August 27, 2011
@GaryMehaffy on Twitter
An interview with Chavo Guerrero Sr.
How are things with you at the moment?
I’ve been starting to write my book. Well, actually, I’ve been writing it. I finally got myself a writer because I’m a wrestler – I think I’m a writer, so just in case I got myself a writer. We already have the rough draft and now we’ll start the final polishing next week. So it should be maybe a month or so.
You obviously come from a wrestling family. Was it expected that you would get involved in the business or was it something that you wanted to do?
That’s a very good question. You’re probably the first one that’s ever asked that. Was it expected? Well, I guess in my dad’s mind he never forced it on us – that’s why I say it’s a tricky question. He never said “You’re gonna be a wrestler!” but he did say “If you’re gonna be a wrestler, I’m gonna train you.” The next answer is, I always wanted to be a wrestler. I expected that it was expected from me, and I wanted it to be expected, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like with a whip “You’re going to be a wrestler and that’s just the way it is!” but all my life I was involved around wrestling. My father, my uncle……..my father met my mother through my uncle, who was a wrestler. It was always wrestling. It was a fun expectancy!
You broke some ground in the US as you were a Hispanic wrestler who became a mainstream star. How difficult was it for you in the early days of the business?
There was a LOT of prejudice, man. Not only was I Hispanic, but I was smaller than all these big guys at that time, which was the 1970’s when I broke in. The big stars were big, and big bellied, I’m only 5’9, and at that time I weighed 190lbs – and that was with my clothes on, 20lbs in my pocket and wet! (laughs) They would look me up and down, sometimes, and it would give me a complex. And of course, being Mexican. But I sold tickets, brother – and some good mentors, that got me through that, one of them being ‘Big Cat’ Ernie Ladd. They got me through that, and of course I believe in Jesus. I don’t know if you’re protestant or catholic, but we’re all Christians. I believe in Jesus and he pulled me through it. There was definitely some tough roads ahead, and that’s what made me a very bitter person and for a while a VERY bitter man, but now, looking back, I’m blessed that I went through that situation and can deal with just about anything.
In the NWA you feuded on and off for a few years with Roddy Piper, over the NWA Americas Heavyweight Title. What are your thoughts on that long running feud?
I’ll tell you what. I started in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. My father was a promoter in both countries and both cities – as you know, it’s a border town. From there I was kind of semi-pro, because I was a teacher – I was a wrestling coach. I was going to Japan, and on my way to Japan – Dory Funk and Terry Funk and his organisation used to provide the talent for my father – they booked me there, and I was thrilled to bits. My father told me “Well, you have to go through L.A., California, to go to Japan. There’s a guy there by the name of Louie Tillet and I now him. Would you like for me to book you there?” I was like “Yea, well, sure.” He was more excited about me working in L.A., because at that time I didn’t understand what he was talking about! To make a long story short, I stopped in L.A. for a couple of days and worked there – I was a sensational hit! I didn’t know it, but I was. I went to Japan for three weeks and Fritz Von Erich was there. The last week he was on me to go to Dallas, and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was a joke, that these guys are messing with my mind, they’re trying to bash me again. When I came back to L.A. they told me “We’re offering you a job.” At this time I had a team in El Paso, we’re third in State and everybody was coming back to the High School team, and I didn’t really know what to do. My dad said “Well, you have to make a decision; these opportunities don’t come very often.” Long story short, I opted to stay in L.A., and praise Jesus that I did! About a year later, here comes Roddy Piper. He was a young kid – I was young too but he was a little younger – and we were both at the right place at the right time. We had great matches. Of course, he was great on the microphone and still is. He’s one of my dearest friends. There wasn’t too many guys – maybe about ten or eleven guys, they would switch in and out. I could speak English and Spanish which made it great for me, as they had both English and Spanish TV. I was the only Mexican, which was even better. And I’m just damn good! I didn’t know what the big hype was until I saw myself wrestle. When I saw myself wrestle – and it was reel to reel situation at that time – I went “Wow! I’m good!” and from then on I started improving and getting better, working out every day………..a passion for this business. From the ring to wrestling attire, wrestling costumes – I had a book and I would put down where I went, what I wore and what colour it was. Next time I went to that town I would have a different colour. That’s what made me, that’s part of what made Chavo Guerrero.
You won championships all over the world. Where was your favourite place to work?
(laughs) Oh, brother, come on! You’re killing me, man! My favourite was everywhere! Everywhere I went I had the best match and people would come out of the dressing rooms to watch my matches, and I’m proud to say that. Ciclon Negro told me that once, and my father of course, too – “It doesn’t matter if you’re the first match, the middle match or the last match, you WILL have the best match.” And I always kept that in mind. Whether I was in Japan, the States, Mexico, Europe, New Zealand…….one of my favourite places – like I said, all of them were my favourite – but if I had to choose, if they put me in a firing squad and they told me “Tell us where your favourite place is or we’ll kill you!” – if there was one, I would say Japan, brother. Japan was more of a tight style, the way I was brought up in a tight atmosphere of catch-as-catch-can of hook and snatch and pull – three quarter shoot almost.
You mention Japan. Was there any heat on you when you transferred to wrestle for All Japan?
You know what? In Japan from the first day you got there – especially if you were on TV – there was always heat. It don’t matter which organisation you were. After that, once you slapped the shit out of them – because they surely would slap the shit out of you – then the rest of the tour was easy, because they would respect you. Once in a while you would have a guy get out of hand, but that was part of Japan. You had to earn your money – and when I say earn, I mean you always had to be a wrestling professional and be entertaining, but you never knew where the Japanese were going to come from. You always had to be in a defensive mode and still perform. I liked that, I liked that challenge, that one-to-one action.
You mentioned a moment or two ago about how you were a smaller guy, being only 5’9, but yet you won heavyweight titles as well as junior heavyweight titles. How pleasing was that for you?
Brother, that was amazing! Every territory I went to, they would give me a title. I’m probably the only one that got a title in every territory he went to and every country he went to. When I won the junior heavyweight in Japan was also when I won the light heavyweight title from Alfonso Dantes, from Mexico, in L.A. which was tremendous, because that was the same title my father had had. To me it was like “Wow! What an honour!” My father was my idol, he was my hero. He was the best wrestler ever, you have to understand that. I got into my mind “I’ll never be my father!” if I compare myself to him. I was doing my own style, but I finally understood in my mind that I was going to be Chavo Guerrero, period. But to answer your question, every title is important to me. Of course some more than others, because of sentimental value here and there, but any time you carry a championship for a territory or a country or the world as it was then. When you won a world title, even though you know in the back of your mind, you are a world champion and you are representing the world. It’s an amazing feeling, there/s nothing like it. You are the champion of the people, period, wherever you are. Even if it’s a local championship – sometimes a local championship means a lot more than other championships. If you carry it that means the people are behind you.
May I ask about the now infamous incident at Cauliflower Alley with Verne Gagne and what brought that on?
When they threw me out? (laughs) I’ll tell you what brought that on, brother. I had wrestled for Verne Gagne. Verne Gagne was one of the first ones who started pay per view, and they had a pay per view in Chicago. Everything was good, it was Mando, Hector and I, we had a great match. They even stole our bags! We went with the promoter to a black part of town and he said it was safe, and when we came back all our bags were gone! But it (the issue with Verne) wasn’t because of that. AWA – which was Verne Gagne – never paid me. Actually, they never paid anybody but I don’t worry about them I worry about me! (laughs) When I went to the Cauliflower Alley Club I saw Verne Gagne. He was talking to Nick Bockwinkel and I approached Nick – I’d just come in from wrestling in WWE and I was tired, but I was glad to be there – and Verne Gagne looked at me and he looked the other way and he had a little special smirk on his face, and I took it personal. I said “Hey, you remember me?” and he looked at me again, smirked and turned around. Nick Bockwinkel said “Hey, that’s Chavo Guerrero.” and he looked at me again and smirked back. Now they tell me that he was already going senile but I don’t give a shit, he still owed me money! Anyway, I went down and had some tequilas with Jack Brisco and Les Thatcher and came back up. I had a beer in my hand and he was sitting next to Bob Orton Sr. – who was in a wheelchair – and they’re chatting, so, you know, it was a big rib to me! I went up and said “Alright Mr. Gagne, you owe me some money!” Of course, that got his attention. I said “If you don’t wanna pay me tell me, that’s fine. If the cheque’s in the mail and it got lost, tell me that. But if you don’t wanna pay me or whatever just don’t sit there and smirk at me, because I’m really getting pissed off. You owe me some money!” When I said it, he would just look at me. So I said “You know what? As a wrestler – amateur you were great, but as a pro I think you sucked!” and brother he stood up! (laughs) When he stood up I said “Hey biddy, hold my beer!” and I got in my wrestling stance and I said “Alright. Come on brother. Double or nothing!” Then he sat down and then I could se all kinds of people coming in then throwing me out. I was like “Hey, what did I do? I’m entertaining the folks!” Anyway, two years later him and I were laughing at the WWE inductions when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. We were like “It was a big rib! And everybody took it for a shoot!” that’s what happened there brother. I have loads of respect for the man but he still owes me money! (laughs) That’s a shoot! I hate people that owe me money.
You mention there that it came at the time when you were with WWE in 2004. What led to you joining the company?
Well it was the Eddie Guerrero/Chavo Guerrero feud that they had going there. I went to I think it was Corpus Christi. I went to see my son – I was living there at the time – and everybody started talking to me, including brown noser J.R., Bruce Pritchard and even Mr. McMahon comes up and talks to me and I thought “There’s something funny going on here!” (laughs) I’m not that good looking, though I am cute! Two days later I get a call from (John) Laurinaitis saying “”How would you like to be involved?” and I was like “I would love it!” So that’s what led into it and it was just like a trial thing. I was just happy to be there. One week led to another week and then another week and then they offered me a contract, because I was good and we had the best ratings at that time, or our segments did. And it’s not just that I’m saying that, it was a fact.
You subsequently during that time became cruiserweight champion for a month. What were your thoughts on winning that?
I was elated, brother. I was 55 years old then, are you kidding me? I didn’t like the way they did it, with my son………one thing that makes the Guerreros is jealousy. Because that’s what we are, we’re competitors. And we compete against each other too – whether it be basketball or football or just a diving situation, but especially in wrestling. And I saw a little………but hey, I ran with it man! I was cruiserweight champion, the oldest cruiserweight champion. It gave me new life. At 55 I’m a damn world champion! And in WWE, which is the biggest organisation there is. It was really, really nice.
When you left in June of that year, was there ever any talk of you going to TNA, given Hector’s association?
Yea. Actually, I talked (to them). They were doing a battle royal and they wanted me to come in and be the surprise entry. And I had already given my word, but right before it I called them and said “I can’t do that. I’m not going to be able to do it, because I don’t have a guarantee or a contract.” Of course, they were not too happy with it, but oh well! You have to give yourself value, you have to go for the thing that you deserve. I was just kind of pushing it and I was mad – actually, I was mad at myself, because it was all my fault that I got fired from WWE. So I didn’t wanna burn any more bridges. I didn’t wanna go from WWE to just “Here’s that guy. He’s come in here and look at him now. From WWE champion to a surprise entry in a battle royal.” I don’t think so!
Your son, Chavo Jr., was released at his own request in June. How frustrated was he during the last few months?
You know what, he’s got his own thing going. To this day we’re still competing! He’s he one that adopted the Chavo Guerrero name, and they (WWE) gave me “Classic”. It’s like they used to tell me: “You’re almost as good as your father but you’ll never be as good.” I’m sure that he gets some of that shit. I was visiting him not that long ago and his neighbour came up and went “Oh! This is the REAL Chavo Guerrero!” I’m sure the neighbour didn’t mean anything in any way, but we take it personal, you know what I mean? And I could feel the vibes. He’s a Chavo Guerrero now but I am the real Chavo Guerrero, but we try to keep it……..it’s a business brother! He doesn’t pay my bills and I don’t pay his! He’s been busy and been working a lot. Actually, he and I are gonna tag up, September 16th in Tijuana, Mexico. There might be changes to the card but I know he and I have already been booked against Mil Mascaras and Dos Caras.
Your niece, Eddie & Vickie’s eldest child Shaul, is down in Florida with WWE. What advice would you give to her as she sets off on her career?
She needs to be trained by one of the Guerreros if she wants to be any good. She’s a Guerrero, Vickie’s not a Guerrero. Vickie’s only a Guerrero by injection but Shaul is blood, I love her. Vickie has something going against the Guerreros. After Eddie died she wants nothing to do with us, and that’s fine too. Better for us actually. But our niece is our blood. I would just like to, if not me, one of the Guerreros train her so that she can protect herself. All of the Geurreros have been successes – not one has failed – so I would like for her to be trained by one of the Guerreros, or at least have some say so in it so that she can protect herself and teach her right. If that’s what she chooses, more power to her, I support her 100%. I just want her to be well trained and well protected.
Do you have anything that you didn’t do during your career that you wish you had done?
Not really brother, I’ve had it all. How can I go back and………I wish I still had a job! I’m 62 years old and the older I get the more I miss this business. I still wrestle, I still do my gigs here and there and wrestling is like my right hand or my right arm. If I were to lose my right arm I don’t what the hell I would do! No regrets! The Lord has been good to me, Jesus has been good to me and I thank him for all the blessings he has given me and the opportunities and the fans. Without the fans we are nothing! It still keeps coming, little by little. I just wish I had have made some smarter decisions during my career but hey, you can’t go back man!
Your family is arguably the first family of wrestling. How do you think they will be remembered?
The way that everybody wants to remember them! (laughs) People tell me “You’re an asshole!” and I ell them “Yea, I’ve been voted asshole of the year five years in a row and I campaign everyday! But one thing is for sure – we sure can wrestle!” We are characters – as much as we believe that wrestling’s in our blood you don’t come home with your robe and your attire, you come in and you’re a father or you’re a husband or whatever you have to be. But when you’re with the fans, they see you as the character. How do I want them to see me? I want them to see me as one of the best entertainers there was. Good guy or bad guy, I gave them their money’s worth and I was a true entertainer. But you know what? They talk about me good or bad – I’ll be remembered. If they don’t talk about me – shit! I’m no longer important! Kind of like the Queen, you know? You might not like her, but you talk about her so she’s still important!
Who was your favourite opponent in your career?
(laughs) Oh brother!!! Man, you’re killing me!!! You know what? Every opponent is worthy, and if not I will make him worthy – that’s my job! A lot of times just to go in the ring………..Rick Steiner, when Bill Watts put me with him, he was right out of college and, god, was he stiff! He was a body builder, with the steroids, and he would give me hell everyday but it was my job to make him look good, to mane myself look good and to have a good match. Fujinami in Japan, undoubtedly. In the states? Nick Bockwinkel, Dory Funk, Harley Race, Terry Funk……’Superstar’ Billy Graham – I had one match with him and it taught me a lot. He wasn’t a wrestler but he was a performer, he was a showman, and it taught me a lot. Pat Patterson – the psychology of Pat Patterson. Lanny ‘Moondog’ Mayne…….I could go on down the list……..Alfonso Dantes from Mexico. Of course, my father. I never wrestled him publicly, but he used to whoop the shit out of me in the ring! (laughs) People like that, who made me and took time out. Antonio Rocca came out one time to referee – he was already in his 70’s – he refereed the match, and he came into the showers and gave me great advice. Just him talking to me was wow! That’s Antonio Rocca! In the ring he was refereeing, but it’s different when he comes out one on one on a personal basis, it was amazing! When I start naming names, I will forget somebody! But everyone of them – the times when you think you know everything, you know nothing! I learned every day. But to answer your question, I’ve named some guys that were important to me. And Roddy Piper of course! I learned a lot from him.
Can you think of anyone who you saw who you think was incredibly underrated as a performer?
Well, I used to say it was Chris Benoit, but then he got his chance and you saw him go! What an intensive, downright wrestler he was. He was my bother, not by blood. I don’t know what happened (with his family) if he did it or not – I still don’t know – but that wasn’t the Chris I knew. What talent, what intensity and he left it all in the ring. Batista – I just wish I’d had him in the ring a while! When he turned heel, that was his calling. His punches – they were great, but they didn’t go with his height. I wish I had him to make it look a little better, to train him a little bit better. My son, of course. I think he just got overshadowed by all the Guerreros and everything else, but whatever he did, he made all these guys look good and still did. He’s got over 65,000 Twitter followers, so it must mean something! I think if they would have pushed him at the right time in the right way, I think he would have been bigger than what he was.
Flip side – most overrated? Or given a push that they didn’t really deserve?
I could say Ric Flair – you’ve seen one match, you’ve seen them all. Hulk Hogan – you’ve seen one match, you’ve seen nothing. But they sold tickets! In this game, it’s about selling tickets, no matter if you’re a good wrestler or not. When you ask me that question I could tell you this guy but he made a lot more money and went to the bank and deposited more. Who’s the best wrestler? The guy who deposited the most money! That’s just the bottom line. I can’t really say that (about Flair/Hogan) because if they’re making money, they’re good wrestlers, they’re entertaining. I mean look at Big Show – he’s big and he’s an entertainer, but that guy can wrestle! Andre the giant was definitely a box office draw – when his back wasn’t hurting he could move, he could throw a dropkick. I wrestled Andre, he was amazing, he was an amazing athlete.
In closing, do you have any words for your fans?
Keep following me on Twitter and Facebook – man, what an amazing social media that is! Buy the book – you will enjoy it. I’m hoping I will make a little money out of it but my main thing is to go out there and have a book written that will do the Guerreros justice and the fans will enjoy it, just like my matches. The book will be honest, because I have nothing to hide.