The following is an excerpt from Fightful's Inside The Royal Rumble feature. For the full story an additional context, please visit the full article at this link, and when posting quotes from this piece, please link to the original article.
As we said, the Royal Rumble is a variety show. You laugh, you cry, you're on the edge of your seat. At least that's the intent. For that dramatic finish and story to play out in a manner that either leaves you satisfied, or coming back for satisfaction. One of those instances was the 2006 Royal Rumble and Rey Mysterio.
Two months removed from the unfortunate passing of Eddie Guerrero, WWE built a story gaining sympathy for his friend and foe Rey Mysterio. This led to a dramatic, record-setting Royal Rumble victory. As Court Bauer recalls it from being a part of creative, Vince McMahon wanted to turn Mysterio into Guerrero of sorts.
"I think the prevailing thought was Rey should win coming off of the death of Eddie Guerrero," Bauer remembered. "It was a weird time, too, because Vince wanted to, by design, create an opportunity to get some heat and heat up Randy Orton. So, they did what many people consider—internally, of course, and the fans and media—a fairly distasteful set-up with Orton and Rey and trying to, per the chairman, create heat for Orton in that situation using Eddie’s name. There was a lot of justification that this is what Eddie would love and this is what Eddie would want. It’s not like we have a direct line to Eddie Guerrero to get his notes and his feedback. So, it was a little uncomfortable for a lot of us. But, the idea was that Rey would be earmarked to be the top star to ascend in the aftermath of that horrible tragedy."
Eddie Guerrero's passing left a huge hole in WWE, both personally and professionally. The company lost a beloved star. They also lost an integral performer and character who had been a part of a major world title feud at the time of his passing. This led to some scrambling to find someone who could fit that mold, something Bauer says they just couldn't do. However, it became very clear from the start of planning the 2006 Royal Rumble that Mysterio would emerge victoriously.
"It’s weird because I remember that moment in time where you try to pick up the pieces after Eddie Guerrero’s passing and try to figure out, ‘Okay, what’s next? How do we figure this out?’ Vince is saying we need to find the next Eddie Guerrero and I’m instantly, personally, thinking, ‘Well, you don’t just find the next anyone, especially not someone so super talented like an Eddie Guerrero.’ It’s like, back in the 80s when Vince was already, in the late 80s, looking for the next Hulk Hogan and the next this guy, the next that guy. There’s only one Rock, there’s only one Hogan, there’s only one Austin, there’s only one Eddie, there’s only one John Cena. You can’t just clone that or make another talent just because he’s Hispanic is going to be that, and I’m not just, by any way, devaluing Rey Mysterio. He’s an incredible attraction, a Hall of Famer. But, he’s not the same. You can’t program him. You can’t write, you can’t book a Rey Mysterio the same way as Eddie Guerrero. Eddie Guerrero had a totally different persona, totally different belief system as a character—lying, cheating stealing. Rey Mysterio was a totally different character. He was so much smaller and was like a superhero come to life. The children related to him different. His audience was slightly different. Eddie was a little greyer. He had a little edge to him. He could be a lot of things. It couldn’t be the same thing. But Rey was, for all intents and purposes, our guy going into the Rumble in 2006," Bauer said.
Another special moment came outside the auspices of television cameras. When Shane Helms made his surprise appearance in 2018, he returned backstage to meet Roman Reigns -- the brother of his recently fallen former tag team partner Rosey. The moment was captured in a touching photograph that went viral.
Helms said that actually wasn't the first time he and Reigns had crossed paths after Rosey's passing and said that he navigated the territory carefully when talking to Rosey's younger brother.
"I got to talk to him -- I went to a house show after Rosey passed and we had a moment there. I was able to express how I felt and condolences. It was nothing I want to get heavy into when somebody's gotta go to work. 'This is how I feel now go risk your life in the ring here.' I don't want to bring anyone down too much," Helms told Fightful
As emotional as the photo itself looks, Helms indicated that it's much more a highlight of the good person that Roman Reigns himself is, and how much Rosey meant to him personally.
"At the Royal Rumble, we weren't having this deep conversation, we were just two dudes talking," said Helms. "Because of the history with his brother, it did add a little special meaning to that picture. It looks like we're about to embrace. That's just him being a good guy, when you talk, he listens. I think that was my caption, whenever I see Roman, I see Rosey. I see him and I think about good things, but I see him and I miss Rosey, too."