The change in Billy Kidman is pretty representative of the changes in WCW as a whole.
It wasn’t too long ago when he wanted out of his contract, and absolutely hated going to work, especially the TV tapings where egos and politics made life miserable. Wrestling was all that he ever wanted to do in his life, and he wasn’t enjoying life at all.
For Kidman, the turnaround from just a couple of weeks ago has been amazing. “[It’s] a complete turnaround because everybody loves going to work now,” Kidman recently told SLAM! Wrestling. “It’s not going to turn around overnight, but the fact that they’re making a change and they’re trying to do it is something that they weren’t doing before. But now, everybody’s full-steam ahead to get back on top.”
With Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo firmly entrenched as the creative team behind the WCW franchise, there’s a direction to the company. The two rallied the troops with a speech before the April 10 Nitro. “They just wanted to make sure that everybody’s on the same page as far as getting the old attitude out,” said Kidman. Hulk Hogan followed Russo and Bischoff with a short rah-rah speech of his own.
And now Kidman’s involved in a New Blood vs Millionaire’s Club angle with none other than the Hulkster. It’s a feud that couldn’t have a happened unless the entire roster was on the same page, wanting to turn WCW into a ratings winner again.
On Nitro April 10, Kidman pinned Hogan 1-2-3 following a Bischoff chairshot. “It was probably the highlight of my career so far,” Kidman said of the match. “I look forward to working with him. I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how he would feel about it. But he seems gung-ho. Everybody just wants to turn this thing around.”
Some fans have pointed out that Hogan could have really made Kidman’s career in the match, a passing of the torch ala Bret Hart vs Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV. That even when putting Kidman over, Hogan protected himself and his image.
“It’s kind of a difficult situation. They didn’t want a match, they wanted a fight,” said Kidman. “So where I come from, in my standpoint size-wise, in my matches I do certain moves to get back on top of a big guy. So they wanted us to go back and forth in a fight. I basically said that I should sucker Hulk, and once it’s time to turn it around and he gets on top of me, I shouldn’t really … I think that should be it. He should beat the crap out of me until it’s time for Eric to come down. I think that way is better because, well, know I have to think with a different frame of mind because I’m a heel now.”
Hogan’s obvious blade-job (replayed more than once on Nitro) has been criticized, and perhaps made the angle look weaker. Kidman dismisses the thought. “The fact that he bladed at all was surprising to me, because he didn’t need to do that.”
Before the angle took place, Kidman was given more microphone time than ever before to make his statement, to stand up for himself and indicate the direction of his career. He blasted Hogan’s comments over the past few months, where the Hulkster said that Kidman couldn’t draw a crowd even headlining at a flea market. It was pretty strong stuff. But when the comments led to the angle last Monday night, some believe that it was a work, and the Hogan was just setting up a future feud.
Kidman doesn’t see it that way. “Hulk claims it was a work the whole time. I never knew about it, that we would do an angle until right before we did it, I think a week before we did it. I think in a way, it was a shoot. Something that he went on there and said. I think that’s how he felt, which is fine,” he said.
“So then when it came time, and they wanted to intertwine the established guys with the younger guys, it was a given that that was an angle right there that we needed to do just because of all the press and all the things that’s gone on before with Hulk saying whatever, and then me coming back and saying things about him — which was always a shoot right there. When I found out that Hulk said that, I was on WCW Live, and I didn’t even know. So they told me about it, and so right there I had to fire back at him.”
Now established as a heel, and right-hand goon to Eric Bischoff, Kidman is looking forward to getting people mad at him. After Thunder went off the air, he said that he revelled in the fans’ hatred, and that they felt compelled to throw things at him. Being a heel will also mean more interview time, something that Kidman knows he needs to work on. “I’m pretty new at the promo thing,” he said. “I’ll be more comfortable out there as a heel than I would trying to get over as a babyface in a promo. Plus when it’s time to turn back babyface, I’ll be more ready for that.”
He’s gotten lots of help backstage preparing for his interviews. “Ed Ferrera has helped me out tremendously. He works with me, told me he’d work with me as much as I want. I told him every night until I get better with them. Dallas Page helps me out, and Terry Taylor.”
A little over six years ago, a 19-year-old Pete Gruner gathered up enough money to start training with at the Wild Samoan training centre in Pennsylvania. From there, he befriended Chris Kluesaritis, who would later be known as Mortis, the Chris ‘Champagne’ Kanyon, the Innovator of Offence. Gruner travelled with Kanyon to Memphis, and when Kanyon hooked up with WCW, he eventually convinced him to send in a tryout tape. Eric Bischoff and Dusty Rhodes brought him in to work in the cruiserweight division, which was new at the time, and gave him the Billy Kidman name.
His mentor and friend Kanyon is one of the people the 25-year-old Kidman would like to have a feud with. “I’d like throughout my career to be able to wrestle everybody just to say that I did it. In WCW, I would really like to get into a program with Kanyon. We worked together, I trained with him when I was first starting out. We’ve never really even had a chance to have a match on TV to show our stuff — and we could pretty well.”
As for a dream match, Kidman picked Shawn Michaels. “I grew up watching him doing all his things. He’s just a tremendous worker and it would be nice to have a match against him.”
Speaking of dreams, yes fans, it is true. Kidman is dating Torrie Wilson off-camera, as well as on.
But the on-camera team will likely be changing over the next little while — Kidman believes that the plan is to split the two up. Until that happens, he thinks that Torrie will be more than just a bystander at ringside. “If we’re babyfaces, there’s only so much she can do, and I look stupid. If she falls down, I have to go check on her, you know? Whereas now that we’re heels, she can put my foot on the ropes if I’m going to be pinned, just little things she couldn’t do if I was a babyface. She likes to get in there. She likes to do take bumps, get involved. So there’s more she could do as a heel too,” said Kidman, adding that he definitely thinks that Torrie is being underutilized at the moment.
So what’s next for Billy Kidman in WCW? “This thing with Hulk will be great for me right now. I don’t know how long it’s going to go,” he said. “After that, I’m definitely looking forward to working somebody where I can actually get back and do the cruiserweight style — not a cruiserweight, just the cruiserweight style, to do the more high-flying things that I’m used to. This is basically going to put me on the map now, so I’m looking forward to this.”