The year is 1996, a lot has changed in wrestling since the Hulkamania/Million Dollar Man rivalry, a decade earlier. A shift in power has occurred as the WWE’s competition, World Championship Wrestling, (formerly Jim Crockett Promotions, a member of the National Wrestling Alliance) has taken over as the top wrestling organisation in the United States. Many names associated with the WWE have jumped ship to WCW, following the lucrative guaranteed contracts offered to them by Eric Bischoff, the WCW President. Under Bischoff’s leadership, WCW took the aggressive and confrontational approach to transform WCW’s image from the geographical confines of a southern promotion into an international organisation. Such tactics involved moving the WCW TV tapings for Pro and Worldwide from loyal JCP-NWA venues to Disney-MGM Studios, which changed the face of the WCW crowd. In changing the face of the crowd, this move made WCW more commercially viable, opening up different markets and thus allowing WCW to pursue a lot of the top names from the WWE. The sound of WCW’s announcing also changed; with Jim Ross joining the WWE in 1993, the departure of longtime announcer Bob Caudle and an ageing Gordon Solie being relegated to back up announcer. These three men spoke life into many important events throughout the company’s rich history. By implementing these changes, WCW had abandoned an identity and a strong fan base that supported JCP-NWA since the 1930s. The arrival of WWE performers began as Eric Bischoff took over the company in 1993 with Gene Okerlund, the Big Boss Man, Bobby Heenan, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. The acquisition of Hulk Hogan and friends helped turn WCW into a bigger threat to the competition in the marketplace as they were no longer perceived as ‘southern wrasslin’. More changes were on the way when two significant arrivals appeared from the WWE, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. They emerged as the Outsiders and would later acknowledge themselves as the New World Order faction with the shocking reveal of Hulk Hogan as their third member and leader. This game-changing event reflected a change in times as a rebellious trend swept over popular culture and embraced the anti-hero: Hardcore Hip-Hop and Tupac Shakur were celebrated in the mainstream, the NBA couldn’t get enough of flamboyant bad boy, Dennis Rodman, and the highest rated US television drama, Melrose Place had more antagonists than protagonists. In pro wrestling, the nWo was depicted as the popular anti-heroes, and with wrestling being crucially dependant on good and evil, there needed to be a protagonist to help resolve the imbalance in WCW. A group of heroes and villains had banded together against the nWo, but were mostly unsuccessful as they had yet to figure out how to combat the unfamiliar threat. To everyone’s surprise, the least likely of heroes to join the battle was Diamond Dallas Page. Initially a villain, DDP was not affiliated with either the nWo or the group that opposed them. This article, ‘Wrestling is a Metaphor 4 Life’ unpacks the rivalry between Diamond Dallas Page and the New World Order.
It seemed that all hope was lost after wrestling’s greatest hero, Hulk Hogan became a villain. The fans condemned Hogan and turned their support to his former friends Macho Man Randy Savage and Sting as they represented WCW to oppose the New World Order. While fans that welcomed the nWo, followed Hogan to the ends of the earth, an overwhelming number of fans (most of whom were not WCW or wrestling fans before the nWo’s debut) jumped on the nWo bandwagon, as it was cool to be bad at that time. Funnily enough, the nWo’s membership grew as both heroes and villains joined the group for the same reason.
In the midst of all the chaos, Diamond Dallas Page was doing his own thing, away from the spotlight of the WCW/nWo war. DDP was in rivalry with Eddie Guerrero for the United States Title. Prior to his rivalry with Guerrero, DDP had gradually worked his way back to serious competition after suffering a series of losses in the previous year. To ensure that his matches ended in his favour, DDP found a new signature move which he called the Diamond Cutter. This move was innovative to DDP’s career, he had developed a strategy where he could execute the Diamond Cutter from different angles and this would secure him his wins, allowing him to gradually pick up a consistent winning streak. DDP’s success eventually made him a person of interest to the nWo members Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, and to express their interest, Hall and Nash helped DDP win some matches that were crucial to him challenging for the vacant US Title against Eddie Guerrero at Starrcade 1996. However, feeling that DDP did not appreciate their help when it came to the title match at Starrcade, Hall and Nash attacked DDP, this resulted in DDP not winning the US championship. The nWo reached out again to DDP, in January 1997, thinking that he had learned his lesson and that he would reconsider out of intimidation. Hall and Nash invited DDP to an initiation where he would put on an nWo shirt to cement his place with the group. The ceremony ended abruptly for Hall and Nash when DDP misled the duo, dropping Scott Hall with the Diamond Cutter and fleeing into the crowd to celebrate with the fans, this episode turned DDP into a fan favourite.
The WCW fans gained a hero whose motive was to fight for the fans, not necessarily for WCW. DDP had yet to connect with the rest of the WCW wrestlers which left him vulnerable to battle the nWo on his own. At first, he cleverly strategised tactics where he would strike at a timely manner and drop nWo members with his Diamond Cutter, but the nWo’s growth in members would ultimately get the best of him. Although DDP was aware of the consequences of denying the nWo, he remained strong even when the nWo did finally get their hands on him, and when they sent the Macho Man Randy Savage and Elizabeth on the attack and dragged in DDP’s wife, Kimberly into the feud; DDP continued to fight.
The DDP/Randy Savage rivalry was a premier feud, voted as PWI’s Feud of the Year in 1997, it did a lot of the legwork in promoting the WCW vs. the nWo story when the Hogan/Sting feud could only progress in segments since Sting was not wrestling until his match with Hogan at Starrcade ’97 in December. Diamond Dallas Page and Macho Man Randy Savage wrestled each other in three high profiled matches which were spread out onto three pay-per-views that year. Two of these pay-per-views featured DDP and Savage in the main event, each winning one of the two, with the third being won by Savage.
I would have preferred if DDP had won two of the three matches to declare him as the victor of this war, nonetheless, Savage’s victories were not the focus of the rivalry. Pro wrestling may be about competition, though in this case, the actual focus was about principles and holding onto them tightly, especially when the mood of society changes and everything around you is turning to custard. Diamond Dallas Page embodied a figure that made an important decision not to follow what many defined as cool. Despite the allure that attracted others to the nWo, the pressure that came with the intimidation of gang mentality, and the attacks that followed (some included being beaten next to his wife), DDP, the original ‘People’s Champion’, continued to do what was right and took a stand against adversity.