One of the oddest pairings in pro wrestling turned out to be one of the most memorable of the Attitude Era.
In March 2000, Eddie Guerrero began propositioning Chyna, calling her his “Mamacita,” and generally being a pest. She rejected him until the Raw after WrestleMania 2000, where she turned on her then-partner Chris Jericho to help Guerrero win the WWF European Championship. They remained together for much of the year, turning face in the summer. Both held the WWF Intercontinental Championship during the alliance.
It was a fun midcard pairing that served as one of the high points in each of their careers. It was Guerrero’s first long-term storyline in the company, and it was Chyna’s most notable storyline besides her D-Generation X membership. But what’s most apt about their pairing didn’t become clear until after they broke up.
Both Guerrero and Chyna struggled with substance abuse. In 1999, Guerrero crashed his car going 130 mph while high on pills. He continued to spiral until he was released from the company in November 2001. That turned out to be his wake-up call, as he sobered up, reconnected with his estranged wife, and went on the most notable run of his career, when he won the WWE Championship.
Chyna, on the other hand, did not start abusing drugs until after she left WWF. She departed on sudden terms and never seemed to recover from leaving the company. Her cause of death has not been officially released, but a drug overdose, sadly, seems plausible.
Guerrero’s struggles were not directly related to WWE, but it’s fair to say the constant wrestling had broken down his body quite a bit and contributed to his painkiller addiction. Even after sobering up, Guerrero’s body was failing him. According to Bob Holly, by the time Guerrero was world champion, he was so exhausted he’d spend all his time backstage on the trainer’s table. Holly also said Guerrero asked for time off and was always refused, because by then he was too important to the company.
Ultimately, what failed both Chyna and Guerrero was the corporate mindset of WWE that their wrestlers are assets to the brand, not humans who should have been treated with respect and care. It’s impossible to say exactly how much of Chyna and Guerrero’s problems were attributable to the poor treatment at the hands of the pro wrestling industry, but it’s fair to say it played a significant role in both of their early deaths.
WWE can always point to the Wellness Policy—instituted in the wake of Guerrero’s death—to say they’ve changed for the better and care about the health of the wrestlers. It’s too early to see if that will slow the number of early deaths among wrestlers, as most who have come up since Guerrero’s death are still wrestling and appear to be healthy. Hopefully it has.
In the meantime, we can all smile at the thought of Latino Heat seeing his Mamacita again.