Diamond Dallas Page joins WWE’s immortals

Diamond Dallas Page.

Diamond Dallas Page.

World Wrestling Entertainment’s latest hall of fame inductee, Diamond Dallas Page, will be enshrined into wrestling immortality at WrestleMania 33 just as many have been before him, acknowledging his contributions to the business and for giving back to the business that gave him opportunity.

But when the man known simply as DDP takes his place at the podium, a word he will utter countless times — and the one going through the collective minds of the thousands upon thousands of people whose lives he’s touched along the way – will be giving.

Page, who didn’t become a star in wrestling until he was in his late 30s, has become more known for his DDPYoga brand, a passion that helped him extend a career marred by serious injuries and which has helped countless people find health and happiness. In the case of some well-known wrestling stars, it’s helped them find sobriety and a second chance at life.

Adversity and giving could well be the words that best describe Page, who joins the likes of Kurt Angle, Teddy Long and legendary tag team The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express as those announced to date.

Page’s childhood in Jersey Shore was filled with adversity.

“When I do my speaking gigs, I often start off with, ‘By the time I was three years old, my mom was married, divorced and had three kids. She was 19 at the time,’” Page said in an exclusive telephone interview.

“My brother and sister lived with my mom. I lived with my dad. My mother had to help my grandmother raise the kids because she was up north trying to support that side of the family. I was with my dad and the problem was, he was a wild man. He was 21.”

Page’s fractured relationship with father began at an early age.

“He couldn’t even spell the word father, let alone be one,” he said. “So I bounced around from one place to another like a pinball.”

Ever the optimist, Page sees the best in every situation, no matter how difficult.

“The positive side is that it taught me how to adapt to anything,” he said with a laugh, comparing it to the life children of military families must endure.

At eight years old, Page’s father sent him to his grandmother’s to live.

“Dad wanted me to establish family structure so he took me and he dropped me off at my grandmother’s,” he said. It was the last time he’d see his father for more than a decade.

Page concedes that it wasn’t an ideal childhood, but it was his normal.

“When you’re a kid growing up like that, I’m sure that most therapists would tell you how much damage can caused to a kid raised like that, being bounced all over the place,” he said. “I didn’t think like that.”

Looking back, Page said the adversity of his childhood was simply preparing him for what was in store.

“They were kids,” he reflected. “My mom was 16 when she got pregnant. My dad was 20. Long story short, at a very early age, I was starting to figure out that life really was 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

What was normal in Page’s childhood was his love of sports, which perhaps doubled as his therapist.

“My sports were everything to me, especially football and hockey. When I was 11 years old, in my mind, I was going to be a defensive end for the New York Jets,” he said with his signature laugh. “And I loved hockey. I made a bantam team – the kids were like, 14 to 16, I was 12, and I made that team.” The pride is still evident in his voice.

Adversity, however, would rear its ugly head once again not long after he made that team, one fateful day while going to catch the bus. In a snowstorm, Page and his friend, Stan, went to flag down a bus on a two-lane highway. Page figured he had time to run to the candy store across the way before hopping on the bus, and told Stan he’d be right back. “I walked right out in front of a car,” Page said. “It hit my right leg. My face bounced off the hood, and I flew 42 feet from the point of impact.”

Page suffered a serious knee injury, so serious doctors would not clear him to return to playing hockey or football.

“I begged my mom to take me to New York City because I heard about this guy who was the knee surgeon for Joe Namath and Willis Reed,” Page recalled. “And I thought, ‘He can help me.’ I went to see him, and he looked at my X-rays and he said, ‘Listen. I don’t mean to be hard on you, but you’re never going to be Joe Namath. You’re never going be Willis Reed. And you know, you should really start to hit the books.’”

There was only one small problem, Page said. He couldn’t read.

“At 30 years old, I was reading at a third grade level. Imagine where I was reading back then.”

As it turned out, the stress of his unstable childhood did have a lasting effect.

“I grew up with (attention deficit disorder) and dyslexia when no one knew what ADD and dyslexia were,” he said. “They thought we were stupid.”

For years, Page couldn’t get that doctor’s words out of his head.

“I never, ever forgot him saying that to me – ‘You’re never going to be Joe Namath, you’re never going to be Willis Reed.’ At one point in my life I thought, well maybe he didn’t know I was going to be a Diamond Dallas Page!”

Page made a hall of fame career out of proving doubters wrong.

“It pisses me off when people tell other people what they can’t do,” he said. “I use it as fuel. When you start telling yourself you can’t, you’re (in trouble). I’ve been called an overachiever my entire life.”

In spite of his adverse upbringing, a serious knee injury and his learning disabilities, Page prevailed. He remains very close to his mother and holds no ill will toward his father.

“We’re on better terms,” he said of his relationship with his dad. “And I think he’s a good guy. He just made a lot of really bad decisions.”

Now a father with two daughters of his own, Page works hard at setting a better example for his kids than his father did for him. “My relationship with both of them is ridiculously strong and they talk to me about everything.”

Giving also became a trademark of Page’s life, even back as far as his days painting or working in a bar.

“I was always that guy,” he answered when asked how far back his yearning to help others stretches. “Page’s Painters, I would get all my buddies jobs. I would have 10, 11 of my buddies painting these huge houses. They needed work at the time and I had something I was doing, and I just pulled them into it. Then when I started running nightclubs, I would get some of my buddies jobs. When I went to (World Championship Wrestling), I helped at least 30 guys live their dreams.”

Hard work has always been, and continues to be a DDP trademark. Occasionally, Page said, he’s reminded of the difference he’s making, recalling an encounter on a flight from Los Angeles last year.

“A woman behind me and across the aisle taps me on the shoulder, and as she hands me a piece of paper she says, ‘I just want to tell you, I love your program, I do DDPYoga four times a week and it’s really making a difference.’ And I said, ‘That’s awesome!’ She goes, ‘Yes, thank you for making something that I can do.’”

On the note she had written: “Thank you for developing the program. I’ve never found anything that I have been able to do, but this I do do. I do it four days a week, sometimes five. I know I don’t look like it, but I’m working on it.” There was an arrow to turn the page over, where she wrote: “Einstein once said, ‘It’s not that I’m so smart — I just stick with the problem longer.'”

Page was in his element. “I looked back at her and I frigging smiled and laughed! I LOVE that!! I love that!”

Much like his giving ways, Page came by his work ethic honestly.

“I had no examples,” he said. “I had nobody. I didn’t have a big brother who had that. My dad wasn’t around. I was used to being good at what I did. When I got on the ice (for hockey) or I got on the field (for football), I knew I could be one of the better guys out there. I didn’t like being the guy who didn’t get picked. I didn’t like being the guy who was sitting on the bench. I don’t love the game that much that I could do it and not play.”

By the time he was a teenager, passion for football and hockey had been replaced by love for all things pro wrestling. That love turned to obsession, which turned to desire.

“When I was 17, one of my best friends, Gary Rossi, got me watching again. And I loved Handsome Jimmy Valiant. Handsome Jimmy Valiant man, he just had so much charisma, and later on, of course, Dusty Rhodes,” Page said referring to the late legend and longtime friend. “Superstar Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, Larry Zbyszko.”

Page and his buddy John Shipley used to go to live events in New Jersey. One such encounter with the late Gorilla Monsoon changed Page’s life forever. The duo were waiting as Monsoon departed following the show and he walked right by them.

“We’re like, ‘Gorilla come on tell us, how do we get into wrestling? How do we get into wrestling?’ And he gave me this, he said, ‘Take this number’ — He was trying to get us away from him — but he literally gave us the number of this guy who trained wrestlers.”

Page called the number and began training once a week in Jersey City.

“Me and Shipley would drive up there once a week, but you really can’t learn anything once a week. I had like, three matches. I was horrible. The last one, I hurt that knee that I hurt when I was a kid.”

A career as a pro wrestler seemed unlikely but by then Page had a pretty nice career going on in the bar scene.

“I’d been working in the bar business pretty steady since I was like 17. One of the reasons I wanted to be a professional wrestler was because I wanted to get enough money to get my own nightclub.”

At 22, he got his first chance to manage a bar.

“I was a glorified bouncer who was managing people, but at the same time, it was all about the booze, the broads and the party. And my travels would take me so many different places. Houston, Texas, or San Francisco, Fort Myers, Florida.”

Page’s old bar life played a significant role in him finding out about his impending hall induction. It was while shooting footage for a WWE special on Page’s life and career, which will be released later this year, that he found out what was in store for him.

“I found out in October,” Page revealed. “(WWE doesn’t) really tell anybody until January so you can get everything in order, but they don’t tell anybody in October. But I was filming Positively Living, the Diamond Dallas Page story, and they were filming at my sixth grade girlfriend’s bar, The Broadway Bar & Grill, in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. I spent a lot of time in the bar business so they wanted to capture that. (While filming), they said, ‘Let’s go outside, we’ve got a beautiful sunset.’ So I walked outside and ready to film and the producer comes up to me, hands me the phone and goes, ‘Hey, boss wants to talk to you.’

On the other end of the phone was Triple H.

“’Paul, hey, what’s up?’ Page recalled saying. “We shot the breeze for a little bit, back and forth. I had called him a couple of weeks earlier and instead of listening to our conversation, I’m thinking what did I call him for, he’s going to ask me what I called him for and I can’t remember. And then he starts talking about my career. And he starts really putting me over. And then I realize, is this ‘that’ call?

“In the beginning of this conversation, I’m not thinking that because it’s October. As he keeps talking, I realize it is and then I can’t talk. I can’t. I’m having trouble breathing. My breathing is stopping, I can’t catch a breath. And then I realized oh yeah, they’re filming me, too. And he keeps going and going and going and we get to the end and I was like ‘Thanks bro, I love you, man.’

Page was overcome with emotion.

“The producer says, ‘So, what’d you think?’ I had tears rolling my eyes and everything and I said, ‘I think I wish you had a camera on him.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, we had a camera on him.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we wanted to capture this moment and Paul thought this would be the perfect timing.’ He was right. It’s going to be. It’s right at the end of Positively Living. Now it’s not the whole conversation, but it’s a strong enough piece.”

After shelving his wrestling dreams following his short-lived training, nine years would pass before Page would take another, albeit unlikely at that age, run at pro wrestling.

“I’m 31 1/2 and a manager. And how I became that is that I made a tape and I sent it to the American Wrestling Association, who were like, ‘This is awesome!’ They were like, ‘We like your schtick, we want to bring you and your wrestlers in for a tryout. And one question we have is, where are you guys working? No one’s ever heard of you.’ That’s how good the tape was.”

That tape, Page said, marked the birth of Diamond Dallas Page. By then living in Florida, Page joined AWA, where he spent nearly a year as a wrestling manager for such talents as Badd Company (Paul Diamond and Pat Tanaka), who he managed to the AWA tag titles. He also managed Colonel DeBeers, Curt Hennig and Madusa Miceli.

It was a former AWA talent who played the biggest role in helping Page get his shot in pro wrestling. Dusty Rhodes, one of the most successful and beloved wrestlers of all time, took a shining to DDP and helped him get his shot with Florida Championship Wrestling, the training ground for WWE in those days.

“I always say when it comes to my wrestling career, I got my own first breaks, but to get to where I would end up going, I would say without Dusty Rhodes, there is no Diamond Dallas Page. He gave me every break that really meant anything. That really perpetuated my career. But he was also mentoring me my entire career. I could call Dusty and talk to him about anything. And he was always right there for me and he was like the big brother. He was a big brother, a dad and a best friend.”

Page, who said the late Rhodes would have been his hands-down first choice to induct him into the WWE Hall of Fame, imparted advice on him and instilled confidence in him.

“I remember one time I said, ‘You know, Dream, I know I’ll never be you, or Nature Boy, or Hogan. I know I’m never going to be the world champion…’ before Rhodes cut him off abruptly.

“‘Dallas! Dallas!’ he said, ‘ENOUGH!’” Page recalled with a spot-on Rhodes impression. “He said, ‘What did you just say?’ and I said, ‘Well I know I’ll never be you, or Nature or Hogan.’ He said, ‘No, no, no! What did you say after that?’ I said, ‘Well Dream, I’m never going to be a world champion.’ He said, ‘Then what the hell are you doing it for?’ He said, ‘Dallas, if you do not believe in yourself — if you do not believe that you can become the heavyweight champion of the world with all the work you put in, you should get the hell out of our business right now.’ And he kept talking, and I didn’t really hear anything after that because that, like, slapped me right across the face. And I swear to you, there’s a ledger that’s sitting right next to the phone, I get emotional thinking about that. I grabbed that ledger, and I wrote down, ‘I will be the heavyweight world champion in five years or less.’ It took four years, four months and 14 days.”

Rhodes was also the first person Page heard from after he won the WCW World title.

“I’m leaving Tacoma and I’m driving to Spokane, and I had just got this cellphone and I hear the phone ring. I pick it up, and before I can say anything, I hear, ‘So, How’d it feel?’ I just start laughing. I said, ‘Dream, it feels real.’ He says, ‘That’s because it is.’

At 35 and a half, an age when most are winding down their pro wrestling careers, DDP was just beginning his with WCW, which was bitter rivals with WWE.

“Starting at 35-1/2 was probably the biggest disadvantage I had, but when you really think it through, starting at 35-1/2 was also the biggest advantage that I had because I was way smarter at 35 than I would have been at 25. That doesn’t always ring true because I did some crazy, stupid s–t, too, but who knows what the hell I would have been doing if I had started at 25.”

Page eventually made his mark in WCW and began helping WCW president Eric Bischoff, who will induct Page into the WWE Hall of Fame in April, bring in some of the talent that would help the company later nearly put WWE out of business before a bitter Monday night war ended with WWE purchasing WCW and many of its talent contracts.

“I was fortunate because I had a lot of guys who really cared about me because I helped a lot of people,” Page said of his WCW run. “I helped more than 30 guys get jobs. I’d bring them to Bish and then Bish would trust my opinion and if I thought the guy had the work ethic and the skill — of course he had to think so too but he was relying on me to be his eyes for young talent coming up.”

Once again, Page’s caring ways emerged.

“Scott Hall says, ‘Dally can’t help himself, it’s his addiction.’ I’ll help people when I don’t have the time. For whatever the reason is.”

By the time the so-called Monday night war peaked, DDP was one of the central stars of WCW. But getting to that point was anything but easy.

“Chronologically, my first pay-per-view match is me and Mike Graham — and he was a friend of mine, he is the one who got me my break in Florida Championship Wrestling, he got me on the phone with Dusty — and Mike Graham and me against Bill Kazmaier, the strongest man in the world, and Jushin Thunder Liger … you talk about an eclectic foursome. And it was my first match. That’s what they start with. A year in, I tore my rotator cuff and they let me go. A lot of people don’t know that part.”

After recovering, Page began wrestling on the independent circuit, bent on getting back to the pros.

“Everyone was telling me, ‘You’re never going to get hired again. Why are you doing this independent s–t? You had your shot, you tore your rotator.’ ”

In typical Page fashion, dedication prevails and he does make it back, and this go around, he gets some help from someone he would later help in return, the legendary Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

“Just really starting off and then getting let go at 36-1/2, that’s when Jake Roberts (stepped in),” Page recalled, saying that he’d been Jake’s driver in the past.

After being let go following his injury, Page received a call from Roberts, one that changed the course of both of their lives forever.

“He actually reached out to me to see how I was doing,” Page remembered. “We started talking and I found out him and his wife weren’t together and he was living in a hotel room, which again is not a big deal for us because, hell, we’re in hotel rooms three quarters of the time anyway. I mean, 85% of the time if you’re over, It’s not a big a stretch. But I asked (my then wife) Kimberly if he could come live with us, just for a couple weeks until he got his own place. Of course a couple weeks turned into three months and he lasted up until he lost the black, 12-foot black cobra in my house.”

Roberts and Page formed a friendship that lasts to this day. Roberts taught his protégé everything he knew about the business. Later, with Roberts on death’s door thanks to addiction and health problems, Page returned that favour by moving Roberts in with him again and helping him overcome his demons using DDPYoga and clean living. The entire story is chronicled in The Resurrection of Jake The Snake, a documentary produced by DDP that airs on Netflix.

“Jake took me under his wing and he mentored me and it didn’t stop when he got thrown out of the house by my wife,” Page recalled. “He would continue to watch my matches. I would bring it over to him and he would critique me. And again, you’ve got everybody telling you ‘The odds of you getting another shot at 37 are slim and none. If you listen to them? Well then they’re right. If you don’t, you see it from a different perspective.’”

DDP earned another shot with WCW, one he would make the most of. In the ensuing years, Page would work on developing not only his wrestling skills, but his mastery of the psychology of wrestling and his Diamond Dallas Page character.

“I created Diamond Dallas Page. In the beginning, Bischoff, oh my god, him and Mick (Foley) and I think even Michael Hayes busted my balls about doing the sunglasses, cigar, chewing gum, the tan, the rhinestones the diamond belt … I mean what gimmick did I not have at the same time? And again, Bischoff said, ‘This isn’t working.’ It really didn’t work until I started getting rid of all of that s–t. I’ve got to put Bischoff over because he’s the one who made me, piece by piece, lose the sequin sunglasses, the gum, the ‘Good God,’ the blah, blah, blah, blah, lose this, lose that. I’ll never forget, we were in Atlanta, Georgia, and he walks up to me and I’m smoking a cigar and he says — and they were ready to play my music — and he goes, ‘Lose the cigar.’ I go, ‘Come on, E, I’ve dropped everything.’ He goes, ‘D, you’ve got to trust me. Lose the cigar.’ Just by happenstance, and I’m in a match with an enhancement guy who was six-foot-six and looked like [Bruiser] Brody. I walked out of that curtain, I got the biggest pop ever up to that point. I gave the Diamond Cutter sign and I looked around … everybody was doing it. I went out there, I had a match with him and it looked like he was starting to kick my ass, I come back and I pulled that Diamond Cutter out of my ass and the roof exploded. And then I just started to look back. Eric would always say, ‘You can’t produce yourself. You have to have someone else’s viewpoint.’”

Having a badass signature finishing move didn’t hurt either. A move, by the way, that nearly was used by someone else.

“Johnny Ace stayed at my house once,” Page said of his time with FCW in Florida. “He was coming through Atlanta and he laid over on his way to Japan and at breakfast he was like, ‘Hey bro, I’ve got this new finisher, I think it’d be perfect for you.’ I said, ‘Really, what do you do?’ He said, ‘I grab the guy by the neck, I make the peace sign and then I drop him.’ I said, ‘Let’s go down to the Power Plant and play with it.”

There, they encountered Triple H, Chris Kanyon and Eric Watts, among others.

“I’m practicing it and Johnny is showing it to me. Steven Regal had showed me the cravate. The cravate is a hold that is sort of like a reverse headlock, but when you this in it, you ain’t going anywhere. Once you get in, all you have to do is lean your weight in and it’s all leverage. Anybody who didn’t want to go were going. It wasn’t like there was a choice.”

Not long after, Triple H debuted while Page went on to WCW to become something of a bigger player.

“(Triple H) went up and he was getting his push coming in, it was a pretty good push. And he’s hitting everybody with that Pedigree. Then one day, out of nowhere, I see him catch a Diamond Cutter on a guy, and pin him. I was like ‘uhh.’ I was just getting it over, like really getting it over. And I knew Paul (Levesque) could do anything. The only guy who works harder than me in the business would be Paul. I figured what the hell, I’m going to call him. So I called him and he answered and he’s like, ‘Hey, what’s up Dally?’”

“And I’m like ‘Hey man, I’ve got a favour to ask.’

“He said ‘For sure, what do you need?’

“I go, ‘Don’t say yes right away because I really don’t have the right to ask you to do this.’

“He goes ‘What do you need?’

“I said, ‘You know, I love that Pedigree, man. It’s an awesome finish.’ I said, ‘You know bro, I’m getting that Diamond Cutter over now man, and it’s really starting to work for me and I’m really starting to get a reaction.’ I said, ‘Man, I would so appreciate if you didn’t do it.’

“He went, ‘Sure, no worries.’

“He never did it again. I never forgot that. Never forgot that.”

But Page remained a mid-card talent with WCW until he and his close friends Scott Hall and Kevin Nash devised a storyline that would see Page be the first guy to rebuff the efforts of the New World Order, at that point the hottest faction in all of wrestling, to recruit him.

“I was white hot beating nobodies,” he quipped. “The defining moment was my angle when NWO asks me to join and I tell them to go eff themselves.”

“It helped me huge,” he understated. But it was not met with a warm reception when the trio pitched it to Bischoff and the WCW creative team.

“It took 10 weeks before they finally let the angle happen in New Orleans (in front of) 38,000 people. And they cut my time from 12 minutes to four minutes so I know they were messing with me again. I’m was getting so pissed off. Kevin walks up as they’re playing my music because I’ve got to go out there and wrestle Mark Starr and then we do our angle. And I’m like, ‘Kev, Kev, they cut my time from 12 to 10 to eight to six to four minutes. Four minutes.’ And he goes, ‘Dally, what do you always tell me?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, what do I always tell you?’ He goes, ‘Breathe, it’s live, what are they going to do, go to commercial?’ He’s like, ‘This is your time, bro. Go out there, beat Mark Starr, tell him you’re going home early, have fun bro, this is your day.’”

And so he did.

“Man, I went out there, I was cool, I said, ‘Mark, gotta go home,’ boom, boom, boom, we did a couple things, Bang Shot Diamond Cutter. Now the Bang Shot Diamond Cutter is I throw in the turnbuckle, you hit hard, you’re out, I hit the ropes, come bouncing off, Bang Shot Diamond Cutter. Watch that match. Watch that angle. For whatever reason, Mark hits the turnbuckle, staggers out and then he starts to do a Ric Flair and sort of dive forward. And I’m hitting the ropes and I’m like, ‘What the … what are you doing!?’ So I dive at him and I catch him two feet off the ground. It gets a huge explosion because again, I’ve caught the guy out of nowhere.”

Seconds later, Hall and Nash emerge, hand a t-shirt to their newest recruit and, with Nash’s back turned, Page hits Hall with a Diamond Cutter, which sends the crowd into a frenzy. Nash attempts to attack Page, who pulls down the top rope, sending him crashing into a table. Page then escapes through the raucous crowd, propelling DDP to the top, figuratively and literally.

“Man, that was the moment.”

Two years later, Page suffers what he is told a career-ending back injury. Not one to every take no for an answer, Page looks for ways to prove people wrong. His then wife suggests yoga.

“Out of that comes DDPYoga,” Page said.

It wasn’t quite that simple.

“I’m the guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga for the first 42 years of my life!”

And that he did.

“It was real frustrating when I started doing it because I couldn’t do anything. There were no modifications during these moves that Gumby is doing and how strong they are. But after a couple of weeks, I started to figure them out and I’m still doing the rehab, just one night, I wanted to do a little stretching and moving before bed, so I started to mix the rehab and the yoga positions.”

Those modifications worked. Page recovered and returned to pro wrestling, but with the seeds for DDPYoga germinating in his mind.

When WCW was purchased by WWE in 2001, Page completed his life’s mission by joining the WWE.

“I grew up on the Jersey Shore, so it was the WWWF to me originally,” he said. “All my roads led here. To get to TheShow. When you’re a kid, that’s what you think about. You think, ‘God, that’s where I want to be.’ So when the war went down and (WWE) ended up (buying) WCW, for me personally, it didn’t knock me on my ass, but what did is when I went to the last show and I saw all the people who lost their jobs, you know. A lot of people weren’t coming, so that made me feel really bad. I felt bad for all of those guys who’d been with Turner for so long. (WWE) is not the business, it’s the world.”

And while his run with WWE isn’t the stuff of legends, he did win the European championship and compete at WrestleMania X8 in Toronto.

“I didn’t get the run I wanted obviously, on any level. And if you really look at my run with WWE, I don’t think I was there six months. In the middle of it, I tore my meniscus and next thing you know, I was out. Coming back, getting to work with Christian, and having fun and getting to go to WrestleMania … WrestleMania is the friggin’ Super Bowl, man. There’s not one wrestler who doesn’t want to be at WrestleMania at some point in their career. And I got there and I had a hell of a match with Christian there in Toronto.”

Page said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“If I could look back and say, OK, here are your options, I’m 45 going to be 46, we’re going to give you a two-year on top, or when you get to be 52 or 53, we’re going to bring you back and we’re going to have you host all the Nitros and they’re going to do really well, and we’re going to bring you back periodically for the 1,000th Raw or legends or back to induct Jake The Snake or come back at 58 to be in the Rumble … we’re going to have you get Diamond Cutters on three different guys … and then two days before your 60th birthday, we’re going to bring you back at WrestleMania again and we’re going to put you in the friggin’ Battle Royal, which also features friggin’ Shaq and you’re the only who’s going to get music besides Shaq, and we’re going to pop the place again … and then we’re going to put you in the hall of fame. I will take that run every single time. WWE lets me wear DDPYoga stuff. The guys who get to do, one’s named Brock, the other’s named Rock.”

If Page is one thing, it’s a realist. He realizes his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame isn’t based strictly on his body of wrestling work, but on his life’s work since retiring from active wrestling. Since then, he’s helped tens of thousands of people with his DDPYoga. He’s taken in his longtime friends Hall and Roberts and helped them overcoming their addictions. He’s helps others in wrestling, such as Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, AJ Styles and Goldust, to name some. And he’s done it all quietly and without tremendous acknowledgement. He knows his work post-wrestling is partly responsible for this honour.

“I don’t know how it couldn’t,” he said, adding that WWE has been hearing calls from fans to induct him as well. “The WWE listens to the fans. And they want the fans to be happy because they draw the money. I know the guys up there and now that we’ve talked, I know my name’s been coming up there for the last couple of years.”

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, was the first off the block, in 2014, to honour Page’s outside the ring contributions, with its Frank Gotch Award for “bringing positive recognition to professional wrestling through work outside the ring.” A year later, the Cauliflower Alley Club, the closest thing professional wrestling has to an alumni association, presented DDP with two separate awards, one for his wrestling days and another, the Jason Sanderson Humanitarian Award, for accomplishments that elevate wrestling outside the ring.

Hall of fame accolades were never something Page said he gave much thought to.

“Never early in my career. I think the guys who went in before me needed to. When people would say ‘Man, I can’t believe you’re not in the hall of fame,’ I’d go, ‘Hey, neither is Jake Roberts or Macho Man. Neither is Michael Hayes. Neither is Stinger.”

When asked about what the WWE Hall of Fame honour means to him, Page hearkens back to something else his mentor and friend Rhodes told him.

“He told me the only thing left that’s real in our business is your first world title and the hall of fame.”

Again, he’s overcome with emotion.

“That’s going to be my hardest time because I’ve got a couple of times where (Dusty) comes up (in my acceptance speech) and that’s where a lot of people are going to be crying with me,” he said through tears. “But I’m also going to have them laughing … I just don’t want to ruin my Dusty impersonation.”

As for Bischoff, who will introduce him, Page credited him with always having his back.

“Eric was a huge part of my life and my career. You know what Eric did for me more than anything, he protected me from the guys who were trying to stab me in the back. And he did it by telling people, ‘No, he doesn’t mean to do that, he’s trying to help people.’ That’s what I did. I helped the guys.”

While his wrestling achievements will be recognized on induction night Orlando, Florida, Page continues to make a difference in the real world, helping people using his DDPYoga and his motivational books and films. Asked if he ever stops to think about all the people he’s helped, he admits he does get caught up in the moment from time to time.

“What I call magic moments,” he said, referencing a recent one. “There is a girl we just put a story out on Friday. Her names is Ashley and she was just complete beaten down. She finally had to leave her husband because he was just mentally abusing the hell out of her. To see her come back with this program and lose 90 pounds and be a better example for her three kids, a single mom who finally has a new guy in her life who really makes her feel amazing as opposed to worthless. I’d seen her online and I was like, ‘Hey, awesome job, DM me.’ And I told her, ‘I want to do a story on you.’ And oh my god, it’s like them going in the hall of fame when you do a story on somebody because I’m moved by them and there are a lot of people who are in the middle of it and I’m like, ‘Hey, when you get there, I want to do that because I want to give them that extra motivation.’ But the letter her mom wrote me … those moments are super special. I We’re helping so many different people. It’s what we do.”

Of course his most celebrated success story was helping Jake Roberts, who admittedly was on death’s door when DDP reached out to help him.

“Jake I took really seriously, Scott, too,” Page said. “Jake mainly because of what he did for me. I see Jake today … I didn’t really know that Jake. I never knew him when we were younger. Today, if something’s bothering Jake, instead of him letting it swell up on him, he’ll tell me about it. It’s his little voices. One of the things I get over in my speech is that I really explain throughout my story that it really is the story we tell ourselves, that inner voice, that voice inside of us that controls everything we do, that you have the decision to make it a negative voice or a positive voice. For Jake for the longest time, it was just dark. He had no dreams. So to watch one of my buddies, who happened to be a completely – like he said, we’re even plus — to help him and see where he’s gotten to today and know that he’s here to see me going into the hall of fame …”

Page called the Jake The Snake documentary his single greatest success.

“Because it’s everything that I do. My wrestling career is in there, my giving back is in there. I helped two of my best buddies.”

That and his girls.

“My girls. I’ve lived like five lives. And this is just the next one. I’ve got all these gimmicks, I’ve got all these toys, I’ve got all these things. ‘Wow this guy’s super successful.’ But what I’ve got besides all of that bulls–t is the karma, which I pretty much use up driving. God is my co-pilot at all times.”

“Someone said a couple of years back, ‘DDP is a karma millionaire’ Given the choice of the two, I will take the karma millionaire before the money every time. I can always make money. I always have.”

In a 2013 interview, Roberts paid homage to his friend Page.

“No one has the right to ask for the type of help that he’s given me,” Roberts said. “He’s inspired me. He’s encouraged me. The only way I can say it is he’s given me the same type of encouragement that I wish my father had given to me. That’s the only way I can come close to understanding. The love that he has for me — sometimes I wake up and I shake my head, and I’m like ‘this dude needs some goddamn counselling,’” he joked.

“He’s so goddamned positive sometimes you just want to take a fist and shove it down his throat, and tell him to shut the eff up,” Roberts added, only half joking. “But, you know, he sees a rainbow on every corner. He sees a positive out of every day.”

As for his greatest failure, the inspirational-speaker in Page took over when he answered. “The first that comes to my mind is that I don’t think I’ve had it yet,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s because those who expect the most success have to expect the most failure. That’s a fact.”

He points to two examples in his career that highlight his point best. “If you want two things that have happened in my life and what they turned into: when I threw my back out, I blew my back out, it looked like it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and it turned out it was not only the best thing that ever happened to me, it was the best thing that ever happened to tens of thousands of people,” he said referring to DDPYoga.

The second: “When I signed the deal to do the stalker (an angle he did in WWE), it looked like the worst move I’d ever made in my wrestling career, and it was, but in my business career, because what I should have said to Vince was I should have said, ‘Vince, this is an awesome angle, but not for Diamond Dallas Page. If you want to do people’s champion versus people’s champion, give me a call’ and walked out the door. That’s what I learned from that mistake.”

He would use that meeting as a basis for rejecting an offer from the TV show Shark Tank that would have seen him hand over control of how he ran his DDPYoga company.

“I’m talking about Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, stuff on Fox or NBC or CBS, personal appearances I’m doing. And I’m like I’m not doing that. So I got up and I walked away from the table. I told my business partner, send them an email, tell them, ‘Thank you for the opportunity, we love the show, but we’re going to pass.’ Ninety minutes later, they called me. That one move right there, in six days on Shark Tank we made a million dollars. Since that day we have made over $3.5 million just from Shark Tank. It paid for my DDPYoga Performance Center, it’s 100% paid for, an acre of land which is down the street from the brand new Atlanta Braves stadium and a 6,300-square-foot building that is completely paid for and every gimmick you could imagine is in there. The app, I’ve got over a million dollars in it, completely paid for. I owe nothing. I have zero debt on my home, my cars, everything. Did I make the wrong that day in Connecticut or as it the greatest lesson I was ever taught? It was the greatest lesson I was ever taught.”

On April 1, Page plans to take the podium in front of his peers, family and friends, and the world, to say thanks and to deliver his message.

“The main thing for me is to thank the people who helped me, which is a lot, and to be entertaining, but more than anything, it’s for someone who listens to me and it changes their life. It doesn’t matter what I do, I’m trying to one thing. Change the world. That’s what I’m trying to do, every single time I speak. And it can be either five people or in this case, millions of people.”

Asked if going into the WWE Hall of Fame completes his wrestling career and cements his legacy, Page conceded that it does.

“I’d have to say yeah. Tens of thousands of guys have done what we do. There is a small group of guys that I’m lucky enough, I’m blessed enough to be part of the crew with.”

Page again talked about that day he got the call from Triple H.

“There’s one award in Pro Wrestling Illustrated that was really like the shoot award. It was most improved wrestler. If you go back and look — I think I was in 1995, I think Scott was like in ’93 and Kev was in ‘92 — there are certain guys you see that become, not everybody, but about 75% of those up to my era became top, top, top guys.”

He now gets to join his friends in gaining WWE immortality. There’s only one person missing. But he’ll most certainly come up on induction day.

“I realized when I was talking to Paul that this was THAT CALL (hall of fame), I know how much Paul loved Dusty — he loved Dusty — we both did — I just said, ‘Man, I wish Dream was here to induct me,’ and he says ‘I know… I know…’   Ahhh Dusty, oh God I miss him, I can’t even imagine. He would have nailed it on my induction… He would have been a hard act for me to follow. There aren’t many people I can’t follow, but Dream… he would have been really tough for me to follow.”

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