(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar – WWE No Way Out 2004

wwe eddie guerrero brock lesnar

This is another review that came courtesy of a reader request. It’s one of the most iconic and fondly remembered matches from the WWE Ruthless Aggression Era. Not only did it have a classic David vs. Goliath dynamic, but it’s one of the best and most heartwarming examples of a redemption arc in modern pro-wrestling.

Almost twenty years have passed since this match took place, and now that the initial emotional hoopla over this match and its moments has passed, let’s see how well it holds up.

Today we revisit the WWE title match between Brock Lesnar and Eddie Guerrero from No Way Out 2004.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

This match took place at a time of great change in WWE. On one side there was champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar was in the midst of another strong world title run and was running roughshod all over SmackDown. Yet ever since he debuted, fans were asking one question: “when is Lesnar facing Goldberg?” WCW icon Goldberg was the other big signing WWE had at the time and he was Lesnar’s RAW-exclusive equivalent at the time. Lesnar and Goldberg both demolished people left and right (though Lesnar had much more booking success since he was a pure WWE creation whereas Goldberg was not), and since both of them were so similar, fans were salivating at the idea of the two monsters facing off.

Lesnar had already started a feud with Goldberg, but before he could get his hands on him, he had to address his title situation. Since Lesnar and Goldberg were on different shows, Lesnar wasn’t likely to defend his title against Goldberg at WrestleMania XX. So on the road to WrestleMania was a PPV called No Way Out, and challenging Lesnar for the title at that show was one Eddie Guerrero.

Eddie’s career in WWE had been inextricably tied to his personal life since 2001. He was part of the Radicalz in 2000 and was rising as a star until his untimely firing from WWE due to a laundry list of personal problems. His substance abuse problems sent him spiraling out of control to the point that he nearly killed himself in a terrible car accident. He was fired from WWE, his wife left him until he got better, and he added more injuries onto his war-torn body. In simpler terms, Eddie hit rock bottom. But he didn’t wallow in self-pity or go down a path of no return. Instead, Eddie bounced back and returned to WWE through sheer force of will. He sobered up, conquered his personal demons, and achieved great success on Smackdown. Throughout 2002 and into 2004, Eddie was one of the Smackdown Six, a group of rising stars that stole the show on a weekly basis. Eddie rose through the ranks gradually until he found himself staring down the biggest threat of his career, Brock Lesnar.

It was a classic example of David vs. Goliath. Lesnar had almost a full foot and 75 pounds of pure muscle over Eddie. He was younger, stronger and, depending on whom you asked, a better amateur athlete. Eddie had experience and blood on his side (he was part of a storied and iconic wrestling family) as well as an up-swell of popularity stemming from his above-mentioned quest for personal and professional redemption. But could those intangible traits of Eddie’s carry him to victory? Could he use those benefits against a Goliath that thus far had rarely lost to anyone and that had a superhuman physique? There was only one way to find out.

The match

This match originally took place on February 15th, 2004 at No Way Out. It was rated **** out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****1/2 by TJR’s John Canton. Canton also called it one of his favorite matches ever and I’ve heard similar praise from many fans about this one. So let’s take a look and see how well it holds up.

This is for Lesnar’s WWE Championship. The crowd is firmly behind Eddie as the match begins. Lesnar trash-talks Eddie and backs that up by overpowering him. Lesnar stomps and chokes Eddie in the corner and then lands a big back body drop. Then he suplexes Eddie across the ring and hits some nasty body shots to stop Eddie’s attempt at a comeback. Eddie hits an elbow to block a corner charge and lands some punches but Lesnar shuts him down again with a single kneelift. Eddie tries another escape from a corner with a headscissor but Lesnar counters with both a powerbomb and a modified giant swing. Lesnar follows with two massive belly-to-belly suplexes and a corner kneelift. Eddie tries fighting back again but Lesnar lands one kneelift and Eddie’s back on the mat. Another belly-to-belly sends Eddie to the floor and Lesnar kciks Eddie back out as he tries to re-enter the ring. Lesnar tries attacking Eddie on the apron again but Eddie hits a shoulder to the gut and a stungun. Eddie takes advantage by smashing Lesnar’s knee into the ringpost. But on his third attempt Lesnar pulls Eddie into the post with his foot.

Back in the ring, Lesnar shows no real sign of damage as he lands a delayed Fisherman buster for a two-count. Lesnar follows with a rear naked choke with bodyscissors but Eddie fights through and counters with a type of Stunner. Eddie charges but Lesnar goes for a gorilla press. Wait, Eddie escapes and dropkicks Lesnar’s knee. He charges again but runs into a brick wall in the form of a clothesline. Lesnar hits a German suplex and then lands corner shoulder thrusts to Eddie’s gut and kidneys. Lesnar charges for another corner kneelift but this time Eddie ducks and Lesnar falls to the floor. Lesnar lands awkwardly on his weakened knee but Eddie’s not done. Pescado to the floor.

Both wrestlers slowly make it into the ring before the ref’s count of ten. Eddie kicks Lesnar’s bad knee and then avoids a clothesline to hit a back suplex. Eddie goes for another attack but Lesnar hits another stungun on the ropes for another two-count. Lesnar stands over Eddie and gloats but he doesn’t notice Eddie threading his legs around Lesnar’s. Eddie successfully counters into a leglock on Lesnar’s bad leg. The crowd erupts in cheers as Eddie switches into an STF. Lesnar escapes the front half of the hold but Eddie still controls the leg and lands a knee smasher/back of the knee stomp combo. Eddie follows with desperation stomps to Lesnar’s knee and goes for a Figure-4 leglock but Lesnar powers out several times and then hits another belly-to-belly out of nowhere.

Fans chant “Goldberg” as both wrestlers lie on the mat. Lesnar goes for a vertical suplex but Eddie lands behind him and lands a running headscissors takedown. Eddie lands another dropkick to the knee (DTK) and then locks in a Figure-4. But Lesnar’s too powerful and he manages drag himself to the ropes to break the hold. Eddie follows with a kick to the back of the knee and a Lasso from El Paso submission hold, again targeting the knee.

Eddie applies another STF but Lesnar powers out. Eddie tries to capitalize but Lesnar answers with another German. Eddie charges but runs into a huge spinebuster for two close two-counts.

Lesnar applies another grounded rear naked choke but Eddie fights to his feet and counters by pulling Lesnar face-first into a turnbuckle pad. Eddie goes for a missile dropkick but Lesnar avoids it and hits a vertical suplex. Lesnar continues his assault on Eddie’s midsection with a grounded gutwrench which he soon turns into a suplex. Lesnar switches to amateur mode with several rolling pins but only manages some two-counts. Suddenly, Eddie looks like he’s looking up to God and starts firing up (as does the crowd). Eddie escapes Lesnar’s control with head-butts and lands another DTK. That’s follows by a dropkick to Lesnar’s head and another flying headscissor. Lesnar hits another kneelift but misses one in the corner allowing Eddie to hit the Three Amigos. The crowd jumps to their feet as Eddie goes to the top rope. Frog Splash…misses. Lesnar takes advantage and hits the F-5! But on the swing Eddie’s feet hit the referee and he goes down too. Lesnar gets a visual pin as the ref stays down and the crowd turns towards the entrance ramp. Seeing the unconscious ref, Lesnar grabs the title belt. But upon re-entering the ring here comes Goldberg. Spear to Lesnar! The crowd pops big time as now Lesnar’s advantage is more or less gone.

After what seems like an eternity, Eddie covers Lesnar as the ref comes to. One…two…thr – no, Lesnar kicks out. Eddie sees the title belt nearby and a huge grin flashes across his face. He grabs the belt. Eddie swings the belt and misses. Lesnar ducks and goes for an F-5. Wait, no, Eddie counters the F-5 into a DDT onto the belt. Awesome counter. Eddie throws the belt outside and ascends the turnbuckle again. The crowd is going absolutely nuts at this point. Frog Splash connects! One, two, three! THREE! Eddie beats Lesnar! Eddie is WWE Champion!

Winner and NEW WWE Champion after 29:55: Eddie Guerrero

Post-match, Eddie’s so elated he jumps into the crowd and celebrates with some equally-joyous fans. He’s awarded the belt and celebrates with his mom and brother at ringside.


I’m trying to review this match with a cool head and not get swept up in the post-match emotion but that’s proving to be challenging. Damn if this match didn’t take viewers on an emotional rollercoaster. It was a fantastic match that lived up to its David vs. Goliath billing. Eddie’s story of redemption was booked almost perfectly with Lesnar coming across as the physical manifestation of Eddie’s personal demons and struggles. And his win was so emotionally-satisfying. I would’ve praised this match to the moon…if not for the speed bump that made the ending fly in several different directions.

For the first twenty-five minutes of the match, everything was great if not a tad repetitive. Lesnar dominated Eddie like he had dominated everyone else. He overpowered Eddie with ease using his usual arsenal of big kneelifts, heaving suplexes and other power moves. Eddie knew that fighting Lesnar on Lesnar’s terms was a fool’s errand so he resorted to a more psychology-driven strategy: he tries to take Lesnar’s power game away by destroying his knee. That strategy worked a bit at first; Lesnar sold that limb consistently and slowed down as he moved. He still used his big power moves regardless of that bad knee at first, but as time wore on and Eddie went further down that road Lesnar saw his advantage slip away. Once Eddie had put Lesnar in the Figure-4 and those STFs, Lesnar was more or less as weakened as Eddie was. Eddie had endured brutal punishment to his back and ribs yet still fought through that to hit his big moves. He knew full well his biggest moves would hurt his own ribs and back but he persevered regardless. The pain he was putting himself through to win was worth it knowing what prize lay ahead of him. Eddie seemed like he was inching closer and closer to victory, and even though neither Lesnar nor Eddie did anything truly unique to distinguish this match from any previous big Lesnar match, the story that was unfolding was straightforward enough to connect with the crowd.

Then the ref bump happened.

As soon as the ref went down, several people in front of the hard camera turned their heads to the entrance ramp. Some of them had been chanting “Goldberg” early on, and now they patiently awaited his appearance. Just like that, the magic of this story evaporated because another side story had to be shoe-horned into this match. Yes, I know, that built-up to Lesnar vs. Goldberg, but did it really have to happen here? Did Eddie’s WWE title win require not only interference from Goldberg but a token ref bump and some underhandedness on Eddie’s part? All of those moving parts at the end contradicted the heroic redemption narrative WWE were pushing at the time. I know, Eddie’s gimmick at the time was that he was a lovable cheater that was as creative as he was determined. And yet, cheating in that way tainted his victory. Eddie couldn’t beat Lesnar fairly and on his own. The ref was a cheap addition to the match that only served as an announcement that interference was coming. And after a long wait, Goldberg made is appearance and apparently did more damage to Lesnar with one spear than Eddie did with everything up to that point. As if that wasn’t enough, the match still had to have another ‘dirty’ moment with Eddie DDT’ing Lesnar onto the title belt. That last-minute counter, while cool, further cemented Eddie’s win as cheap and not completely earned.

I can’t help but compare this match to others in the same category. Many fans compare this match to Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX or Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania 35. Except those two matches have a common element missing from this match: a pure babyface victory. In both of those cases, the babyface overcame seemingly-insurmountable odds and won on their own. Kofi overcame a then-heel Bryan and his bottomless bag of tricks all by himself without faltering from his persona or needing help from anyone else. And Bryan, when he was a heroic underdog five years beforehand, overcame three people in two matches on the same night and won the big one fair and square. No one helped Kofi and no one helped Bryan. The same couldn’t be said of Eddie here. Despite being arguably his crowning career achievement, it came with an enormous asterisk*. It lacked the catharsis a ‘pure’ win would’ve got him. Had Eddie done more on his own without the ref getting hurt and Goldberg rescuing him, this match would be more complete as a true David vs. Goliath encounter.

Final Rating: ****1/2

I agree with my friend John on this one. This is a classic match that more or less lived up to the hype and still holds up very well. Lesnar had one of the best matches of his career here and did a more-than-solid job of bullying Eddie. But Eddie didn’t falter. He persevered and won in the end and redeemed himself in an almost fairytale-like way. But this is very much an imperfect story. Maybe I’m nitpicking here but I strongly think this match would’ve been much better without the shenanigans in the closing minutes.

It made little sense for Eddie’s win to come across as slightly hollow considering that Lesnar was on his way out of the company. And since WWE was hemorrhaging top stars on SmackDown following the long-term loss of Lesnar and the short-term loss of Kurt Angle, it was critical that they establish someone to carry the brand post-WrestleMania XX. They almost succeeded with Eddie in this match, but they shot themselves in the foot in the process. If Eddie couldn’t beat Lesnar on his own, some fans wouldn’t take him seriously as the guy around whom they’d build the blue brand into 2004.

Maybe, just maybe, if Eddie’s win took place under slightly different circumstances, not only would this match have been even better, but his championship reign would’ve drawn more money as well.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.