For someone who has spent their entire adult life in the spotlight, Chavo Guerrero Jr. got the big-time call from Hollywood two years ago.
Yet for the longtime Southern California resident — and huge sports fan from a famous family no less — to transition into a full-time lights/camera/action gig included the need for him to grab his well-traveled passport and move to the other side of the world.
“I got a call from then when I was home in Orange County. Some five weeks later I am in Australia and working for Dwayne,” Guerrero said. “It has been awesome.”
“Dwayne,” as Guerrero referred to him, is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of entertainment’s biggest stars.
The job has Guerrero doing his best to make a variety of sitcom actors look like bona fide sports-entertainers as part of the TV show “Young Rock.”
The Johnson and Guerrero families — legends in the world of professional wrestling — have known each other for more than 50 years. Johnson was a second-generation star professional wrestler before he left the squared circle to conquer the entertainment industry. For years he worked with Guerrero at WWE.
“We have always had a very easy relationship,” he said.
“We have always gotten along well. When he reached his peak in our industry, it is very hard to describe how huge he was. He was a juggernaut. Dwayne had it all, and you saw right away he had something special.
“Right now, I believe he is the No. 1 movie star in the world. I think he is one of the most recognized people in the world. His work ethic is second to none. You will not outwork him.”
The show, now in its second year on NBC, features numerous flashbacks of Dwayne and his father, Rocky Johnson. A lot of the content features wrestling scenes. As the show’s wrestling stunt coordinator, Guerrero makes something built largely on in-ring choreography look like, well, real small-screen choreography for the episodic comedy.
Having just turned 50, Guerrero was at a unique point in life when he took the job. For close to 25 years, he, like his father Chavo Guerrero Sr. before him, traveled from town to town, performing for all the top wrestling companies in the world. The bumps and bruises are real. The incredibly demanding schedule — there is no off-season in pro wrestling — is relentless.
“The only time I ever took off came when I was injured. If you had a broken nose, you kept working. I was in a hotel 300 days a year.”
It was also the family business. After all, the vaunted Guerrero family transcends the industry, having set the standard for transitioning elements of the sport from Mexico to the United States and all over the world, while still having their fingerprints on the product fans consume and enjoy today.
Throughout the past two-plus decades, Guerrero also did his best to present a normal homelife for his family despite a very unusual career. Growing up in Fountain Valley after the family moved to Southern California in 1975 when young Chavo was 5 — his dad starred in many shows at the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown Los Angeles — the third-generation star bought a house and maintained residence in Rancho Santa Margarita for 20 years.
Here the El Paso-born Guerrero developed a deep love for the local sports teams… almost all the local sports teams, that is.
“I support all athletes. I love the competition end of it all. I played every sport growing up as a kid. I marvel at the dedication, and I appreciate the talent.
“I grew up mostly on the Lakers and the Dodgers. I now follow the Angels more and the Kings. I think it is great what the Chargers are building, and I was very happy for the Rams. But I am always going to be a Dallas Cowboys fan first and foremost.”
In Australia, where rugby and cricket rule, Guerrero spent three months helping make one episode after another of “Young Rock” in Brisbane for season one. The global pandemic had forced production of the upstart show out of California. But despite being excited about the prospects of the new career path and heading Down Under, he did not make the decision lightly.
“I talked to my wife. We agreed that we could not pass it up.”
For season two, Guerrero spent five months in Gold Coast, which is about an hour south of Brissie.
Guerrero said one of the things that helps him behind the camera is his previous experience in front of the camera as a performer. Attention to detail is something that cannot be emphasized enough, despite the long, arduous process that is filming. A single scene can take up to eight hours to shoot when you factor in everything pertaining to a major production.
Something else that factors into every scene Guerrero is involved with is who he is working with. Simply put, not every actor is a great athlete.
“What we do in wrestling is hide our weaknesses and show our strengths. I take a similar approach to this job. Some of them are athletic, and some are not. My goal is to train them to look like a wrestler for a given scene. I am not training them to participate in a WrestleMania match.
“I am training them to look like they can wrestle, to look like they know what they are doing. Each second, each frame can expose them as not knowing what they are doing, so while we work on the bumping and falling, the most important part of my job is that they look like professional wrestlers.
“I love it,” he exclaimed. “I love this form of entertainment like I love other forms of entertainment. So much is like what I know and have experienced, so much is different, but so much is similar.”