[Note: This is one part of a multi-part Lucha Central feature on Eddie Guerrero]
It’s easy to look back now on Eddie Guerrero’s WWE run and think he was destined for greatness the moment he arrived. That reality is as real as my Academy Award. The truth is nobody knew, much less expected, that Eddie would become a superstar during those first few years in WWE. While without question the most talented all around of the Radicalz, Eddie spent his first two years in the WWE midcard. There was the feud with Essa Rios (better known to lucha fans as Mr. Augila), there was the European and IC title reigns, there was the Wrestlemania match with Test and…little else. Sure Eddie had the partnership with Chyna that most definitely got over, but even that didn’t exactly elevate Eddie as much as it cemented the fact that he was as great a performer as there was. The reality was that Eddie in WWE during those first few years was no different than Eddie in WCW; he was a highly entertaining midcarder who looked no closer to the main event. The only difference is that unlike WCW WWE actually fired him during this period due to the vices that had plagued him all those years.
If anything, WWE’s decision to can Eddie in 2001 is the biggest factor in why he did eventually reach the top of the mountain. If WWE keeps him onboard during that time than Eddie likely remains in the same position he’s always in and doesn’t clean up his life. Instead they cut him loose and it turned out to be his saving grace, not all dissimilar from what happened to Daniel Bryan, a guy many compare to Eddie in terms of his rise to the top, in 2010. Now let’s be clear; being fired for substance abuse is a far, far different thing then being fired for choking someone out with a tie in a planned angle. But you cannot deny they had a similar impact. Bryan used his unjust firing as a springboard to what ultimately turned him into the most over superstar since Steve Austin. Eddie meanwhile used his just firing to re-evaluate his life, clean up his act and hone his skills for good on the indies. When he got back to WWE less than a year later he was ready. Before you know it, a great series of matches with Rob Van Dam and a wildly entertaining tag team with nephew Chavo Guerrero had elevated his stock to the point WWE couldn’t ignore it anymore, leading to that unforgettable night in the Cow Palace in 2004. And sure, Eddie’s career never quite got better than that night when he beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship but it didn’t get worse either. He was a mainstay in the main event/upper midcard scene from that day forth, finally in a spot worthy of his talents and poised to be so forever until tragedy struck.
These days we look at Eddie Guerrero and see his run in WWE as opening doors for the CM Punk’s and Daniel Bryan’s of the world (ironically Eddie saw the title win as a tribute to the veterans of wrestling, as he so famously stated right after the match). If anything though I think Eddie’s achievements prove, more than anything, that talent and the right motivation win out. The last is important; Eddie always had the ability and the drive but for years spent so much time canceling it out with his demons. It’s why WWE didn’t invest in him right away and ultimately why WCW didn’t in many regards. That’s why, at least for me, Eddie Guerrero wasn’t destined for greatness as many believe. Instead he struggled for it, fought for it and ultimately beat a whole lot of darkness I can’t imagine to get there. I guess it can all be summed up by that old George McFly quote; if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything. That’s Eddie Guerrero’s WWE journey.