In a world full of large personalities and egos, Diamond Dallas Page broke the mold for what a successful star was. Don’t ever call him an overnight success, though.
“Yeah, I’m an eight year overnight success,” Page, known to most wrestling fans as DDP, says with a laugh. “Eight straight balls to the walls years of overnight success. What I learned was, when Page Joseph Falkinberg stopped trying to be this bigger than life, over the top wrestling persona, and Diamond Dallas Page started taking on the characteristics of Page Joseph Falkinburg, that’s when shit really took off for me.”
During an in depth conversation with me on Foundation Radio, it became clear early on that Diamond Dallas Page isn't in any way an overnight success. DDP’s life has been defined by strength in the face of adversity, overcoming the odds, and proving to everyone that he is what he says he is. He “walks the talk”, as he calls it. Defying the odds and the naysayers, DDP became one of the brightest and biggest personalities in professional wrestling. Diamond Dallas Page is the epitome of authentic, and he’s created an incredibly successful second act around helping others.
Shorter blond graying hair sits on top of his head, a cry from the long blond locks he sported as the top babyface in World Championship Wrestling. At 65 years old, Page is physically in the best shape of his life. While his boots are hung up for good – he wrestled his final match with AEW in 2019, just shy of 30 years after his first match – Page has enjoyed a successful and lucrative second act with DDPY. His workout program is a best-selling yoga program for, as he says, “guys who wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga”. He’s mentally sharp as well, crediting the acute awareness by studying Spanish using Duolingo and the use of hyperbaric chambers to keep his brain focused and attentive.
“I actually got my brain MRI’d yesterday, and I wish I would’ve done this three years ago, because I’ve been doing [hyperbaric chambers] for three years. When Chris Benoit killed his family, that was not Chris Benoit. That was something really bad, meaning his brain. Chris Nowinski, who’s a Harvard doctor, took Chris Benoit’s brain and he said the dark spots on it and the way the brain was squeezing like a sponge would come together – he said he had the brain of a 87 year old Alzheimer’s patient. Oxygen is the number one way to heal your body. It’s not something that’s widely used because it’s time, it’s money, but there’s really no money in it. If it was a prescription pill, there’d be billions of dollars in it, but it’s not.”
Flanked and adorned by countless photos of himself through his career and his WCW World Heavyweight Championship title, he reflects on his life that was footnoted by undiagnosed disabilities.
“A.D.D., I was probably the poster child for that,” Page chuckles when I asked him about his early life.
“I had no idea I was dyslexic until I was in my 30s. When you’re dyslexic and you really can’t read, you learn how to really pay attention. For me, how to be more involved in the conversation.”
Page used the knowledge of self and his enhanced listening skills to land himself a gig managing a nightclub in Fort Myers, Florida called Norma Jean's. While he started officially wrestling in 1979 as “Handsome Dallas Page”, he never took the time to “pay his dues” and make a name for himself in the sport. Norma Jean's was a place that was frequented by many of the biggest names in wrestling at the time. He may have stepped away from the ring, but the spark to be in professional wrestling never left him.
Page believes his wrestling career was serendipitous and his destiny. He often remarked to those around him that, had he continued on the wrestling path he was on, he would've been a part of the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection", the collaborative effort between WWE and notable rock stars during 1983, helmed by Captain Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper. Sitting at the club after a long night with some friends, Page drafted out what he envisioned his gimmick being. As he drafted, the picture became clear: Diamond Dallas Page and the Diamond Exchange.
Page read it back to himself and thought, “That is B-A-Double D Badd”. Shortly after that, and on the recommendation of a friend, he submitted a tape to the AWA, who were looking for a replacement for another legendary manager who moved to a competing promotion, Paul Heyman. AWA brought Page on and paired him with an up and coming tag team known as Badd Company.
It felt like destiny.
“If you go back to that night, B-A-Double D Badd…Company. It was like I was telling my own future.”
After his involvement with Badd Company, also known to some wrestling fans as the Orient Express, Page was convinced to get into the ring after a conversation with the legendary Magnum T.A. Not because he appeared to have the natural talent, but because his gimmick was overshadowing the wrestlers he managed.
“Magnum, are you telling me that I’m too over the top for professional f****** wrestling?!” Page recalls, still shocked at the idea.
These days, no one would bat an eye at the age of a top star. WWE Superstar AJ Styles is 44 years old, still wrestling at a top tier level, and won the WWE Championship for the first time at 39 years old. But in the wrestling boom of the 1990s, professional wrestling was for the young. DDP's second round in the ring began at 35 years old, much older than his contemporaries of the time, and certainly older than what was considered the "right" age to start at the time. DDP's determination, drive, and focus to be the best in the world took him to the very top of the wrestling world with WCW in the mid to late 1990s, during the period of time wrestling fans know as the “Monday Night Wars” era.
DDP never wavered from his destiny, and his unmatched intensity and drive led to incredible success. Rewarded for his hard work and determination, DDP became the WCW World Heavyweight Champion at 43 years old, a feat most in the wrestling world would've thought impossible just eight years earlier. DDP earned his place, made his bones, and stayed true to himself.
Perhaps a bigger moment in his career than his WCW World Heavyweight Championship win was his involvement with two of the most notable non-wrestling entities to come through WCW – one with NBA star Karl Malone, followed by one with “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. DDP became more than just a wrestler, he was a crossover star.
Page credits Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone’s match in WCW for bringing Leno into the fold. Without Malone and Rodman, Leno’s appearance would’ve never come to fruition. Page recalls Malone’s stats during the 1998 NBA Western Conference Finals, where Malone’s Utah Jazz swept the Los Angeles Lakers in four games, largely due to Malone’s impressive performance. “No matter what happens, win, lose – [Malone’s] gonna end up on The Tonight Show, and what if Rodman and Hogan are on The Tonight Show with Jay, and me and Karl come in from the wings? Throw down the chairs and shoot an angle right there, and that’s exactly what we did.”
“Jay is not a wrestler, or even an athlete, but he’s a great entertainer, and so we could play off of that. That match was entertaining! Those two months, I was on The Tonight Show seven different times. Whether it was a skit where I was holding the cue cards … when it was the second gig, Bischoff and Hogan came on The Tonight Show and ran Jay off, and then I come in from the wings and knock Hogan on his ass. Next thing I know I’m in a tag match with me and Jay Leno. Jay brought me on The Tonight Show when I was world champion in ’99.”
“The reason why Bischoff put me in that spot [with Jay Leno] is because I basically laid out that entire match [with Dennis Rodman] that we did. Hogan didn’t do stuff like that. He’d call stuff as you go, really simplifying stuff. That’s what they did in the early days. You still do that today, but there’s also these elaborate spots and finishes that can only be put together. Wrestling, when it's done right, is the best preparation meets improvisation, that’s what makes it magic. He knew how hard I worked, Malone stayed at my house, trained with him every day.”
A strong work ethic and a resolved mission to be the best of the best, DDP’s labors and efforts paid off in ways that took him beyond the ring and into the national stratosphere.
When WCW folded in 2001, DDP spent a brief period of time in WWE. The now infamous “Stalker” program with The Undertaker is how Page was introduced to the WWE audience, something he now wishes he had fought harder against and ultimately regrets being a part of. He eventually held two of the promotion’s championships, but both the European and Tag Team championships seemed like a far cry from the top spot status he enjoyed in WCW.
Page has often stated that his desire that brought him to WWE was to work with The Rock. A "People’s Champion vs. People’s Champion" program seemed like a slam dunk for WWE creative and fans of both WWE and WCW, but it never came to fruition. When speaking about the missed opportunity of the program between him and The Rock, Page feels it would’ve been a big moment for both talents.
“Working with him would’ve been magic. It never came around because that’s not what they wanted up there. They wanted to prove that that was a fluke that WCW started kicking [their] ass.”
Page retired from full time active competition in 2002, after a botched superplex in a match with Hardcore Holly left him nearly paralyzed. Due to the damage his body sustained from wrestling, his then wife Kimberly recommended he try yoga to help repair his body. Skeptical but inquisitive, and after months of trying things without results, Page tried it. Soon, he noticed that he became stronger and more flexible as his injuries began to repair themselves. DDP, motivated by the idea of bringing this workout to others, created what became DDPY.
In addition to the repairs it did on DDP’s body, DDPY became a life changing process for an incredible amount of people, including most famously Arthur Boorman. Boorman had lost the ability to walk without crutches after sustaining injuries as an Army paratrooper. Using DDPY, he lost over 100 pounds in ten months and regained full mobility and use of his legs.
Boorman’s story catapulted DDPY into the mainstream, and through tenacity and his never quit attitude, DDP became a household name once more. His dream came with its fair share of hiccups, but DDP stayed firm in his resolve in his vision and was determined to share this with the world.
His work with DDPY also allowed him to help rejuvenate the lives of those who helped him get to the very top of the pro wrestling world. His work with WWE Hall of Famers Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall is documented in the acclaimed documentary “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake”. Page looks at the successes with Roberts, Hall, and the people he’s met through DDPY as giving people the opportunity to dream again.
“What I’ve come across through our program, and Jake the Snake is our best example. Jake was in a dark, lonely place in 2012, when I brought him in my house. I did an interview with Jake last month. If you watch Jake in Resurrection, where his mindset is he’d stopped dreaming. All he had was nightmares when he had any dreams at all. When you stop dreaming, or thinking you have life, or lose hope, and there’s no hope, and you start sinking and you want to die. I know a lot of people I’ve seen that want to die.”
His next project involved more of what DDP is best at – helping people dream again. He’s working on a new reality television program, “Change or Die”, that's based on the fundamentals of other weight loss shows, but with a bigger focus on the subject's mental health as well as their physical health.
"It’s kind of like 'Biggest Loser' meets 'The Apprentice' meets 'Fear Factor'. Not eating scorpions or spiders or snakes. 'Fear Factor' in the way that a lot of people are really afraid to take those six pictures. They’re afraid to take the measurements. ‘I’m afraid if I start, I’ll stop again.’ That’s f***** up no matter how you look at it, but that is so many people. They are afraid.”
Page believes that the bigger impact for people looking to start their own journeys is to visually see the successes of others.
“A lot of people don’t want you to see them fall. If Arthur Boorman doesn’t fall time and time and time again, and doesn’t pull himself back up again, you don’t care as much. If I just showed you before and after pictures, you’re like ‘wow that’s amazing’. I show you a video of his journey, you cry. Why? Because it’s powerful, it’s emotional, and it’s inspiring.”
Production of “Change or Die” is slated to begin in January 2022.
Wherever Diamond Dallas Page puts himself, success follows, and his success is attributed directly to his authentic life. A career capped with top championships and a WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2017, Page has lived a dream many told him would never come true.
“Diamond Dallas Page was the guy that they never thought would be anything, and that’s how they treated me. I just outworked them.”
His challenges never defined him, and his successes are a testament to his “never give up” mantra. Diamond Dallas Page did the work, walked the talk, never gave up, and as a result, became positively unstoppable.
Adam Barnard is a staff writer for Kulture Popped and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity he had to tell DDP how big an impact he had on his life. Check him out on Twitter and listen to his interviews and pro wrestling insights on Foundation Radio each Tuesday.