Minutes before deciding to write this, I was feeling nostalgic. It may have just been because I recently turned 23 last week and I started to think back on the extraordinary experiences I’ve had. As I thought about it, I realized that nothing will ever beat what I experienced on February 15th, 2004. My friends and I convinced our parents to buy us tickets for “No Way Out,” an event put on by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). However, this wasn’t merely just an event for me. The main event was Eddie Guerrero taking on Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship belt. I couldn’t believe what I was about to witness. This was Guerrero’s first opportunity at the championship.
He wasn’t seen as a superstar who could hold the championship, let alone compete for it. But I was also excited to see a Mexican American wrestler competing for such a prestigious title in one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world at the time. Because the WWE is notorious for not having many people of color win championships, seeing Eddie get the opportunity and win the title was simply spectacular. Before I can dive into the match itself, a bit of background information needs to be given.
Originally, another wrestler was set to take on Brock Lesnar for the title and win. However, on the January 29, 2004, episode of Smackdown, it was announced that there would be an Over-The-Top-Rope Battle Royal to determine the number one contender to face Lesnar. Eddie Guerrero won that match and was set to be in the next PPV event, No Way Out.
Lesnar and Guerrero began feuding over the next few weeks, taking the time to build up their match. On February 12, 2004, both were scheduled to do face each other in a promo before their match. With their match only 3 days away, Lesnar entered the ring in culturally insensitive attire and a mariachi band. Now, this was the day before WWE decided it would be a good idea to clean up its act and at this time relying on played-out cultural stereotypes and “jokes” about other wrestlers’ heritage were common, in fact, Lesnar’s taunting includes a “joke” about swimming – but that’s a discussion for another day. After a few words from Lesnar, Guerrero went out there to confront him. He then went on to put out one of the greatest promos that I’ve ever seen. Seriously, Roman Reigns should take notes when watching this.
I cannot watch that episode without tears in my eyes. He wasn’t meant to get that personal with his promo, but Eddie Guerrero decided to go there. Lesnar mentioned Guerrero’s addiction problems, which was something that was actually real. For several years, he was a drug addict, which did, in fact, it truly did affect both his career and personal life. That was devastating to find out, especially with how much I looked up to him. But I never lost hope in Guerrero and hoped that he would get better. When he made this promo, I lost my mind. The Full video is above, but to sum it up, Guerrero owns his addiction, his recovery, and what it meant to crawl out a hole where he felt he disgrace himself, his family, and La Raza. He also explains his struggle, his loss, and ultimately how he came back. He screams, “I have earned my life back,” and you can read the emotion on his face and in every word.
He showed that he really loved wrestling, loved his fans (including me), and was trying really hard to turn his life around. He took it upon himself to change who he is, which to a 9-year-old Nikko, meant a lot. With all of the personal things I was going through and even when I have hard days now, this promo provides inspiration to not lose hope and keep moving forward. And for that Eddie, I thank you.
The line to get inside the arena was already long by the time we got there. The Cow Palace, at the time of the event, held about 11,000 people and it was a packed show. But I didn’t care about any of that. All I cared about was the main event, all I cared about was Eddie. This was also my first live event, which made this day even more special. Brock’s entrance music hit and he started walking down the ring. I wasn’t too excited to see Lesnar but I was still in awe seeing him walk down the ramp. But then Eddie Guerrero ‘s music hit. He came out in his classic low-rider, hydraulics and all. The entire arena erupted and gave a huge pop as he made his way down the ring. Many members of the Latinx community came out to support him, chanting “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie”. Eddie sure knew how to control the crowd and get them on his side. Brock Lesnar is a big man, in fact, he towers over Guerrero. So, of course, Lesnar dominated the match from the beginning. He took control throughout most of the match, but Guerrero was able to land a few blows and kept on fighting back.
Guerrero did have a plan. Brock depended a lot on his strength which meant that Eddie Guerrero targeted the knees in order to neutralize some of Lesnar’s power. During the match, Eddie managed to hit Lesnar off of the second turnbuckle, which caused Brock to bleed. As the match continued, Lesnar began to get tired, especially after having to use a lot of his strength to do suplexes and throws. Eddie used this as a moment to strike. He managed to lift a near 300lbs man to do three vertical suplexes, which was a move that Eddie often did, he called it the “Three Amigos.” I lost my mind seeing him pull off that move on such a heavy man. Having to do three of those suplexes consecutively is no easy thing to do.
Eddie then went for the Frog Splash, a frog-like leap from the top rope, but Lesnar got out of the way. I was sure Eddie had him with that move. Lesnar quickly recovered and hit his own finisher, the F-5. However, he managed to hit the referee as he did the move on Guerrero. Brock went for the cover but the referee was knocked out. Having noticed this, Brock got out of the ring to get his belt to use it against Guerrero. Just as he was going to use it, Goldberg, another WWE superstar who was on the RAW brand, came in the ring and attacked Lesnar. They had developed a feud for the past few weeks, which developed rumors that he was going to be at the PPV and interfere in Lesnar’s match. Since the ref didn’t see it, it’s as if it never happened.
The whole crowd, including me, gave Goldberg a huge pop, knowing that he would be a huge factor in Guerrero winning the title. Eddie Guerrero went for the pin as the ref was regaining consciousness but Lesnar kicked out. As he was getting up, Eddie saw the title and planned to use it on Brock. A huge part of Eddie’s gimmick was the phrase “I Lie, I Cheat, I Steal”. He was definitely planning on using that title and live up to the motto. But Lesnar managed to dodge and hit him. Lesnar began to set him up for his finisher but Eddie countered and managed to have Brock hit his head on the belt. Guerrero quickly threw the belt out to not raise suspicion and climbed up to the rope. He got to the top and hit the Frog Splash.
He signaled the ref to hurry up and start the count. 1… 2… 3! Eddie Guerrero, a recovering addict and the ultimate underdog of the night, had managed to beat Brock Lesnar and become the new WWE Champion! The arena erupted. Everyone was on their feet, happy to see that Eddie had one. I started crying and hugged my dad. This was a such an emotional moment. Like I said, he wasn’t even supposed to be here in this match. But he earned it and became champion. Even as I’m writing this right now I’m crying. He ran out of the ring and jumped to the crowd to celebrate. He walked over to his mother and gave her a hug. A fan gave him the Mexican flag and he raised it up high in the air, along with his championship belt. He went on to celebrate, even after the PPV went off the air. We left the arena after he walked out but man, I was still crying tears of joy.
The following night on Smackdown, Eddie Guerrero came out to a celebration that only he could pull off. He walked down the stairs and interacted with the fans. He took pictures with them, a true champion of the people. He went on to feud with Kurt Angle, which led to them facing off at Wrestlemania 20. Seeing Guerrero walk into Wrestlemania as champion and walk out with the belt was also an incredible moment to see. Even though he had a short reign as champion, it inspired many future WWE Superstars to be wrestlers, including the former Raw Women’s Champion Bayley, who was also at the No Way Out PPV event.
But to me, his win meant the world to me. Seeing a man who turned his life around and managed to be the face of the Smackdown brand for a few months was amazing. Seeing a Mexican American wrestler go on to accomplish something this big still inspires me to do great things. When I heard the news about his passing, I was devastated. I still remember where I was and what I was doing. The world lost a phenomenal wrestler. But his legacy lives on in the WWE and people continue to show love for the legend from El Paso. I hoped that the WWE creates a tournament in his honor someday. But one thing’s for sure; he proved to the entire WWE universe that he was worth it, that he truly was “Latino Heat”.