In the UK for a series of dates promoting his DDP Yoga program (tickets available here!), and while sitting down with him to discuss his history and current goals with DDP Yoga, we were lucky enough to ask the three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion some questions about his glittering and wildly popular career in the ring.
RealSport: Let’s go right back to sort of the beginning. You started off as a manager rather than a wrestler, how did you get into the industry in the first place?
Diamond Dallas Page: Well, I have a really funny story about that if you can imagine. And you will hear it at the Q&As. I almost opened up with it and like WHAT?! I almost opened up with it through my speaking. It is an eight-minute story and it is hysterical because you cannot believe what actually happened. But the bottom line is, the cliff notes are I sent in a videotape in the NWA and they brought me in to be a manager because they liked the way I talked. And there was a lot of variables that happened to make that happen, that were like God was playing in some way with that. Like the rest of my career, it never should have happened.
RS: You mentioned before that it was Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts who encouraged you to make the switch from a manager to a wrestler. How hard was that transition for you?
DDP: Well it wasn’t really Jake who did that. He was the first one, besides Jody Hamilton, to believe in me and actually take me under his wing. I worked with Dusty Rhodes in Florida Championship Wrestling for a year and a half as a manager and a color commentator. When he left, he went to WWE, I kept doing that. Over to the NWA I was a manager for about two years, but I’m still doing my night club job at the time because I wasn’t making any money. I mean, back then it cost me money to be Diamond Dallas Page. But when Dusty finally came to WCW, he brought me in to manage the [Fabulous] Freebirds. He wanted to give them a facelift, to give them something special. And Michael PS Hayes was a good buddy of mine, and I met him and rode with him a couple of times in the NWA and he liked me.
He sort of gave me that spot and let me talk when him and Jimmy [Garvin], two Hall of Famers, but these guys are also Hall of Fame talkers, but who the hell can talk better than Michael P.S. Hayes or Jimmy Garvin? Not many. They let me do all the talking. After I met Scott Hall and created Scott Hall’s new gimmick, black hair, fresh cut mustache, black dyed beard, I created all that. He will be the first to tell you. Once that got moving, they were like “we want you to be a wrestler. With the hair, the bling, the girls, the rock” and at that point I was like, “what?” They weren’t going to let me be a manager and I had seven months left on my contract. I wanna go where I can wrestle. And Michael P.S. Hayes, I said it at my induction speech, he fell down laughing.
Like he really did. Fell. Down. Laughing. Because he was like “are you out of your mind?! You’re never going to make it, and by the time you do make it, you will be too old.” Nobody believed it. So long story short, I believed in me. That is a big part of my DDP Yoga workshops. Inspiration meets perspiration. What I am talking about, what the message is, if I want to help people, they need to believe in themselves. That’s what I am really good [at] and probably better than anything I do is helping people believe “wow, if they can do that, so can I.” That is why you see so many success stories. But back to the wrestling part, I can’t tell you how many times my 35-and-a-half-year-old body hit that mat and I said to myself “man, this fake stuff hurts like hell” and “do I really wanna do it?” It was a chore, man, it was a chore, but I loved it.
RS: One of your really great and memorable feuds was with Randy Savage. What was it like working with him, being a legend for so long, and how does that feud rank among your personal career highlights?
DDP: Other than being a world champion, getting my first world title and Ric Flair taking the Diamond Cutter, it ranks right there in the middle. God bless Ric Flair. I love him to death. We have had our ups and downs. We have had our spits and spats, but in the big picture we are really good friends today. I love the guy and just pray for him every day now.
I stepped in the ring with Sting, Hulk Hogan, and Flair, three of maybe, the greatest of all time. There are maybe ten guys who can say they were the greatest of all time and I always put Flair at the top of that list. But you walk in there with Sting or Hogan, and one way or another, they have to be on that list too. For me to walk out as world champion with Ric Flair do the favors and Randy “Macho Man” Savage to be the guest referee, it was a helluva night.
However, it was my first match with Randy, my first pay-per-view, Spring Stampede 1997 and nobody thought that I was going to walk out a victor that night. Randy Savage made all that happen. Just like Flair put me over for the world title, Randy started it all.
In reality though, Scott Hall started it all by letting me being the guy who turned on the nWo. However, just like those guys put me on that rocket, Randy took me to the next planet. I love the guy. He was amazing and was very giving. He loved me because I worked my ass off and because I was there. If I told him I was going to do something, I did it. It was the feud of the year in 1997, and we beat out two of the greatest, Bret Hart and the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In 1997, Pro Wrestling Illustrated gave me and Savage the feud of the year. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the number one wrestler of the year. Diamond Dallas Page was number four. It was unbelievable. The next couple of years would also be unbelievable, but it was that year to which I wish I could go back and just watch it. Not do it again, just watch my life. It proved that on the inside of my Hall of Fame ring, most guys put their name and year. I didn’t know that. I was just told that. I put "work ethic equal to dreams, exclamation point, DDP".
RS: Wow. The fact that as you said, you were the one that sort of rejected the nWo, and played the face to Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. What did it mean to you that, not just those guys that put you over, but the company was willing to back you as sort of the top face?
DDP: They really weren’t willing to do that nor did they believe in it. It all started really soon after I hit that Diamond Cutter out of nowhere, and no one did that before me. Johnny Ace gave me that initial part of the move, but he never hit it out of nowhere. I was the first ever to do that. When they saw all the people putting up the Diamond Cutter sign, they couldn’t not push me. The company did not want to push that guy. It was sort of very, at the time, Daniel Bryan-esque. Because I wasn’taesome cheers dude
, as they even said, what they wanted to be branded as their company’s World Champion. But the people did. And that son of a gun (Ric Flair), I wonder what would have happened if he didn’t get hurt because he took that company by storm a lot like Diamond Dallas Page did in the late 90s.
RS: I wanted to ask you about one of the more bizarre moments towards the end of WCW. What was your reaction when you learned you were booked to sort of indirectly drop the belt to David Arquette?
DDP: Well, what happened in that match... Tell me what happened in the finish of that match.
RS: He was tagging with you, pinned Eric Bischoff and won the belt through that way.
DDP: Right. So he didn’t pin me. I didn’t drop the strap to him. It was one of those ridiculous things. It smarted because David is one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. And when they first told me, Bischoff had come back, that was when him and Russo were working together, and I know that it was not Eric’s idea. And I love Vince Russo today. But above that, I said, “Vince, what the hell were you thinking, dude? No!”
In the beginning, I thought it was bullshit. I thought they were ribbing me. But once I realized they weren’t, I decided “C’mon, we’re not doing this right?” And then we did it. I told David and David said “No!” and started laughing. And I said, “Yes, that’s what they want to do.” He shouted “No way!” And I explained to him “You can say no, but that’s not the end of this shit. If you say no, they will say ok, and they will come up with something else.”
But, they were looking for another shot of exposure, of national attention, and it backfired. It was stupid and it was something that kind of brought WCW down. But just to give David credit and the props he deserves, he made about ten grand for that payoff and gave it to Melanie Pillman. [Brian] Pillman had died a year or so before, I don’t remember the time frame, but he gave that money to her.
RS: Oh, wow.
DDP: Credit to David Arquette. That is who David Arquette is.
RS: Well that is a fantastic story. I never knew he did that. So earlier this year, we interviewed Jeff Jarrett, and he said that, in retrospect, it really wasn’t a surprise that the WWF won the Monday Night Wars. Is that something you agree with?
DDP: Indirectly, the real truth is that WWE didn’t win the Monday Night Wars although they did in the big picture. But Jamie Kellner, the man who ran all of TBS Sports, came in and wanted to kill wrestling. Now, were we losing money at that time? Yes. Eric Bischoff had the money to buy the company. $50 million, more importantly, he was going to assume the responsibility of $40 million in contracts. $90 million total. And the way the terms were set up, he had to be on TBS, Turner Broadcasting Station, for ten years. So Brad Siegel, who was above Eric, said cancel the wrestling. And Eric said “Wait a second. Give us a month or two. Let me sell it to another station.” Eric didn’t want to be on TBS or TNT to begin with. He wanted to be on another cable station. Bottom line is, Kellner said, “Kill the deal.” Think about that. He didn’t have a chance to sell it. And I know Eric Bischoff, at that time, could have sold it.
Here’s where I say they could have won the war. If Vince McMahon had a deal with Jamie Kellner, then that would have been the greatest business move ever because all I know is, TBS, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Brothers directly, not only did not get the $50 million but also had to pay out the $40 million in contracts. So you’re telling me that Warner Brothers was going to eat $90 million? Think about that. Unless there was some deal made, which we will never know. Then, they really won the war, because that was the greatest move ever, or Jamie Kellner was the stupidest human being alive. It was one or the other.
Even though, when it is all said and done, WWE won the war. And whoever wins the war (laughs), writes the history. And to me, when I came in to do ‘The Very Best of Nitro’ nine or ten years ago and I hadn’t done anything with the WWE in six years, the last thing I did with them was lame. I was really sketchy. They had called me up and asked if I wanted to be the host of ‘The Very Best of Nitro’. In the beginning, I said, “Hell yeah I do!”. Then I started to think about it. I said later “send me the script first and then I’ll tell you.” So they sent me the script and I didn’t call them back.
DDP: Three days went by. I got a call from the producer, and he said: “Hey Diamond it’s Mike.” I said, “Hey Mike what’s up?” He said, “Page, you got the script?” I said “Yup.” He said, “Well, whatcha think?” I said, “I don’t think you want me to be the host of 'The Very Best of Nitro'.” “Oh no, no, no DDP we want you. You're the guy. You're the face of WCW.” And I told him “Were you around in 96, 97, 98?” He said “ahh yeah. I was on the TV watching what you guys were doing and calling Kevin Dunn.” I told him “Well then, you know we kicked your ass for almost all of that period.” He said “No shit.” And I said “Yeah, no shit. Bro, we beat you for 89 straight weeks. I’m not going to say the shit you want me to say here because I get that history is written by the winner, but I’m not going to back it up because we whipped your ass the whole damned time through this.”
And he goes “whaddya mean? What are you talking about?” “I’m not going to say shit happened when it didn’t.” And he said, “What do you mean?” And I went “Bing Bing Bing.” He then goes “Alright, well, change it then.” I said, “I can change it?” He said “We want you to do this bro. We wanna see what you are going to say, but send us what you want to say.” They let me do everything. So anything you saw, was directly out of my mouth.
RS: That seems almost a bit surprising that they gave you the freedom to say how it really was and not the version they wanted you to say.
DDP: In a way, everything was skewed. It wasn’t so much the version they wanted me to say, there’s my story, there’s your story, and there’s what really happened. Everybody is skewed in their own story. And they are all equipped with the thought that the story they’re telling is what’s right because that’s how they remember it. But I thought “Whoa, wait a minute. That’s not how that happened.” The beauty lies in the fact that I get into the depth and just shoot from the hip because I was there. I was there, and this is the kind of stuff I talk about in my Q&A. I was there with Eric Bischoff when I was a color commentator and Eric Bischoff was coming in to try and get a job. I was there in the AWA with Eric Bischoff, and he talked about it when he inducted me. Our first meeting was a pull-apart fight. That’s how far I go back with Eric Bischoff. We lived right next door to each other. There is no one who knows that side of the story like I do, except for Eric Bischoff.
RS: Last year, you were a surprise entrant in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale. Do you have another surprise appearance in the cards, do you think?
DDP: Ya know, because I am in such great shape, I think it could happen at some point. But if it doesn’t, I’ve lived the dream on so many different levels. To go out [at a time when] everyone knows, for the last few years, everyone knows that my career was at an all-time fever pitch. At the height of it, when I was in the WWE, and everyone knows that it didn’t work out for me. And, people could say that you think they tried to screw you. I agreed [with] that statement early.
I wanted to do the People's Champion angle and I didn’t get up and walk away from the table. That is what I learned from Vince McMahon at that moment in time. It would be the strongest lesson I would ever learn, and it would behoove me the most about eight, seven years later when I was, this was eight years later, when I was in negotiations with Shark Tank. They wanted me to sign everything under them on that show. And only because of my history, that I say “Mark, I love the show, I appreciate the opportunity, but I am going to pass.” I sent it back to them in an e-mail.
On our fifth contract, I should say five interviews to be on that show, and once I said: “No, I’m not going to do it.” It made them want me more. They wound up giving me exactly what I wanted. Called me back said, “How do we fix this?” And then that lesson, I learned in the WWE. Now, from that moment, when I got there in 2001 to 2002, coming back in I guess it was 2007, to do the 'Very Best of Nitro' and doing volume two and then three and then the special appearances and then doing the Rumble in '09, and I promoted The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
And then coming back for 'Mania, and then Big Show gets the music, and then Shaq got his music, and the place popped huge. And 101,000 Diamond Cutters or more, two days before my 60th birthday. When I saw Stephanie and when I saw Triple H, I walked up to both of them and give them like a group hug because I would have done it for nothing. I made ridiculous money for the day and I would have done it for nothing. It was just awesome man. I have had an unbelievable run the last six years with the WWE, and it’s not over.
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