Judge Daryl Loomis is your papi.
He lied, he cheated, he stole…our hearts.
The youngest son of the legendary Guerrero wrestling family, Eddie Guerrero made his name as one of the great wrestlers of his time in Japan and Mexico before ever stepping foot inside a ring in the States. When he finally did, he quickly became one of the most marketable names in the industry. His happy-go-lucky style of cheating and his ability to gain sympathy or hatred from the crowd with little more than a turn of the head and a look in the eye gave him a fantastic personality to go along with his superior in-ring work. All of his hard work and success came at a price, however. After years of drug abuse and reckless behavior, on November 13, 2005, Guerrero collapsed in his hotel room at 38 years old, never to awaken.
Nobody will ever replace what Eddie brought to wrestling, but WWE, in their non-stop attempt to both commemorate their past and dictate their own history, has released this 3-disc collection with a comprehensive history of his time in American rings to help us to never forget the impact he had on his fans and the world of wrestling.
In the past, when WWE released these tribute discs, they were of a single format: a whitewash biography of about an hour and a collection of matches (the only reason any wrestling fan buys these sets), usually a few on the main program, then twice as many counted as "features." This has always been fine and is what I've come to expect from them. Viva La Raza: The Legacy of Eddie Guerrero, however, is presented in a superior way. The bio is integrated with the matches. Somebody discusses an aspect of Guerrero's life up to the point of talking about the match, then the match is shown. This is followed up by more commentary, etc. While this winds up making an exceedingly long documentary, it is a far more engaging way to present the biography.
But we're here for some wrestling, so let's take a look at the 25 matches over these three discs.
Eddie vs. Dean Malenko (4/15/95): Against his long-time opponent in Japan, Guerrero makes his first defense of his newly-won TV Title. The Iceman is a legendary technician who never wrestled the same match twice and this is one of countless great contests between the two.
Eddie vs. Shinjiro Otani (12/25/95): Flash forward a few months and Eddie has already been signed by WCW, one of the big two promotions. This match comes from the short-lived, but great, talent exchange between WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Otani is the least recognizable name on this collection, but he's also one of the most hard hitting. This is my favorite match in the set.
Eddie vs. Ric Flair (8/10/96): In Sturgess, SD, in front of thousands of drunken bikers who couldn't have cared less, Eddie battles The Nature Boy for the WCW US Championship. This match features some historically bad commentary from Tony Schiavone, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes."
Eddie vs. Chris Jericho (2/23/97): Eddie is in his prime against a young Lionheart and this US Title match is one of many great contests that would occur between the two over the next decade.
Eddie vs. Rey Mysterio (11/10/97): If WCW ever did anything well, it was the way they highlighted the Cruiserweights. These two have a lightning quick battle full of blazing high-flying action. This match is the closest thing to real Lucha Libre that you're going to see on this set.
Eddie vs. Malenko (12/28/97): Two years later and in a different promotion, Eddie and Dean face off once more; in a completely different style of match. The only bright spot on Starcade 1997, one of the worst Pay-Per-Views in history.
Eddie vs. Ultimo Dragon (5/17/98): Super high-flying action from one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers in decades. In this match you can witness all of his great moves before they were co-opted by Rey Mysterio in WWE.
Eddie vs. Juventud Guerrera (8/3/98): Short but sweet, these guys pack about a thousand moves into a three minute match. Juventud was a problem child but, when he was on, he could fly.
Eddie vs. Psychosis (6/24/99): The end of his tenure in WCW, things had sure changed since Eddie arrived. Focused exclusively on the NWO for years by now, the promotion was on its last legs and, even between these two great wrestlers, this match shows why.
Eddie vs. Matt Hardy (6/8/00): The drastically under-utilized Matt Hardy shows his young chops against the now veteran Guerrero in his chance to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament. Eddie is fully involved with Chyna at this point (eww…).
Eddie vs. Rob Van Dam (4/21/02): An oddly long time lapse has led us through both the WCW buyout and ECW "invasion," delivering an influx of talent for, at least in some people's eyes, dream matches like Eddie against wrestling's greatest gymnast, RVD, for the Intercontinental Championship.
Eddie vs. Jeff Hardy (4/29/02): It's hard to judge a match when you're blinded by Day-Glo paint. It's amateur hour when Jeff Hardy's in the ring, but Eddie does his best to lead him. I wonder if Jeff wrote a poem after this match.
Eddie vs. Edge (9/26/02): They lay it all on the line in this no DQ match from Smackdown. Edge's ascent to the top of the card has always been a little strange to me, plus he looks like a guy I know who I can't stand, so it's hard for me to get into this match. They do beat the hell out of each other, though, so it can't be all bad.
Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (4/27/03): Eddie, united with his nephew, Chavo, Jr., takes on the great young team of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, who represent the three "I's" of Kurt Angle, for the Tag Team Championship. This is the only tag match on the set and, with two great teams and four great wrestlers, this is one fine match.
Eddie vs. John Cena (9/11/03): Cena brings his West Newbury, Mass. "thug life" into this parking lot brawl. They fight inside a ring of cars on the pavement. It looks painful, but is not a great match, though it does feature a car-to-car frogsplash.
Eddie vs. Chavo, Jr. (1/25/04): Eddie reluctantly fights his nephew with Chavito's dastardly father by his side. Brother against brother and uncle against nephew rivalries made for a great feud between Eddie and Chavo.
Eddie vs. Brock Lesnar (2/15/04): All those years of sacrifice finally pay off, as Eddie gets his shot at the title. It's amazing that Brock looks more menacing now in MMA than he ever did in his bulked up WWE days.
Eddie vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (5/16/04): Television financial analyst JBL is the focus of Eddie's last great feud. Bradshaw was always at his fines beating up on Eddie and taking it, as well.
Eddie vs. JBL (7/14/04): Back again, this time inside a cage, these guys really knew how to lay the hurt on each other. The match culminates in an all-time highlight of Eddie frogsplashing JBL from the top of the cage.
Eddie vs. Kurt Angle (4/14/05): Given how many great matches these two had, it's surprising that this is the only representation of Eddie's feuds with Kurt Angle. This match is for a championship title tournament and they put on a clinic. One of the best matches on the set.
Eddie vs. Mysterio (9/9/05): The final major storyline of Eddie's life, this feud with his old friend revolved around custody of Mysterio's youngest son. It was worse than it sounds. Regardless, this is still a great match between two legends.
Eddie vs. Batista (10/9/05): Batista, in interviews since Eddie's death, has always described how wonderful Eddie was in helping him learn the art and how close they got in such a short time. This match is hard-hitting and, with this as his final title contest, more emotional in retrospect than the others on the set.
Eddie vs. Ken Kennedy (11/11/05): Two days before his death, this match against rising star Mr. Kennedy is short, sweet, but sad. Eddie's final match reminds us, once again, just how amazing he was.
My three favorite wrestlers at the height of my wrestling fandom: Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Brian Pillman, are now all dead. Wrestling is a wicked mistress—we watch people put their bodies on the line, while cheering them on, encouraging them to continue the self-abuse. I can't stop loving pro wrestling, but watching such great athletes die so regularly is hard. Viva La Raza reminds us how fleeting this entertainment is but, at the same time, enforces how beautiful an art it can be.
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