Welcome to the inaugural Bad Ass Moments In Wrestling, a column dedicated to bad ass things that happen in the world of sports entertainment and updated with a new volume whenever I want. There is no established criteria that qualifies a moment to be featured, but is instead the column is committed to honoring moments that made the writer step back and say “Whoa, that was bad ass”. If you don’t agree or hate the concept, well the comment section is right down there. Please feel free to voice your displeasure, and a representative will be with you within 4-8 weeks.
2004 was a transitional year for WWE. The Attitude Era was over, and many of the top stars from that period were either gone or on their way out the door. Likewise, the rabid fan base that was once so energized for WWE content was dwindling, leaving Vince McMahon and company in the awkward position of maintaining their base audience while also reeling in new viewers. Forced to switch gears and having very little in terms of talent to work with, WWE did what at one time would be unthinkable; they put their faith in two hard-working journeymen that made a name for themselves with quality work, dedication, and a cult following. 2004 saw the rise of Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero as main event players. One of those didn’t work out so well in the long run, but we’re not here to talk about that guy. We’re here to talk about the one that lied, cheated, and stole his way into the hearts of millions.
The road to WrestleMania was probably the greatest road Eddie Guerrero ever traveled. He was riding an upswing in popularity, was making memorable television moments every week, and even defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. Having a title victory over the 1 in 21 and 1 looks pretty great on your resume in retrospect, especially considering that up until that point Lesnar was pretty much bullet proof when it came to WWE’s booking. But, with Brock heading out the door and Eddie in position to be the WWE’s #1 babyface, it only made sense to have him beat a legit wrestling machine heading into the biggest show of the year, especially considering what was waiting for him at WrestleMania XX.
Guerrero was scheduled to take on Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XX, which was set to be the definitive chapter of a blood feud that began on the January 29th 2004 episode of Smackdown. Eddie and Angle both participated in a 15-man battle royal to determine the #1 contender for the WWE title at No Way Out. As we already know Eddie won that match and went on to defeat the Leviathan known as Brock Lesnar, but what made it significant is that the last person eliminated in that match was Kurt Angle, who felt that Eddie stole his opportunity. Angle himself would go on to defeated Big Show and John Cena in a triple threat match at No Way Out to determine the #1 contender at WrestleMania, and it just so happened that Eddie was the champion walking into the showcase of the immortals.
These two were now on the road toward a direct collision, and Angle took every opportunity he could to cause Eddie grief. He jumped him during matches, threw Eddie’s past drug use in his face, and unofficially recruited Smackdown General Manager Paul Heyman to have his back in the feud, stacking the cards against Eddie. Eventually Guerrero had enough and challenged the crooked General Manager to a match. Heyman accepted, with the condition that Eddie have both hands cuffed behind his back. Eddie agreed, confident that he didn’t need hands to perform an ass-kicking. Unfortunately for Eddie he lacked the foresight to recognize a trap when it’s right in front of him, because he fell for it like a fat kid following a trail of candy under a giant net.
It starts off as you would expect; Heyman gets in a few cheap shots, Eddie retaliates with kicks and sheer strength, and Paul heads for the hills with the WWE champ in pursuit. Little did Eddie know that this sprung the trap, because what was waiting for him at the end of the ramp was a psychotic Olympic gold medalist with murder in his eyes. You could feel the tension as Angle, never breaking his petrifying gaze, slowly wrapped his hand with athletic tape as Guerrero looked on in terror. He knew he was screwed. With two of his appendages bound and Angle blocking the only exit, Eddie was trapped.
With nowhere to go, Eddie headed for the ring hoping the high ground would at least temporarily even the playing field. Angle patiently circled the ring, stalking his prey, just waiting for the right opportunity to strike. It was a thrilling visual because Eddie’s panic was so evident. Kurt Angle might best be remembered for playing a doofus who could back it up in the ring, but when he wanted to play frightening there were few that were better. The intensity that he showed (one of his three I’s!) in everything he did exemplified that Kurt Angle was not someone to be f**ked with, and if you were in his cross hairs it was going to be a bad day for you.
With Eddie handicapped and trapped, it only took one mistake for Angle to capitalize and begin the ass-whooping. Eddie gave him that opening when he got too close to the apron and Kurt swept the legs and climbed into the ring. Reverting to his basic instincts, Eddie snapped and kicked like an animal trapped in a snare. This didn’t deter the former Olympian of course, who easily dropped Eddie with a few body tosses and several stiff blows to the head with his taped fist.
For three minutes Angle toyed with Eddie like a cat with a mouse by dropping him with fists, waiting for him to get up, and then dropping him again. Over and over until Angle finally tired of the game and went out to get the prize they both desired; the WWE Championship. With the belt in his hands Angle went back into the ring, readying to introduce the belt’s centerpiece with Eddie’s forehead. In a final act of defiance, Guerrero showed his rebellious fire by spitting in his rivals face and welcoming the death blow. After getting a face full of loogie Angle was happy to oblige, dropping the WWE Champion with his own title.
It wasn’t the most violent beat-down ever. In fact, compared to most it was pretty tame. But the intensity, the tension, and the urgency made the entire moment stand out as one of the most intriguing moments in Smackdown history. Eddie’s passionate insolence in the face of doom was awesome enough, but watching Kurt Angle slowly walk down the aisle while taping his fist with the eyes of a serial killer? Well that’s just bad ass.
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