||11-10-2013 12:51 PM
Jake Roberts and Scott Hall Find Redemption with DDP Yoga
Long article, but well worth the read. These kats are doing great now and hope they keep it up!
Members of MMAFORUM what do you all do to decompress...
DDP is the man!
Excercise is king and nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom. - Jack Lalane
After roughly a dozen stints in rehab, Scott Hall is supposed to join Diamond Dallas Page on our Skype call and tell the now-familiar tale of how the former WCW World Champion’s yoga regimen is rescuing the battered souls of the squared circle.
But when the 57-year-old Page pops up on the laptop—manically flailing his arms and bulging his eyes, as he sermonizes about the perils of hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners—Hall is nowhere to be detected.
Has the wrestler once known as Razor Ramon suffered yet another relapse?
Page assures me that my assumptions are false. After immersing himself in the DDP Yoga lifestyle, Page elucidates, Hall is simply sleeping off his sobriety.
“He was supposed to come here and work out with me this morning,” Page says. “But he didn’t sleep well last night. He’s not pilling up to go to sleep. So some nights, he don’t sleep.”
When Hall finally calls me a day later, he elaborates on his predicament. “I’m awake all the time,” he maintains, without the slur I’d come to expect in his voice. “I was talking about it with Lex Luger (another ex-WCW World Champion), and there may be a link to multiple concussions. And steroid use could be a factor, too. The big difference is that, before, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d replay the tape about the mistakes I’ve made in my life, all the things I did wrong, just tormenting myself. Now, when I look out at the highway of life, I realize the rear-view mirror is pretty small, and there’s a whole lot of possibility on the other side of the windshield. So I might as well give myself a break.”
For years, Hall has been trying to embrace this philosophy, attending 12-step programs, checking into psychiatric hospitals and moving to new cities to avoid old influences. But it wasn’t until he relocated to Smyrna, Ga., down the road from the home DDP shares with his girlfriend, Brenda, their respective daughters and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, that Hall insists that he started to believe the self-help jargon.
Hall attributes this to the fact that Page comes from the same alternate universe as the wrestlers he helps and comprehends their backward logic. As a result, Hall says, DDP Yoga has connected with him and Roberts in a way that no other program possibly could.
“In professional wrestling, you learn how to manipulate people,” claims Roberts, who enjoyed his biggest run in WWE from 1986 to 1992. “I was in rehab three times and found it pretty easy to manipulate the counselors. But Dally is one of us. He knows my sh*t and he calls me on it.”
Indeed, Page knows Roberts’ mentality because, to a certain degree, he tried to emulate it. Back when DDP was scrambling to find a place for himself on the main event tier, it was Jake who schooled him on ring psychology—how to slowly draw the fans into a match, why flashy moves don’t work if you’re not telling the right story, and the proper way to use an interview to make money for yourself.
The advice worked, the same way DDP Yoga appears to be working for Page’s wayward pals.
Not a Rehab Center
Up until now, most of the coverage of DDP Yoga has highlighted the transformations of Hall and Roberts, leading some to conclude that Page is running a rehab program for ex-wrestlers. Dallas scoffs at the notion. Just because, 20 years ago or more, you also found yourself ensnared in Ric Flair’s figure-four or Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter doesn’t mean that Page wants you in his house.
Roberts and Hall are special friends—Hall’s career received the burst it so desperately needed, he says, when Page conceived the Diamond Studd character for the future Razor Ramon—and DDP repeatedly argues that he’s living in a home, not a treatment facility.
“There are no meetings here,” he says. “If you want to go to a meeting, you have to do that on your own. What we have is a support system. These are my friends, and we’re all getting healthy together. There are just no drugs in the house—and no drama.”
Instead, there’s kale, butternut squash soup and buffalo meat—it has lower fat than chicken, turkey or shrimp, and the animals tend to be devoid of hormones, nitrates and antibiotics—and Page’s version of yoga, an ancient Indian art that one Sanskrit document defines as “the stilling of the changes of the mind.”
Page says that he saved the money he made in wrestling—on the road, when requesting a mini-fridge, he’d tell the hotel that he needed to keep his medicines cold, a loophole that allowed him to enjoy the amenity for free—but has wagered much of it into DDP Yoga, a series of workouts incorporating calisthenics, dynamic resistance, rehabilitation techniques and active breathing.
Not surprisingly, Page, the storied self-promoter, begins his workouts by asking participants to press their thumbs and index fingers together, in the “Diamond Cutter” position that was his trademark in WCW.
Even so, this isn’t a work, the wrestling term for something less than valid. Page’s students range from middle-aged women with fibromyalgia to former athletes hoping to rehab injuries to people with Asperger’s or multiple sclerosis.
But when the media calls—DDP Yoga has been covered by everyone from HBO’s Real Sports to Perez Hilton—Page knows the story that will motivate the public to purchase his DVDs and has no reluctance about asking his old wrestling buddies to relive their travails and detail the way DDP Yoga saved them.
“I’m re-establishing myself as a human being,” Roberts testifies. “And I have to thank Dally for inspiring me. But it works both ways. I’m in his poster boy.”
“That's My Connection”
In 1991, while Page was working as a manager in WCW, Scott Hall returned from a wrestling tour of Europe, uncertain of his next professional step. He’d wrestled in the AWA, the Florida territory and Puerto Rico, but—his rugged good looks, notwithstanding—he didn’t feel like he’d received the “big push” that he deserved.
“My wife was pregnant and I needed a job,” he recalls. “So Dally gave me a new gimmick, the Diamond Studd, and made me part of his stable. I thought it was pretty sweet. And if it wasn’t for that exposure, I don’t think the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) would have brought me in as Razor Ramon.”
For Page, Hall’s quest to achieve recognition conjured up familiar feelings. Not only had DDP made his professional wrestling “debut” at the mature age of 35—in reality, he’d wrestled a handful of matches at 19 but left the business after injuring his knees—but, almost from the moment of his birth, he had to hustle to get attention.
The real-life Page, Joseph Falkinburg Jr.—he’d later legally change his name to Dallas Page—was born to a teen mother already encumbered by two other children. During his formative years, he was handed off to a number of relatives while struggling with ADD and dyslexia.
“You become more vocal when you can’t read or write,” he says. “You listen, then you express.”
At WrestleMania VI in 1990, Page—after a managing stint in the old American Wrestling Association (AWA) and an announcing gig in Florida’s fading wrestling territory—walked around Toronto’s SkyDome shaking hands in the press box and pointing out that the pink Cadillac ferrying the tag team of Rhythm and Blues—the Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine—to the ring actually belonged to him.
“I once heard a minister say the quickest way to get there is to act like you’ve already been there,” he says.
With the Diamond Studd as his tag team partner in WCW, Page began to pick up a following as a wrestler. In 1998, he was at a Houston Rockets game when Karl Malone spotted him in the stands and flashed him the Diamond Cutter sign. “Long story short,” Page begins. “He brings me backstage and we hung out a bit. We became friends and then, I had an idea—Karl Malone and Diamond Dallas Page against Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan.”
Page presented the concept to WCW president Eric Bischoff. “Bischoff said, ‘Wow, Malone and Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage vs. Rodman and Hogan,’” Page maintains. “And I said, ‘F**k that. I’m not doing that. That’s my relationship. That’s my connection. I’m not giving that away.’”
From that point forward, it seemed like DDP was a focal point of any WCW storyline involving a celebrity.
The next month, he and Jay Leno defeated Bischoff and Hogan (Leno pinned Bischoff when cornerman Kevin Eubanks—The Tonight Show band leader—delivered DDP’s finisher, also called The Diamond Cutter, to the wrestling executive) on the Road Wild pay-per-view. In 2000, in a tag team match with convoluted rules, Page lost his WCW World Championship to actor David Arquette.
By then, the company was imploding, and the angle brought a backlash from fans who claimed the title change made it impossible for them to suspend their disbelief. In 2001, WCW was absorbed by WWE, and DDP was written into a storyline with The Undertaker.
“They wanted me because I represented WCW,” Page says. “But they wanted me to prove a point, too. Let me ask you—who writes history, the winners or the losers? WWE does. Was WCW supposed to end up on top? I get it.”
Critics felt that Page was buried in the feud. But he says that the experience taught him a lesson he’d later apply to his DDP Yoga venture:
“I made a mistake and didn’t use my power properly. I should have said, ‘Great idea. But when you want to do People’s Champion vs. People’s Champion, get back to me.’ I didn’t do that, and that was stupid of me. But ever since, if the deal’s not perfect for me, I walk away. And the reason DDP Yoga is where it is today is that I’ve walked away from the table numerous times. Today, I control my own destiny.”
React, Adapt, Take Action
Page claims that he discovered yoga to cope with nagging injuries—a torn rotator cuff, as well as ruptured L4 and L5 discs that nearly ended his career. “Everybody knows how much I beat up my body from 35 to 49,” he says. “There’s a reason why guys take painkillers. You come out of the ring and it hurts like f***. Today, in WWE, because of their wellness policy, none of the guys are pill-heads anymore. So what do you do if your back’s blown out or your hips or your knees?”
He offers his yoga regime as a solution. “I can do s*** today with my body that maybe 10 percent of the guys in professional wrestling right now can do,” he insists. Among his proudest routines: superhero pushups. DDP lays on his stomach, then rises up on his hands and feet. He then drops his chest to the ground, lifts his hands, slaps them back on the exercise mat and pushes himself up. “I can do it 50 times,” he boasts. “I’m 57.”
Last year, Page’s exercise program received international credibility when Gulf War veteran Arthur Boorman’s YouTube saga went viral. According to the former paratrooper, “too many jumps” had damaged his back and knees. His lack of mobility led to depression and obesity. At 297 pounds, he was transported to family events in a wheelchair and hobbled around his home aided by knee and back braces.
In 2007, in a quest for pain management rather than weight loss, he discovered DDP Yoga on the Internet. “React,” Page preached from the computer screen. “Adapt. Take action.”
As he went through the various workouts, Arthur kept a video diary that included sad imagery of him falling over on the yoga mat. But by now, he’d accepted Page’s theology and continued trying. Within 10 months, he’d lost 140 pounds.
Wrestlers can generally tell when one of the boys is working a scam. Jake’s foray into religion in the ‘90s was met with derision by many, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, who created the iconic “Austin 3:16” slogan to ridicule Roberts’ petition to fans to read John 3:16. But DDP Yoga seemed genuine enough for some of the talent to give it a try.
The first wrestler to endorse the program was Chris Jericho, who logged a reported 47 minutes and 53 seconds in the 2013 Royal Rumble after he says DDP Yoga helped him recover from a herniated L4. “That legitimized everything,” Page emphasizes. “Not just among the boys. He told everybody. He still does.”
Jake Roberts was 307 pounds when he called Page. “I was miserable,” the 58-year-old former star says in his characteristic scratchy voice. “I couldn’t even get out of a chair and was masking my pain with coke and alcohol, the way I always did. I came here, thinking that maybe I’d last a week. Now, it’s 11 months.”
“You see, there’s one big difference between Dally and me. He never goes into that dark place. He won’t do it. He keeps it positive all the time. It’s not a promo. It’s not fake. It’s the way he lives.”
Sobriety isn’t always pleasant for Roberts. “I don’t have anything to block the pain, the aggravation, the depression,” he says. “I’m forced to think about the wreckage and carnage I need to rectify. But my children want to see me and be part of my life. I’m welcome in their homes. And now, they tell me they’re proud of me, not disappointed.”
When Jake described his shift in circumstances to Sean Waltman—a member of the backstage “Kliq” at WWE that included Triple H, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall—the wrestler best known as X-Pac contacted Page. Hall was in dire shape, Waltman said, and needed help quickly. Page sincerely wanted to extend a lifeline to his friend. But, because he was DDP, Page also made sure that he put Hall on speaker phone and videotaped the exchange when he and Roberts called.
In the conversation, Hall sounds like a man who’s given up on life. He’s inebriated and talks about dying. Somehow, his two friends convinced him to come to the house in Smyrna.
The four-time WWE Intercontinental champion says that Page brought him back to the days of the Diamond Studd, “when I was that guy who was hungry and wanted to achieve.” He agreed to do everything that Dallas told him, refraining not only from drugs and alcohol but fried food and white flour. “I don’t even know what a gluten is, bro,” he says, “but Dally won’t let me eat them.”
To Page, processed foods can confuse the body as much as OxyContin and cocaine. “The first thing I do,” he states, “is get them eating real food because I know, in two weeks, it will change the way they feel. Then, they’ll figure out what’s really bothering them. It might be your shoulder. It might be your back. When you’re self-medicating with pills and vodka, you feel like s*** all the time and don’t even understand why.”
Jake, for instance, says that he was oblivious to the fact that he had gout: “When you clean up, you start recognizing that what you thought were age spots was the caloric deposits that crystallized in your feet. You feel everything.”
In April, Hall had a total left hip replacement and is now on an exercise program that involves walking, stretching, pull-ups, dips and cardio. “Once the pain in my hip went away, I didn’t want to be numb,” he says. “I wanted to be aware.”
After six months of sobriety, Hall decided to get together with old running buddies, Nash and X-Pac. “Kevin likes his red wine,” Hall points out. “X-Pac had saki. Everybody was concerned that I’d start drinking, too, and I understand why. But I just didn’t want it.”
By his own admission, Jake’s recovery has been more challenging. “Yeah, he’s had relapses,” Page says. “He’s had a couple of them. But it’s not like he took off and drank for three days. He snuck some booze. As far as I’m concerned, if you have 300 days in and you have four where you fall, you don’t lose those 300 days. All that talk that it’s the end of the world—f*** that. But the last time he fell off, I said, ‘Here’s the deal. You’re telling me one of two things—you want to leave, or you want to go to meetings.’ So he started going to meetings."
“He works out all the time, too. And he’s thinking of the future—a comedy routine, a blog, a podcast. Before this, he had no goals.”
Unwilling to seclude himself in Page’s home, Roberts now goes out with a companion, who’s pledged to intervene to prevent another relapse. “Some people call it weak,” he says. “I call it smart. I need a caretaker. So what?”
Meanwhile, Page is always contemplating angles to expand DDP Yoga. He surprises followers with cash prizes—he’s planning to award a student with $3,000 within the next few weeks—for inspirational blogs, capturing the moments on videotape and posting them online. And he wants to work with WWE.
“I have a great relationship with the company,” he insists. “The guys are doing my yoga. Hunter (WWE Vice President of Talent and Live Events, Triple H) and I are talking about me going to their new Performance Center (the company’s state-of-the-art training facility in Orlando) and doing a seminar. Not all of them will make DDP Yoga a lifestyle, but a lot of them will.”
For the time being, he’s content transforming old friends into highly functional pitchmen. “I’m obnoxiously happy,” Hall declares. “I look at it this way. It’s 3:35 p.m. on the East Coast. And I haven’t drank all day or taken any pills. So I’m doing OK.”
The nature of his survival reminds him of his time in the Kliq, when his friends would joke about near-death experiences and whisper to one another, “Not today.”
“Look at my life,” he says. “I almost died. I almost died several times. My shoulders were down, man. But I kicked out. I kicked out again. Someone upstairs obviously likes me. So maybe I should, too.”