(Author's Note: I originally penned this review the day after Eddie's passing.)
"Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story" was originally a UPN special that aired in 2004, and then was released later in the year with about five hours of extras. This is very similar in setup to the Steve Austin and Chris Benoit DVDs released roughly around the same time.
We start with a quick overview of Eddie's career, with soundbites from his family and friends (Chris Benoit says, eerily, "He's lucky to be alive."). Then we cut to Eddie, cruising around (yes, driving the low-rider) in his native El Paso, Texas, showing us around the town and where he used to live.
The story of the famous Guerrero wrestling family is told with comments from his mother, brothers, sisters and old home video clips interspersed. He lived in a very close, happy, tight-knit family, with a ring in the backyard instead of a traditional playground. Eddie's father Gory promoted wrestling shows, with the entire family helping out with this and that.
Eddie and his nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. start entertaining fans at the ages of 9 and 6, respectively, during the intermissions of Gory's shows. Eddie was a "natural" for the business, according to his family members. We are then introduced to Eddie's wife Vickie, and she relates how she and Eddie first met. Then we learn how Gory passed away literally four days before Eddie and Vickie get married, but how his father would have wanted the wedding to proceed regardless.
After his wedding, Eddie sets off to Mexico and Japan, where smaller guys were more popular than they were in the U.S. (a clip of 1986-era Hulk Hogan is shown flexing his muscles, to drive the point home).
In New Japan, Eddie debuts as Black Tiger, where he first met up with Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit and doors began opening up for him.Fast forward to ECW, where Eddie and Dean regularly put on wrestling clinics, which were given huge ovations by the normally-sadistic Philadelphia fans. A clip is shown from their final ECW confrontation, where the other wrestlers hoist them up on their shoulders and the fans cry "Please don't go! Please don't go!". As emotional as it sounds.
Then we move onto the WCW years, although they do skip his initial babyface character and go right into his pre-lWo heel gimmick and his Hallowe'en Havoc match with Rey Mysterio Jr.
Eddie explains that he got bored while in WCW (hey, we got bored watching it), and this is when his attention turned to alcohol and pills. One evening following a party, Eddie took a few capfuls of the drug GHB before driving out to get some food and flipped his car. Eddie suffered a broken collarbone and other serious injuries, while his family was preparing for him to die in the hospital. As it was, the doctors said he would never wrestle again.
Nonetheless, Eddie returns to action only six months after the car accident, but was taking numerous pain pills just to get by. He overdoses two months later and by Christmastime, his family is fed up. By early 2000, he, Benoit, Malenko and Perry Saturn jump from WCW to the WWF. Surprisingly, they keep this development (massive at the time) to less than 10 seconds of the DVD, and go right to the "Mamacita" angle with Eddie and Chyna.
At the time, I thought the gimmick was kind of lame. But after hearing his family talk about the character (his youngest daughter, I believe, deduces that "Latino Heat" must mean "Boy Heat"), and seeing some of the funnier moments from the angle (such as Eddie wearing a tuxedo shirt to Chyna's prom), I'm willing to concede some of it was pretty damn funny.
From there, Malenko explains how he, Saturn and Benoit went to Jim Ross one day and told them that Eddie's addiction problems were getting out of hand. Eddie has no idea before this DVD that the three of them had done that, and is visibly upset by this revelation. But Malenko explains, eerily, that he didn't want to be "one of those guys who finds out that my friend, Eddie Guerrero, is in a hotel room, dead." Wow.
JR explains how they gave Eddie an ultimatum in Minneapolis: go to rehab, or lose your job. Eddie chose rehab, and then learns that his wife is leaving him. After a couple of months of sobriety, Eddie went on a bender again abd gets arrested for drunk driving.
Eddie admits that he's an addict, and that he can never have another drink again. From what he told Chavo the day before he died, he never did. Say what you will about Eddie, but that's a champion in my books.
To top matters off, Eddie receives his release from JR, which basically puts him at rock bottom. His financial adviser even comments that Eddie didn't have a penny to his name, and has to work independent shows just to pay the bills.Vince McMahon comments next, and says how he believes everyone deserves a second chance. I'd love to take a dig at Vinnie Mac here, acting all "Humanitarian Of The Year" and whatnot, but the truth is, he did give Eddie that second chance, and what a great run it was.
Then the miracles began. After a two-year separation from his wife, they reconnected and renewed their wedding vows. Eddie returns to WWE and begins a fantastic feud with Rob Van Dam on Raw (though the DVD glosses over this) and then moves to the "Lie, Cheat, Steal" gimmick he had with Chavo on SmackDown.After a brief look at the origins of Eddie's frog splash (turns out, he took it from his old partner Art Barr in Mexico), we move on to his WWE Title win over Brock Lesnar. More on this fantastic match a bit later on. You see Vince and Eddie hugging backstage, which, again, makes it harder to be cynical of Mr. McMahon -- at least, until the next "JR hospital sketch" airs.
After some comments from Benoit and Vickie, we close with Eddie summing up his career: "I'm proud of who I am. Wrestling is my life." Well put.
One final music video by some Bon Jovi knockoff (or maybe it's Creed?) and we're out of here. Impressive story.
Mando, Chavo and Hector Guerrero vs. Cactus Jack and The RPM's. This is from the AWA's ultra-lame Super Clash PPV. The Guerreros are decked out in stereotypical Mexican dress. Interestingly, Mike Enos (of "Let me handle this one, Mike" fame) is the referee here, and Gary Michael Capetta (of "Here is… Lex Lewwwwwwwwwww-gar!" fame) is ring announcer. Still, a fairly tame little match, made worse by the AWA's bland, sterile crowd. 2/5.
Eddie Guerrero and "Love Machine" Art Barr vs. Octagon and El Hijo Santo. This was from the AAA "When Worlds Collide" PPV that was co-promoted by WCW, and thus became part of WWE's massive videotape library. Tremendous emotion here, with the stipulation being hair vs mask for the teams. It's also two out of three falls, so it's a bit lengthier than it probably needed to be. Guerrero and Barr were just a fantastic heel team, and it's so unfortunate that they never got to take the act to WWE or WCW. 3.5/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko. This is the final match in ECW for both of these guys. A lot of transitions and solid mat work throughout, as both wrestlers were determined to give it their all once more for the appreciative ECW fans. A must-see, if only because it's so UNLIKE what most people think of when they talk about E-C-Dub. 4/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Jericho (WCW Cruiserweight Title). This is a looooong, plodding match, much longer considering WCW never really invested in either of these guys beyond the mid-card. Still, it starts to get pretty exciting near the end and is definitely one of their better encounters. 3.5/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio.Honestly, when I look at WCW, this is just one of my all-time favorite matches. This was, in fact, far superior to anything the two of them accomplished in this year's feud, and I'm guessing this match is what they were aspiring to. Lots of high-spots and holy shit moments, plus you have Eddie trying furiously trying to unmask Rey Rey the entire time (Mysterio is decked out in some sort of generic purple superhero outfit). Eddie, Rey and Michael Cole are guest commentators here.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (Hair vs Hair). Not a tremendous match in itself, but when I watch this again, I can see why, if anyone ever had the potential to turn "Kerwin White" into a success, it was Chavo. He is so underrated as an actor. The backstory here: for months, Eddie has been pressuring his nephew into being more like him. Chavo quickly takes a dive in his match with Stevie Ray (yes, he had two matches at the same PPV, that’s WCW for you) in order to have enough left over for his grudge match. Once Chavo loses the match, he also loses his mind and shaves his own hair off, leading to the often-enjoyable "nutty Chavo" gimmick. 2/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam (Ladder match). One of the stiffest ladder matches I've ever seen, excluding possibly the TLC series. For those of you who don't remember, this is where some idiot fan (in Canada, of course) tries to run in and push Eddie of the ladder. Shortly after that, the ladder gets damaged beyond belief, and I remember being shocked that RVD could even climb the damn thing by the end. Great television match for sure. Both competitors are guest commentators on the DVD for this match. 4/5.
Los Guerreros Vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit. Ahh, yes, the SmackDown Six. Who can forget the greatness that these guys showed us on a weekly basis? Just think: in today's version, this would be MNM vs. Heidenreich and Animal vs. The Dicks. Sigh… This was a three-team elimination match from Survivor Series 2002, and everyone involved played to their strengths, particularly Mysterio and Angle. Los Guerreros lie, cheat and steal their way to the WWE Tag Team titles, and it's all good. 3.5/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit. This was from the U.S. Title tournament finals on SmackDown, and you just know that with these two guys, you're about to see something special. They're given easily 20 minutes to get going here, and both guys put on a solid and quite watchable wrestling clinic. Former TNA Champion Rhyno turns on Benoit here (I'm sure there was a good reason at the time), giving Eddie the win. 4/5.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar. Just so you don't think I'm just only praising this match posthumously, check out my Year End Review voting from last year (the match placed second, only to the main event of WrestleMania XX). Here's what I wrote:"What a fantastic match on the parts of both guys, which was only helped by a super-hot crowd and the presence of Goldberg at ringside. Even had Brock won the match, I think the contest would have been one of the best this year, because both guys just worked their asses off in there. I couldn't have put it better myself. 5/5.
All of the Los Guerreros "Lie, Cheat and Steal" vignettes. I know that, at the time, a lot of people felt these came off as bad Saturday Night Live sketches, but I've always found them quite funny, in a kitschy kind of way.
Three different music videos. Not my cup of tea, but a nice bonus nonetheless.
Spanish and English versions of his Y J Stinger commercials, plus a behind-the-scenes look from WWE Confidential.Another Confidential-style feature, this one about Eddie's photo shoot for Low-Rider Magazine (Yes, I read it, but only for the articles, I swear).
Some interview snippets where Eddie and his family comment on his life, career, legacy, injuries, WrestleMania, and my new book (okay, okay, that part wasn't there; fine).
There are also supposed to be Easter Eggs of Hector Guerrero and Mean Gene discussing the Gobbledygooker gimmick, and an ECW promo, but damned if I could find them.
Overall, would I recommend this DVD? Oh, definitely. I bought it when it first came out and was very impressed; it's not the very best production WWE has ever created (I would probably rank "The Rise And Fall of ECW" right up there), but it's still top-notch.I imagine a lot of people will be picking this up now that it serves as the full story of his life; really, all its missing is roughly a year, which had the JBL, Mysterio and Batista feuds. But watching this again the night I learned of Eddie's unfortunate passing, it reminded me of how great he truly was.
One last thought I'd like to share, and it's certainly not meant to be in poor taste; more of a tribute to a character that I and so many people enjoyed: I can picture Eddie lining up to get into Heaven, concerned that perhaps he won't make it into the Pearly Gates because of his past sins. A man in line behind him tells Eddie not to worry, because he had turned his life around and focused on his family. Still, Eddie comes up with a backup plan.
Right before he's about to be questioned by St. Peter, Eddie grabs a steel folding chair and tosses it to the guy behind him, then collapses. St. Peter looks at the other man and starts questioning him about why he would do such a thing. Eddie slowly opens one eye and winks to no one in particular. Then, with the guards distracted, Eddie jumps up and runs through the gates of Heaven.I don't know; I found it funny…
In any event, Vaya Con Dios, Eddie.
Cheating Death, Stealing Life:
The Eddie Guerrero Story