WWE fans don’t need to compare Angel Garza to anyone else.
Angel Garza’s early success in WWE should be credited to his unequaled charisma and wrestling prowess, traits that link him to one of the greatest Latino stars in the company’s history. To management and fans: be wary of comparisons that could stunt the growth of one of wrestling’s brightest up-and-comers.
One Twitter search for “Angel Garza, Eddie Guerrero” and something becomes apparent: wrestling fans can’t help themselves.
Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr. are the two biggest stars of Mexican descent in the history of professional wrestling in the United States. Unfortunately, their stardom has made them the standard that incoming Latinx wrestlers are judged by in WWE.
Sin Cara, Kalisto, Andrade, and Angel Garza (to name a few) have all been referred to by fans as “the next Eddie Guerrero/Rey Mysterio.” A label that could only lead to disappointment or scrutiny based on Eddie and Rey’s enduring impact.
The original Sin Cara, now known as Carístico in Mexico’s Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, made his WWE debut in 2011. Arguably the biggest wrestling star in Mexico prior to signing with WWE, the fact he wore a mask and wrestled an acrobatic style put him in the Mysterio category.
He was Rey Mysterio’s replacement, or so we thought. But with Mysterio still on the WWE roster from 2011 to 2015 before his departure, followed by his return in 2018, Cara never stood a chance. Eight years and two different wrestlers under the Sin Cara mask later, Rey Mysterio is still the one and only. Perhaps we deserve the blame for Sin Cara never escaping purgatory. Perhaps the cultural imprint of Mysterio and Guerrero narrowed the perspectives of wrestling fans.
Looking at Garza on the surface, parts of Guerrero’s “Latino Heat” gimmick from the early 2000s are visible. They share a suave demeanor and an affinity for roses, but look deeper. Garza’s portrayal of the popular Latin lover trope is more confident and less goofy than Eddie’s more humorous take on the character. Just watch him try and woo The Bachelor‘s Demi Burnett.
Vince McMahon has reportedly compared Angel Garza to Eddie Guerrero
The WWE brass shares the blame for the facility of these comparisons. According to talkSPORT, Vince McMahon sees a ‘young Eddie Guerrero’ in Garza. This compliment — obviously made in admiration of Garza’s talent and personality — enables lazy comparisons.
Wrestling promoters can’t help themselves, either.
The pressure of being considered the second coming of a famed performer forces wrestlers into boxes, boxes where their value depends on them living up to the unrealistic expectations imposed on them.
Garza himself has shot down the idea that his character was influenced by Guerrero. In an interview with Planeta Wrestling in June, when asked of Guerrero’s influence on him, Garza stated he had “Zero influence. Absolutely nothing.” He seemed all too familiar with the comparison.
Angel Garza describes how he’s built his character
To be a fan whose exposure and understanding of the wrestling world comes mostly from watching WWE is to have limited perception. Garza is only like Guerrero because Guerrero is one of a handful of Mexican wrestlers WWE fans may be familiar with. To understand who Garza is and wants to be, look no further than the Garza wrestling family.
As part of one of Mexico’s most prolific wrestling families, Garza would prefer you focused on his individuality and nods to his uncle, the legendary Héctor Garza:
"“I do several things paying tribute to him, like my trousers’ reference or my moonsault. There are two or three details that I do paying tribute to my uncle, but I think that nobody has influenced on how I have built my character.”"
On arrival, Garza was clearly a star. He made his WWE debut in June of last year as part of NXT’s Breakout Tournament. As the name of the tournament would suggest, Garza broke out and immediately established his uniqueness. Garza made his first impression on WWE fans with his infectious smile, kissing an elderly woman in the crowd, and faking out a fan with a high-five, but he stole their hearts when he pulled his tearaway pants off during his match with Joaquin Wilde, revealing a pair of wrestling tights underneath.
Angel Garza has become a star due to his character work
This display is now a fixture in his matches and has helped differentiate him among the rest of the wrestlers on the roster. You have to be different in all forms of entertainment if you want to survive and succeed, and Garza is doing just that.
Garza became a star on the strength of his character work, as most do, but his awesome wrestling ability makes him a multi-dimensional entertainer. He possesses an impressive hybrid style of traditional Lucha quirks paired with a junior heavyweight moveset. His run in the Breakout Tournament and a series of Cruiserweight Championship matches with Lio Rush were evidently enough to push him to the main roster almost instantly. In the blink of an eye, his tenure in NXT was over, and he was wrestling Rey Mysterio on Monday Night Raw soon after.
His rapid ascent through WWE is more remarkable when you factor in his youth. We all know how good Eddie was, but Angel is only 27 years old, some years younger than Guerrero was when he debuted in WWE.
Eddie Guerrero’s death in 2005 left a void on the wrestling world that remains unfillable. We sometimes make these comparisons because we want them to be true. But this flaw in our fandom may be in the way of enjoying the new wave of Latino wrestling stars.
Garza’s simmering nature and ability to respond to the simplest questions with hilarious diatribes on romance make him a standout, with so much room left to grow.
Angel Garza has shown incredible promise in his first year in WWE, and he could be a huge player in the company for years to come. With all the wrestlers of Latinx origin and descent WWE has signed in the last few years, I hope, for their sake, we have all learned a valuable lesson.