Originally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Feb. 7, 2013
To call Diamond Dallas Page an inspiration is akin to calling Michael Jordan a good basketball player or Wayne Gretzky a solid hockey player.
• The man, whose wrestling career spanned more than two decades, didn’t actually break into the wrestling part of his career until he was 35, when most professional wrestlers are either retired or long past their primes.
Then again, DDP isn’t “most pro wrestlers.”
Page would only go on to become a three-time World Championship Wrestling (WCW) World Heavyweight Champion, two-time WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, four-time WCW World Tag Team Champion and WCW World Television Champion. He was the fourth WCW Triple Crown Champion. Before hanging up his boots, he would enjoy a short but successful run with WWE Inc. that included runs as a European and Tag-team champion.
DDP broke into the business in the late 1980s as a manager in the American Wrestling Association. But it was later in life before he caught his big break with WCW.
“I was trained by Jody Hamilton,” Page said during a telephone interview when asked about his path to eventual superstardom. “I always say that without Dusty Rhodes, there is no Diamond Dallas Page,” he said, referring to the legendary WWE Hall of Fame superstar. “He’s the one that gave me my first break in Florida and in WCW. He’s been a mentor and a friend to me. He’s still one of my closest friends. When I got down to WCW, Jody Hamilton ran the Power Plant,” a WCW training centre. “Do you remember The Assassins?” Page asked, referring to the 1960s tag team on which Hamilton was Assassin #1.
It was another former megastar who would help Page hone his skills as pro wrestler. The legendary Jake (The Snake) Roberts took Page under his wing, teaching him the important role psychology played in becoming a successful pro wrestler. It was while working under Roberts that the pair become friends. Lifelong friends, in fact. It’s a friendship that endures to this day. More on that later.
Looking back, even Page himself acknowledges how unique his situation was.
“The average length of an NFL player’s (career) is three years,” he said. “Sure, there are guys that have (played) 17 years, (but) the average is still three. In wrestling, all the guys you’ve ever seen on TV, probably the average is about four years.
“Coming in so late … the reason I started as a manager was because I was … almost 32. I thought I was way too old to start to really learn how to wrestle. The opportunity in WCW, I jumped. I left the nightclub I owned a piece of to follow the dream,” DDP said adding “when you start at 35 and a half, they laugh at you. I mean, Michael “PS” Hayes, in my last match as a manager, we were in Chatanooga, I will never forget it. I was about to go through the curtain. He said “I heard this is our last match with you as our manager”, and I said ‘Yeah. I’m going down to the Power Plant … I’m gonna learn how to wrestle.’ Hayes fell down laughing. Literally fell down.”
It was not all smooth sailing, however.
“I started at 35 and a half, tore my left rotator cuff, they fired me, and then I came back at 37.”
If DDP owes some of his success to Roberts, he has repaid it in spades, having taken Roberts in during his darkest hour and most recently helping Roberts get back into shape with his DDP Yoga. More on that shortly.
“Our relationship, when we were on the road … we had each other for support and all that s–t,” DDP said of his friendship with Roberts. “(I was) sitting home with a torn rotator cuff, and the company is letting me go and Jake called me up to see how I was doing.”
Later, when Page learned his friend was living out of a hotel, he would return the kindness shown to him.
“I went by and saw him, and I was still with (Page’s ex-wife) Kimberly; I was still married to her. And I said “Hey, what if Jake comes and stays with us until he can find his own place? You know, for a couple of weeks?’ She was like ‘OK.’ I figured I (could) learn a lot from him. I can help him, he can help me. But long story short, we lived together for three months, and the only reason we didn’t live together after that was because (Roberts’ pet snake) stayed in my house,” and went missing. “Kim was like “He’s got to go!’ ” Page recalled, laughing.
It’s a friendship that has never looked back.
“We’re like kindred brothers, to a certain extent, but he really helped me with the psychology of wrestling,” Page said. “Anybody who really understands what wrestling is … it’s like telling a story, a match. And Jake could tell it verbally, and physically. He taught me a lot. (Again),I would say there is no Diamand Dallas Page without Dusty Rhodes, but there is no guy that becomes a three-time world champion without Jake Roberts.”
Page was not only successful inside the ring, he was one of the best outside of it. He could — and still can — bring an audience to its feat with seeming ease.
So it comes as little surprise that following his retirement at the mind-boggling age of 53, Page continues to succeed, and inspire; this time helping others with his DDP Yoga, which, for the record, is not to be called anything but.
“Don’t ever call my stuff yoga,” Page said, politely. “It’s DDP Yoga. Yoga puts you in a block … in a box. You know, everybody thinks they know what yoga is. Just like bikram yoga, have you ever heard of that?” he asked, to which I replied I had.
“If I had just called it yoga, would you have known it was bikram?”
No, I replied.
Page’s yoga past traces back to a time when he was home, with an injured back, when he spotted his then wife emerging from their basement, dripping with sweat.
“She was doing power yoga,” he said. “I’m the guy that wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga the first 42 years of my life … like most guys,” DDP said, before explaining what led to his being home that fateful day.
“I had a crazy, rigorous schedule for years,” he said. “I was doing movies, I was doing the Tonight Show … I was doing everything … not enough sleeping, and going really hard. I was in a match (when former WWE superstar Kevin) Nash power bombed me. Man, I thought I broke my back. I mean, I had never felt that kind of pain. I’ve torn some big s–t in my body, but, you know, I thought I was done. Your back is the centre of the universe, man, cause you can’t do s–t. I had three doctors tell me my career was over.
“So I’m home, crashed out, and Kimberly is coming up from downstairs, soaking wet. And I’m like “What are you doing down there?” he recalled, wondering at that time if the heat was cranked up too high in their basement. “It was that power yoga tape. I was like ‘Really? You’re sweating like that?’ She was like ‘You should try to do it babe, it’ll help heal your body.’ And I was like “Yeah … right … f–k that! I’ll never do yoga!’ So any guy who says that … I get that,” Page admits now.
He was right in one sense, he’s not doing yoga. He’s doing DDP Yoga, as you’ll recall.
Put simply, and according to Page’s DDP Yoga website (www.ddpyoga.com ), DDP Yoga is “a hybrid workout that incorporates some traditional yoga positions and adds dynamic resistance, active breathing techniques and power movements to make for a more challenging and results oriented workout that anyone can do.”
A mere 534,238 people had liked Page’s website through Facebook as this column was being written. Another 40,000 people follow DDP Yoga (@DDPYoga) on Twitter.
Forget the sheer numbers for a moment. It’s the success stories that count. And there are many.
Some include many of DDP’s former wrestling colleagues, including Canadians Adam (Edge) Copeland and Chris Jericho, as well as Whig-Standard columnist Tommy Dreamer, to name some.
Even many current wrestlers use it, such names as Goldust, Ryback, Zack Ryder and Kane, to name some.
Jericho recently returned to the WWE in the best shape of his life, something he credits to DDP Yoga.
“I was so proud, and humbled by how Chris talks about the workout,” Page said. “It helped him get his career back.
Few success stories tug at the heartstrings quite like that of Arthur Boorman, a disabled veteran of the Persian Gulf War, who weighed nearly 300 pounds and walked with the aid of crutches and leg braces when he embarked on the DDP Yoga journey. Boorman lost 140 pounds in the first 10 months of using DDP Yoga and now walks unaided.
If Boorman’s success story isn’t enough, then consider DDP’s current project, the transformation of his longtime friend Roberts, whose well documented struggles with drugs and alcohol left him looking old and haggered, to put it mildly.
“The whole thing with Jake … going down there to Texas … before I went there you know, a lot of people said ‘Can you please help Scott Hall?’ ‘Please help Buff Bagwell …’ and I’m like ‘They’ve gotta reach out’ you know, because I don’t want to come to them and say ‘Okay, now you’re going to do this, this and that.’ That’s not what I do. Like for Jake Roberts, we had a real bond. And I had bonds with both of those other guys, too. But with Jake, it finally got to the point where he’s like ‘Now I’m ready to listen.’ And I showed him the program. And I said ‘Just do the eating plan, dude. Just do the Phase 3 eating plan, for frigging one week, and in 10 days, I’ll call you back, and if you do it, if you can lose eight to 10 pounds, cause I know if you’re doing what I tell you to, you will, then we’ll talk about another big idea I have for you, that will also make you money, as well as heal your body.’ And, he was like ‘Okay, I’ll give it a shot.’ In 10 days, he lost eight or nine pounds.”
Roberts’ struggles with drugs and alcohol were prominently featured in the wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat in 1999.
“Jake Roberts has spent a lot of money in his time,” Page said. “Bad use of money, you know, just bad decisions. Between the crack, the coke, all that s–t … the booze, the pills. And, when I saw him, he was a shell of the man that I knew. I really didn’t know if I could really help him. I know Jake Junkie, I know Jake, the greatest promo in wrestling, I know Jake Frigging Workout Guy … for about a month, then he’s off again. It lasts two or three weeks. I know Jake God. I know Jake Alcoholic, I know Jake Pill Head, I know all those Jakes. But this (was) the first time I met this Jake.
“I told him ‘Dude, I want to film a movie with you.’ I want to do … I want to help you change your destiny. One of his lines is, ‘my history is not my destiny.’ We started this journey down there, and he was a little over 305 pounds when he started.”
The DDP Yoga program, Page explained, is broken down into the 13 most used moves.
“Jake would do two moves, then have to sit down. And I mean, it’s not even a workout. I just show you a position, and how to get into it. The first time he said that … ‘I gotta sit down, I gotta sit down,’ you know, he’s only done two moves. I’m thinking ‘OK, he can’t get out of a chair by himself. He may have been eating clean for the last frigging eight to 10 days, but God, can I really keep him doing that?’
“I started thinking that this was going to be such a burden for me. I own my own business, I’ve created my own business, is he going to put the work in? This is all I’m thinking. And then I’m like ‘Okay … breathe … breathe … look at the positive side here. You can’t not do it.’ I was committed now. Unless I wanted to ruin my friendship forever. In my mind, okay, I’m going to figure out how to make this work. I walk in, I start talking and he says ‘Okay, let’s go.’ And I go ‘What do you mean, let’s go?’ And he says ‘Well we’re working out, aren’t we?’ And I said ‘You wanna still work out?’ He goes ‘Well what the f–k did you come here for, if we’re not working out?’
“So we did another couple of moves, and he sat down. Another couple of moves and he sat down. I told him I’d leave him there. He already knew what I was going to do with him anyway. But I had to give him a goal. I said ‘Bro, it’s going to take me about a month and a half, or two months to put this together. If you can be 18 pounds to 20 pounds under your weight right now, I promise you I will bring you up when I get that place in Atlanta.’ When he finally did it, he had lost 26 or 28 pounds, on his own.
“One of the first things I taught him the first day I was there was how to go from standing to the ground from the ground back up again because he couldn’t get up without someone helping him. I had to show him how to use a chair, and his body, to stand back up. And we just did that.”
Every step of Roberts’ transformation from a man who looked defeated and who could barely walk has been filmed. Recently, before and after pics of Roberts made the social media rounds. In the before, he appeared haggard and overweight. The after — DDP is quick to point out that picture is the during, not after — shows a thinner, clearly happier man who resembles the legendary innovator of the DDT.
Only a recent shoulder injury has been able to stall Roberts’ resurrection.
“Right before he hurt his shoulder, he was doing five-second pushups,” says the proud Page. “When you lower for five (seconds), hold for five, then come up for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. He could do one and a half of those. I was so proud of him, he had shoulder problems for a while, we both went to go see my doctor, and he gave him some cortisone shots to help him with the pain, and he was doing so great.”
Against the advice of Page, Roberts returned to the gym — “I was like ‘bro, you don’t need the gym, DDP Yoga gives you everything you’re wanting’ — where he suffered a tear in his shoulder. “What happened is, Jake was feeling so good, (so) he wanted to work harder. He was turning into the hardest working man. I was the hardest working man in wrestling, besides Triple H. And there was nobody that was working any harder than either one of us did. And right now, Jake’s work ethic is unbelievable. But he’s got this shoulder tear.”
Never one to quit, Page and Co. set up a fundraising campaign online, with the hopes of raising the necessary money to have Roberts’ shoulder surgically repaired. Page told his friend that if they could raise half of the money online, he would pay for the rest.
They set out in hopes of raising $9,200.
“We raised over $9,500 within the first 24 hours,” Page said.
“(Within) three days, we were over $19,000. People want to be a part of it.”
Watching the transformations of current and former superstars — guys and girls who Page considers family — as well as ordinary folks like Arthur Boorman, is very humbling for Page.
“I tell ya, I get choked up, really …. it’s really personal to me,” he said. Because, in our business, guys are so proud of what they do themselves, the odds of another wrestler who’s going to give you props and do your s–t, nevermind talk about it, just do it, are really slim.”
At this point, Page carries me through an exercise over the phone.
“I want you to reach both hands right out in front of you,” he instructs. “Now I want you to push your thumb and your index fingers together … like the Diamond Cutter (his signature gesture and finishing move). I want you to push them against each other.
I followed his direction.
“Can you feel the muscles in your biceps, your forearms and pecks?”
“Engaged?” he asked.
“Now push them against each other again, but now spread your pinkies apart. Spread those pinkies apart, as wide as you can. Keep pushing those thumbs and index fingers together. See how the outside of your forearms, your biceps and your traps, and your delts engage?”
I sure could.
“Now slowly, slowly raise your arms up like the Diamond Cutter, you’re not going to be able to go as far as I want you to, because your phone is there, but just feel that. And then, just hulk it up. If you start creating that resistance, if you would have been able to do the whole movement with me, your forehead would already be starting to get moist.”
Little did he know, but it already was.
“You haven’t done anything,” he explained, “but it’s the flexing of the muscles, and this is a fact! No one’s ever told me this, I figured it out, and then went ‘Wow.’ The doctor explained it to me. He explained that every time you engage a muscle, your heart has to beat faster to get the blood to the muscle. So, think about this. When you’re sitting down, your heart rate is 72, 62, whatever it is. You get up, it’s 72, and start walking, it goes to 80, or 90. Now you start to jog and it goes to 100, or 105, 108. You start to run, it goes 110, 120, 130, 140. Now you start to sprint. It goes. 150! 160! 170! 180! Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! All you’re doing is engaging muscles.”
Truth be told, I really could feel all the muscles engaged. I’ve been finding myself showing others and doing that very move since Page carried me through it.
“This workout is virtually … zero impact. Kick-ass cardio. Dramatically increase your flexibility, and your core strength conditioning.”
DDP Yoga, Page says, is unique, something he is extremely proud of.
“P90X or anybody else … they can’t have our stories,” he said. “People will try to copy this, but you can’t have our story. You can’t have the guy who started wrestling at 35, whose career took off at 40, back got blown out at 42, whose career was said to be over … comes back in three months, and at 42 is the world champ — the oldest world champ ever crowned. And then on to wrestle until he’s 46, takes off two and a half years, then at 49, just to see if could he come back and have another run, goes and wrestles in TNA.”
What a story, indeed. An inspiration, in fact.
Granted, Page is incredibly busy, what with the popularity of his DDP Yoga, helping his friend Roberts and countless other people, but wrestling fans should know that there remains an outside chance, albeit slim, that they may once again see DDP inside the squared circle, if the stars align just right.
“Would I be able to go 270 days a year? Not a chance. Could I come back for one big program? Abso-f—ing-lutely. And freak f—ing people out. But, I don’t want to do it. It’s more important for me to go and stand on one leg and pick up other leg up over my … head than it is to stick my frigging foot up somebody’s a–.”
That said, there remains one intriguing match from Page’s perspective.
“You know, I would do it for one person, and one person only. Randy Orton. I don’t think that’ll ever happen, and I’m fine with that because I love being one of the legends that he hasn’t killed. So he hasn’t killed every legend out there. Hey! You ain’t got me yet, Randy.”
Of course, only WWE chairman Vince McMahon has the power to make that match happen. If it never happens, that’s OK, too, Page says. His 2012 return as part of the Raw 1,000th episode fanfare gave Page a chance to, well, turn the page, so to speak.
Following that appearance, during which he delivered his patented Diamond Cutter to WWE superstar Heath Slater, “I said to myself, ‘I never have to do another thing again, I’ve been off TV for 11 years, I walked out … I hit that f—ing move, and I popped the f–k up, and the place went crazy. If that’s the last time I ever do on that stage, I’m happy with it.’ Now if there was a chance to do it again? You bet your ass, man. I’m going to lock up, and own that spot, man. Because that might be my last time.”
If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against Diamond Dallas Page.