By Chuck Carroll
As a wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page spent about 300 days each year on the road. The grind to becoming an improbable World Champion was as relentless as it was monotonous.
For most wrestlers, the daily formula goes something like this: wrestle, squeeze into a car with a few other large bodies, drive for hours through the night until reaching the next city on the schedule. If they’re lucky, they’ll be able to get a few hours of sleep before checkout time at the hotel. After grabbing a bite to eat, it’s either off to the gym or to the arena for a mid-afternoon call time. Then the waiting game begins.
Bell time won’t be for another five hours or so and the actual match may not be for another two or three hours after that. The time is passed with meetings, tomfoolery and more meetings to hash out plans for that night which, more often than not, will be rewritten at least a couple of times. Finally, their entrance music begins to play and thousands erupt as they walk through the curtain. The bell rings to start the match, and it won’t be long before it rings again to bring it to a close. Then, it’s shower, pack up the gear and hop back in the car to start the process all over again.
The repetition breaks down the body and the mind, and it isn’t long before some road weary wrestlers go from tapping out in the ring to tapping out of the business altogether. Then there are those who view every day as a new opportunity rather than Groundhog Day. Such is the case of DDP who at the age of 35 had grown tired of his role as a manager — he wanted to be champion. In defiance of lottery-esque odds, within a few years he would win his first title, and in a few more he’d be able to call himself World Champion.
That’s not to say that the road to the top was paved exclusively with soft clouds. There were bumps; plenty of them. Injuries threatened to derail his career and force an early retirement. But that’s when DDP discovered what would become a second calling. Yoga.
Some professional wrestlers become household names by heading west to Hollywood. For the WWE Hall of Famer, going mainstream meant creating DDP Yoga. He would turn the same program he designed to get back in the ring into a fitness empire.
The world champion is now a certified yogi with thousands of loyal followers, many of whom are fans from his wrestling days. He rewards their loyalty with a genuine desire to see them flourish. He relishes in their success and has been known to reach out personally to express gratitude for subscribing or congratulate them on milestones reached on their journey.
It’s not uncommon for the rough-and-tumble grappler to become emotional when hearing of some of the more radical transformations. He fought to choke back tears while reading a letter from a widow who lost her husband to a rare form of cancer. It was something he said during one of the workouts that rocked her to the emotional core.
“You’re getting stronger every day. You can do this.”
She would often tell her beloved those same words prior to his passing, although both knew the inevitable heartbreaking ending was coming. It was a little white lie they said to keep each other’s spirits afloat for as long as possible.
It wouldn’t be until months after his death that she would believe them for the first time. The revelation came when DDP uttered the phrase during a workout she followed one morning. It was as if he was delivering a message directly from her late husband. The touching video of DDP reading the letter has been viewed thousands of times. The two have plans to meet this summer at a retreat for the yoga program.
It’s a powerful new arena he’s performing in. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still keep one eye on the arena that first made him famous. He keeps up with WWE when he can and will unapologetically flip the channel to RAW and SmackDown.
I had a chance to catch up with him recently in between workouts at the DDP Yoga Studio. He shared his take on WWE’s massive new televisions rights deals and what it could mean in terms of pay for wrestlers. He also chimed in about Ronda Rousey receiving a title match so soon in her wrestling career and gave details about his forthcoming book that is due to be released around the time of next year’s Royal Rumble.
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There is a lot going on right now, particularly with these new TV deals that WWE has landed. I’m sure that you’ve seen the numbers floating around, I mean $300 million year for RAW and the five-year deal for SmackDown worth more than a billion dollars. Does that just seem kind of crazy to you?
Wrestling is cyclical. And if you look at the 80s, it had an unbelievable run and then it just fell down. 90s had the biggest run ever, because of the Monday Night Wars. People would say, “Do you think you’ll ever see that again?” I say to them, “You’ll never see it like that again.” See Vince [McMahon] has mainstreamed the television. And he’s the taken the wrestle and over the last 20 years made him a superstar not a wrestler. And the biggest star in the world is who? Is The Rock. Then out of wrestling the next guy would be John Cena. And then maybe Dave Bautista, because what he did in the wrestling world, but what he’s doing in Hollywood. He is an A List actor, now so is John.
You’re gonna see a lot of guys come out of that. You’re gonna see The Miz come out at some point and have a hell of a film career. Cody Rhodes just got five episodes coming up on The Arrow. He’s mainstreamed the boys, and the girls. Because it’s not like these crazy ratings that they had. We had better ratings than they had back in the day. But it’s more mainstream audience, so it’s a way more valuable audience.
So no, I’m not surprised at all. I’m super happy because they’re getting these kind of money numbers from the television and they own the network, the WWE Network. So owning your own channel on a spot where you’ve got it 24/7 and we’re talking about creating your own channel. Just like I did with DDP Yoga. My DDP Yoga channel with my DDPY workouts, it’s my own channel. And I’m constantly putting money into making it better. I’m like over $2 million into my DDP Yoga Now App, which is insane. And no one, and that’s including Beach Body or anybody else is doing it the way we’re doing it.
And that’s what Vince did. And Vince is always going to be the man there. But Triple H and Stephanie, and now Shane, they’re the key cogs that put the players together to orchestrate this. Bringing in the old school from … Bringing back Warrior after … I mean they destroyed Warrior when he left, because they were mad. But at the end I was so grateful it was all fixed before he passed, and he went out a hall of famer as he should have. But also with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. And Triple H is responsible for putting that kind of stuff together.
The NXT, the next thing. Like nobody believed that, but he did, you know Stephanie did. And look at it today. It’s bringing the greatest athletes from there. So really there is three different channels. I would not doubt if you see like maybe a year or so from now, maybe less I don’t know, is the NXT get some crazy big deal. I wouldn’t doubt it. Because the talent is amazing.
One of the big things about this deal is that SmackDown is going be moved from Tuesday night over to Friday night and it’s gonna stay live it seems. From when you were at WCW, do you remember that being a difficult production schedule, having live broadcasts of Nitro and Thunder basically bookend the week?
Well, they were because I was on both shows. SmackDown, you don’t really see the guys on RAW, until they’re getting ready to shoot an angle or crossover or something. That’s why they’re two shows. Vince realized very early on that, “Okay let’s destroy WCW, because we’re the real dog of the woods. But wait a minute, we have no competition now. Wait a second, let’s create SmackDown on its own channel.”
Right now, and wrestling isn’t as big as it was in the 90s, yet. But could it be again? This kind of attention says, “Hmmm, maybe.”
You would have to think that with this influx of cash coming next year, that the pay checks will increase. Do you expect contract values will elevate when the new deals kick in?
I imagine. It always goes from the top down. It’s the same thing in football. Who makes all the money on the team? The quarterback makes the most money.
And then it works its way to the running backs, and then key defensive players. But it’s the standouts that make the most money. And your guys at the bottom, they make a living. And it’s still a ton of money, but the guys who really work hard. And I’ll give you names. Anywhere from Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Derek Brooks, the 11-time All Pro linebacker for Tampa Bay. He’s not broke, nowhere near it. Because he worked his (butt) off. And he realized coming down, now you’re not gonna make millions of dollars anymore, how do you adjust, how do you get into other businesses that start to build those business while you’re doing your, while your name means something.
That’s what I did with Diamond Dallas Page. The whole time I was branding myself. And my Diamond Cutter sign and all that. And that’s why I can walk into DDP Yoga and make DDPY on its way to being a household name.
Ronda Rousey is getting a title shot at the next pay per view, Money In The Bank. Is it too much too soon, or is this about right?
I think that would be like asking whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. You’re gonna have people say, “She’s who she is and she should get it.” And other people are gonna go, “No, she didn’t earn it, she didn’t deserve it.” But a lot people don’t understand all the work she put in to get to where she is today.
So bottom line is, she’d be one of the highest paid people there. And she’s one of the highest paid people there because she draws and people are tuning in.
My opinion is, I think she’s gonna draw. I haven’t been watching enough to see her work, but I know what she did at WrestleMania and she killed it. So I think the girls are so good today. One of the things when you’re a great worker like a lot of these young ladies today, from Bailey to The Boss Sasha Banks. Charlotte’s one of the best athletes in the company. When they get there and they realize you’re in a feud with Ronda Rousey, guess what, you just got mainstream attention.
That’s gonna hold on for a while. Because I would never even push Ronda out of maybe doing a comeback [in UFC]. And guess what. She’s still a draw. She wouldn’t come back and go right against the champion, but she’d go out there and everybody would want to tune in. So don’t discount that either.
A video that you just put out recently caught my eye. You were reading a letter from a DDP Yoga subscriber who had recently lost her husband. And you had not read it until you sat in front of the camera, and you got choked up. Describe that feeling.
I get sent something every day that’s powerful. But occasionally, I’ll get something that’s extraordinary. And when she sent the letter to the performance center, the DDP Yoga performance center. Again, didn’t know how to get to me, but knew there was a place where I did my workouts, and that’s where we do everything from the DDP Yoga Now App. We film everything there, whether it’s cooking shows, inspirational stuff, motivational Mondays, or the workouts. So she found that address and wrote me this two-page letter that was top to bottom full.
Her letter was so powerful. And when she got to the end, when her husband started saying, “You can do this. Every day you’re getting stronger.” She just like. She fell apart. But it also at some point made her stronger. And she went back to the program. And it gave her this peace and this inner confidence in herself that she could get through this. And there’s nothing worse than losing a child, a loved one period. But when it’s your soulmate and you don’t have any kids and everything else, and especially when it’s young love, like that first five years. It’s super, super hard.
I called her up, and I said, “Hello, is Annie there?” “Uh, yes it is.”
I said, “Hey Annie, It’s DDP.” and like dead silence. She said, “Excuse me?” And I said, “It’s DDP, it’s Diamond Dallas Page.” And she goes, “Oh my God, you’re calling me.”
I said, “Yeah, I got your letter.” And she goes, “Oh God, thank you so much for reading it.”
It was a powerful, powerful letter … It’s really like a tribute to her husband.
You’re also working on a book, correct?
I literally just sent it to my publisher. It’s called “Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning it.”
And “it” could be anything. I don’t have the WWE or any of those entities to [promote it]. I don’t have my own machine. But I want to be a bestseller with this and I’m throwing it out in the universe.
I’ve had two books before this, that did not make that, but I never made it a goal either. I didn’t think they were worthy of it. This book is. And it’s powerful, it’s life changing. And if people put the work in, they can have so many more dreams than they ever thought were possible.
I will do my first book signing at The Royal Rumble in January. And I’m gonna follow around the WWE to every town they go.
NEWS & NOTES
SmackDown will indeed be broadcast live when it moves to Friday nights beginning next fall, according to multiple reports.
Ring of Honor has announced a triple threat match for the ROH World Championship at the Best In The World pay-per-view on June 29th. Dalton Castle will defend against Cody and Marty Scurll. Also announced for the Baltimore show is the hometown Briscoes defending the tag titles against The Young Bucks.
Deonna Purrazzo has signed with WWE and will be reporting to the NXT brand, according to PWInsider. Purrazzo had been a mainstay in ROH and a key player in the development of the Women of Honor tournament to crown the promotion’s first women’s champion.
If you’re waiting on Brock Lesnar to defend the Universal Title, don’t hold your breath. As of now, his next title defense isn’t scheduled until SummerSlam in August, per The Wrestling Observer.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.