In my last article Replacing Rey Mysterio I mentioned how Eddie Guerrero was probably the closest wrestler WWE has come to ever rivalling, or being capable of, replacing Rey Mysterio. However I also stated that I believe Eddie was not a worthy WWE Champion and how I felt the championship made him more than him making the championship his own. So last night I decided to sit down and watch the 4 matches involving Eddie Guerrero and the WWE Championship, from his win at No Way Out 2004 to the Great American Bash 2004.
Eddie challenged Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004. The match was referred to by Michael Cole at the time as a “Once in a lifetime opportunity” for Guerrero. Even before the match started I felt more of the focus was on the potential build to the Brock Lesnar and Goldberg feud. Goldberg, on the front row at the event after being given a ticket by Steve Austin following his suspension, speared Lesnar and was ‘arrested’. It left that inevitable feel for me that Goldberg would later become involved. As for the match itself I felt the pace and spots called in the match were largely done by Lesnar as it was a very slow paced match that showed bright moments when Eddie built up momentum but this did not last very long and the match saw Lesnar largely dominate throughout. Of course we saw Goldberg return and spear Lesnar after the referee was incapacitated following an F5 on Eddie hitting him. While the match was a great moment for Eddie in getting his first championship I feel his moment was overshadowed by the Lesnar and Goldberg feud as well as the match being fairly average.
Eddie defended his championship for the first time against Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania 20 in a match described by Michael Cole and the “most anticipated WWE Championship match in some time”. This match was a vast overall improvement for me from Eddie’s match against Brock Lesnar. It was a very back and forth match with neither man really gaining an advantage early and we actually saw a lot of mat based wrestling. Eventually Kurt Angle took control and focused on Eddie’s ribs throughout his attacks. What I did enjoy about this match was Angle’s dramatic kick out after Eddie hit the first Frog Splash, but I also couldn’t help but feel that Angle was carrying the match and further dictating the pace. The finish of Eddie losing his boot while in the Ankle Lock and rolling him up in a small cradle was great but it felt somewhat sloppy in that both men ended up in the ropes. The match overall was a good watch but I can’t help but feel Angle came off the stronger of the two men. The moment of course at the end of Chris Benoit’s match with both him and Eddie in the ring celebrating with a hug was a feel good moment and was probably more memorable in itself than Eddie’s actual match.
What came next was probably one of Eddie’s most memorable matches but for the wrong reasons when Eddie defended the WWE Championship against JBL at Judgement Day. The match up was billed as a “Personal match up” given the circumstances of JBL causing Eddie’s mother to ‘have a heart attack’. The intensity got even higher when JBL got on the mic and cut a promo Michael Cole described as “tasteless” when JBL offered to have Eddie’s mother be his house maid. What I liked about the opening to this match was the intense stare down from both men before the bell rang and they went all out on one another. JBL actually struggled early on and had no offence whatsoever against Eddie until he reversed an Irish Whip into the steel stairs. I felt Eddie dictated the pace of the early match before it slowed down and become more a JBL paced match. Of course after Eddie accidentally bumps into the referee things go somewhat graphic and gory. JBL hit Eddie hard in the head with a steel chair, which was ok at the time, but you can tell Eddie blades himself as he falls down toward a nearby chair, and blood is literally flowing everywhere out of his forehead. Without a doubt it was one of the most uncomfortable and gory things I have ever seen in WWE. How Eddie even made it through the rest of the match was beyond me at this point, although his dramatic last second kick out added to the realism of the match. I felt the DQ finish was somewhat poor booking but the match itself was a good watch, however it will always be remembered as the match where Eddie bled uncontrollably.
Guerrero’s Championship run finally came to an end against JBL at the Great American Bash in a Texas Bull Rope match. The match was very much an even contest throughout with neither man really dominating for long periods at any point. I really felt the use of the rope and the bell on the bull rope was exactly right for the match and it was used at appropriate moments throughout the match for me. What I didn’t like was when they decided to start involving steel chairs as why introduce a further weapon? What also got me was JBL got busted open by the chair but when Eddie was hit with the bell on the bull rope he never bled. I also really enjoyed how both men toward the end of the match got three lights on and the struggle to get the last light really built up for the finish. The finish was a good idea having Eddie and JBL both touch three corners, struggle for the forth, and have Eddie jump into JBL to hit the fourth corner, only to have Kurt Angle come out and show using replay that JBL hit the corner first via his shoulder. The match itself felt solid for me and I really enjoyed seeing Eddie’s look of despair at the end of the match, he really sold the emotions and feelings well.
Summing up Eddie’s run with the championship I feel that Eddie struggled to really make the championship his own and do something unique and different. The matches he wrestled seemed very much to me to be giving more focus to his opponents than him, especially when he won the championship as I felt the Lesnar and Goldberg feud overshadowed this totally. The Judgement Day 2004 match will speak for itself and will always be remembered as the one where Eddie really messed himself up with the blade. I would have loved to have seen Eddie show us another level to himself and his character as champion but I just did not feel he did this or even attempted to. I’m not knocking Eddie as a wrestler as for me he is one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation, but I do not feel he was ever WWE Champion material. Eddie worked hard to get to where he did but for me I feel WWE made a mistake putting the championship on him. Being champion means you need to step up your game and wrestle out of your skin night in, night out. I never got this impression from Eddie, I only wish that he could have been given another chance to prove me wrong and change my opinion. Rest in peace Eddie and thanks for the memories.