Where Are They Now? Billy Kidman
Billy Kidman has never forgotten the response he received 15 years ago when he had his first tryout match with WWE.
“Funny story,” Kidman said with a smirk. “[Former WWE producer] Tony Garea pulled aside one of the guys I was with and told him not to bring me anymore, because I was too small.”
Sitting in the cafeteria of Toledo, Ohio’s Huntington Center before a recent SmackDown event, Kidman could smile thinking about what he heard that night. After all, the skinny kid from Allentown, Pa., went on to thrill audiences in both WCW and WWE, where he snatched more than a few championships and tangled with heavy hitters like Hulk Hogan and Bret “Hit Man” Hart. Not bad for a guy who was “too small." (PHOTOS)
“I was told from day one by a lot of people that I would never make it, because of my size,” the former Superstar told WWE.com. "To still be employed 15 years later is amazing."
That Kidman did succeed can be owed to an elusive mix of raw talent, good fortune and perfect timing. A WWE fan since childhood, the athletic hopeful began training with WWE Hall of Famer Afa the Wild Samoan when he was only a teenager. His good looks and willingness to perform daredevil maneuvers — particularly the spectacular Shooting Star Press — allowed him to stand out amongst the potbellies in cheap tights on the East Coast independent wrestling scene. Kidman’s small frame may have kept him from getting a WWE contract, but in 1996 he was signed to WCW, thanks in part to his friendship with the late Chris Kanyon.
“He kept telling me to send down a tape of my stuff, because they’re going to start a Cruiserweight division and they’re bringing in some guy named Rey Mysterio,” Kidman remembered.
Early on in his run, the inexperienced youngster was picked apart by rough technicians like Dean Malenko and William Regal before linking up with a grunge rock Svengali known as Raven. Brainwashing a group of wayward competitors he dubbed "The Flock," Raven twisted the clean-cut Kidman into a flea-bitten street punk in a ratty T-shirt. The change didn’t do much for the high-flyer’s personal hygiene, but it put him in a position where he was on WCW’s Monday Nitro every week, which allowed his incredible aerial maneuvers to catch on with fans.
“I was kind of learning on the job, but people took notice,” Kidman admitted. “The more matches I got put in, the more confidence they had in me, and it just grew from there.”
By the summer of 1998, Kidman had broken free of Raven’s control and established himself as a competitor worth watching. Winning the Cruiserweight Championship from Juventud Guerrera that September, he fought his way to the top of a very competitive division and began showcasing his skills in exhilarating matches with Mysterio, Psicosis, Eddie Guerrero and many other standouts.
“It was great getting to work with all those guys,” he said. “We always wanted to outdo ourselves and put on a good show.”
This ability to “put on a good show” soon had fans touting the flyer as a future main event talent, but the wealth of established stars on WCW’s roster made it difficult for a newcomer like Kidman to break through. Irritated, the cocky upstart grabbed a microphone during a live broadcast of Nitro in 2000 and called out Hulk Hogan. Challenging the ring legend was a gutsy move by the youngster, but it put him in the spotlight — and gave him a contentious pinfall victory over the WWE Hall of Famer. (WATCH)
“He says I beat him three weeks in a row, but I don’t remember that,” he said with a smile.
Still, despite his run-ins with Hulkamania, main event success continued to elude Kidman and the competitor grew increasingly frustrated with WCW — a sentiment shared by many of his friends in the locker room.
“It just got to the point where we were being held back and we wanted some kind of change,” he said.
That change would come on March 26, 2001, when Shane McMahon announced WWE’s acquisition of WCW live on Nitro. Five years after they told him he was too small to make it, WWE was about to get reintroduced to Billy Kidman.
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