BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #51 - DDP, WWF European Champion
There are times in professional wrestling where I completely forgot a moment happened or a certain performer was a titleholder in a certain company.
I remembered one when I began to start looking for old collectibles to sell on eBay. As I started separating sell and keep, I pulled one out of the bin and instantly had a perplexed look upon my mug. I instantly Googled the name with the toy championship belt around his waist to check, and to my amazement, it wasn’t just me putting a different title belt on a random toy as an early teenager. It actually happened.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE, WWF EUROPEAN CHAMPION.
I always saw DDP's run in the WWF as a teenager as a blip on the radar, which isn’t fair to the legend from the Jersey Shore. Coming into the WWF as a part of the WCW “invasion” in 2001, I initially thought that Page was going to make a major impact in the promotion, especially after his legendary run in World Championship Wrestling, winning every championship there was, including becoming a three-time WCW World Heavyweight champion.
At first glance, he started off strong. He was unveiled as the stalker of the Undertaker’s wife Sara. Within two months of his debut, he won the WWF Tag Team championships alongside his ally in the Jersey Triad, Kanyon. However, taking a deeper look, DDP was made an example of by the powers-that-be in the World Wrestling Federation.
Rumors said that Page was too theatrical in his performances, while others stated he would bring “scripts” to other performers when it came to certain matches he’d be in. Again, early 2000s wrestling internet was the Wild West of misinformation.
After losing the WWF Tag Team titles to the Undertaker and Kane in a steel cage match at SummerSlam 2001, DDP took some time off to heal from an injury. When he came back, he became a whole new man.
DDP dug deep into his inner psyche and became “Positively” Page.
He started channeling his inner Tony Robbins and other self-help gurus to build up wrestlers’ self esteem and self-worth. Complete with a smile, head leaning to the side, a mouth full of caps and a sparkle, DDP, still a part of the Alliance in October 2001, began “inspiring” the fanbase with his gospel of positivity.
Honestly, Page’s “That’s not a bad thing; that’s a GOOD THING!” quickly became catchy with fans, even as a part of the Alliance.
After Survivor Series 2001, DDP, along with the rest of the Alliance (sans champions), lost his gig, and was seemingly outside of the wrestling world. Surprisingly, on January 17, then-WWF co-CEO Ric Flair stated that if Page won his match against the Big Boss Man, he would be reinstated to the WWF. During a one-sided encounter, the former prison guard from Cobb County, GA went for a powerslam and was caught out of desperation with a Diamond Cutter. Three slaps of the mat later, and the self-help guru was back in the WWF.
DDP had some positive momentum rolling. Two weeks later, on the January 31 SmackDown, Page would face the WWF European champion Christian with the belt on the line. In a pretty good back-and-forth, Page fought from behind, but the younger, faster champion kept on his tail. However, Christian let his emotions get the best, and after losing focus with a temper tantrum, DDP countered the Unprettier and delivered a Diamond Cutter out of nowhere for a three count and the European gold!
On a side note, what I loved about the ending of this match was that Page went through the crowd to celebrate with the people. It was very reminiscent of his days in WCW as “the People’s champion”, giving love to those who have supported him throughout his career.
Looking into the length and entire run of DDP’s run, I noticed that throughout his 49 day reign as champion, he never defended it on Raw or SmackDown in successful defenses. Instead, Page was relegated to Sunday Night Heat, defeating Christian in a rematch (only broadcast to International viewers), the Big Boss Man before No Way Out 2002, and Lance Storm.
DDP defended the title on live events, defeating Christian around the circuit. He also had three successful defenses against Haku during a tour of Asia, including a match taped exclusively for TV Tokyo on March 1 in Yokohama, Japan.
Yet, DDP was frequently on Raw and SmackDown. With Christian having emotional outbursts and temper tantrums, the self-help guru was convinced that he could help turn him around and bring a more positive outlook to his career and life, especially after a long losing streak post-championship reign. And try he did.
After getting Christian to “smile” and believe in himself again, Christian, with DDP at ringside, defeated one half of the WWF Tag Team champions, Billy Gunn on the Raw before WrestleMania. Happy with his return to victory, Christian showcased his gratitude by promptly laying out the European champion.
At WrestleMania X8 on March 17, 2002, DDP returned to the SkyDome, the same venue where he drove out Rhythm and Blues to the ring in his Pink Cadillac at WrestleMania VI. Christian, already waiting on him, prepared an onslaught, jumping him before the bell. After a seven minute back and forth fight, Christian almost lost his cool after a near-fall. However, using DDP’s calming methods, he found balance and kept it together. A series of reversals later, Page countered into a Diamond Cutter and got the three count.
Diamond Dallas Page successfully defended the European championship at WrestleMania!
The celebration through the Canadian faithful was short-lived. Four nights later on SmackDown, Christian distracted Page during a title defense against former European champion William Regal. When the referee told Christian to leave, Regal gave DDP “Power of the Punch”, loaded with brass knuckles on the left fist. A Regal Stretch to the unconscious champion moments later, the referee called for the bell.
DDP lost the European gold to William Regal. Sadly, this would be the last title reign of his career as a full-time performer.
A few weeks later, DDP got hurt after a superplex to Hardcore Holly on the April 18 SmackDown, and was forced to retire as a full-time performer. Truly, a very tough way to end your full-time career.
Of course, Diamond Dallas Page had a career and professional resurgence in the 2010s, developing DDP Yoga, a workout program using stretching and yoga to help people lose weight, exercise, and in the case of one man, walk again. He also has helped countless former professional wrestlers get back on their feet and clean off their vices. He truly is an inspiration. The character developed in 2001 into 2002 was an extension of the incredible man he was - a positive role model to many needing guidance.
Selfishly, I wish he had one last run to the top in WWE before calling it quits, but getting your WrestleMania moment and retaining the European title in front of 68,000 fans isn’t too shabby.
I’m glad I looked back and researched DDP’s short run as European champion. It was a unique time in WWF, and Page truly had a small part in a year of corporate and wrestling transition. More importantly, it was fun.
And for the record, that figure is not going on eBay. It’s staying right here, and that’s not a bad thing; that’s a good thing.