It’s always sad when a dream match doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s because of money issues (see previous entry about Tyson at Mania 17), or an old favourite can’t pass the torch to a hot new act because he’s gone past his prime.
The saddest however, is when one of the participants passes away before it comes to fruition.
This is the story of Shawn Michaels and Eddie Guerrero nearly faced off at WrestleMania 22.
Shawn Michaels had been one of Vince’s top guys from the 90’s. He was an undersized wrestler who could go out and guarantee one of the top performances of the night. He was technically sound and athletically gifted, whether he was locking in a hold or performing a moonsault. It often felt that Shawn could do no wrong in the ring. However, during the peak of his main event career, in the late 90’s, Michaels fell into a dark place. He was a renowned trouble maker in the back, rather forfieting championship belts than actually losing to somebody, or weaselling his way out of bouts he didn’t want to be in.
After his first retirement, due to his back issues. Shawn realised how low he had fallen, and was determined to climb back out of the hole, and doing this made him a born again Christian. He cleaned up his act, and was welcomed back to the WWE permanently, in 2002, after being fired a few years prior due to his ways.
After that, Shawn remained a babyface (except for the month of August in 2005, we don’t talk about that month). Shawn was the vanquisher of evil, with crosses on his outfit to signify his rediscovery of faith.
In many ways, Eddie Guerrero was a latino mirror of the heartbreak kid. Eddie was also undersized but incredibly talented. A forgotten gem of WCW’s cruiserweight, unlike Michaels, he was never truly given his chance to run with the main event.
Guerrero made his way over to WWE in early 2000, along with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko. Sadly though, this was just 2 years late for him and Shawn to meet in the ring.
Eddie remained a strong member of the mid-card roster in the WWE during 2000 and 2001, but behind the scenes, he was suffering with a lot of demons, till one night in November, he was arrested for drink driving. Unlike Shawn, who was one of Vince’s top guys during his run, Eddie wasn’t, and subsequently, was released from his contract.
During this time, Eddie also realised hos self destructive he had become. He too rediscovered religion and used it as a motivating force to get himself clean. Once he had proven he was healthy again, the WWE welcomed him back to the fold in mid-2002, after the WWE Draft.
Eddie was initially on RAW, until himself and Chris Benoit defected to SmackDown, where Eddie became one of the most popular acts in the company. Shawn on the other hand, had returned and joined his fellow kliq member Triple H, on the RAW brand.
The two remained on their respective brands for the rest of their in-ring careers. Whilst WWE held brand v brand matches occasionally during the year, particularly at Survivor Series. The two Christians never crossed paths.
In 2005, Eddie turned heel and was showing a far darker side of himself. So in the winter of that year, Vince McMahon and his writers came up with the idea of pitting the two against each other. The idea being that the two have very similar career trajectories, but with Eddie’s demons (kayfabe) coming back to the surface, Shawn was to try and deter him, and bring him back to the light.
It would be the first time the two would ever meet in the ring. Both have similar builds, similar styles and similar stories… it was as if they were destined to meet at the biggest stage of them all.
However, 3 days after the idea came to fruition. Eddie Guerrero passed away.
Looking back, knowing what we know, the context of Shawn Michael’s grievance over Eddie on his tribute show makes a little more sense. It was odd that a man whom he never even seemed to appear on screen with, would make a tribute to him on camera. Indeed, it is a sad situation, and one could believe it was done more for the star factor of Michaels, or the idea of the two having the same faith. Yet watching Shawn during that show, it’s clear he’s very upset. Not only because of the death of a co-worker, but because he knows that the dream WrestleMania match, the one he would know would steal the show that night, was now never to happen.
Shawn Michaels instead using his religion in another storyline, as he went toe-to-toe with Vince McMahon in a surprisingly fun street fight at the show. It wasn’t the classic that we would have gotten if Eddie was alive, don’t get me wrong, but Shawn still made the best of a bad situation. One that led to the reformation of D-Generation X.
Eddie’s memory did make an impact on WrestleMania though, however. Rey Mysterio, one of Eddie’s closest friends, ended up winning the 2006 Royal Rumble at the second entry, and dedicated his win to his former Co-Tag Team Champion. Whilst Rey didn’t main event the show (3rd from last isn’t the main event Vince), he did defeat Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.