The three-time world champion relives his career ahead of his WWE Hall of Fame induction this week.
Photo Courtesy Diamond Dallas Page
"It's the best time," Diamond Dallas Page said by phone from San Antonio earlier this month. It is also the busiest time.
Since leaving professional wrestling in 2005, Page has developed a business (DDP Yoga), written a book, begun working on a second book, and currently is filming a WWE special titled Positively Living: The Diamond Dallas Page Story. He also has done intervention work for his friends and fellow wrestlers Scott Hall and Jake "The Snake" Roberts, the latter of which was developed into the documentary film The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
On Friday, Page will be inducted into The WWE Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Rick Rude and Kurt Angle in a loaded 2017 class. It's the capstone to one of the most unlikely careers in pro wrestling history, one which began at the age of 35 and did not establish itself until after Page's 40th birthday. The three-time WCW champion won the first of those titles at 43, an age when most of his contemporaries had retired or shifted into heavy part-time work.
VICE Sports caught up with the newly minted Hall of Famer, who turns 61 next week, to get a preview of his speech, hear the shortlist for who he wanted to induct him, learn what he thinks were his Hall of Fame moments, and more. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE Sports: It goes without saying that this is an exciting time.
Diamond Dallas Page: Yeah man, it's pretty cool. One of the few times in life where I want shit to slow down. When I had my wrestling career—which, obviously, was a pretty good one; wouldn't be in this spot [otherwise]—so much of it went by so fast. Thank God for YouTube. Whenever people go, "Hey, do you miss it, man?" I can watch myself do all the crazy shit that I did and not have any of the pain that goes with it (laughs).
When you're watching it back, how many times do you go, "I can't believe I let myself do this?"
I can tell you times I was cutting promos in the ring and I know I was dying. My back had been really bothering me, or my shoulder, or my knee, or my hip. People can say what they want about pro wrestling but one thing stands true with everybody: You can't fake gravity. Your body just takes such a beating, and I can just see myself in some of those interviews or watching a match going, "Man, I don't know how I did that."
Not only that, but you starting as late as you did. It's not like you were doing this as a 22-year-old when your body heals faster.
It's funny you say 22-year-old. How I found out about the whole Hall of Fame thing is I got a call from Triple H. I'd called him a bunch of times—two or three times—and he hadn't called me back. I figured this was the call back. I'm filming my bio for Positively Living: The Diamond Dallas Page story that the WWE is doing. But at the end of the day, I got handed a phone. "Boss wants to talk to you.: It's Paul Leveque, who is Triple H. We're catching up a little bit and I'm thinking he's calling me back and I'm thinking "What the hell did I want to ask him?"
I couldn't remember and it was driving me crazy. .. and then he says "Dally, your career, man." And he starts talking about it. He says, "I'm 22 and you're 35-and-a-half, 36 and I'm thinking, 'What's he doing? How does he think he can do this?'" And then he just went on to be so complimentary of my career. He was there from the beginning and we stayed tight the whole time.
For him to be giving me that call was like everything. But I didn't realize it was that call because it was in October. He was talking about my wrestling for about a minute or so. He's getting into some real elaborate stuff. It was like, "Oh my God, this is that call." It hit me in the chest. I'm all about, "Breathe. Breathe. You own your breath, you own your life." I found myself really short-breathed (laughs).
It was a special moment and afterward the producer, Michael, says "What do you think?" as I'm handing him back the phone. "What do I think? I wish you were filming him, bro. He said some awesome stuff." He said, "Oh yeah, we filmed it."
So you had no idea this was coming?
Bro, I wasn't expecting an-y-thing. I was happy to get a call back, because nobody's busier than Triple H with everything that he does. So it was powerful, man. And what's really beautiful is positively living—Michael told me this is how we're closing out your bio section, the call from Paul.
I know you had wanted Dusty Rhodes to induct you. That was the guy you always wanted it to be. Have you decided who it will be with Dusty having passed away?
It's funny, I thought for sure I'd induct Jake—like, who else is going to induct him? Then, about four weeks before the Hall of Fame, I got a call from [WWE Head of Talent Relations] Mark Carrano saying, "I've got great news, they want you to induct Jake." Then it hit me: "Oh, wait a minute ..." This is the WWE's TV. It's not Diamond Dallas Page TV, DDP TV. They asked me for a list and after that, because Jake would be my first pick, no matter what. But it's their TV show. I've got five guys, and any one of them could come up there and do it.
So who are those five?
The list would be, of course, Jake. Scott [Hall]. Eric Bischoff. Stone Cold [Steve Austin]. Mick Foley. [Editor's Note: Bischoff was chosen to induct Page.]
That's a hell of a crew.
[Laughs] They've been directly involved in everything. Mick was there at the beginning through my whole career. So was Steve. When I called Steve Austin and told him I was going in, he popped. "Yeahhh, kid. So happy for you!" It was the best reaction. I wish I was filming it, because it was the best reaction as far as, he knew. People would say as recently as last year "Man, doesn't it piss you off you're not in?" There was a time I could say, "Jake's not in. Macho [Man]'s not in. Michael 'PS' Hayes is not in. When those three guys are in, maybe it's my turn." And that's how it happened (laughs).
The work you've done to help get and keep Jake and Scott sober is well documented by now. Most people would not go that far for their friends, no matter how influential they are to their career. What made you decide you weren't just going to be there for them, but dedicate a significant portion of your own life to make sure they turned theirs around?
Jake was the key focus. I always say that without Dusty Rhodes, there is no Diamond Dallas Page. But without Jake The Snake Roberts, there's no three-time world champion, there's no WWE Hall of Famer. It never happens. I'd had Jake out here and there, but I really wanted to help him get out of pain and just try to help him, man, because he helped me so much. Going into it, he didn't think it'd last a week.
It was my buddy Steve Yu, when I was moving from L.A. to Atlanta, I told him Jake's going to try the program. He said, "Oh my God, imagine if he moved to Atlanta and he was around us. Moved to Atlanta and moved in with you." I said, "Wait a second, he doesn't have to move in with me to do this." He said, "Yeah but if he's around us, the positive energy would go through."
I just started to think of it. Jake is 307 pounds at the time, which for him is enormous and it's all in his stomach, all of it. Still skinny legs, skinny arms. Jake's a legit 240, not 307. When I talked to him, I went down there and met with him and started filming him. I told him, I said, "You lose 20 pounds on your own, I'll move you to Atlanta."
Then I got there and saw what kind of shape he was in. I was like, "Oh my God, he's brittle." I never dreamed he would have been in that bad of shape. I still made the promise to him and he did it, and I moved him up. In the middle of it—if you see the movie, you'll see, he falls like in the first week. But after that, he gets on well.
You call your house "The Accountability Crib." What are the rules of The Accountability Crib?
Pretty simple: You've got to be accountable for your actions. So many people have no accountability for anything. There's no booze when he was there, you can't put that around [Jake]. It was like putting a kid who loves candy and sticking him in a candy factory. You can't there. So be accountable for your actions and how you talk to people. Here were the two things. Here's what you have to do, Jake. Not be a dick to people—in other words, be nice to people—and take care of yourself. Take care of you, and be nice to people. It's not that hard. But in the beginning, it was. That's part of the addiction, you know?
Going back a bit, to when Jake helped you—you were training in the Power Plant [WCW's developmental building] at 35. When do you realize that this idea was going to work and you really were going to make it as a wrestler?
It took a while, because after about nine months, I tore my rotator cuff. By that time, my contract was up and they let me go. That's when Jake moved in with me, for about three months until he lost a 12-foot black cobra in my bathroom.
That's probably when it's time to go.
My then-wife, Kimberly, was like, "He's got to go." But we still talked all the time and he still mentored me. I'd bring my matches to him and he'd watch them and critique them for me. But when I went back after a year and got my job back and I'd be with Dusty, who was the booker then. The day before a meeting, I was down at the Power Plant and Dusty, who's never at the Power Plant, was there. He wanted me to get in the ring and work with this kid, because he wanted to see what he had. We worked out for 20 minutes and when I got out of the ring, went to another ring and another ring and another ring. I just did my shit. So now it's the next day and I'm in Dusty's office. And Dusty said to me, "You know, D, I know you've only seen yourself as this top performer in our business. And I gotta be honest with you, I never saw it, until yesterday." He said "Man, your work ethic surpasses everybody. If you keep doing what you're doing, you might just be able to pull this off." I had already Jake and Jody Hamilton, who ran the Power Plant and was Assassin #1. When Dusty came on, I was like "Ok, I made him a believer."
And if you have those three in your corner, there you go.
Yeah (laughs). He started giving me a push and Bischoff wanted a change, moved him out to pasture. Of course they're not going to let him go, because they don't want him to go to WWE. They just send talent like that out to pasture. He became more of a consigliere to Eric. But my push went out the window and the next thing you know, I'm not even working. Then I realized, "If I don't keep working, I'm never going to do this." So I went down to the Power Plant every day. First to be there, last to leave. That was like my motto for a long time.
While you were still on the active roster?
Yeah, but they were using me here and there. Maybe a year and a half of that, getting on TV every once in a while, Hulk [Hogan] comes into the company now. He's here. We're going to do a European tour and I'm the first match. After the fifth match, we're in Berlin, I come through the curtain and he grabs me and pulls me over. He goes "How are you doing it?" How am I doing what, Hulk? Did I screw something up? He goes "No, no, how did you get so much better?"
And then he answers his question. He says, "This is what they're doing for you, right? They're putting you on the road here so you can learn your craft. Because I see you on TV every once in a while and I see you hit that move, that new move I've never seen you do it. You pop up and get the people involved. This is where you're learning all that, on the road, right?"
I said no. "What do you mean, no?" This is the first match of a tour that I've been on in, what, three months? The only reason I'm on this tour is I've got Kimberly walking me to the ring and my real last name is Falkinburg, and the crowd loves their Germans. He said, "How are you doing it, then?" Well, I went down to Power Plant and I figured out that the more you teach someone, the more learn and the more you learn, the better you get. So that became my learning tool. He said to me, "If not this year, maybe the year after, or maybe even the year after that but somewhere down the line, I believe you and I could draw huge money together."
Fast forward four years. He's on the Tonight Show with Dennis Rodman. I came through the wings with the number two highest-scoring player ever in the NBA, Karl Malone. We show our emblem on the Tonight Show and it's the biggest-drawing pay-per-view in the history of WCW. Talk about manifesting a dream into reality. It was more me manifesting it than him—he's already there (laughs).
Maybe the biggest thing that took your career to the next level was the Self Hi-Five. What put that idea in your head?
It's funny, I was going to hi-five some kid and I just did it. I just said it as something that came to me and I just popped. His face was priceless ... When I'm doing the workouts with my people, at some point when I give them something that really challenges them, I'll say, "Now everyone pick up your right hand. Take left hand out here, and give yourself a self hi-five." (Laughs). It's just something I started doing and people got with it.
The thing that really got it over, though, not just the move the Diamond Cutter but the Diamond Cutter sign. People want to be involved and all of a sudden, when I hit my move and the whole side of the building jumps out of their seats and throw up the Diamond Cutter because they never saw it coming, it's a little hard for the bookers not to believe in you now.
In the ring, every Hall of Famer in every sport has those moments that stay in everyone's memory. For you, when you think back to your own signature Hall of Fame moments, what comes to mind as the stuff you're most proud of?
It's the entire run against the NWO, as far as me putting the shirt on in New Orleans, it took the air out of the building. People were like "Awww." And then I hit Scott with that Diamond Cutter and "AHHH!" I drop Kevin over the top rope. That was an unbelievable moment. The entire feud with Scott, Pro Wrestling Illustrated dubbed it the feud of the year. And it was. It lasted a long time because he got hurt and couldn't wrestle the following month, so it stretched out. When I got dressed as La Parka and came out to wrestle Savage and no one knew it was me. Nobody. So I hit the Diamond Cutter and pulled my mask off. The place went batshit. Then, of course, the match with Goldberg I thought was great. The match I had with Sting when I dropped the title to him. And of course, the four-way dance with three of the biggest icons ever—Sting, Flair, Hogan. And Savage is the guest referee. When he handed me that belt, man, I just went numb all over.
You won the world title three times. That was the best of the three?
To tell you the truth, I don't even remember the other two. (Laughs). Dusty would always say "There's only two things left that are real in our business: The first time you win that world championship and the Hall of Fame."
And now here you are.
It's pretty cool, man. It's going to be bittersweet. I know it's going to be tough because even talking about it now chokes me up. I finally outlined my speech. It's not going to be short. Truly, it's a lot about thanking the people who did this shit for me. And people who didn't believe in me, and then did. I have a great story about Michael 'PS' Hayes that I never really put out there that I do him on the phone with me. It's priceless. I do [Macho Man], too, and I tell a story about Mach that's awesome. Those are my three favorite stories that I'll tell. Dusty will finish it off. There's a bunch of stuff we talk about in the beginning, me and him. But the ending is super powerful. Super powerful.
I won't have you spoil the stories, but I'll ask you this: When you walk off that stage and people have heard you speak for the first time as a Hall of Famer, what do you want the enduring message to be?
Anything is possible. I'm perfect proof of that. Jim Ross, I heard that he said DDP is the Cinderella story. It's what I wrote on the inside of my [Hall of Fame] ring. I didn't even know they put inscriptions on the inside of the ring but the woman who's handling me for the Hall of Fame, Susan, she asked, "Dallas, what do want inscribed on the inside of your ring?" I said, "They do that? Let me think about that." I hung up and it hit me. I called her right back and said "Put 'Work Ethic = Dreams!' and sign it 'DDP.'" That's it, man.
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