Sean Waltman will be a Hall of Famer.
The announcement this week that the man known as X-Pac would join the ranks of WWE Hall of Famers seemed a bit overshadowed. Chyna is finally making it in, Triple H is inducted when we know his in-ring career isn't over, Billy Gunn -- an AEW agent -- is making his way in, and Shawn Michaels is the newest two-time inductee. Road Dogg is going in, too, although there's less discussion around that. I've even heard people questioning why Rick Rude and Tori aren't in more than the particular congratulations.
Sean Waltman gave a young me hope. WWF was truly the "land of the giants," and as far as 7 to 12 year old me was concerned, the term "cruiserweight" or "light heavyweight" didn't exist. Shawn Michaels was among the smallest wrestlers at the top of the card in those days, and admittedly was 240 pounds at that point. That puts him as a UFC Heavyweight at a point where they were considered the "little guys." That made them best identifiable to impressionable youths like myself, even if the connection wasn't rooted in reality.
Waltman, then known as the 1-2-3 Kid was billed at 212 pounds -- still a UFC Heavyweight, technically, but he wore it in such a way where he might as well have been 150 pounds. He utilized offense that wasn't commonplace in WWE, especially considering that some of his showcase matches were against the likes of Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, who often played the underdog role himself. The 1-2-3 Kid's initial babyface build was nothing short of special, and something that still lives on in highlights to this day. His heel turn on longtime friend Razor Ramon didn't lead to any extended top run or creative satisfaction long-term, but was still so well executed. I went from identifying with the little guy, to wanting to see the towering Razor Ramon smash him. The role was played perfectly, the Kid seemed like an obnoxious, snotty prick, and that carried over to a more mature run in WCW.
Waltman's WWF success came at a time when cruiserweight wrestlers just weren't a thing in the company. A Light Heavyweight Championship wouldn't be introduced until five-plus years after his Raw debut, but as a fresh-faced 23 year old pinning a top-level name in Razor, he gave myself hope of accomplishment. From his gear, to his size, to his look, to his offense, the 1-2-3 Kid and Waltman screamed 'different.'
Much is made about reinvention in pro wrestling, and it was a necessity for Waltman. He moved to WCW, and adopted the "Syxx" moniker. For the much more mature WCW and NWO, the "1-2-3 Kid" persona didn't fit, and wasn't a possibility either way. He won tag titles and Cruiserweight titles, and had a memorable match with Eddie Guerrero on an otherwise miserable nWo Souled Out Show. He was the glue of an early New World Order, and a familiar face that went along perfectly with the portfolio of the group. While the run barely lasted a year and a half, the accolades and influence were integral. Without Waltman, there's no "Wolfpack."
Less of a reinvention and more of a rebranding was "X-Pac," and his return to WWF in 1998 to join D-Generation X. Waltman was far from the underdog we saw five years prior, instead often serving as an instigator. Along with DX, he'd solidify the Hall of Fame career that will see him reach his induction in April. European Championships, Tag Team Titles, Light Heavyweight Titles and unforgettable moments would come his way as a result.
It's amazing to think, but Waltman was only 29 when he left WWE for the final time in 2002, but his influence was far from over. His name value as an early part of NWA:TNA's X-Division helped solidify the company and the division at a time it was desperately needed.
I feel like we didn't get as much of Waltman as we should have, with the majority of his 30s being off of national television. The decade that preceded it was Hall of Fame worthy whether the metric be moments, memories, or matches. His career came full circle in an outstanding moment in 2011 at CHIKARA when he pulled out the 1-2-3 Kid gear once more to reprise a role he hadn't in 15 years. Other names in that match included Hakushi, Amazing Red and the eventual Sami Zayn.
Today, I consider Waltman one of the most respected voices in wrestling. He brings forth a level-headed and ego free approach to a craft that he perfected long before.
As if all of that wasn't Hall of Fame worthy -- his spin kick alone was.
Congratulations to Sean Waltman.