WWE: The Lonesome Death of Eddie Guerrero


The world of sports entertainment provides us with treasured memories and an escape from everyday stress. That doesn’t mean its stars are immune from troubles of their own.

Few superstars in WWE history were more beloved than Eduardo Gory Guerrero Llanes (AKA Eddie “Latino Heat” Guerrero). During his 18 year career, Guerrero wrestled for CMLL (a lucha libre promotion based in Mexico City), NJPW, ROH, ECW, WCW, and WWE. He was praised for his technical abilities, infectious charisma, and brutal honesty when it came to showcasing his real-life personal struggles. Guerrero abused steroids, alcohol, and prescription painkillers but instead of trying to hide these problems he gave permission to incorporate some of them into his storylines. He wrestled with his demons the same way he wrestled his opponents – in front of an audience.

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Ric Flair stated that Eddie was one of his top 10 favorite stars to work with, and Chris Jericho referred to him as the best performer in the world. In 2012, the staff of WWE.com named Guerrero one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time, and in 2014 they named him one of the top five wrestlers in the history of SmackDown. Eddie Guerrero died of heart failure in November of 2005 at the age of 38. As fate is not without a sense of irony, his first autobiography, Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story, was published a week prior to his death.

Eddie Guerrero had the unique ability to make fans love him whether he was a heel or a face. His philosophy of “lie, cheat, and steal” may not get you very far in the real world, but inside a professional wrestling ring, it was one of the most popular mantras of the Attitude Era. After Kurt Angle returned to the WWE earlier this year, he made an appearance on the popular podcast Talk is Jericho and discussed – among other things – his “top three” wrestlers of all time. In a somewhat controversial move, Angle named Chris Benoit as one of the all-time greats as well as universally acclaimed fan favorite, Shawn Michaels. Eddie Guerrero rounded out this exclusive list:

"“I mean, he could have been the absolute greatest of all time because when I wrestled him, he was still in that top three we were talking about, so Eddie had it all. He was so entertaining, but he also had all the technique. He was such a great wrestler and he got it. He got finishes. He knew how to structure them.”"

On November 13th, 2005, Eddie’s nephew and fellow wrestler Chavo Guerrero discovered his unconscious body in a hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There were no signs of foul play or suicide. Chavo attempted to resucitate Eddie using CPR but paramedics who were called to the hotel pronounced him dead at the scene. The autopsy revealed that Eddie had died of “natural causes related to arteriosclerotic heart disease”. At the time there was no mention of any underlying factors that may have contributed to his death, despite the fact that heart failure is extremely rare for someone of Eddie’s age and fitness level. By all accounts Guerrero was in the prime of his life, but his wife Vicki stated that Eddie’s issues with drug abuse had likely narrowed his arteries and enlarged his heart to the point where the physical demands associated with professional wrestling were simply too much for his body to handle.

The WWE stopped testing its athletes for steroids in 1996 but Guerrero’s high-profile death and rumors of an impending and unflattering expose in Sports Illustrated spurned the company to create the Talent Wellness Program in February 2006. A year later in March 2007, Sports Illustrated published their article which had been investigating steroid and human growth hormone use by athletes in several sports as well as professional wrestling. Among the 14 WWE employees listed in this article were such high-profile names as Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero. The article alleged Eddie had used stanozolol (a synthetic anabolic steroid developed in 1962) and human chorionic gonadotropin (a hormone used to balance testosterone levels after steroid use).

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When reviewing the list of Guerrero’s accolades it’s easy to see why so many people consider him one of the greatest to ever step foot inside a squared circle. Between just WCW and WWE he won the heavyweight, cruiserweight, intercontinental, European, and United States championships all two times. He was a four-time tag team champion, a Triple Crown and Grand Slam champion, as well as a 2006 inductee into both the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and WWE Hall of Fame. While Eddie may have been forthcoming about his troubles, this honesty wasn’t enough to save his life in the wake of the damage he had done to his body.

As great as he was, Eddie Guerrero will forever be a reminder that sometimes our demons win.