In November of 2005, Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away due to heart failure at the age of 38. The wrestling world was devastated by the news of Eddie’s passing, including his close friend Rey Mysterio. A month later at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Mysterio dedicated his performance in the match to his late friend and won the match as the 2nd entrant to book his ticket to WrestleMania.
On the post-Royal Rumble episode of SmackDown, Randy Orton confronted Mysterio after being eliminated by Rey in the final two and criticized him and Eddie. In a moment many would like to forget, Orton told Rey that his friend didn’t go to heaven, that he was in hell and also made a comment saying Rey had as much of a chance of beating him as Eddie did of coming back to life. The distasteful comments were used in the storyline to add Orton into Rey’s World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania vs. Kurt Angle, making it a Triple Threat.
On the latest episode of the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross talked about Orton being told to use those comments about Eddie for the storyline with Mysterio. Ross said it did not work and made fans stop watching the product and tune out of the upcoming No Way Out event where Orton and Rey would face off.
“It didn’t work and it was distasteful,” Ross said. “It was the wrong kind of heat. There’s money drawing heat where you want to pay money to see the heel get the sh** kicked out of him, that’s what you want to do.
“[The Eddie is in hell] is the wrong kind of [heat]. Go away heat, I don’t want to see you anymore, I don’t want to hear it anymore. I understand it’s fiction, I get it, but we made the wrong turn on the road to get to the destination.”
Orton defeated Mysterio at the following pay-per-view, No Way Out, and was added to the World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. Ross mentioned how Orton’s comments made fans continuously think about Eddie’s tragic passing during the show. He said there was zero positivity coming out of this angle and it was worse when Rey lost to Randy.
“I think we got into deeper water than it needed to be,” Ross said. “It’s pro wrestling, it should be a relief, it should be where you can release if nothing else. Sit and enjoy the show without having to deal with continually talking about one of the most popular guys and top stars in the world passing away prematurely.
“I don’t see where that creates anything positive. We traveled this road we didn’t need to be on and once you get down it so far it’s kind of like now what? We created something negative. It creates the wrong image, wrong vibe, wrong feel.”
Ross continued to try and explain why Vince McMahon would have been fine with Orton using those lines in his promo so shortly after Eddie had passed suddenly. He said even though personal issues can create buzz, this was the wrong spot for it.
“Personal issues always draw more money than titles,” Ross said. “They always have, they always will. That’s me not knocking titles, but I think we really missed the boat on that deal. Why did we even start this journey this way? The way they presented the personal issue by saying Eddie went to hell, ugh really? What were we thinking?”
Ross was asked by co-host Conrad Thompson how the promo made air and said a decision that big obviously comes from Vince. He talked about Vickie Guerrero being okay with WWE using her husband’s name in storylines so soon after he passed, noting that she was just trying to get a job with the company at the time.
“Big decisions like that are blessed by the old man,” Ross said. Vince would have been the one to make that call. I think Vickie was very leery to disagree with a major creative element of this pay per view and didn’t want to cause any ruckus. She was looking at work, and she was looking to feed her girls.
“Vickies just a wonderful person. She’s a sweetheart to be around, all the women that work [in AEW] love her. She’s a great sounding board for them, she’s seasoned, has a great resume. She helps us in AEW a lot in that regard. She was probably a little bit leery of rocking the boat and didn’t want to piss off [Vince].”
In a way to try and lessen the heat that Orton was receiving, Orton came out on the next week’s SmackDown and stated that his comments were only to get inside Mysterio’s head. He also said he didn’t know if Eddie was in heaven or hell, but didn’t really care. Ross talked about WWE backpedaling Orton’s comments and said it was due to the backlash they were receiving from everyone, not just fans.
“It was obvious they were backing their steps up and retracing where they’ve been after realizing the feedback they were receiving,” JR said. “I think Vince got feedback from everybody, whether he asked for it or not, that it was a little bit risky doing something along those lines. Playing with people’s emotions in an arena that you can’t win in.
“A lot of people thought it was distasteful, the company went back to repair the damage but it’s already out there, it’s too late. I can’t imagine if that happened to me and [my wife] Jan was ringside with my 2 daughters how they would react. What is there to love about it? Because it came out of Vince’s head and we don’t want to piss him off.”
Ross also talked about Orton’s current run with WWE and how many people regarding him as the best heel in the business right now.
“He’s there in that conversation,” Ross said. “I don’t have any problem saying that. I am also loyal to AEW because they pay me. That shouldn’t be hard for people to figure out. Somebody asked me on Twitter this weekend ‘Who’s your favorite NFL team?’ Duh, the [Jacksonville] Jaguars. Hello? The Khan family pays me and I love my work cause I’m still working in wrestling.
“Randy’s amazing. He’s always had those great instincts. When we hired Randy, he was in a magical class. Orton was in there with Cena, Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin and all those guys were players. They could all realistically with the right build up be in a WrestleMania main event and most of them have.”