(This paper requires registration, so I just cut and paste)
WWE star was in Minneapolis for event at Target Center
BY FREDERICK MELO
He was supposed to be a comeback kid.
Groomed from childhood to follow in the professional wrestling career of his father and three older brothers, Eddie Gory Guerrero made his debut in Mexico 17 years ago as the "Magic Mask."
Later dubbed "Latino Heat," the 5-foot-8-inch, 220-pound entertainer carved a following for himself on both sides of the border, battling gargantuan rivals in the ring while fighting a career-stunting addiction to cocaine, painkillers and alcohol outside of it.
At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Guerrero, 38, was discovered dead in his hotel room at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, hours before an event at Target Center. His nephew, fellow professional wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr., and a security guard found his body.
The two men forced Guerrero's door open after he failed to answer a wake-up call. They found him on the floor. His door had been latched from the inside.
Authorities would not speculate on a cause of death. Minneapolis police said they do not suspect foul play. The Hennepin County medical examiner's office is expected to perform an autopsy today.
The two athletes had flown to Minnesota together late the previous night. Sunday night's event was a show to be taped for World Wrestling Entertainment. The company dedicated the event to Guerrero's memory, and segments will air tonight on USA Network's "WWE Raw" and Friday on UPN's "WWE SmackDown!"
"If this is a tribute show to Eddie, then I definitely want to be a part of it, and I know that he would want me to be a part of it also," Chavo Guerrero said at a news conference Sunday afternoon with WWE Chairman Vincent McMahon Jr.
Eddie Guerrero, a native of El Paso, Texas, recently moved his family to Phoenix. He is survived by his wife, Vickie, and their three daughters, Shaul, 14, Sherilyn, 9, and Kaylie Marie, 3.
"This is a huge loss for WWE. Eddie Guerrero was one of our star performers," McMahon said. "Eddie was a consummate performer."
At Target Center on Sunday, most fans knew about Guerrero's death. They described the wrestler as a skilled performer able to throw his body around the ring and make his matches exciting and believable.
Guerrero's signature move was the "Frog Splash," in which he would fly from the top of ropes and land on his opponent. It was the move he used to finish off matches, said Jerry Otto Jr., who brought a portfolio of photos and articles about Guerrero to the event.
"Eddie could do pretty much any move he wanted to," Otto said.
Chris Vetter said Guerrero was a tremendous wrestler: "He knew how to make a crowd cheer for him when he was a good guy and boo like crazy when he was a bad guy."
As a child, Guerrero cultivated his fighting stances under the tutelage of his father, Gory Guerrero, who was idolized in Mexico as a founding hero of the "lucha libre," a Mexican fighting spectacle featuring wrestlers as masked avengers.
Guerrero, who grew up in South El Paso, wrestled at the University of New Mexico before joining his three older brothers in professional leagues in Mexico and Japan. He broke into the U.S. television market in the mid-1990s, competing for four years with World Championship Wrestling.
He later left WCW and in January 2000 joined its rival, WWE, where he was spotlighted as a star performer.
"Out of my whole life, there were maybe four months that I thought I don't want to be a wrestler," he told the El Paso Times in an August 2003 interview. "I grew up watching my dad and my older brothers do it. This is a dream for me."
But the dream was nearly cut short by his public battles with alcoholism and drug abuse. After flipping his car while high on liquid Ecstasy, Guerrero bounced back from a knee injury with an addiction to painkillers. He was fired from WWE in 2001, his wife filed for divorce and the IRS seized his wages.
After regaining his sobriety, Guerrero reconciled with his wife and was rehired by WWE in 2002. He performed tag-team matches with his nephew and became an inspirational symbol to fans struggling with their own addictions, Chavo Guerrero said.
The two men shared a flight from Phoenix on Saturday night, and Eddie Guerrero appeared in good health. He told his nephew that he was celebrating his fourth year of sobriety this month, Chavo Guerrero said, and he congratulated him.
"We sat next to each other; we watched the movie; we talked," he said. "Everything was fine."
Professional wrestling has been plagued by the untimely deaths of star entertainers. According to a March 2004 article in USA Today, 65 wrestlers died in seven years, many from enlarged hearts and other coronary diseases consistent with drug or steroid use.
In October 1997, former Cincinnati Bengals football player Brian Pillman was found dead in his Bloomington motel room. Pillman, who wrestled under the name "Flyin' Brian," was later found to have died of heart disease.
Jason Hoppin contributed to this report.