The Mean 8.16.01: X-Pac

As I write this I am currently at 31,000 feet somewhere above New York en route to San Diego for a sweet vacation with my girlfriend. This is so cool, I actually feel like one of those “big time” internet dudes (you know, the guys who actually charge you to read the same stuff we give you here with actual style) writing my column on a plane too bad I probably won’t get a chance to actually send this sucker in until I’m back at home.

Quick bit of housekeeping to address from last week’s column: Thanks to all the Tazz fanzz (and there are indeed quite a few) who wrote in and corrected me on the chronology mistakes I made in chronicling Tazz’s ECW years. To clarify, Tazz was in fact still Tasmaniac when he and Sabu won the Tag titles in 1994 and didn’t feud with

2 Cold Scorpio & Dean Malenko until 1995 in between Sabu’s stints with ECW. I do my best to be as accurate as possible with these histories folks, but I’m no historian and I’m always happy to be corrected (provided it’s in a diplomatic manner) so that I can learn just a bit more. Now then, this week’s subject (whose history I’m pretty sure I know a bit better)

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that everything in life could be broken down into two extremes: excess and deficiency. He believed that if a person could find the medium or mean between the two extremes in all that they did in life, they would travel down the path to happiness and virtue. With pro wrestling fans, the two extremes are clear: the deficient “mark” enjoys watching wrestling more than anybody but has very little knowledge of anything not on TV, while the excessive “smart” knows every backstage dealing, but as a result can become highly bitter and cynical, losing their ability to enjoy the show. These two extremes view each wrestler differently, often disagreeing with each other. Each week I look at both perspectives and then attempt to find “The Mean” between the two. This week, let’s take a look at X-Pac

With the possible exception of Goldberg, this is the one Mean I’ve probably gotten more requests to do than anybody else. I know there are plenty of columns out there on Sean Waltman as of late (including a well done Time For a Take on this very site [note to Widro: insert link to column here if possible] damn extra work- Widro), but if there is demand, I’m always ready to supply. Most of the letters that I received read something along the lines of “when are you going to do that X-Pac,” which I understand is the popular sentiment both on the net and in the mainstream, but fan hatred (and I’m not talking heel hatred) of X-Pac baffles me a bit. Perhaps by writing this column I can clear some stuff up for both myself and others.

For those of you who read my Jerry Lynn column a few weeks back (and there weren’t that many of you so go check it out now in the archives!), you know that when for his first few years in wrestling, his career was more or less constantly intertwined with a young grappler who went by the moniker of “The Lightning Kid.” Lightning Kid was in reality a young man named Sean Waltman who at the time weighed less than two hundred pounds and couldn’t bodyslam too many people over two hundred pounds.

But Waltman was a lifelong wrestling fan determined to make it in the business no matter the knocks against him. He knew what he couldn’t do, but at the same time Waltman knew that he could do things a 250 pound behemoth could not. He could fly through the air with reckless abandon, he could utilize an impressive background in martial arts training, and most of all he could bump like few else. Waltman’s diminutive size made him easy for the bigger (and even mid-sized) wrestlers to toss him around like a pinball, and Waltman’s tremendous resilience (a phrase Jim Ross would beat into the ground years later when calling his matches) made it possible for him to sell move after move. At first his ability to fly and bump made him quite the commodity on the independent circuit and Waltman figured he’d always be able to make a living off of these skills, not realizing the toll they would take on his body in later years.

Both Waltman and Lynn began on the Minneapolis independent scene in the early 90s where Lynn’s mat based technical style complimented Waltman’s high flying risk taking perfectly and the two were immediately considered to be a package whether as opponents or as teammates. The two eventually moved from Minnesota to the Texas based GWF where both (Waltman especially) began to gain recognition both nationally and even internationally. In 1992, Waltman left the GWF when he was invited to tour Japan, another move that would alter the course of his career forever.

In Japan, Waltman as Lightning Kid had the opportunity to compete alongside great North American wrestlers like Pegasus Kid (Chris Benoit) and Black Tiger (Eddy Guererro) as well as Japanese legends like Tiger Mask and Jushin Liger. While in Japan, Waltman learned a variety of exciting offensive maneuvers that were not yet popularized in the U.S. (when he returned stateside Waltman would be one of the first wrestlers to bring the moonsault to prominence in America) as well as ways to incorporate his martial arts kicks into wrestling sequences. Waltman entered Japan as more or less a wrestler who excelled strictly on defense, bumping and selling, and left as a more complete wrestler who could still make others look good, but who could also take to the skies and shine himself.

When he returned to the U.S. in 1993, Waltman was in for a pleasant surprise in the form of a call from the top power in North American wrestling: the World Wrestling Federation. Not only was the WWF interested in Waltman, they had a storyline they knew he’d be perfect for, that would be perfect for him, and guarantee them a hot new babyface who would only get hotter once the fans saw what he could do in the ring.

Waltman was brought in as a “jobber” for several consecutive weeks on the WWF’s premier show, Monday Night RAW. Every week Waltman would put up a good fight, but in the end get demolished by an established WWF star. Part of the gimmick was that each week Waltman would return with a new variation on his “Kid” moniker, beginning with his traditional Lightning Kid name and eventually working his way through Cannonball Kid and others. Though they spent most of the matches talking about the federation’s major stars and storylines, the announcers made sure to devote at least a little time each week to throwing a little praise towards this scrawny scrapper who got beat week after week but refused to quit.

Finally, Waltman emerged on RAW one week to take on the hated Razor Ramon, one of the cockiest men in the WWF, and clearly reaching the end of his patience was dubbed only as The Kid. Ramon dominated The Kid with power moves, and got cockier as the match went on; after all he was only wrestling a jobber right? Then the unthinkable occurred: Ramon was preparing for his patented Razor’s Edge finisher when he took the time to taunt the crowd, and Kid mustered up his last ounce of strength to roll up Ramon for the three count. The crowd went wild, the announcers applauded and Waltman celebrated as if he had just won the WWF World title.

The next week on RAW, Waltman began appearing as a regular wrestler, now called (to capitalize on his big upset) The 1-2-3 Kid. For weeks a fuming Ramon offered more and more money until The Kid finally agreed to face him in a rematch. Meanwhile, Ramon’s WWF heel brethren found his loss amusing and began to mock him, in particular veteran “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase who saw Ramon as a “street urchin” and The Kid as a “punk.” The rematch occurred on an edition of RAW and Kid wrestled a more even match, his confidence restored, but was still clearly outclassed by Ramon. Nevertheless Kid managed to score another upset, this time when DiBiase came down the aisleway and distraqcted Ramon.

The next week, DiBiase came out and mocked Ramon for his loss saying he never lose to a “loser” like The 1-2-3 Kid. This immediately brought out Kid who challenged DiBiase to a match that was quickly accepted. This time it was Ramon providing the interference allowing Kid to score another upset and effectively turning Ramon babyface. Both Kid and Ramon were now over, able to benefit from the other; out of this mutual appreciation grew a backstage friendship between Waltman and Scott Hall (Ramon’s real name) that endures to this day. At first having a friend like Hall who was a veteran in the business (Hall had been wrestling since the early 80s though he was still a relatively young man) certainly benefited Waltman in many ways, but in other ways it hurt him as he began picking up some of the habits of Hall who was known for both drinking and drug problems.

Regardless of what was going on backstage, The 1-2-3 Kid was getting over exactly how WWF head Vince McMahon had planned. Waltman played and looked the part of a scrawny kid who had gotten lucky was thankful to be living out his dreams. Kid dropped his first pay per view singles match to veteran Irwin R. Schyster (Mike Rotundo) in order to keep his character grounded in reality, but over the following weeks put his offense on display against competitors like Rick Martel and bumped like a champ for monsters like Adam Bomb; Kid sky-rocketed to the top of the WWF as one of its most popular fan favorites.

In addition to Waltman’s backstage friendship with Hall, the newly face turned Ramon and the popular Kid put their old differences aside and became friends on camera as well forming a popular tag team. At Survivor Series 1993, Kid teamed with Ramon, Randy Savage, and Marty Jannetty against the team of Schyster, Martel, Bomb, and Diesel. At first the faces dominated eliminating Schyster and Martel, but the tide turned as Savage was counted out chasing down arch-rival Crush and Ramon was pinned after Schyster attacked him following his own elimination. Suddenly Kid and Jannetty, the two biggest underdogs in the WWF were left alone in the ring with a pair of near seven footers: Adam Bomb and Diesel. The crowd was glued to the edge of their seat and watched as against all odds Kid & Jannetty pulled out all the stops, took to the skies, and gave it their all, and miraculously, it was enough as the underdogs prevailed to the delight of the crowd.

The WWF saw great potential in the Kid/Jannetty team. Jannetty had been a wildly popular high-flyer alongside tag team partner Shawn Michaels in The Rockers in the late 80s and early 90s, but that all ended when Michaels turned heel and went on to become a future Intercontinental and World champion. Jannetty was forced to pick up the pieces of his singles career, but was struggling to do so until the Kid came along. The crowd loved the pair of underdogs who represented two generations of high flying risk takers. In addition, the duo put on great matches with almost anybody they were put in the ring with as Jannetty’s ability to fly and bump was almost on par with Kid’s and the two developed an instant chemistry. The WWF gave the fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden a treat as they had hated heel Tag champs The Quebecers drop the straps to Kid & Jannetty at a house show, giving Kid his first WWF championship. The underdogs dropped the titles back to the Quebecers only a couple of weeks later, but the run was good while it lasted and the WWF definitely had further plans for the Kid/Jannetty team, with another run as champs not out of the question. This all fell apart however when in early 1994 Jannetty left the WWF due to personal problems and Kid was left without a partner or a direction.

The WWF had great plans for Kid as a Tag Team wrestler, but the men dominating the singles ranks were either babyface allies of Kid’s like Ramon and Bret Hart or monstrous behemoths like Diesel and Yokozuna who Kid could upset, but fans were not ready to buy him upsetting one of them for a championship. Kid did have several great matches with babyface World champ Hart in the spring and summer of 1994 that were among the first babyface vs babyface matches in the WWF in years.

Though he still seemingly had no direction, Kid was at least given a decent storyline at King of the Ring ’94 where both his underdog status and his resilience were once again keyed in on. Kid upset the cocky Jeff Jarrett in the first round of the King of the Ring tournament, but after the match Jarrett brutalized Kid’s knee attacking it with a guitar and his signature figure four leglock. The next round the announcers played up the fact that Kid was expected not to compete, but when he limped out to face opponent Owen Hart the crowd response was predictably phenomenal. Kid struggled valiantly, but the technically proficient Hart zeroed in on the knee and in the end Kid was forced to submit to Hart’s Sharpshooter, but he was more popular than ever.

Despite his showing at King of the Ring, the WWF still had nothing for Kid as he was not ready for the World title picture, and his friend Razor Ramon was feuding with Diesel over the Intercontinental title. In addition to all this, Kid’s backstage attitude had changed drastically since he had entered the WWF wide eyed and innocent only a little over a year earlier. Waltman’s friendship with Hall grew into a larger friendship with both Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Shawn Michaels. Hall was one of the WWF’s most popular performers and both Nash and Michaels were being prepped as future World champions. The quartet that became known as “The Clique” and wielded tremendous power backstage. They became notorious for refusing to work good matches against anybody but each other and though the WWF couldn’t really punish Hall, Nash, or Michaels, they did punish Waltman by having him do a series of jobs to Jarrett in order to prep Jarrett for a run as Intercontinental champion. The message to Waltman was clear: the WWF did not tolerate attitude (and yes I am trying to be ironic).

Kid caught a lucky break in the opening months of 1995 as Billy Gunn of the Smoking Gunns sustained a neck injury just as the Gunns were slated to win a tournament for the vacant Tag Team titles. Instead Kid and another underdog partner, this time Bob “Spark Plug” Holly were made into the “Cinderella” team, winning the tournament. Kid & Holly’s title reign lasted a mere day before the Gunns won the titles as expected, but at the very least Kid was back on the WWF’s championship radar. However, the good times were not to last as the next few months provided Kid with a series of setbacks.

A variety of injuries that had accumulated over the last several years of wrestling at his breakneck pace were taking their toll on The Kid and he was forced to sit out for most of the spring of 1995 in order to recover from a variety of nagging injuries, including problems with his neck and concussions that would continue to plague him for the next several years. When he returned in the summer of ’95, he was chiefly used to put over the people the WWF was prepping for pushes including newly crowned King of the Ring the 500 pound Mabel and Japanese import Hakushi (Jinzei Shizaki), whom Kid dropped a stellar match to at Summerslam. The Kid remained popular, but again the character was stagnating, and rather than place him in another tag team, the WWF took a different route to try and freshen things up.

In the fall of 1995, for the first time in his WWF tenure, Sean Waltman, The 1-2-3 Kid, the ultimate underdog, the plucky little man in the land of the giants turned heel. Lightweight heels were and always have been a rarity in pro wrestling; it’s much more natural to cheer a little man going against the odds than boo him. In addition, for Kid, who was one of the pioneers of U.S. high-flying, he had the additional stigma of possessing an offense that the crowd typically popped for. The WWF probably thought the heel turn could work based on the fact that the similarly small Shawn Michaels had just come off one of the best heel runs in years but the WWF apparently forgot or did not yet realize that there is only one Shawn Michaels.

So Kid turned heel, betraying longtime friend and top WWF babyface Razor Ramon and joining his former rival, wrestler turned manager Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Kid was teamed with the mammoth Sid Vicious in an effort to recreate the magic of the Shawn Michaels-Diesel team from a year earlier, but to find out how that turned out, you can see the above paragraph. Kid’s most successful moment as a heel probably came when he ran in during Ramon’s Intercontinental title match with Goldust at the 1996 Royal Rumble and cost his former friend the belt; the low point came a month later when Kid dropped a humiliating “Crybaby match” to Ramon and was forced to wear a diaper and pacifier. For the second straight year in a row Kid missed Wrestlemania due to neck problems, however big changes were about to come.

In May of 1996, the WWF contracts of Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall and Kevin “Diesel” Nash ran out and both chose to jump to rival WCW. Once there, along with veteran Hulk Hogan they created the storyline that would revolutionize wrestling for a new generation of fans: the New World Order. Hall and Nash gave the initial impression that they were “invaders” come from the WWF to take over WCW. Though this was quickly refuted by the WWF, the stigma remained. When longtime babyface Hogan, the most well known wrestler in the history of the business joined the renegade group and turned heel, the storyline grew out of control. Over the next couple months, the NWO became the focus of every WCW broadcast as they executed brutal attacks on all WCW wrestlers, faces and heels alike, added members like DiBiase and rookie former World champion The Giant, and basically held the promotion at siege. While all this was going on, Waltman languished in the WWF doghouse putting over new talent like Marc Mero as his buddies dominated Monday nights. Between Waltman’s increasingly poor attitude and injury prone nature, the WWF decided he had outlived his usefulness and released him in the summer of 1996, freeing him up to jump to WCW and the NWO.

Sean Waltman made his WCW debut the night after Fall Brawl 1996 (at which an NWO team had defeated a WCW team in War Games) on Monday Nitro. He immediately joined the NWO and unable to use his old 1-2-3 Kid moniker was saddled with the clever name “Syxx” (clever on two levels, both because he was the sixth official member of the NWO and because 1-2-3 both added and multiplied to six). Again Waltman would be playing the heel, but this go-around he was better prepared.

Syxx debuted against Chris Jericho at Halloween Havoc 1996 and at the same time debuted a new offensive style that helped him to achieve the legitimacy as a heel that he had been lacking. The new style was actually one that was forced upon Waltman that just happened to have some redeeming value: to avoid further injury to his fragile neck, Syxx abandoned the high flying, high risk moves that had been his trademark (though he still remained and remains one of the top bumpers in the business) and developed a more ground based, martial arts oriented style. The key to succeeding as a heel with this new offense was that fans firstly no longer felt obligated to pop for flashy offensive maneuvers, but more importantly Syxx conveyed the attitude of somebody who very well could wrestle the style he used to, but chose not to. He moved at what was (for him) a fairly slow pace and then out of nowhere would taunt the fans with a moonsault or another high flying move, letting them know he still could fly if he chose to do so and then go back to kicking and using submission holds. Syxx worked as a heel where The 1-2-3 Kid had failed because it was a much more radical departure and it made Waltman seem like the cockiest jerk in the business with all the skill in the world, but skill he didn’t feel he even needed to use.

To cement Syxx as a heel, and the ultimate slap in the face to the fans, his NWO buddies would constantly interfere in his matches or he would use foreign objects as to finish the match as frequently as his trademark finisher the Buzzkiller (a dull looking martial arts choke hold). Despite losing to U.S. champion Eddy Guererro in a stellar ladder match that was the Souled Out 1997 pay per view’s sole saving grace, Syxx went on to win the Cruiserweight title from Dean Malenko at the very next pay per view, Superbrawl VII, when Guererro inadvertently nailed Malenko with the U.S. title while going for Syxx. The next month at Uncensored, Syxx completed the triangle, helping Malenko beat Guererro for the U.S. title.

Syxx wrestled infrequently during the spring and early summer of 1997 and defended his Cruiserweight title even less frequently (relying on interference to retain the title when he did). The hiatus of sorts was for several reasons: first, Waltman was again experiencing neck pains, second, Waltman along with Nash and Hall were beginning to wield a lot of backstage power and were growing lazy without a Vince McMahon to keep them in check, and third because like all other things with the Syxx character, it pissed off the fans. When Syxx finally did drop the title in July of 1997 (his neck problems were becoming too frequent to justify keeping a singles title on him), the pop Jericho, the man he dropped it to, was tremendous, which spoke volumes about the job Syxx was doing as a heel (because Jericho was not over at all as a face at the time).

Following his Cruiserweight title reign, Syxx languished a bit in the NWO mid-card teaming with the likes of Konnan and Buff Bagwell, but did get to wrestle the legendary Ric Flair at Road Wild ’97 (though Syxx lost the match). He also participated in the infamous NWO parody of the Four Horsemen that ended up amusing half of the wrestling community while offending the other. While Nash was injured, Syxx also teamed with Hall to drop the World Tag Team titles to The Steiner Brothers (Syxx was the one pinned).

By Halloween Havoc 1997, Syxx had suffered several concussions and needed surgery for a variety of neck problems so he asked WCW head Eric Bischoff for some time off, which he received. He was pulled from TV and allowed some much needed time at home to recuperate. What Waltman never saw coming was a Fed Ex he received in the winter of 1998 that changed his life forever. While Waltman was at home, Hall and Nash had become even more of a backstage problem, seizing power, making decisions, and pissing the wrong people off. The problem was that just as was the case in the WWF back in 1994, both Nash and Hall were too big of stars to be punished, so Bischoff decided to release Waltman via Fed Ex.

Less than a week following his release from WCW, Sean Waltman was welcomed back with open arms to the WWF. The NWO storyline had put Vince McMahon behind WCW for the first time since he had bought the WWF. He and his son Shane had a radical new campaign to retake the wrestling industry that they called “WWF Attitude.” Attitude was all about an edgier product based around anti-heroes like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock and filled with plenty of T & A, escalated violence, and other means of pushing the envelope. One of the cornerstones of the new Attitude based WWF was DeGeneration X, a lewd and obnoxious group that provided the WWF with lowbrow comedy and risqué humor. DX was founded and led by Waltman’s old buddy Shawn Michaels who was joined by Triple H (who was a friend of Waltman and the rest of The Clique, which he had joined when he arrived in the WWF in 1995) and HHH’s Amazonian bodyguard Chyna. The trio was extremely popular (despite playing heels) and was helping the WWF draw closer to WCW by the day. Unfortunately, Michaels’ back was injured beyond repair due to years of the same high risk style Waltman wrestled under, and it was becoming clear that by winter’s end he would in the best of scenarios have to take at least a year off from wrestling, or in the worst case, retire (the latter ended up happening). Following Michaels dropping the World title to Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, McMahon planned for HHH to form a new DX, even more wild and over the top than before and with more members. He already had the hilarious and talented New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Jesse Jammes) set to join, but thought having another Clique member onboard to help out HHH would be key and how lucky he was that one had just become available.

HHH did an interview on RAW the night following Wrestlemania running down Michaels (to get him out of the picture) and proclaiming himself the new leader of DX. When it came time to announce who would join him, he looked to the aisle way and said the words the audience had been waiting to hear: “Sometimes you have to look to your friends for support. Sometimes, you have to look to The Clique.” The DX music kicked in and Waltman emerged, decked out in DX colors, and newly re-christened “X-Pac,” to the loudest reaction he had probably ever received. He proceeded to deliver a profanity-laced riptide of an interview tearing into Bischoff and Hogan and basically tearing WCW down. Many people point to this as the moment when the tide turned.

The new DX quartet participated in several hilarious taped vignettes over the next couple months the most notable of which were their “invasions” of both CNN Center and the outside area of an actual WCW Monday Nitro event (the site of Waltman knocking on the door of the Nitro loading dock and saying “Is Eric Bischoff around? I got a letter from him” cracks me up to this day). Because the fans found DX so amusing, and because their merchandise was selling so well, McMahon made the wise decision to turn them babyface in the summer of 1998. It was around this time that Waltman had recovered from neck surgery and was ready to return to the ring. Though he didn’t use quite the same high impact style he had early in his career, he still bumped like a maniac and wrestled with an unparalleled energy and enthusiasm with the crowd now back on his side.

X-Pac spent the summer and early fall feuding with old rival Jeff Jarrett, and then captured his first ever WWF singles title, the European title, from D’Lo Brown in September of ’98. He dropped the title back to D’Lo during a fantastic series they had during the fall, but then regained it and held onto it into the new year. X-Pac was at the height of his popularity and even challenged World champion The Rock several times in matches which fans could legitimately see him winning (although interference always prevented that).

In the winter of 1999, X-Pac became tied up in HHH’s feud with Vince & Shane McMahon’s Corporate Team after Chyna betrayed DX for the Corporation. At St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in February of ’99, HHH and X-Pac dropped a tag match to Chyna and Corporation member Kane when Shane interfered. The next night on RAW, the DX duo took on Kane & Shane in a match where X-Pac’s European title was on the line, and Shane managed to pin X-Pac after Chyna interfered. The blowoff for the Shane-X-Pac feud was built up to occur at Wrestlemania XV, and was expected to be a short match (Shane was not a wrestler after all) with Shane getting his comeuppance. The fans were receive two shocks at Wrestlemania: one, Shane could wrestle, and two, he kept the title. X-Pac helped get Shane ready for the match, and Shane proved a dedicated and enthusiastic pupil; together they put on a great match and Shane has gone on to have some more classics since. However Shane kept his title when HHH of all people interfered and gave X-Pac his signature Pedigree. The feeling was that DX had run it’s course, Vince wanted to give HHH a shot as a main event heel, and both members of the Outlaws singles pushes. As for X-Pac, McMahon had something else planned for him entirely.

As had happened so many times before, X-Pac was teamed up with a tag team partner and given a run with the WWF Tag Team titles; however unlike with Marty Jannetty or Bob Holly, both of who had been comparable to X-Pac in size and style, this time he was paired with the near seven foot, three hundred and thirty pound Kane. At the same Wrestlemania event where HHH had betrayed DX to join the Corporation, Chyna, who had becoming close with Kane, betrayed the “Big Red Machine” to get back together with HHH. Kane was a silent monster who knew only rage, and who attacked

X-Pac when he first attempted to team with him. It was only after X-Pac saved Kane from an attack by Tag Team champions Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett that the two formed a team and won the titles. Over the next several months, X-Pac and Kane slowly but surely became friends, and X-Pac drew the humanity out of Kane. It became one of the more compelling (if sappy) storylines of the WWF in the summer of 1999.

By the time fall rolled around, X-Pac was having issues dealing with whether or not he could compete on the same level as his tag partner and the other “big men” of the WWF. X-Pac & Kane had dropped the Tag titles to The Undertaker & The Big Show and resumed a feud that had been going on and off the last few months with The Acolytes. At No Mercy 1999 in October, X-Pac challenged both Acolytes as well as his best friend Kane to a Four Way match in order to prove himself. X-Pac succeeded in his goal, once again playing the plucky underdog, eliminating Kane en route to winning the match. And so all was well in the X-Pac-Kane camp or so it seemed.

HHH was now World champ as a heel, but was having trouble garnering heat. Initially, the WWF tried everything to try and get HHH over and that included reforming DX as a group of heel bodyguards. In the process of rejoining DX, X-Pac did a complete 180, betraying Kane, the monster he had made human, and embarking on a feud with him that would last a third of a year. X-Pac got several tainted wins over his former partner and also stole Kane’s girlfriend Tori to become his new valet. However, the WWF fans were having trouble adjusting to the abrupt turn (it had been done with really only HHH and not the other members of DX in mind) and didn’t seem to want to boo a man they had been cheering emphatically for over a year. At the same time, Kane was popular as well, so the fans didn’t really want to cheer X-Pac either; so instead they simply did nothing.

Both X-Pac and Jesse Jammes were having the same problem; both had been hugely popular as babyfaces until the ill-fated DX turn and were now struggling as heels. With Billy Gunn sidelined with an injury, X-Pac & Jammes formed a team for most of the spring and summer of 2000, having forgettable feuds with Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz. At Summerslam 2000, the two wrestled each other in a singles match due to their frustration; X-Pac won and was attacked after the match by Jammes in the hopes of turning one face again (it didn’t work). X-Pac then had a brief feud with a WWF newcomer he knew well, Chris Jericho, before he suffered a stinger in his neck and was forced to take several months off.

The months off proved to be the best thing for X-Pac as the fans finally got a chance to get the image of babyface DX X-Pac out of their system, and Waltman was able to remember what made him such a successful heel as Syxx. When he returned to the WWF in the winter of 2001, X-Pac formed his own X-Factor stable with new ECW import (and Waltman’s friend) Justin Credible, as well as the mammoth Albert. Over the next six months, X-Pac rediscovered his inner heel and used the same strategy of winning screwjob matches and wrestling a lazy style that got him over as Syxx. X-Factor split (or at least Credible did) in the summer of 2001, but X-Pac reigned as both WWF Light-heavyweight champion, and as WCW Cruiserweight champion (the WWF purchased WCW in the winter and thus WCW titles were now defended in the WWF). But more importantly, X-Pac is one of the best pure heels in the WWF. You will not attend an event without hearing the now infamous “X-Pac sucks” chant at least once.

The question now is: has Sean Waltman done his job too well? Across the internet and even among many crowds X-Pac garners resentment not just as a wrestler, but in reality as well. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is X-Pac a success or a failure right now? Let’s take a closer look

THE MARK: The fact of the matter is that Sean Waltman has never and never will be a physical marvel to behold. He’s a shrimp and he’s based much of his career on it. When he’s a babyface, the crowd loves him because he’s overcoming the odds. When he’s a heel, the crowd hates him because a guy that small shouldn’t be doing that. No matter what role he’s playing, X-Pac has the audience in the palm of his hands and sometimes they don’t even realize it. He doesn’t astound a crowd the way he used to with moonsaults and bodypresses, but he still has among the best kicks in the business and the occasional high risk maneuver that he can pull out of his bag of tricks to wow the audience with.

THE SMART: X-Pac is reviled among the internet community, only partially because of who he is today; it’s more because of who he used to be. The smarts remember the babyface X-Pac, they remember The 1-2-3 Kid, and some even remember The Lightning Kid. More importantly they remember what he could do and resent him for not doing it today. On the one hand, the smarts know that X-Pac can not do today what he could do ten years ago because the injuries have piled up; on the other hand, smarts are not the most sympathetic or appreciative lot, and when it comes to memories they can be pretty selective. Though they remember all the great matches X-Pac gave to them once upon a time, that’s not enough for them; they want more great matches out of him now, and if not they have no use for him. Smarts generally don’t care how much a wrestler has given to the business and to them, they only care what he’s giving right now (see: Undertaker, The).

And finally

THE MEAN: X-Pac rules. There, I said it and I mean it. Sean Waltman has proven over his career to be one of the most talented, but more importantly one of the most adaptable wrestlers around. Few wrestlers have enjoyed both success as a face and a heel the way he has, and as far as light-heavyweights who have, I could probably count the number on one hand. To the people who say X-Pac has become lazy, I bring up the point I made earlier in my column: flashy high flying moves like the moonsault get pops, and that’s not the type of stuff a true heel is looking for. So many heels nowadays want to play the “cool” heel (HHH or Rob Van Dam are prime examples), getting applauded for their great offense but still getting booed, and that’s ok, but for every RVD out there it’s important there are real heels like X-Pac out there to maintain wrestling’s cosmic balance, because eventually every “cool” heel becomes a babyface, and then there’s nobody left for the babyfaces to feud with. I look at Billy Kidman’s failed heel turn against Hulk Hogan in 2000 as a prime example of why X-Pac is doing the right thing. Kidman lost all his matches and continued to employ his usual daredevil offense; the crowd had no reason to cheer him. When X-Pac wrestles the “fake lazy” style that he has perfected, and then goes onto win matches he has no right winning, the fans have good reason to hate him and that is why X-Pac rules.

X-Pac said in a recent interview that should he turn babyface again anytime soon he could “out babyface anybody in the company right now.” While I don’t think X-Pac will be eclipsing The Rock anytime soon, I do truly believe that were he to turn again for real, those “X-Pac Sucks” chants would quickly become a distant memory. Personally I’d love to see another X-Pac babyface run because he’s the kind of babyface that really pumps up the fans, the kids and the underdogs in particular, but if his job right now is to continue playing the irritating, obnoxious heel, while then that’s fine with me too because the man can do it all. In the mean time, thanks for reading.