What a year!!! Between Feburary 4, 1977 and Feburary 10, 1978, Chavo Guerrero Sr. beat former NWA World Champion Dory Funk Jr. for the America’s Title, would win the America’s title 3 more times, and would wrestle AWA World Champ Nick Bockwinkel to a 60 minute draw in San Antonio, TX. Chavo would also wrestle NWA World Champ Harley Race in San Francisco and WWWF World Champ Superstar Billy Graham in Los Angeles, earning a victory when Graham could not longer continue due to excessive bleeding. During that span of time, Chavo would win the NWA Light Heavyweight title twice, the America’s Tag Team titles 3 times with 3 different partners, and defeat the likes of Roddy Piper, Bull Ramos, Keith Frank (Adrian Adonis), Texas Red (Red Bastein), Killer Tim Brooks, Larry “The Ax” Hennig, Toru Tanaka, Mr. Saito, Black Gordman, Victor Rivera, and Alfonso Dantes! In one 12 month period, Chavo Guerrero Sr. would accomplish much more than most Professional wrestlers aspire to in an entire career.
Born on January 7, 1949, Salvador Guerrero Jr., otherwise known as Chavo Guerrero Sr., was born with wrestling in his blood. The eldest son of Legendary Luchador Salvador “Gory” Guerrero, “Chavo” was single minded in his aspirations. Simply put, he always wanted to become a professional wrestler and a great one at that. Chavo studied judo as a youth and was a standout in amateur wrestling both in High School and while attending the University of Texas at El Paso. The skills and knowledge he gained in those endeavors undoubtedly contributed to his skills in the professional ring, but even more critical was the invaluable training he received at the hands of his father. For Gory Guerrero would not only instill in Chavo the necessary basics and discipline to become successful in his ring work but also the professionalism that is critical for long term success.
Chavo would begin his professional career in 1970 initially using the name “Gory Guerrero Jr.” before soon being billed as Chavo Guerrero. Chavo refereed and wrestled in West Texas, primarily in his father’s wrestling promotion in El Paso, before moving onto Mike Labelle’s Los Angeles Wrestling promotion in the summer of 1975. Chavo would make an immediate impact in Southern California, and after being in the promotion for only a month, he would win a tournament for the Jules Strongbow Scientific Wrestler Trophy on July 31, 1975 in Bakersfield, California. 3 months later Chavo would also defeat pro wrestling legend Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd beginning what would be the first of 15 reigns as the NWA America’s Heavyweight Champion, the most in wrestling history.
Already possessing immense talent, Chavo would “soak up like a sponge” the wisdom passed onto him by veterans like Ladd, Race, and Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk, fine tuning his ring psychology and ring generalship, resulting in the adoration of the California wrestling fans, money at the box office, and the respect of his peers. Professionalism would be another hallmark of Chavo’s career, as he was unselfish in the ring, not only looking to get himself “over” but also get over his opponent, the match, and the angle itself. And his professionalism wasn’t limited to his display of physical skills because it also included his professionalism. Chavo was known for the fine appearance of his ring attire, which included beautiful boots, ring jackets, and he kept everything color coordinated. He even kept a log to make sure he didn’t wear the same ring gear too often!
Chavo Guerrero was a master of gaining the emotional involvement of the wrestling fans that witnessed his work and to this day, there are thousands, many who still live in California as well as those who have migrated to other parts of the country, who fondly remember his 5 years “on top” in Los Angeles.
And Chavo Guerrero’s success would not be limited to the Southern California area. In addition to the 15 times he held the America’s Heavyweight title, the 11 times that he held the America’s tag team titles, 2 times he would hold the NWA World Light Heavyweight title, Chavo would also find success in Japan. In 1978 he took a tour of Japan where he would establish himself as and International Wrestling star as well as begin a memorable series of matches and rivalry with WWF Jr. Heavyweight World Champion Tatsumi Fujinami. These two, along with the original Tiger Mask would be the pioneers in successfully blending the Lucha Libre, Japanese, and U.S. styles of wrestling that would later be emulated and evolved by such greats as Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, The Great Sasuke, Jushin Liger, and The Great Muta. Chavo Guerrero Sr. was truly ahead of his time.
As well as endearing himself in the hearts and minds of the Japanese wrestling fans and winning the NWA International Jr. Heavyweight title on 3 occasions in All-Japan, Chavo would also continue to have success here in the U.S., winning regional titles in Florida, Texas, and Hawaii, as well as wrestling in the Mid-South, UWF, and AWA promotions. His success even included a stint as part of the WWA Trios Tag Team Champions in Mexico, along with his brothers Mando and Eddie.
In a few months Chavo would tour Japan and begin a series of matches and rivalry with Fujinami over the WWF Jr. Heavyweight title. Those two, along with Tiger Mask would be the Pioneers in successfully blending the Lucha, Japanese, and U.S. styles that would later be emulated and evolved by such greats as Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Malenko, Sasuke, Liger, and Muta. Chavo, Fujinami, and Tiger Mask were truly ahead of their time.
And in 2004 Chavo Guerrero would introduce himself to a new generation of fans and do it on a new stage. He would spend several months in the WWE as “Chavo Classic” to the delight of fans that had admired and followed him for years and to the amazement of those who had never witnessed his work before. For while he had understandably a step, he was still able to display some of the Chavo Guerrero many had come to know and love, including his famous “moonsault” off the top rope. And on May 18, 2004, Chavo Guerrero Sr. would make history once again, as he became the WWE Cruiserweight Champion at the age of 55. It was one more great achievement for a man who is truly a “Classic” and truly a Legend.
– Rock Rims (The Flying Body Press)