In Defense Of… DDP

Bringing the truth to the wrestling fan!

A version of this article originally appeared on 411mania.com and was updated for the book IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED. Learn more at https://www.jpprag.com

Certain people, events, organizations, and storylines in wrestling history have gotten a bum rap. Some writers have presented overtly critical comments and outright lies as fact, and others have followed suit. Well no more! “In Defense of…” has one reason: to bring the truth to the wrestling fan!

Intro

Some dame walked into my office and said…

I can’t believe I’m leading with this one, but the first person to e-mail me about DDP was Jack Scum Bang who… oh, you just have to read this one:

[T]he real reason I have mailed you is about the man who knows all about that white stuff you get in the corner of your mouth when you…BANG…JACK SCUM BANG!

What’s your take on DDP? How does he fit in with the pedigree of world champions? Is Paige one of the great ones?

BANG

Uhhhh… sometime later I heard from good ‘ol Bryan Jones who asked… a little differently:

Can you do a defense of Diamond Dallas Page? Everyone said he got where he was because he was Eric Bischoff’s neighbor, but I was a fan of his. I think he was an average athlete who worked very hard and maximized his skills. I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Faye chimed in with some thoughts as well:

I’m very much looking forward to the DDP defense.

But of course, my man PeppeR just wanted you to know:

I prefer DDP.

And…

I can’t wait to read DDP’s.

Well wait no longer!

Why this?

DDP is an enigma in wrestling. He is one of few people who really came about in WCW during the hot nWo years. Goldberg and the Giant are really the only other people who can say they became legitimate main eventers in the golden years of WCW, though none of these men have found the same level of success elsewhere. Much like many people, DDP is not a person nor character that has staying power in today’s WWE. There are many reasons for this that we will get to later on, but it does seem that — much like Sting, Ric Flair, and Dusty Rhodes before him — DDP was custom made for the NWA/JCP/WCW audience.

Unlike today’s Chris Masters or Jay Lethal types, DDP did not go into wrestling in his teens. No, his career started later in life. The DDP story should be one of a man with a dream, a dream he came to at a much later point than most, yet was able to go beyond where anyone had dreamed. This fable of DDP should depict a man who overcame all odds to become a multi-time World Heavyweight Champion. All of these tales should speak of his in-ring skill, his ability on the mic, and his amazing charisma and connection with the audience. DDP should be one of the greatest hero stories in all wrestling, and we and our children and our children’s children should know the legend of the man who went from nothing to everything, and that perhaps our dreams can come true, too.

This is not the DDP that is remembered, though.

DDP is seen as a man who never deserved his spot, a man who Eric Bischoff pushed down our throats because they were best friends, a man who perhaps engaged in wife swapping and other such events, and a man who was nothing in comparison to the deep pool of talent that was available in WCW during that day and age.

I am here to show how DDP really came about to be. I will dispel rumors, prove DDP’s natural abilities, and let it be known that DDP has fans all over the world, myself included.

The Jersey Trilogy Prequel

On April 5, 1956, Page Joseph Falkinburg was born to the community of Point Pleasant, NJ. Page was a child with excess energy, energy that would eventually get him in trouble. From DDP’s official website:

From an early age, Page was an energetic kid, who would barrel through his grandma’s kitchen on his tricycle, swing from chandeliers at the babysitter’s house, and cannonball neighborhood pool parties.

Page was big, lanky and athletic, and sports proved to be an outlet for his unbridled energy and saving grace for the grandmother who raised him. He played and excelled in both Pop Warner football, and youth hockey but he was captivated by the heroes of Saturday afternoon wrestling. He mimicked the moves and talked the talk of his favorite pro wrestlers on TV, and boasted to friends and relatives that someday, he would be the next Handsome Jimmy Valiant.

At age 12, Page was hit by a car darting through traffic on his way to school, and the doctor’s consensus assumption was that he’d never play contact sports again. Determined to compete in athletics, he picked up a new sport and became a star basketball player in high school and later went on to play collegiate ball.

It seemed that even at the age of twelve, Page’s career was destined for failure. Despite his love of sports and — especially — pro-wrestling, Page was supposed to be taken out of the game.

Let’s look at another thing, too. Page was raised by his grandmother, meaning his parents could not be there for him. How can a boy with such energy possibly get along with an older grandmother? How can he find an outlet and direction in life?

Want to know more? Page is also dyslexic and has ADD; he couldn’t even finish reading a book cover-to-cover until he was 35!

Despite the natural setbacks he was given, and the unfortunate events that took place in his life, Page showed an early determination that many others would not have. He was hit by a car, yet turned that into a positive to get involved with basketball! How many people do you know could take a life-threatening injury and turn it into a major triumph? A young Ric Flair quickly comes to mind, a man who survived a plane crash to become a sixteen to eighty-seven time World Champion. Page had that type of dedication; that when he believed in something, he felt the need to go for it. It was always his self-motivation that drove him, as we’ll see again and again.

By the late 1970’s, Page was already getting involved in the Night Club business. He was starting to find some success in the Jersey shore, and had earned the nickname “Dallas”. From Derek Burgan’s review of DDP’s shoot interview:

Page had already given himself the nickname “Dallas” and explained that diamond’s are his birthstone.

Given that, and his fanaticism with Handsome Jimmy Valiant, Page thought he’d defy the odds and try to wrestle in 1979 as Handsome Dallas Page. He did not have any success and knew too little to get involved at that point. Also, the night club business was taking off, and his attention was needed elsewhere. From DDP’s own site:

Page had established a successful and exciting career in the night club business, in several towns and states by the time he moved to Florida in the mid 80’s. During that time as a master promoter and nightclub owner came the reawakening of his dream to become involved in the world of wrestling.

And Derek Burgan’s review of DDP’s shoot interview continued:

[Scott] Hudson asked Page how he got started in the wrestling business, and Page went way back to his days of running a nightclub named Norma Jean’s. Page’s life at the time was one of complete hedonism and debauchery, which he makes no [apologies] for. One night while closing up the bar, Page saw the video for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to have Fun.” That gives you an idea of how long ago this took place as MTV was still actually airing… music videos back then. Anyway, Page saw Captain Lou Albano in the video and felt that it should have been Page himself as part of the Rock n’ Wrestling Connection.

You see, Page was the Rock n’ Wrestling connection. He was a club promoter/owner who loved wrestling. As far as he was concerned, the connection would be perfect! But he did not have delusions of grandeur. The shoot continues:

Page talked to the guys in his circle of friends at the club and thought that [he’d] try out to be a manager. Page felt that the girls in wrestling weren’t that good looking and that he had access to a slew of “hot bitches,” which would help his case as they would be his “Diamond Dolls.” Page also noted that Jimmy Hart had the “Hart Foundation,” so Page would have his own group called “the Diamond Exchange.”

Remember, Page had already tried to be a wrestler and knew the physicality it would take. But also remember this: Page did not need wrestling. At this point in history he was already making excellent money in the club industry and would have been just fine for years to come. But he felt a calling and wanted to make an impact in the industry. And in order to break in, sometimes it takes the right connection. From the shoot:

A local TV station did a small piece on Page because at the time he was semi-famous as the person who would host the club’s wet t-shirt contests and other events of that nature. “[Someone] has to do it” said Page with a smirk. The TV spot was noticed by a local radio personality named “Smitty,” who wanted Page on his show to [join], of all people, Captain Lou Albano. Smitty ended up knowing Rob Russen in Verne Gagne’s AWA and told Page to send Russen a tape. Page ended up making a video with him and all his friends and sent it to Russen.

And the review continued:

Page got a call back from Russen telling Page to bring his friends up for a try out, with the catch they had to pay their own way. Page admitted to Russen that many of the guys had no idea how to wrestle and Russen came back with the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” reply. That’s never a good sign. A short while later, Paul Heyman (yes, that Paul Heyman) left the AWA and the company needed a new manager. Greg Gagne called up Page and told him to fly himself up, bring his own clothes and they would give him a try out. Page flew up to Minnesota and brought a girl with him, who turned out to be nervous as hell. She’d be even more nervous if she had listened to the guys from Extreme Summit tell their ‘rat stories. Page met Greg Gagne while wearing cowboy boots, which caused Gagne to remark that Page was the biggest manager he had ever seen. So of course Page was put with the much smaller Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond as the tag team Bad Company. This mistake has been repeated throughout the last decade, including bringing up Matt Morgan and immediately putting him in a group with guys like Big Show and Nathan Jones to make sure not a single fan has any idea of how big Morgan really is. Page ended up working 15 months for the AWA, but since they only did one TV taping a month it ended up to only 14 days total.

So you can see that Page’s first break was no break at all. He had to use his own funds and bring his own “Diamond Dolls” to the ring with him, and 15 months of work equated to 14 television appearances. Obviously this did not translate into him getting much notoriety, fame, or money. As you might imagine, such decisions might actually burn through one’s savings rather quickly. But Page felt that the sacrifices were worth it. He wanted to make it in the industry as a manager, and this was the way to go.

But while he was in AWA, Page met a man that would mean a lot to him in the future, but not as much as you think. Back to the shoot:

Page then went back to how he met Bischoff in the AWA. Page was talking to Pat Tanaka when he was rudely interrupted by Bischoff. Page said, “listen asshole, we’re taking” and Bischoff’s reply was “so?” The two men had a pull apart in the hotel bar. Later at the elevators, Page ran into Bischoff again except this time there was AWA management around. Bischoff buried Page to the office. At 8 a.m. the next morning, Page woke up with a [hangover] and was still pissed off. Bischoff showed up at his room and looked like shit as well. Bischoff said, “I understand I was a real asshole last night.” Bischoff said there were two ways they could settle it. The first was to shake Bischoff’s hand and accept his apology. The second was to let Page hit Bischoff in the face. Bischoff earned Page’s respect and the two became friends.

Let’s put this straight right now: Page and Bischoff were not neighbors and friends before WCW. They weren’t even really friends in AWA or WCW at the beginning either. At that, Page was just a manager when he was in AWA and at the beginning of WCW. It was in 1992 when the two bought houses from Dusty Rhode’s wife (who I guess was a real estate agent) that they ended up being next door to each other. They did not know it until they both moved in, and it was after that point that they developed a friendship. Still, that friendship did not equate to a push to the top, as you’ll see later.

Still not quite feeling the bang

Anyway, with his AWA career over, Page needed something to do and to continue to earn a living (or lose less money as quickly as he was). He ended up finding his way to Florida and wrestling for FCW/PWF. Again with the shoot:

When the NWA became WCW, they wanted Dusty Rhodes to turn heel and Big Dust packed his bags and went back to Florida. Mike Graham called up Page again and wanted Page to cut a promo on the phone to Rhodes. Page cut the promo and, at first, Dusty didn’t reply. Rhodes finally asked “was that a recording kid?” Page went down to Pro Wrestling Florida and met Dusty, Gordon Solie and Steve Keirn among others. It’s a sad state of affairs when I know Keirn solely from his absurd run in the WWE as “Skinner” than anything else. Rhodes’ loved Page’s energy and told Page he was “gonna make you the Jesse Venture of the ‘90s.” Page had never done color commentary before, but The Dean of Announcing, Gordon Solie, walked him through it.

Page worked for PWF for two and a half years and went from making 50 dollars a night to 150 dollars, while also being able to pick Dusty Rhodes’ brain once a week while developing a friendship with Big Dust. Page learned that “the fake stuff hurts like hell” when he took his first bumps in the ring while training with Steve Keirn. While in Florida, Page met Scott Hall, who at the time had blonde hair and looked exactly like Magnum T.A. When PWF folded, Rhodes went to the WWE and Page a tryout as an announcer. Not surprisingly, the WWE wanted Page to change everything about himself. First Page tried out for a color commentary spot, then tried out for play-by-play. The late Alfred Hayes was impressed with Page’s play-by-play and Page credited everything he knew to Gordon Solie. The WWE had zero interest in Page, and WCW ended up calling Page in just to “force” Paul Heyman to sign his contract by making Heyman think they had a replacement already lined up.

So much to cover!

(1) Page tried a whole new direction with announcing and learned from some of the best there ever was.

(2) Page still was making next to nothing through the rest of the 80’s to just try to live out his dream.

(3) Page began to take bumps in the ring and started to get a re-taste for wrestling that he had in his twenties.

(4) After the end of the PWF, Page tried out to be an announcer in then WWF. You might remember that this is THE SAME role that Eric Bischoff tried out for. So again, they were not friends at this point, but were in direct competition with each other.

(5) He had enough recognition to be used as a political tool, but not enough recognition that he could secure a job.

Things were tough, and Page took a one-time shot at driving his pink Cadillac out at WrestleMania XI, bringing the Honkey Tonk Man and Greg Valentine to the ring. Vince McMahon just wanted to rent the car, but Page demanded that he go with it, so he ended up driving it to the ring. And that would be his last appearance in the WWF/E for over a decade.

And then there was another “W”

But due to knowing Dusty and many of the NWA mainstays, Page was able to get a shot in WCW. Remember, this was 1991 and Eric Bischoff was a nobody in the wrestling industry and had nothing to do with anything Page got. As it was, they were fighting for a lot of the same resources (when Bischoff later joined the company). From the shoot:

Page went back to the clubs for several months until Dusty Rhodes left the WWE and returned to Atlanta. By this time Page was engage to Kimberly and she was going to school at Northwestern. Kimberly wanted Page to move to Chicago, but Rhodes’ implied that if Page moved to Atlanta he would have a job with WCW. Page convinced Kimberly to spend a weekend with him in Atlanta and in a funny story, Page’s high end car that he wanted to impress Kimberly with, broke down, forcing Page to drive around in a U-Haul all weekend. Dusty’s deal with Page was 350 dollars a shot, with no guaranteed dates. Page was put as a manager with the Fabulous Freebirds and immediately bonded with Michael P.S. Hayes. There were some great stories with Hayes, as Page said Hayes would, among other things, blow smoke right into Jerry Jarrett’s face knowing that Jarrett hated second hand smoke.

Scott Hall called up Page, as Hall was desperate for work, and reminded Page of the “Diamond Studd” gimmick that both men created while in Florida. Page called up Magnum T.A. to pitch the idea. Magnum said Dusty Rhodes wasn’t interested. Page said they would change Hall’s look (and added this story is fleshed out more in Page’s Positively Page book.) Page told Hall to dye his hair “like Elvis blue-black.” Hall agreed. Page saw a George Michael video and told Hall to copy the close-beard gimmick, although Page didn’t know at the time it was a “gay thing.” After a lot of coercion, Hall agreed. Magnum got Hall a tryout and when Page and Hall walked into WCW’s Center Stage they quickly ran into Dusty Rhodes. Big Dust took one look at Hall and said, “he’s in” while giving Hall a squash match on TV that very day. Hall was freaked out that nobody recognized him, but used that his advantage when pulling a great rib on Tommy “Wildfire” Rich.

It wasn’t long before Hall injured himself and was separated from Page. Magnum T.A. also broke the news to Page that his managing duties were no longer needed because the office felt Page was overshadowing the wrestlers. Magnum told Page he should have been a wrestler. That night Page convinced himself to give it a shot because at the time he was just a fourth string announcer with Eric Bischoff.

Actually, how they became announcers together is an interesting story. Page’s shoot said:

Dusty Rhodes told the booking committee that Jim Herd was bringing in Eric Bischoff to replace Lance Russell. Rhodes told Page, who was Russell’s partner, “If you like ’em (Bischoff), help him out. If he’s an asshole, bury him. I don’t care.” When Bischoff heard he would be trying out with Page he figured he was screwed, and at the time Bischoff desperately needed a job as his wife had become pregnant. Bischoff showed up with a different look than his AWA days (the jet black hair, which is now gone) and he and Page quickly did a taping. Page realized that Bischoff didn’t know many of the wrestling moves, so Page stopped the taping and explained all of the calls to Bischoff. This was quite a shock to Bischoff, who had to ask Page if he remembered Bischoff from the AWA. Bischoff eventually got the play-by-play job and Page said when Bischoff came back he “knew all the moves.”

So it was actually Page who helped Bischoff get his break in WCW and secure his position in the company, not the other way around. Bischoff might not have ever gotten a chance to develop in WCW if not for Page’s help. Interesting how people want to only remember what happened in 1997–1999 and not what happened in 1991–1993. There is a whole other level of history that gets greatly ignored.

Anyway, Page started to mull over becoming a professional wrestler and headed to the Power Plant.

I’m a ‘rassler!

In the Power Plant, Page started to transform into Diamond Dallas Page under the tutelage of Jody Hamilton. Although Jake “the Snake” Roberts is often credited as Page’s trainer, it was really Jody Hamilton that taught him most of the wrestling that he knows. At the time, the Plant was a fairly empty place. Wrestlers did not come there to practice and it was not the breeding ground for future wrestlers that it would become later. So Page had some pretty exclusive training sessions and got to learn quickly. It was not like he had not previously been in the ring or taken bumps or learned the moves, but he had never put it together in a match.

The major hitch? Page was 35 years old! For context, Mick Foley retired from active wrestling when he was 35!!! To say Page was taking the road less traveled would be an understatement. Plenty of wrestlers had retired and become managers and/or announcers, but how many announcers or managers became wrestlers? Trish Stratus comes to mind, but that was ten years later.

Page gets a lot of criticism for being an old man in wrestling. Yet how many people can ever claim they reached the pinnacle of their sport in their later years in life? Perhaps if the Boogeyman goes on to be World Champion he’ll be able to surpass the bar DDP has set, but that will be hard. After all, DDP did become a three time… three time… three time WCW Champion.

But as you can imagine, being 35 did not help Page’s position in WCW. Most people saw him as a perennial jobber who had a year or two at most in the industry. He began teaming with Scott Hall (as the Diamond Stud). That lasted until Hall was injured and would be on the shelf for the rest of his WCW contract. That injury, though, became a blessing for Page as he was able to take over all of Hall’s dates. Without that, Page would have had no bookings at all and absolutely no career.

As the months moved on through 1991 and into 1992, Page began to team with Kevin Nash (as Vinnie Vegas). Yes, the old Diamond Connection was paying off for DDP (he had managed both Hall and Nash in the past) and things seemed to be going pretty decent. PWI even named him Rookie of the Year in 1992.

Of course, he then tore his rotator cuff and Bill Watts fired him from WCW.

Well, that was working out for a while.

For many people, being 35, injured, and fired would be a major setback, but not DDP.

He would not give up, he would make his dream come true.

And that dream would be brought into focus as DDP and wife Kimberley brought a new roommate into their house:

Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

So that’s why they consider him a trainer!

From Derek Burgan’s review of DDP’s shoot interview:

Back in Florida, Page got a call from Jake “the Snake” Roberts, who had just separated from his wife Cheryl. Page let Jake stay in his house and learned from the Snake… Jake told Page that he already knew all the wrestling holds he would ever need to know and that Page needed to work on the psychology of a wrestling match if he was ever to become a star. Jake helped Page work on his character and also got Page booked on all the indie shows that booked Jake. “If you’re gonna be a top guy, you gotta learn how to handle the heat,” said Roberts, explaining that when Page became a top guy his friends would become jealous.

What? You were expecting something seedy? Sorry, it was all on the up-and-up!

And besides, whatever sexual activities DDP may or may not be in to is none of my business as it has no bearing on his wrestling career. Now, if DDP loaned Kimberly out to get a push, then we would cover it. And we’ll get to that very comment later.

Anyway, the point is DDP was not just a nice guy to Roberts, but also used the opportunity to learn from him. Roberts taught DDP everything he would need to know about psychology and controlling the heat. DDP would put that to good use later on. And although Roberts told him he had all the hold he would ever need to know, DDP still strived to better himself in the ring.

So with a couple of years of seasoning (and even less money to show for it), DDP felt he was ready to return to the big league, but of course not before some trouble. From the shoot review:

Page had supplemented himself up to 280 pounds, but Kimberly was convinced being a wrestler was not in the cards for Page and told him to get a real job. Page told Kimberly to hit the bricks if she didn’t believe in him.

That’s pretty amazing. From all accounts, Page would do anything for Kimberly, yet he still felt getting into wrestling was worth it. Even though at that point he was 37, had injuries, had no notoriety, and had hemorrhaged money for a decade, he still worked to make it in the industry. And that’s when an opportunity came a’kockin’! From the shoot:

Fortunately for Page, Bill Watts was fired and Eric Bischoff was given Watts’ job. Bischoff brought Page back in and Page asked for 150,000 a year contract. Bischoff said he couldn’t do that and countered with 85,000, which was what Page was making when he got let go. Page said that after food and travel, 85,000 isn’t much money at all and I can certainly believe that. Page claimed that Bischoff used “reverse nepotism” and made it tougher on Page than he would other wrestlers. Bischoff wanted Page to sign a two year contract, but Page refused and instead went back the Power Plant to train. Page laid out three months of storylines to WCW booker Dusty Rhodes, and once Rhodes saw Page in the ring he said, “you got it.”

All right, let’s do this:

(1) Yes, Bischoff helped DDP, his friend and then neighbor, get back into WCW. BUT…

— — I. DDP had already worked for WCW

— — II. DDP help Bischoff get into WCW originally

— — III. Bischoff did not try to get DDP back earlier

— — IV. DDP had seasoned up and paid even more dues

(2) Although Bischoff got him a job, he did not get preferential treatment. As a matter of fact, Bischoff treated him worse. And again, this goes back to our Eric Bischoff case, but anyone who said Bischoff just threw money at people has no idea what they are talking about. Bischoff was generous, and did eventually give contracts that worked against WCW, but he was ALWAYS looking out for the bottom line. That included a nothing wrestler like Page, friend or not.

(3) Bischoff’s offer was so low that Page decided to just keep training and then lay out a long storyline so he could be a real part of the show and make some scratch.

(4) Even when Page was brought in, he was not going to the main event. And it was actually Dusty Rhodes who brought him up, not Bischoff.

And when Rhodes brought him in, it seemed good… for a couple of weeks. Back to our shoot:

Page was back on TV with an angle where he would pick an opponent’s name out of a fishbowl, and the person would always be a jobber. Four weeks into the angle, Dusty Rhodes was let go, Ric Flair was brought in as booker and the angle was dropped cold.

Can this guy not catch a break?!?! He finally had a storyline, TV time, and a job, yet it was all taken away in a month!

Still, DDP made the best of it, and he and bodyguard Madd Max went about losing to the mid-card through 1994 and into 1995. But then he won the Television Title from the Renegade! And then he lost it to Johnny B. Badd. He was named PWI “Most Improved Wrestler of the Year” in 1995! And then he “lost” all his money in storylines and became a pauper, lost Kimberly to Johnny B. Badd, and lost a Loser Leaves Town Match to the Booty Man in 1996.

Damn, storyline or not, things looked to be going nowhere for Page. Actually, someone else felt that as well.

WCW grows and grows and Page… gets released?!?

From the shoot:

When WCW hit it big, Page was there to ride the wave. Page gave credit to his Power Plant training. Page wanted to be able to [wrestle] guys as diverse as Rey Mysterio and the Big Show. Hulk Hogan ended up putting Page over to Bischoff strong, but Bischoff didn’t see it happening and offered Page his release. Page said he would talk about this in that damn audio book. Page does admit that Bischoff did help him in not getting screwed with by the wrestlers or outright fired by the company.

Did you read that right? Bischoff actually told Page, his friend, neighbor, and whatever, that he should leave the company. Even Hulk Hogan, who Eric Bischoff holds in the highest regard, could not convince Bischoff of Page’s worth. So once again, Bischoff did not push Page to the moon… he was ready to fire him!

DDP, 40 years old at this point, decided to stick around. And he was about to find some creativity:

The Monday Night War started and Page stayed in WCW. Ron Reis, who you may remember as the big goof from Raven’s Flock in WCW, gave Page the idea for the Diamond Sign, which Page had trademarked. Page said he was growing on the WCW fans while adding they were chanting “D-D-P” in the same way they used to chant “D-D-T” for Jake Roberts. Page would tell the fans to “shut up” while playing the heel, but Scott Hall, who was now back in WCW as part of the New World Order, told Page to never do that again and just let the crowd react naturally.

What’s that? Just reacting naturally to the crowd and letting them boo and cheer what they want? What a novel concept!

So DDP had the diamond cutter that he could hit out of anywhere, a cool symbol, a chant-able name, and a NATURAL growing fanbase. I don’t know how much I can hammer this home, so I’ll do it some more. DDP was not getting the push of a lifetime! Before this, he had managed to win Battle Bowl in what was considered an incredible fluke at the time, and from there had gone on to feud with Eddie Guerrero, a feud Guerrero eventually won for the vacant US Title. It was during that time from Battle Bowl through Eddie Guerrero that he really developed the diamond cutter. From Obsessed with Wrestling:

Diamond Dallas Page credits Bobby Heenan for naming his finisher, “The Diamond Cutter” — which is a modified Ace Crusher.

So yet another person DDP learned from and used to get better, not some grand push.

What finally solidified DDP as a face was when he was offered membership in the nWo, and became the first man to turn down the Outsiders. From Obsessed with Wrestling:

Early 1997: The Outsiders (Kevin Nash & Scott Hall) began approaching DDP and offering him a place in the nWo.

January 25, 1997 — Souled Out: Scott Norton defeated Diamond Dallas Page by COUNT OUT.

~~~The Outsiders once again tried to recruit DDP, but he gave them Diamond Cutters and escaped through the crowd!

~~~This was the night DDP became a Megastar, surrounded by the fans and looked down at the nWo in the ring.

Yes, this was the first time DDP exited through the crowd, which would become his trademark. This was yet another example of how DDP connected with the audience, how he became the “people’s champion”. But this was not what made him a megastar. Oh no, that would be what happened next…

Snap into him! Oooooooooh yeeeeaaaaahhhh!!!

Wikipedia will tell you this:

Page’s career really took off in 1997. As part of the hot nWo storyline, Page began a feud with the nWo’s “Macho Man” Randy Savage. On an episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Savage, aided by fellow nWo members Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, attacked DDP and sprayed “nWo” on his back. A few weeks later at the WCW pay-per-view Uncensored, Savage and Miss Elizabeth revealed to the world that Page and Nitro Girl Kimberly, were in fact married. Savage then proceeded to beat up Page, ensuring a future match between the two.

At the 1997 Spring Stampede, Page and Savage battled in a memorable match where Page emerged victorious, but it was the not the end of conflict between the two. A few months later at The Great American Bash, they squared off again in an anything goes, lights out match what was dubbed “Savage-Page II.” This match was far more brutal than their first encounter, and ended with Savage defeating Page with help from (then) Tag Team Champion Scott Hall. Savage and Page would continue their rivalry from there on. Page even dressed up as masked wrestler La Parka and beat Savage.

And while this is also statistically true, it does not capture the actual rise of DDP from mid-card to plausible main eventer. It also does not cover how this series came about.

Now I know what you are thinking. “Obviously, Bischoff wanted to push his best friend, even though you keep presenting evidence that that’s not what happened. But this time it’s different!”

Sorry my friends, this time it’s not. From the shoot:

Randy Savage said that he wanted to work with Page. Savage wanted to take the Diamond Cutter and Page said the fans blew the roof off when he nailed Randy with the move, first at a house show to test it out, than at the Spring Stampede PPV.

So once again, it was not Bischoff pushing Page, but other wrestlers wanting to work with him. Say what you want for Randy Savage’s sanity, even then, the man was still a legend and a huge draw. If he wanted to work with someone, you knew that person had to be damn good. And page proved it, too. By the way, this won PWI’s “Feud of the Year” for 1997.

As time went on, Page would continue feuding with the nWo, took a side-trip to win the US Title from Curt Hennig, defended the title against Chris Benoit and Raven, drop the title to Raven, and then got back to the nWo.

It was at this point that he got involved in the big storylines. It was here that he and Karl Malone fought Hogan and Rodman, and that he and Jay Leno fought Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. And don’t forget: it was not Bischoff pushing for DDP to have this spot, it was Hogan. Hogan trusted DDP enough to be involved in the biggest angles in WCW. No amount of nepotism is going to get a 40+ year old guy a spot like that without having the trust of the bookers, the brass, the wrestlers, and the guests. DDP had proven his worth.

After this and some War Games, DDP put over Goldberg in what is widely considered Goldberg’s best match at Halloween Havoc 1998. From there he returned to the US Title feuding with the nebulous Bret Hart. It was 1999, five years since returning to WCW, five years of winning over the fans and being in huge main events. Yet despite all that, Bischoff did not want to pull the trigger on a title run.

As 1999 rolled on, Bischoff’s responsibilities were slowly stripped from him and he was asked to stay home more often. It was only in this chaos that the trigger was finally pulled at Spring Stampede 1999. From Wikipedia:

Page finally became World Champion in April, 1999, at Spring Stampede when he defeated Sting, Hogan, and Ric Flair in a 4-way dance for the title. This match was ironic for Page, as it featured Randy Savage as the special-guest referee, and also saw Hogan eliminated early when Page seriously damaged Hogan’s leg with a submission hold.

Page was finally champion, and he had quite an unusual first month, as he lost the title to Sting on an episode of Nitro, only to gain it back in the show’s main event.

Bischoff was at home and was soon to be fired (September 1999, to be exact), so who put the title on Page? From the shoot:

Page said that many people credit Bischoff for putting the WCW world title on Page, but Scott Hall and Nash were the ones that pushed for that.

Oh, and let’s get this out of the way now. Page’s last run with the title in April 2000 had nothing to do with Bischoff either. For the last time: Bischoff did not make Page a champion — Page made Page a champion.

The End of WCW

With Bischoff on his way out and gone from WCW, Page took a new direction, turned heel, and formed the Jersey Triad with Bam Bam Bigelow and Chris Kanyon, an experience used mostly to give Kanyon some exposure. But the Triad quickly disbanded in the rapidly shifting WCW as new directions became the norm. DDP would then spend the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000 putting over Jeff Jarrett, Buff Bagwell, and Mike Awesome. DDP knew his days as an active wrestler were coming to an end (as late as they began), and he used the opportunity to give the rub to another generation.

As WCW started winding down, he and Nash teamed up as the “Insiders” to feud with the Natural Born Thrillers and what was left of the New Blood. He then main evented the last WCW PPV Greed, putting over new champion Scott Steiner to help solidify Steiner’s top-tier status.

Two days later the WWF bought WCW.

The next week was the last Nitro.

From DDT Digest:

Earlier Today, DDP speaks positively about his WCW experience. DDP thanks all the fans for letting him make it. DDP says that it’s not the promoters that decide who’s over, it’s the fans. DDP then brings up the forbidden name of Kimberly before closing.

And that was the end of DDP in WCW. But it would not be the end of DDP in wrestling…

InVasion

A few months after the end of WCW, a few former wrestlers started showing up on WWF TV. These scant mid-carders were among the few that the WWF bought out the contracts of. But DDP, having a multi-million dollar guaranteed deal, was not one who was going to be brought over. Not only that, he was not in very good condition. From BJ Bethel’s interview with DDP in 2001:

BJ: How’s the arm doing?

DDP: Actually, [it’s] my back. I ruptured my L4 and L5. It was actually an angular tear. [It’s] because it goes around your spine and your disc. And I’ve been doing a lot of rehab…

Not only that, but DDP was 41. What type of shelf life could he possibly have? The WWF was not immediately interesting in the investment.

But as we have discovered, the money was not the most important thing to DDP, but living out his dream was. So he negotiated out of his deal with AOL-Time Warner and convinced the WWF to give him a shot. He was the first main event WCW star to appear in the InVasion. Things would not go so smoothly, though. From Derek Burgan’s review of DDP’s shoot interview:

Page talked about his run in the WWE and that his angle with Sara Undertaker wasn’t booked to go the way it did. I should hope not. Page takes responsibility for the angle flopping and said it would have worked with anyone else but Page was too much of a babyface to play the stalking heel gimmick. Page also didn’t see the angle through all the way when it started or he would have realized it had to culminate with Undertaker squashing him.

Page takes responsibility for the Undertaker angle going sour, a responsibility he most likely did not need to take. The WWF bookers and writers were supposed to be the ones to think of these angles to the end and dropped the ball here. DDP, though, is not one to shift blame and tries to take responsibility even when it is not necessary.

DDP went out with injury at the conclusion of this feud in August 2001. He returned in January to a whole new gimmick. From Wikipedia:

Page would eventually switch gimmicks and become a pseudo-motivational speaker, in what would come to be known as his “Positively Page” character. The name came from the title of his autobiography that was published during his WCW days. The character involved Page constantly smiling and acting optimistic, with his trademark phrase “That’s not a bad thing… that’s a good thing.”

In early 2002, Page became the oldest European Champion in WWE history. At WrestleMania X8, he defeated Christian, a former follower of his positive “philosophy” and retained the title.

Injuries, though, began to show their ugly head again and DDP knew he needed some time off. So, from the end of March to the end of April, DDP put over William Regal, Christian, and Hardcore Holly. During that match with Holly, though, things went really wrong. From Tim Baines article in the Ottawa Sun quoting DDP:

I was fighting Bob Holly. He’d knocked me out with a kick to the face and clothesline. (Later in the match) I was trying to suplex him off the top rope. I was so worried about keeping him straight, I jackknifed myself.

“It scared me and (WWE) didn’t want to take a chance on me anymore. They wanted me to become a colour commentator. I was so beat up, I guess I just needed a break.

DDP was looking pretty rough. The almost WWE felt DDP was still worthwhile as a color commentator and wanted to move him into that role. DDP felt he still had more to offer as a wrestler. Because of this, he ELECTED to leave the almost WWE. That’s right, DDP was not let go, he chose to leave.

With that, DDP went to check out his options. From Obsessed with Wrestling:

April 17, 2002: DDP visited Dr. Jay Youngblood in San Antonio and was told that he qualifies for [surgery] on his neck.

May 16, 2002: DDP again met with Dr. Jay Youngblood to get the painful diagnosis.

~~~Page has a lot of degeneration in his C5, C6 and C7 vertebrae.

~~~Page also has a spinal canal narrowing which is causing weakness in his biceps and numbness in his hands.

~~~Page’s C3 and C4 vertebrae have almost completely fused together on their own.

~~~Youngblood said that DDP could continue wrestling as long as he can tolerate the pain.

May 30, 2002: Page’s third [doctor’s] opinion was that he should retire from wrestling.

~~~Page later finds out that if he steps into the ring again, his insurance policy will be cancelled.

June 2002: Page makes the most difficult decision of his life, and announces his retirement ‘from the ring’.

~~~Page steps back from the wrestling business for a while, stating he needs the time because he “wasn’t ready to leave”

Well, if that wasn’t injured, I don’t know what is!

Time to make an iMPACT!

Despite these devastating injuries, DDP found a way to recoup and work his way back into the squared circle. In order to get back into wrestling shape, DDP tread a path few western men had tried before (at the time) — Yoga. From DDP’s own website:

Now at the age of 42, it seemed that he should listen to all those who suggested that either surgery or retirement would ease the pain and be the best solution to the loss of mobility that his injuries had caused.

But Page continued to search for a better answer, knowing that his positive attitude was equal to the challenge of rehabilitation. Along with the support of doctors and physical therapists, he decided to become an expert at healing his own body. He studied and experimented with chiropractic, applied kinesiology, nutrition, organic juicing and supplementation to create the perfect mix of wellness for a person who was trying to, as he put it, “put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

His quest led him back to the mat, except this time it was a yoga mat. After studying the positive healing effects and increased flexibility that yoga positions provided, he became a devotee and adapted the discipline to meet his own needs. He developed YRG — Yoga For Regular Guys, which is a comprehensive, creative and motivational approach to longevity and better understanding of health and fitness that is presented in 20, 30 and 45 minute workouts.

Of course, this wasn’t DDP first experiment with Yoga. From BJ Bethel’s interview with DDP:

BJ: I heard you were doing a lot of Yoga, is that helping out?

DDP: I’m VERY into it. It’s one of those things that once I get going I can’t stop talking about it. My wife [Kimberly] actually got me into it, and I went and got a personal trainer. I won’t be stretching here if I have to do anything, but I stretch [every day]. [It’s] stretching from one move, into another move, into another. It’s called Power Yoga and I have to make sure I’m doing it the right way. I also went to this spine specialist. [It’s] the same one Perry Saturn and Raven went to and [it’s] called Watkins-Glen Rehabilitation Method and what it is, is you know those five muscles around your spine, if you push your back flat on the ground, and you do stuff with weights and concentrate on your stomach, it strengthens your spine. I felt a difference the first week. I started doing it with dumbbells and the leg weights, cuz when I start doing something I do it right, I don’t around.

DDP’s quest to recover himself paid off. At 48 years of age after a mutual separation with Kimberly, Page started taking select independent dates. Then, in November 2004, DDP made his debut in the six-sided circle for TNA. From Wikipedia:

[H]e debuted with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling on November 12, 2004, feuding with Raven and Erik Watts.

Page received an NWA World Heavyweight Championship title shot on March 13, 2005 at TNA Destination X 2005 but was defeated by reigning champion Jeff Jarrett. He remained with the company until May, 2005, at which point he left to focus on his acting career and motivational speaking career.

There are a lot of rumors persisting that DDP walked out on TNA because he did not want to job out anymore. That’s not what happened at all. From Tim Baines article in the Ottawa Sun two month before DDP left TNA:

He’s happy with his role in TNA.

“That high impact stuff, drop me on my head … that stuff ain’t happenin’ anymore,” said Page. “I’d get to the arena and see guys like Cactus Jack and Terry Funk, and they could barely walk.

“I’m having so much fun working with these guys. I probably have three or four more pay-per-views in me. I want to see how long I can do it, but I probably don’t have too many more big singles matches in me.”

He’s been to acting school, along with his wife Kim.

“A lot of things that I did that got me over in WCW were things they teach in acting school,” said Page. “Things like listen, feel and react.”

DDP knew his time was limited. He was 49 years old! He also had other aspirations that he was looking to fulfill. He did three PPVs after this interview, living up to his word. He already knew his limitations, being old and injured, and went out putting over the Outlaw and Monty Brown while working with Ron Killings. What more could be asked for?

And after that?

For the remainder of 2005 through the time of this writing in 2006, DDP has made a few select independent dates, mostly to satiate his own wants and matches or to help out old friends. He does not need to wrestle, and by all accounts it is bad for him, yet he persists through love and desire alone. Also during this time he released his new book “Yoga for Regular Guys” and has been on a tour with it. He’s also sued Jay-Z for use of the diamond sign, which he did have trademarked years beforehand. The case is not without merit, but that’s for the courts to decide. What we need to know is this: what does this have to do with wrestling? Well, about as much as these things:

FUN FACTS

From Obsessed with Wrestling:

DDP is the only pro wrestler in history to ever be invited to the White House lawn and help with the President’s Easter Egg hunt.

Diamond Dallas Page went on a mission to help kids with reading disabilities.

They donate money from DDP’s autograph sessions at schools around the country to buy [books].

So DDP has used his wrestling career to benefit others as well. He has lived by his motto of positivity, and has helped inspire many others, myself included!

The Ching-Ching

Of course, the question remains is that even though DDP was over, was he a draw? Well, that’s where my friends the numbers come in.

DDP’s first (and second, since they were separated by an hour) reign as champion saw some impressive numbers. The four weeks that DDP was champion have an average Nitro rating of 4.0 (In comparison, RAW had a 6.2 average. How times have changed). Actually, DDP’s first week as champ drew a 4.4 rating, the highest rating in nearly two months and the highest rating Nitro would have for the rest of its existence.

During DDP’s last reign as champion, the second week saw Nitro ratings rebound to a 3.1. Three weeks before the rating was a 1.8. DDP help change the course of even a bitterly disturbed WCW. Even still, WCW was extremely turbulent at that point in time, and he had no chance to help turn the tide of the company as champion.

The one PPV defending his title during his second reign was Slamboree 1999, which drew a 0.48 buyrate. Now, we know that this is outside of the “success” rage we defined in the Eric Bischoff case, but the context is important. The previous year’s Slamboree drew 0.44, and that was just off the peak of WCW (in a year where half of the PPVs drew over 1.0 buyrates). The Great American Bash 1999 the following month drew a 0.43 and Bash at the Beach after that drew a 0.39. So DDP was able to increase returns over the previous year, and buyrates went down without him in the title picture.

And what about his autobiography, Positively Page? How did that do? From BJ Bethel’s interview:

DDP: It was weird. It had so many similarities to me and Jake. Jake’s one of my mentors. If you read Positively Page, you know which you can get off amazon.com. now …*laughs*

BJ: *laughs* When is it coming out on paperback?

DDP: I’m not going to do that until I know where I am, or what I’m doing because I’ve been approached by people to do it. We published it ourselves, and that was our biggest mistake. *laughs* We sold 50,000 copies so far. I should’ve sold, in’ 500 but we did it ourselves and when you do it like that you [don’t] get the distribution.

So without any distribution DDP still sold 50,000 copies. Hey, at $28.95 a pop, that’s about $1.5 million. Did you sell $1.5 million in merchandise in a year?

Of course, there is the merchandise. Unfortunately, WCW books are unavailable to this author, but DDP’s extensive merchandise consisted of t-shirts, toys, magazines, posters, pennants and the VERY POPULAR foam hands in the diamond sign. DDP most likely made a very good chuck of change off his merchandise, especially by judging by his book sales numbers.

Is DDP the greatest drawing champion of all time? Most certainly not. He’s probably not even in the top 20. But he was someone who put butts in seats and made dollars while doing so. That, especially at his age, is an accomplishment unto itself.

Diamond Cutter

DDP is a man you either love or hate, but you’ll never forget him. His career is an odd one, one that began much later in life than most and went in the opposite path of others. He started off as a hanger-on, and through hard work and dedication made his dreams come true. DDP literally sacrificed all of his savings and life in order to have a wrestling career, one that he did not need, but one that he wanted. He grew in wrestling skill, in-ring charisma, psychology, mic skills, and storyline ideas; and got over with the crowd on his own accord. He won the admiration of his peers and they worked hard to put him over, despite the beliefs of his supposed best friend Eric Bischoff. Contrary to popular belief, Eric Bischoff was not DDP’s ultimate supporter, but spent more time trying to get DDP out of wrestling for good.

Although his last few major exposures were tainted, they do not take away from the legacy of DDP. Spending time as a motivational speaker and Yoga guru, DDP has mixed interests that still involve his wrestling life. Looking back, his career actually did draw people and money, and DDP used that ability to parlay it into charities to help kids learn how to read.

Despite all of his disadvantages in life, DDP never let it get him down. He always stayed positive and always went the extra mile to make his dreams come true. Nothing was handed to him, he worked for every iota of his spot.

I think this line from DDP in his interview with BJ Bethel sums is all up:

[Winning the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time] meant the most to me when I went into the locker room, and Hulk’s sitting on the chair and as I walked in he’s taking off his boots, and looks up to me, and says “that’s the way [it’s] supposed to be.” And I didn’t even say anything. And he goes, “A guy works as hard as you did, to accomplish what you accomplished when no one believed you could do it, that’s the way things are supposed to be.”

The defense rests.

After the Trial

Hung Jury

IN THE CASE OF THE IWC VS. DDP, DDP HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF being a no-talent hack who was pushed down our throats because he was best friends with eric bischoff and never was a worthy champion nor drew a dime.

And with 95.0%(!!!!!!!!) of the vote, DDP was found:

NOT GUILTY!

Hot diggity landslide, Batman, that’s an insane number!

Response

Being an overwhelming victory, most of the feedback was repeating back to me the facts of the case that really touched people. However, some people had other reasons for voting the way they did:

I have to vote not guilty, and it’s not just [because] he went to college down the street from me, or that he’s from the Jersey Shore in general.

But, y’know, that helps him. :)

Jim Moore

Oh, New Jersey, always sticking together! Aside from this, I also got this little note that I thought was interesting:

I have another fun fact for you as far as DDP’s Yoga for Regular Guys (he calls the program YRG).

He did a book signing in Orlando which, while I heard it was a great turn out, I was unable to attend.

No matter as he signed all copies of the book in store just in case anyone wanted to purchase it later.

Andrew F.

I am also a graduate of YRG and what he currently (in 2020) calls DDP Yoga. One time when I was with friends at WrestleMania — including fellow 411mania staff writer Jeff Small — I challenged them to do a 50-minute DDP Yoga session with me. Small was done and out at about 15 minutes!

The original version of this article appeared on 411mania.com and can be found on jpprag.com:

Part 1 — May 3, 2006 * Part 2 — May 10, 2006 * Part 3 — May 17, 2006

IN DEFENSE OF… EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED

IN DEFENSE OF…

EXONERATING PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING’S MOST HATED

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