At the very start of the first brand split, several moved from one show to other following the inaugural WWE draft in mid-2002. While some workers were chosen outright for certain shows in the draft, others were left as free agents to be traded between shows. This led to many wrestlers floating between the two weekly shows before settling on the one that fit them the best. The two shows, Raw and SmackDown, were also settling into their new identities, with Raw being the more “sports entertainment” oriented show with big angles and storylines, while Paul Heyman decided to take SmackDown in a direction more structured around basic old school wrestling storytelling; competitive matches between rising stars and contenders looking to climb up the ranks. Don’t be fooled; SmackDown was surely still a WWE product, but at the time it was the most grounded content they were putting out and it quickly became considered the favorite of the two brands. And with Triple H running Raw as the top act and beating everyone in sight, SmackDown became the place to be if you were a young talent looking to make a future for themselves in the company. This leads us to our topic of discussion: Eddie Guerrero vs Edge.
The Rubber Match and the SmackDown Six
Two stars who arrived on the SmackDown brand and quickly became cornerstones of the brand were Eddie Guerrero, and a pre-“Rated R Superstar” Edge. Edge was fresh off his long tag team run with Christian, who he had split from the previous year. Christian was drafted to Raw and was to become the workhorse of the mid-card, but Edge was always set up for bigger things. Meanwhile, Eddie Guerrero, who had until then been an incredibly successful and popular mid-card act, was a new acquisition for the SmackDown brand in the many trades that were conducted between the two brands in the weeks following the draft.
It wasn’t long before Paul Heyman put both young competitors in a program with each other, regularly cutting promos and having a pair of pay-per-view matches with each other (Edge at SummerSlam, Eddie the following month at Unforgiven), with each taking a victory over the other, making things dead even between the two hungry young sharks and setting things up for the Eddie Guerrero vs Edge rubber match; a No Disqualification Match to settle once and for all who was the better man.
The feud between the two men was beautifully simplistic. There was no big angle or event that led to the two men feuding with each other. The whole point of the feud was to feature two young, talented athletes competing over who would move up in the ranks over the other. Simply put, there was no point in making the audience believe they disliked each other for any other reason, so they didn’t, making the story more believable albeit uncomplicated. Eddie Guerrero vs Edge was a wonderful example of minimalist storytelling, a lost art in pro wrestling that used to be its very backbone.
What nobody knew at the time was how the two men’s work together would end up forming something far larger later in the year, as they would become a third of the now well-known “SmackDown Six,” a group of wrestlers who “put SmackDown on the map” so to speak, comprised of Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Edge. Together, the six of them would have matches with each other in different variations of tag teams, singles, etc. that would carry SmackDown as a brand for the next 6 years, even after certain members of the group had left the company. If one were looking for the true beginning of the group though, this feud and the three Eddie Guerrero vs Edge matches it was comprised of could be considered the first blueprint for it.
Eddie Guerrero vs Edge: No DQ
Eddie Guerrero and Edge make their entrances respectively and lock up as soon as the bell rings, but Guerrero immediately takes Edge to the corner and starts punching and kicking away at his opponent before Irish Whipping him into the ropes and catching him with a sharp back elbow off the rebound. Guerrero attempts to isolate Edge more with a side headlock. Edge shoots Guerrero off into the ropes to get out of it, only to be met again with a body-block off the ropes, knocking Edge to the ground. Edge is quick-witted, though, and catches Guerrero with a huge monkey flip after dazing him with an attempted trip-up and a leapfrog, sending him halfway across the ring and into the ropes.
From there, Edge presses the advantage and takes the fight to Guerrero, blistering him in the corner with punches and kicks, but Guerrero quickly pulls on Edge’s hair and rakes his eyes, maneuvers that are perfectly legal in this match. Edge still manages though to get a double wristlock on Guerrero after this, looking to eat up his space and keep him from using his usual dynamic, Lucha Libre-based offense. Guerrero escapes the hold by ramming Edge’s back into the turnbuckle, staggering Edge enough for Guerrero to get some more shots in. He beats Edge down to the second rope, before draping his throat over it and leaping over the top rope to the floor, hot-shotting Edge on the way down. When he re-enters the ring, he pins Edge with his feet on the second rope for added leverage for a near fall.
After reversing an Irish Whip from Guerrero, Edge back body drops “Latino Heat,” who gets some serious height before crashing to the mat. Guerrero gets back to his feet, but Edge immediately greets him with a dropkick, knocking him back to the ground in the corner. Edge body-slams Guerrero before coming off the ropes with an elbow drop, then bars the arm he wrist-locked earlier, looking to do further damage to it. Eddie isn’t in it long though, and quickly fights his way to his feet and hits a big enziguri, knocking Edge to the ground.
After punching him to the ground a few more times, Eddie hits a gorgeous vertical suplex before putting Edge in a rear chin-lock to keep him grounded once more. I’d like to note that we are now about five minutes into this No DQ Match and so far, have not seen any weapons yet. Both men have been finding ways to take advantage of the rules without having to resort to chairs and tables, so they haven’t found the need to bring them into the match yet. It’s just the beginning of a steady buildup, where both men will find themselves taking greater and greater liberties with the lack of enforced rules, which will inevitably end up with both men doing crazier and more desperate things to try and put the other away. Again, very effective and simplistic storytelling.
Edge fights his way to his feet and out of the chin-lock, rallying the crowd behind him as he does so, but Guerrero grabs a handful of hair to keep the hold on. It is to no avail, and Edge shoots him off anyway, catching Guerrero with a ferocious and explosive powerslam for a near fall. Looking to up the ante in his offense, Edge goes to the top rope, looking for a big move. Guerrero is quick to his feet, however, and meets Edge on the top rope almost immediately, hitting a big superplex for near fall, both men’s bodies bouncing completely off the mat from the impact.
After reversing another whip into the ropes, Edge attempts to catch Guerrero with a flapjack off the rebound but Guerrero quickly counters it into an attempted spin-around frankensteiner. Edge catches him though, before walking over to the corner and dropping Guerrero face first onto the top turnbuckle and clotheslining him over the top rope to the floor below.
An Escalation in Violence
After following Guerrero out of the ring, Edge reaches under the apron to get our first piece of hardware; a ladder, of course. Edge loads the ladder up onto his shoulder and runs toward Eddie to hit him in the head with it, but Eddie ducks and the referee gets hit instead, taking a brutal bump, and getting knocked out in the process. Edge is distracted by this and gets nailed in the back with a forearm from Eddie, who then goes under the ring for his own weaponry.
Guerrero finds it in the form of a steel chair, and whacks Edge flat across the back with it, knocking him down to the ground in a heap. Rolling Edge back into the ring, Guerrero brings the chair in with him and beats on Edge with it some more, hitting him in the ribs with it repeatedly to a chorus of “Eddie sucks!” chants from the San Diego crowd. Sensing a potential victory nearing, Guerrero goes to the top rope for the Frog Splash, looking to land it on Edge’s injured back and ribs, only for Edge to roll out of the way at the last second. Guerrero crashes stomach first to the mat in an unholy crash, leaving both men incapacitated on the ground as we roll into commercial break.
When we come back from break, we see that, despite the missed Frog Splash, Eddie Guerrero is still firmly in control of the match. He punches and kicks away at Edge like a wildman out of frustration, much to the chagrin of new referee Mike Chioda, here to replace referee Mike Sparks who was hit with the ladder before break. Edge gets caught in a sleeper hold off the ropes after Eddie Irish Whips him into them, and we see that during the commercial break Edge managed to hit a wicked Spear to Guerrero but there was no referee to count the pinfall. By the time Chioda made it to the ring to replace Sparks, Guerrero had enough time to recover and kick out just before three for a close near fall.
Edge fights out of the sleeper by elbowing his way out. Guerrero ducks a clothesline from Edge coming off the ropes, but Edge comes back for a second rebound to catch Guerrero and hit him with a half-nelson facebuster, driving his face into the mat for a close near fall. The momentum now in his favor a bit, Edge decides to go to the second rope for more offense. Guerrero is, once again, too fast for Edge and meets him on the turnbuckle to hit a nearly flawless hurricanrana from the top for a near fall.
Picking Edge back up, Guerrero uses a single knuckle lock to wrench and punch away at the arm and elbow joint of Edge, setting him up for a big head scissors out of the corner. He runs up the turnbuckles with the grace of a cat, jumping to Edge’s shoulders, but Edge catches him and drops down immediately, dumping Guerrero on the back of his head and neck with force via a brutal sit-out powerbomb.
The Finishing Stretch
At this stage of the match, both men are obviously nearly spent for energy. They’ve hit several big moves, and both punished each other with chairs and ladders. Now as we near the finishing stretch of the match, we know both men are going to have to get more intense and dangerous to put each other away. Knowing this, Edge rolls out of the ring to get the ladder he’d brought out earlier. He brings it into the ring but gets caught almost immediately with a big dropkick from Guerrero, smashing the ladder into Edge’s chest and knocking him to the ground.
Guerrero rolls out of the ring and gets a ladder of his own, bringing it into the ring and laying it down before European uppercutting Edge onto the ladder, getting a good pop from the crowd for a relatively safe bump. He takes the other ladder and lays it on top of Edge, sandwiching him between the two, before going to the apron and slingshotting himself over the top rope for a devastating ladder assisted hilo, crushing Edge and even doing some damage to the lower back of Guerrero himself. The crowd, who was just chanting “Eddie sucks” not ten minutes ago, is now chanting his name, having been won over by such a daring performance from the man. Make no mistake though, they are still firmly behind Edge as well as they pop from him kicking out afterward.
Most likely looking for a Frog Splash from the top of a ladder, Guerrero sets up and begins climbing one in the corner. Edge gets up quick enough to climb the ladder to meet Guerrero up there, who begs for mercy. Edge doesn’t grant him it and begins punching away at the face of Guerrero, almost knocking him off the ladder backward and to the floor outside. Guerrero manages to hang on though, and answers with some punches of his own before ramming Edge’s head repeatedly into the top rung of the ladder, dazing and confusing him in the process, opening him up to hit a picture perfect, flawless Sunset Flip Powerbomb off the ladder to Edge for the closest near fall of the match.
Desperate now, Guerrero leans the ladder in the corner and sets Edge up against it, before running at him from the opposite corner, Edge catches Guerrero before he can hit whatever he’s looking for, and back body drops him high up into the air and into the ladder in the corner. Guerrero’s lower back and kidneys crash into the ladder before he comes down hard on his head and neck, folding up like an old book before laying on the ground seemingly unconscious.
Looking to finally put an end to the match, Edge sets up the other ladder in the other corner and begins climbing it, looking to hit something off the top. Guerrero gets to his feet quickly enough, however. “Latino Heat” nails Edge in the back of the leg, slowing him down and allowing Guerrero to climb the other side. When he gets up there though, Edge returns the favor from earlier and begins ramming Guerrero’s head into the top rung of the ladder, disorienting him. He then front face-locks Guerrero before dragging him to the top rope to his side and hitting a super Edge-O-Cution DDT off the ladder for the three-count and the deciding victory in the feud between the two.
Eddie Guerrero vs Edge – In Conclusion
All in all, this Eddie Guerrero vs Edge match certainly deserves the high praise it gets. It’s every bit as good as one would expect from a match between these two, who were both arguably in the physical primes of their careers at the time. It’s a shame that the company never ran the match back in future years with the roles reversed. An inter-brand match in 2004 between a freshly heel-turned “Rated-R Superstar” Edge and a top babyface Eddie Guerrero would have surely been a fun program to talk about for years to come. Matches like this one that they had in previous years are more than enough to sate any wrestling fan’s desire for entertaining content.