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    Thursday, February 16, 2017

    #ThrowbackThursday (2/16/17): Eddie Guerrero Has Exorcised His Demons

    Dates like February 15, October 9, and November 13 are special holidays here at the Smark Henry offices because several of us from the founding group—myself, especially—are huge Eddie Guerrero fans. October 9 is Eddie's birthday (and the date of his last PPV match), while November 13 is his death anniversary.

    February 15, however, could very well be the most special day of them all because that was when Eddie Guerrero won the WWE Championship from Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004.

    For years, I've been watching and rewatching the pre-match video package leading up to this match, especially on days when I felt like shit, and watching some vintage Eddie was the only thing that could lift my spirits. But for some reason, I never really got around to rewatching the entire match.

    If you remember your WWE viewing habits in the early-to-mid-2000s, before the advent of illegal streams, we all had to rely on Solar (and then Jack TV) and how they'd show PPVs and episodes of RAW and SmackDown Live three weeks after they originally aired. That was a clause that was part of the distribution rights at the time, which really just meant that the rest of us viewers were losers.

    But at the time, it wasn't very difficult to avoid spoilers on the Internet. All you had to do was avoid going to wwe.com, and you'd be good. So even if we actually got to watch No Way Out 2004 in March, a good number of us wouldn't have known the result just yet.

    Some of my biggest takeaways from the match include how jarring it was to watch Brock wrestle the WWE style. At the time, Lesnar wasn't all that different from your traditional heel hoss, except that he was way more agile and athletic. It's a stark contrast to the moderated shoot style he wrestles with today, which mostly consists of strikes, suplexes, and submission holds.

    The first act of the match was all about Brock just bullying Eddie, to the point of preventing the latter from even making it back to the ring. It was interesting to see Eddie resort to the traditionally heel tactic of working his opponent's knee by striking it against the ring post, just so he could get an opening. That says a lot about Eddie's character, and how fans had grown to love him at that point. There was very little he could to get us to turn on him—well, except brutalize Rey Mysterio.

    Watching Brock look human in that match by selling what Eddie had done to his knee was also a reminder of how WWE had retconned Lesnar since his return in 2012. It surprised me when Michael Cole announced on commentary that Lesnar could very well tap out to a Guerrero submission hold, since Lesnar had already tapped before. I know he feuded with Kurt Angle, and that 2017 Brock Lesnar is way different from 2003 Brock Lesnar. But still, WWE doesn't remind you that Lesnar was once human because he's THE BEAST, THE CONQUEROR, BRRRRRROCK LESNAR.

    By the time the match hits its second act, I found myself enjoying Eddie's array of submission maneuvers as he tried to find a way to get Lesnar to tap. As Brock countered, he would get in Eddie's face and yell various things at him—another thing about Brock that you rarely see today. Sure, he did yell, "Suplex City, bitch!" But for the most part, Lesnar's a man of few words now. In 2004, Lesnar actually yelled, "Just die, Eddie! Just die!" And hearing it today is pretty upsetting for obvious reasons.

    The match peaks by its third act when Eddie finally mounts a comeback, but is stopped by Lesnar in his tracks when Latino Heat gets planted by an F-5. We all know what happens here. Goldberg comes out and spears Lesnar, allowing Eddie to attempt a cover. What's even more amazing is that it's 2017 and Brock Lesnar and Goldberg are headed for a collision course at this year's WrestleMania. In 2004, San Francisco erupted in cheers when Goldberg interfered on Eddie's behalf. This year, we're all just about ready to shit on him when he takes the Universal Championship from Kevin Owens at Fastlane, but I digress.

    In the years since I first watched this match, there was a part of me that believed that Eddie's title reign deserved an asterisk because he didn't really win cleanly. What I forgot and subsequently remembered during this rewatch was that Eddie still found a way to beat Lesnar on his own. Long after Goldberg left, Eddie tried to hit Lesnar with the WWE Championship, only to fail. But Eddie was still able to use the title to incapacitate Lesnar with a DDT on the belt. Funnily enough, Lesnar's head doesn't even hit the belt at all. Due to the positioning, Lesnar's arm is draped over the title by the time the DDT lands. But whatever.

    When Eddie finally wins the match and starts celebrating, I found myself feeling a sense of elation and pride. Cole said it all on commentary. Here was a man who overcame his demons, was fired from WWE just three years prior, rose up and made it to the top of the company. Eddie Guerrero was going to headline WrestleMania. His mother and his brother Mando were at ringside, celebrating with him, as were the thousands of fans at the Cow Palace. For every high five, Eddie dished out as the newly-minted champion, I felt like he was reaching out to me. And when that final shot of Eddie kneeling down, raising the title over his head, flashed on my screen, I just lost it and teared up.

    "Eddie Guerrero will no longer be called 'addict.' He will simply be known as WWE Champion." —Michael Cole

    Eddie Guerrero's meta narrative was one that I understood early on as a fan, even without having been a smark at the time. Coming from my background of being bullied, I found a hero in Eddie, someone who went through all the adversity the world could throw at him and fought back to come out on top. He stood up to his bullies and eventually won the big one, proving everyone wrong in the process. That's what made me love Eddie Guerrero with all of my heart as a young wrestling fan. And that's why I continue to revere him as my hero and my all-time favorite wrestler.

    Eddie Guerrero's WWE Championship win was a landmark moment for fans everywhere, because it was WWE's symbolic way of acknowledging the smarks and finally throwing them a bone. This moment would pave the way for the victories of the likes of Chris Benoit, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. But for me—in 2004 and on this day—it was a moment that proved just how real the magic of wrestling is. Thank you, Eddie. Viva la raza!

    Screenshots from WWE Network


    Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.
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    Item Reviewed: #ThrowbackThursday (2/16/17): Eddie Guerrero Has Exorcised His Demons Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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