This week it was announced that before WrestleMania 33 that Diamond Dallas Page would, rightly, make his way into the WWE Hall of Fame. Ahead of then, in this latest ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities‘, we take a look at his run with the WWE which promised so much but ultimately delivered so little.
If you consider the WWE Hall of Fame worthy, then there is little doubt that you also consider Diamond Dallas Page to be a worthy entry into it.
Born Page Joseph Falkinburg, he broke into wrestling as a manager in the American Wrestling Association. There he managed Badd Company (Paul Diamond and Pat Tanaka) and led to the AWA World Tag Team Championship. He also managed future WWE Hall of Famers Curt ‘Mr. Perfect’ Hennig and Madusa ‘Alundra Blayze’ Miceli.
He then joined WCW, a company where he would remain until it closed down a decade later. Although he started out as a manager, Page soon began competing in the ring for the company. After toiling at the lower end of the card for several years, Page’s commitment to improving – helped by Jake Roberts taking him under his wing – saw him become a more and more important part of WCW.
By the time the company was bought over in 2001, Falkinburg was a three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, two-time WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, four-time WCW World Tag Team Champion and a one-time WCW World Television Champion. He had gone from managing the Fabulous Freebirds to headlining PPVs as WCW World Champion.
A desire to improve and a power of positivity – more of that later – elevated him to being one of the biggest stars of the Monday Night Wars era of wrestling. A big game player for WCW at a time when it was beating the WWF week in, week out.
In 2001, when Vince McMahon purchased WCW, Page was one of the few real stars who bought out their Time Warner AOL contracts in order to join the WWE.
DDP would debut on Raw in June of that year when he revealed that he was the stalker of the Undertaker’s wife, Sara. To wrestling fans who were brought up on a heavy diet of WCW, this would have come as somewhat of a surprise.
After all, for much of his time with the company, he was accompanied by his then wife Kimberley, a pin-up for many wrestling fans during that era. It was a point not lost on Page, himself. Speaking to the Sun newspaper, He said: “I thought, coming in, that the stalker angle was going to be awesome. When people ask me about that I say, ‘Hey, I made the decision, I have to live with it’.
“Vince and Shane McMahon told me coming in that they had this great idea and I was going to be working with their No1 babyface. I didn’t really like it because it was about me stalking someone else’s wife. I would look across the table at Kim [DDP’s beautiful ex-wife] and nobody could compare. It was ridiculous, it took out the believability factor.”
Page soon became a member of the Alliance and fought The Undertaker in an ‘unsanctioned brawl’ at the year’s King of the Ring event. The following month he reunited with his former tag partner in WCW Chris Kanyon and the duo defeated APA for the WWF tag team titles but would drop them several weeks later at SummerSlam, against the Undertaker and Kane in a steel cage.
Page picked up an injury in that match that would keep him out for several months. He returned in November, several weeks before the Alliance lost the Invasion angle and kayfabe lost his job with the other members of the Alliance.
He returned in early 2002 as a fan favourite and in late January won the European Championship from Christian and retained it at WrestleMania X8. However, he dropped the gold to William Regal on the post-mania episode of Smackdown. By now Page was 46 and suffering from nagging injuries, didn’t resign with the company and his contract was allowed to expire.
On his retirement, Page stated: “The main reason I jumped when I did was because I was six months away from turning 46. How much longer could I really do this at the level that I did
it? There was only so long I could run at that pace.”
So, was DDP in the WWE a missed opportunity? He is more diplomatic: “I get fans telling me they were upset with how WWE treated me but I say, ‘Dude, let it go!’ I already achieved everything I ever dreamed of.”
But ultimately, Page was one of the biggest names which the WWE were able to sign after WCW closed. Yet, although stuck in a programme with The Undertaker, it was based on an angle that really wasn’t believable. That lack of believability undoubtedly hurt Page and it, along with nagging injuries, were something Page wasn’t able to recover with.
There is no doubt that Page’s age worked against him, by the time of his retirement in 2002 he was 46. But we’re currently weeks away from a WrestleMania that will feature a 50-year-old Bill Goldberg in a main event bout.
Timing is everything, had he been younger and joined several years later who really knows what might have happened for DDP in the WWE.
There is no doubt, however, that when he takes his place in the WWE Hall of Fame two nights before WrestleMania 33, that he deserves it. Not just for his body of in-ring work but also for his role in saving the lives of Jake Roberts and Scott Hall – through his remarkable DDP Yoga programme – as well as playing a role in the likes of Chris Jericho still being able to work at the top of their game.
Perhaps it’s a phrase vastly overused in wrestling lexicon these days but DDP ‘You deserve it.’
You can read all previous ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities’ pieces here.