Chavo Guerrero Jr. was born and raised in the wrestling industry and even had a wrestling ring in his family's back yard while growing up. Despite that background and spending seven years wrestling prior to joining WWE, Guerrero admits he didn't really find himself until joining the promotion in 2001.
"WWE, they let you definitely explore your character, and refine it, and evolve it, and then you're wrestling so much. I was wrestling so much. The pinnacle of my career was really there. WCW, I was still learning and still kind of trying to find that spot, and then, now, WWE - you hit that stride, and I was going, and going, and going," said Chavo. "So, that was awesome, but you can only do that for so long, and it's either you bow out kind of when you're still good or do you... I didn't want to be that guy that was still coming in and still working. I didn't want that."
When a wrestler makes it to a national promotion like WCW or WWE, that doesn't mean they've "made it" in their minds. Everyone has a different motivation and needs a different form of validation to believe that they've truly reached where they want to reach. Chavo was asked which point in his career did he believe he truly branched out in the business and became his own person rather than living off the Guerrero name.
"Once you start getting real confident of yourself in the ring, wrestling is an art form. I'm a third-generation pro wrestler with a wrestling ring in my backyard, and lived and breathed wrestling my entire life, and it took me five years. You're looking at 1,500 matches before I really felt like I knew what I was doing, and then another five years until I had people like Ric Flair/Stone Cold Steve Austin coming up to me and go, 'Hey, man. Great match. You guys tore it down tonight.' That's 10 years in. That's 3,000 matches wrestling at the highest level of wrestling.
"To get really good at this art, it's very tough, and guys like Kurt Angle that came in and were good in two years, it's unheard of. He's just a phenom, but people like that, it's insane, and even he will tell you. I just did a commercial with him for Smart Cups. So, we just did that, and Kurt even told me. He goes, 'You and Eddie led us. The first three months that I and Benoit [were teaming], we're wrestling you guys.' And I go, 'We feel like you guys were leading us.' So, he says he didn't really get his stride until he was five years in and he was already WWE Champion."
Chavo was a part of many memorable feuds and storylines both as a singles competitor and as part of a tag team. He revealed which feuds he was involved in that made him think he really hit his stride.
"Probably right after Los Guerreros, when I and Eddie were doing stuff. That was such a great time in my life but a great learning experience also to be able to tag with Eddie and just see how seamlessly and flawless that we could move together without even thinking about it. But then, going off on our own, I would have to say probably that my feud with Rey Mysterio. That's when I really started getting that stride, and then going on to CM Punk, going on to Chris Benoit, going on to people like that," said Chavo.
"That stride really started coming. It takes a while. Just because you start wrestling a new guy and you're at that point, you still have to able to gel with him. It took me and Chris a month or so before we really started. People thought we were having good matches. He and I knew we were such perfectionists that we could do better, and then it would come to the point where we got out of the ring and just go, 'Man, that was awesome! That was great, dude!' So, it takes time."
During his run as Kerwin White, Chavo was denouncing his Hispanic heritage by portraying a token white guy. He even wanted to take the character a step further by donning a white sheet as if he was a member of the KKK. Eddie's untimely death prematurely ended the Kerwin White character, but Chavo talked about wanting to push the envelope as a heel.
"I wanted to [wear a white sheet]. Absolutely. I grew up in the time in wrestling where the more heat, the better. I wanted to fight my way to the dressing room every night. I wanted to have to sneak out the back window. I wanted to be in the streets and people yell, 'We hate you!', because that's heat. That's what I wanted," stated Chavo. "I didn't want them to say, 'Hey look, its Chavo. Hey, what's up?' I want them to look at me and think, 'God, we hate you.' I was a heel. That's what you do as a heel."
He then talked more about being such a dastardly heel that he elicited visceral reactions from fans.
"Still to this day, I'll have people on Instagram/social media contact me and say, 'You know what? I really hated you when I was younger. When you made Rey Mysterio quit, I hated you. I get it now.' I say, 'Thank you. I was doing my job', and they say, 'I understand now.' But at the time, they go, 'I hated you so much.' Good, that's what I wanted! I wanted people to hate me; that was my job. So, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it 100 percent. We never got to that point, but I was ready," said Chavo.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Chris Van Vliet Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.