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By Jonathan Balofsky On 13 Nov, 2017 At 11:19 AM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Opinion, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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It was 12 years ago today that wrestling fans received horrible news: the legendary Eddie Guerrero had passed away at the age of 38 due to heart problems. Eddie had touched the lives of so many and overcome so much in his own life, that it just seemed cruel for him to be taken in his prime. His death hit the industry hard and is still felt today.

Eddie Guerrero was the youngest son of Gory Guerrero, one of the best heels in Lucha Libre. He was born into a wrestling legacy and soon found himself getting into the business. Trained by the best and soon proving why he was the best, Eddie made a name for himself in countries like Mexico and Japan and developing friendships along the way with the likes of Art Barr, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit.  Eddie got married to his wife Vickie and their daughter was born soon after. But hardships came just as much as the good did.

After some time in ECW in the United States, Eddie was signed to World Championship Wrestling where things took a turn for the worse. Eddie’s troubles piled up, augmented by the already turbulent nature of WCW, where wrestlers were essentially put into castes and the backstage environment was not a healthy one. Drug and alcohol problems got out of hand and Eddie pushed himself too far. Eddie’s relationship with Vickie and their now two daughters was growing shaky due to his growing problems, but it all got worse after Eddie was in a major car accident and came back to work too soon afterwards due to WCW’s policies.  He was unhappy in WCW where he was treated poorly but could not get out of the company yet.

As stated, Eddie was one of the best wrestlers of all time. He could make anyone look amazing in the ring and had such natural charisma that it rubbed off on even the most bland individual he was working with. He had matches that were the highlight of every show and was such a star in Mexico that promoters continued his gimmick long after he left.  However, they could not replicate the results without him. In WCW, the better he did, the more the higher ups seemed to dump on him and it took a toll along with everything else in his life at the time.

Eddie, along with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and his longtime friend Dean Malenko, eventually jumped ship from WCW to the WWE and things turned around for the better. Eddie was suddenly given a chance he wasn’t afforded in WCW. He quickly won over fans and higher ups liked what they saw. But his demons were also getting stronger. Addictions to painkillers and alcohol  had wrecked havoc on his life,. His marriage was ruined and he was spiraling out of control and eventually it got to the point that Dean Malenko had to inform WWE what was going on, because he feared finding Eddie dead in a hotel bed one day.

Eddie was given the choice to go to rehab and was eventually fired by WWE. But that was not the end of his story. Eddie did rehabilitate himself and rededicated himself to God. He cleaned himself up and began working on the independent scene for a while, including with talents like CM Punk. He also began to repair his personal relationships, eventually winning back and reuniting with his family, and WWE took notice. Eddie had turned himself around and was brought back to the company in a big way. Latino Heat had been his nickname for a while and now he showed just what Latino Heat was capable of. In his tag team with his nephew Chavo Jr ( they were nearly the same age), Eddie wooed fans like never before. He lied, he cheated and stole in his matches and the fans went crazy for him. He was the wiliest figure in the ring and no one could outsmart him.

Eddie eventually impressed WWE so much that he was given a run with the WWE championship and represented the company and title with pride and honor. He became and example of redemption in wrestling, and it was not just an act. Former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas told a story in his book, The Three Count: My Life in Stripes as a WWE Referee, about how a young fan in a wheelchair had waited after a show to meet Eddie and wasn’t able to. Jimmy went to Eddie, who was in the changing room and immediately took the WWE belt and went to meet the fan because he wanted to make him happy. There were stories about how Eddie would encourage people to tip waiters and waitresses better because a good tip could mean all the difference to them in terms of their money for the month. He would read the bible frequently and discuss his faith with those interested. He never tried to push religion on anyone, but simply was willing to talk about it. He was willing to talk to others going through the problems he had, and would offer his guidance.

Sadly, 12 years ago this day, Eddie passed away. He had overcome his demons but the damage had been done. His substance problem had caused heart issues and he was found dead in his hotel room bed by Chavo and Dean. Eddie was lionized afterwards and rightfully so. El Santo may have been called the Saint of wrestling but Eddie had a good claim on the title also. He inspired wrestlers to do better, both in the ring and in life, and later to take care of themselves. He showed that one could bring himself back from the bottom and come to the top.

Eddie is gone but will never be forgotten. He is the inspiration for positive changes in the industry, including how smaller wrestlers are perceived. A hero to may, Eddie will always live on in our hearts and minds.

Viva La Raza!