Viva la raza

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Monday was the first anniversary of the death by heart failure of the wrestler Eddie Guerrero – and, to judge from the fresh set of comments that have appeared on YouTube tribute videos, his memory has lost none of its power to affect people.

On one level, pro wrestling is undoubtedly rather silly – but on another it's a form of storytelling and, like all stories, when it's told well by a skilled practitioner it has the power to touch people's hearts. Eddie had that skill.

Back when he died, I created a graphic captioned 'gone to soon', with Eddie's photo and those of four other people who left before they ought to have – Kirsty MacColl, Screaming Lord Sutch, Glenn Quinn and Stuart Adamson. According to my referrer stats, it gets hit again and again from Google image searches, and most of the people are looking for Eddie.

In memoriam

Nor is it just online that you can see evidence of how he connected with people. From time to time I wear my tribute t-shirt, the one sold by the WWE to raise money for Eddie's widow Vickie, and more often than not someone comments on it. They didn't yesterday, as it happened, but then I hardly spoke to anyone during the day.

I wore it while delivering leaflets during May's council elections and on three occasions found myself deep in conversation about his legacy and his greatest matches – twice with the sort of groups of teenage boys that usually give me the wiggins, once with a pleasant young man who I met in the street outside a friend's house and who turned out to be a fellow candidate.

Then there was the time down the gym, when I was talking to a fitness instructor and he literally faltered to a stop mid-sentence as he read the “1967 – 2005” caption – his eyes bulged in appalled surprise and he blurted out “Eddie Guerrero's dead?” I had to tell him the whole sad story as he shook his head in disbelief.

But most bizarre of all was at the check-out in Tesco one lunchtime, when the woman behind the till broke off without warning from swiping my shopping to start talking about how terrible his death was and how she and her daughter had been such fans of his – just launched into it as if we'd been chatting away every day for weeks. As unlikely a wrestling fan as you could imagine, but that was Eddie for you – he touched everyone who saw him.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.