What We Can Learn From Diamond Dallas Page

First off, let me congratulate Diamond Dallas Page for being smarter than 95% of today’s wrestlers. 

Why?  Because he RETIRED. 

Instead of being like Shane Douglas or HHH and wrestling with an injury, DDP decided to call it quits.  It just isn’t worth it.  You see, you might call DDP old like everyone else has since he became a main eventer.  But at 46, Page has a good 40 years of life left to live.  Why live half his life in pain like Mick Foley will do?  Page resisted the lure of the big pop, which has killed many before him.  For that, he deserves a pat on the back. 

Now, back to Paige Faulkenburg.  I’m here to salute the great contributions to the sport Page has made.

The irony of Page is that he started out horrible.  When you think of the worst wrestlers of early 90s WCW, Page is right up there with Nash, El Gigante, PN News, and Van Hammer.

He slowly improved.  Go back to those ’94 WCW PPVs.  While Page was pretty heavy, you could definitely see the improvements in his work.

Then came the WCW Power Plant.  By teaching the new guys how to wrestle, Page actually taught HIMSELF how to wrestle better.  By 1996, Page was a new man.  He shed the excess weight and got an ability transplant.  Holy cow, he turned into a great worker!!

When Nitro was kickin’ ass in ’97, DDP was right there helping to head the way.  He lit up the crowds like few could, and had ring psychology down pat.  Go back and watch the tapes if you’ve forgotten.

The epitome of Page’s work, in my mind, was the night he dressed up as La Parka.  I swear, he had everyone in the arena fooled that night.  Even at home, you were shocked when he pulled off the mask and revealed himself as DDP.  He was that good.  And then he’d go into the crowd and leave out the back door of the arena, to an enormous pop. 

Yes, DDP had friends in very high places.  He will be forever scrutinized for being Eric Bischoff’s next door neighbor.  But here are 3 things you need to realize:

#1: Wrestling is a business.  DDP simply played politics in his favor to earn more money and help his career.  There’s nothing wrong with that and you can’t fault anyone for that, in theory.

#2: Page never moved up at anyone else’s expense.  You can whine all you want about how Benoit and Jericho should’ve gotten the same push back then, and you’d be right.  However, they couldn’t play the political game and DDP could.  Playing backstage games is a necessity to survive in this business.  Hogan did it while burying others.  DDP did and largely HELPED others.

#3: DDP could wrestle.  The list of overrated guys like Luger and Nash who had top spots but had no ability is endless.  At least DDP busted his ass every single night to give the fans great matches.  How can you fault someone like that? 

In addition, DDP achieved all this past the age of 40.  40-yr-olds don’t exactly have young, strong bodies.  There are tons of guys who aren’t 40 yet who will probably never be big stars again: Bigelow, Janetty, Big Bossman, etc.  If DDP did it, so can they.  Who is to say Bigelow couldn’t lose weight, improve by leaps and bounds, learn to cut good promos, and give it another shot?  DDP did, which just goes to show his drive to succeed.

DDP earned good money in his career.  Did he earn it or deserve it?  Well, let’s put things in perspective. 

Go back to 1998.  WCW had their peak year financially (’97 was better aesthetically, though).  Part of that was a huge match that summer involving DDP, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman, and of course Hogan.  Bob Costas was talking about it during the NBA finals.  Clips were on ESPN.  It made “TV Guide.”  Everyone was talking about that match.

Now, that match made WCW a ton of money.  TV appearances by Rodman helped draw sellout TV tapings (actually WCW was selling those out anyway without Rodman) and give Hogan a big boost to his career.  It was very important for the match to deliver.  If not, it would be a disaster like Mr. T vs. Piper or Inoki vs. Ali.   

The night of the match, Rodman was a mess.  Hogan had been terrible for years.  Malone was in excellent shape, but still didn’t know how to wrestle and threw the world’s clotheslines.  Had it not been for Page, that match could’ve killed WCW.  Yes, I know WCW died eventually, but that was for other reasons.  He saved that match and worked his ass off when all eyes were on WCW.  His performance that night was worth all the money he ever made in his career.

DDP was also a great trainer at the Power Plant.  He helped in the choreography for the wrestling movie with David Arquette.  He, Chris Kanyon, and Erik Watts had a big hand in training Jay Leno for that Sturgis Road Wild PPV in ‘98.  He definitely earned his bacon. 

In late ’99, Page got the WCW title.  To be honest, business was terrible during that period.  But to blame DDP would be partly unfair, as he hustled in that ring and gave us some great WCW title matches.  Go back and watch some of those matches with Sting.  DDP was in top form.  They would be the last great matches of his career.

After WCW was sold, DDP had a choice.  Earn money and do nothing for a couple of years, or take a buyout and be free to work for WWF.  Choosing the buyout was a natural decision for Page.

Page lucked out and was given a main event role: the mystery stalker of Undertaker’s wife Sara.

WWE really screwed this one up, like they did many things last year (and this year).  Page, albeit with a horrible haircut, got a huge pop.  But after one match, his push stopped.  Why?  I don’t even know, to this day.  I do know that they could’ve done a lot with that angle and with Page, but they sabotaged him.  If Undertaker had anything to do with it, it wouldn’t surprise me.

So Page came back with another role, based on his book, “Positively Page.”  He would be a heel motivational speaker.  Nothing had quite been done like that before, but the few skits he did for the gimmick were knee-slappers.  Fans laughed, his smile was entertainingly annoying, and it could’ve been a short-term cult hit if handled correctly.

But again, it went nowhere and he was squashed.  Haha, funny.  Hey WWE, the joke is on YOU.  When you bury stars, you bury YOURSELVES.

And so ends Page’s career.  I wish more people would model Page’s work ethic and success, because his story is very inspiring.  And DDP, for all the great matches, promos and angles, I say, THANK YOU.