in his early days competing as Black Tiger or tagging with Art Bar, or just last week where he used his old antics to overcome Ken Kennedy.

Ultimately, what made Eddie so special was his wrestling ability. From his days in Japan, then in WCW, and finally in the WWE, Eddie was always capable of stealing the show. He could wrestling a high-flying lucha style, or a mat-based technical game. He had wonderful psychology, and the ability to tell great stories during his matches. In 2001 I went to Earls Court to watch WWE Insurrextion. The show had matches such as Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle in a 2 out of 3 falls match, and a Queen’s Cup Match between Chris Jericho and William Regal. Yet, neither were my favourite match. My favourite match was the opening match, which pitted Brian Christopher against Eddie Guerrero. Both my friend and I were out of our seat on numerous occasions booing Eddie’s classic heel tactics, but doing so with a smile on our face all the time. Like millions of audiences before and after us, Eddie had my friend and I in the palm of his hands.

He overcame the old crescendo that you needed to be 6ft 5″ and 300 lbs to win a world title. That night in February 2004, and then his celebration with Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania are two memories I will never forget. The latter brought tears to my eyes and will go down as one of the greatest moments in wrestling history. It was a moment of vindication for Guerrero; that all his years of hard work, and all of his struggles and the battles to turn his life around were worth it.

I wish Eddie could have been vindicated by being given a longer existence with those he loved; his family and his friends. Eddie deserved to enjoy a longer life with all of them. He deserved to win the Championship once more (a title I was certain he would win this coming week on Smackdown!). More importantly, he deserved to retire and finally get away from the constant travelling that a wrestler must endure, knowing he had done more than enough to ensure he will always been known as a great in this business. I hope he can hear all of us right now in a better place, knowing that he will forever be considered one of the all time greats… a Hall-of-Famer, indeed.

So, this is my tribute to Eddie Guerrero. It’s hard to describe in words what he gave to all of us but for me, personally, I hope it gives you some idea. I’ve struggled over the past few days to begin writing this tribute, feeling that it was still too soon to have a clear enough head to write anything worthwhile. Even now, it is difficult to write as if Eddie will never perform or we will never see him light up our screens again. I hate that feeling. I know this tribute is just one amongst many others, but Eddie deserves each and every one of them. My fellow writers have done such a brilliant job over the past few days of summing up what Eddie meant to them. They have written some truly beautiful pieces. I would also echo their sentiments in scorning those in the mainstream media that heartlessly ridicule a wrestler’s death as if forgetting that this man is a human-being with a family. Those people deserve nothing but scorn and shame. But I don’t want to end on a sour note. I want to end on a thank you. A thank you to the man himself.

Eddie, I have nothing but respect for you as a wrestler, but mainly as a human-being. To turn your life around and enjoy four years of sobriety, to reunite with your family and to overcome all the obstacles you have and STILL come back as an even better wrestler than you were – that, my friend, is just phenomenal. I hope you are in a better place, knowing how much you are and always will be loved by the wrestling community. I will never forget you Eddie Guerrero. We will all miss you greatly. Rest in peace, Eddie, and thank you for all the wonderful memories.

Viva la raza,

Mitchell L. Gadd

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