Eddie Guerrero is an icon to both wrestlers and wrestling fans. Many people still remember him fondly long after his untimely death, and wrestlers tribute and reference him all the time.
Much has been discussed about his work in North America. But little has been discussed about his time abroad. As such, we’d like to highlight some of Eddie’s greatest accomplishments from his time wrestling in Japan.
Like many smaller and more technically adept wrestlers, Eddie found work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling during the 1990s. Eddie went on a foreign excursion to Japan to learn from NJPW’s cruiserweights and hone his craft. And it was while in New Japan that Eddy really started becoming a bigger name.
He also had his first match with Chris Benoit, who was wrestling under the names ‘Pegasus Kid’ and ‘Wild Pegasus’. Those early matches would lay the foundation for the many great matches those two would have for years to come.
Eddie Guerrero in Japan | The Rise of Black Tiger II
During his tours, Eddie would wrestle some of the top in-ring wrestlers New Japan had at the time. Many of Eddie’s opponents either were or would go on to become big names in wrestling.
These include; Liger, Shinjiro Otani, Keiji Muto, Masahiro Chono, X-Pac/Lightning Kid, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroshi Hase, Shinya Hashimoto, and Tatsumi Fujinami. Eddy rubbed shoulders with some of the best wrestlers New Japan had to offer and in some cases, beat them.
And while wrestling in the taxing and challenging NJPW Strong Style was hard enough, Eddie did this while wearing a mask. However, his first few tours saw him wrestle under his own name. NJPW decided to change things for him in late 1993.
Wrestling, while masked, adds its own set of challenges; the mask could impair the wrestler’s vision, hearing, or ability to speak, depending on how the mask is made and worn.
But not only did Eddie adapt to wrestling masked without faltering, but he actually improved. His early matches in Japan were said to be good, but his matches as Black Tiger II were said to be great.Then things got better for Guerrero as he started working more tag matches in mid-1994. And one of his regular partners was American Machine, better known as ‘Love Machine’ Art Barr. though Eddy and Barr had been teaming together in Mexico before those 1994 New Japan tours, they started honing their craft together as a team when not being drowned in boos and garbage in Mexico.
The duo, known in Mexico as Los Gringos Locos, was reviled in Mexico, but they had to work harder to get similar reactions elsewhere. And once they left New Japan, they had the experience needed to work in front of a less passionate crowd. That’s why they had such an easy time working the crowd in their famous tag matches against El Hijo del Santo and Octagón at When Worlds Collide 1994.
By the time Eddie began wrestling in the US more regularly, he had plenty of experience thanks to his New Japan tours. When he was brought into WCW and ECW, he wasn’t brought in alone. More often than not, Eddie wrestled guys he had already fought in New Japan, such as Dean Malenko or 2 Cold Scorpio.
As a result, when Guerrero turned so many heads and brought ECW, in particular, so much good publicity, it was because he had already polished his wrestling skill against Malenko and Scorpio in New Japan.
In a way, Eddie’s time in Japan started an important chain of events. His tenure there led to more interest him and Barr. That interest led to Eddie’s 1995 ECW run and then his WCW run from 1996 to 2000. That latter run was built on Eddie’s work in Japan. The great matches he was having in WCW were so well regarded because Eddie had honed himself years earlier in New Japan. Fan support for Eddie led to his WWE debut and later his ascent to the WWE Championship.There’s a good chance that Eddie’s success and status as a legend wouldn’t’ve ever happened without his many tours in Japan.
There are some great Guerrero matches out there that are worth seeking out. For some reason, very few Eddie/Black Tiger II matches are available on New Japan World. As such, curious fans will have to dig a little further to find some of Eddie’s best matches from this period. That said, here are some recommendations:
- Black Tiger II vs. Jushin Thunder Liger – NJPW Final Battle 1993
- Black Tiger II vs. Wild Pegasus – NJPW Super J Cup 1994
- Wild Pegasus & Shinjiro Itani vs. Black Tiger II & The Great Sasuke – NJPW Super Grade Tag League 1994
- Black Tiger II vs. Wild Pegasus – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 1995
- Black Tiger II vs. Dean Malenko – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 1995
- Black Tiger II vs. Koji Kanemoto – NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 1995
- Black Tiger II vs. Sabu – NJPW Fighting Spirit Legend 1995
- Black Tiger II vs. Jushin Thunder Liger – NJPW Fighting Spirit 1996