I Lie, I Cheat, I Steal: An Examination of Eddie Guerrero and WWE Cultural Appropriation

Curator's Note

I lie, I cheat, I steal!” are the first lyrics heard when the famed and beloved former WWE superstar, Eddie Guerrero, entered the wrestling ring. Guerrero, whose sudden death shocked the professional wrestling entertainment landscape, was an iconic representation of Mexican ethnicity in the ring and resistant to performances of his ethnic appropriation out of it. Coming from a Mexican family of former professional wrestlers and luchadors, Guerrero established a strong, predominately Hispanic, fan base, despite Guerrero’s persona as a thief, an underdog, and a deviant in the eyes of the WWE, his presence in wrestling entertainment dialectically symbolizes a familial legacy.

Guerrero’s cultural appropriation underscores racial underpinning that occurs within the professional wrestling entertainment industry. Guerrero’s particular wrestling persona exhibits a stereotypical Latino persona that is masculinized, eroticized, and criminalized as exhibited by vignettes portraying Los Guerreros playing golf or hosting sexy pool parties.  Despite Eddie Guerrero reluctance to engage in these vignettes, Guerrero submitted to the industry because he was assured it would be best for his career. While Guerrero’s apparent personification as a low-riding cholo presents an overarching narrative of the Mexican gangster, the racial appropriation enacted by the industry creates a questionable and problematic commercialized exploitation of an oppressed ethnic minority.

Guerrero’s legacy will not be forgotten in the world of professional wrestling entertainment. His presence in the WWE as a dominant Latino persona demonstrates a diverse wrestling landscape, but his presence does not omit its own racial undertones. Nonetheless, the WWE universe will shout “Viva Eddie Guerrero” in remembrance of a legend.

Comments

Bernadette Marie Calafell's picture

Sasha Banks

Sasha Banks aka the Boss has also frequently drawn on Eddie Guerrero as one of her central influences. In some cases announcers have referenced his legacy of “I lie, I cheat, I steal” when discussing her performance. It makes for an interesting racial referent that now infuses her racial performance and understanding of it as well by audiences.

Bernadette Marie Calafell's picture

Sasha and Eddie

I saw this today and thought I would share: http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2015/10/8/9477355/sasha-banks-best-heel-wwe-nxt-takeover-respect-bayley-izzy

Nick Rangel's picture

Izzy has Bank(s)

What kind of money do her folks have? She was at the NXT show in Houston too. And if a regular can’t take being the butt of heelishness, what have we come to? Chris Sabin made a crybaby face at my son when he tore his streamers at an ROH show, my son loved it. And Stevie Ray frequently makes mean faces at him…In all seriousness, Banks is awesome…

Nick Rangel's picture

The Best Ever???

Few performers ever have combined Guerrero’s combination of workrate, promo ability, and overall charisma. Everyone just remembers the cholo swagger, which “SuperMex” Hernandez and Konnan have tried to crib but they so lack in the other areas that it doesn’t work and exacerbates the ethnoracial appropriation problems you identify above. Also interesting that Guerrero made his bones as an Anti-Mexican heel in AAA.

Dr. Kristine Weglarz's picture

Guerrero is top 5, easily.

Guerrero is top 5, easily.

Garret Castleberry's picture

Is It Ever "Ok" to Pay Your Dues?

J.J., terrific post that continues to expand our discourse concerning racism and wrestling this week. Deconstructing the cultural history of Eddie Guerrero’s numerous layers within the industry feels like a brain busting task.

Guerrero continues the well-worn theme of incestuous, or rather, “legacy” wrestlers that span multi-generations within various circuits and competing companies.

While plenty celebrate Guerrero’s opportunity as an in-ring champion of many belts, his function as an external champion is arguably more important. With Eddie, audiences were given a non-traditional minority figure who occupied a heel-ish role (during peek visibility with WWE) that he embraced with such a brazen outlaw spirit (and humorous affect) that his persona was able to successfully win crowds over. While we’ve talked about the hero’s journey this week, as well as arcs of “redemption”, Eddie embodies the most contemporary brand of crossover marketability coming out of the Attitude Era, when a ‘Superstar’ plays the heel card with such charisma that the crowd interjects his/her ability to perform that roll, thus sparking a reversal role perhaps quicker than planned by writers and bookers. The “Lie, Cheat, Steal” mantra follows the in-ring flavor patented (televisually at least) by Ric Flair but homespun through Eddie in a way that reminds us of WWE’s ethnocentric recurrences. I recall my personal experience cringing at the sight of Guerrero and his posse rolling down the ramps on lowrider lawnmowers. I am not quite certain as to the level of audience identification for some, but for me it was a queasy evocation in poor taste. Perhaps, J.J., you said it best when you consider Guerrero a ‘team player’ at whatever cost. And while we can logically deduce informed speculation into the additives that led to his early death, one wonders what his role might look like today if he were still alive? Would he have innovated WWE’s PC modus operandi, or would Eddie have helped lead the charge with the growing interest in Lucha Underground?

J.J. Ceniceros's picture

Does Guerrero resemble an overarching Latino narrative?

I wondered myself how Guerrero might have been perceived in a contemporary WWE era. I would project that the depiction of Guerrero as an over-vamped Mexican superstar would have persisted. His willingness to submit to these cholo-esque performances could be symbolic of his charismatic resilience as a wrestler making the most of his opportunity, seemingly parallel to the pulse of a transnational Latino narrative. Interestingly enough, it is amusing to see this narrative juxtaposed to your observation of Guerrero’s journey as a multi-generational wrestler traveling across multiple circuits and companies. I am slightly skeptical that the WWE would necessarily would steer away from continuing to exploit this narrative by the sheer characteristics the demographic represents: a silent and invisible minority that is regularly exploited in other forms of media without retaliation because for fear of punishment or familial shame.

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