A while back I decided to start a binge-watching project. I wanted to go back and see the run Sting had as the “Crow” character, from late ’96 until facing Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade in 1997. I would watch every Nitro and pay-per-view to see him come down from the rafters and take on the nWo. I was always more of a WWF fan, and didn’t get to experience a lot of these shows at the time. As I took on this task, something unexpected happened. I found that there was an unsung warrior in WCW’s fight with the New World Order. As cool as Sting was, he would show up every now and again, never wrestling in match the aforementioned bout with Hogan. However, there was one man who week in and week out took on the nWo on his own, without any sense of fear. His name is Diamond Dallas Page.
Page may have had the most underrated run in what could very well be the best year in the history of pro wrestling. From start to finish he would evolve from a former manager, middle of the card-type talent, into a made man that rose to the top in an already crowded main event scene. He started the year as sort of a “tweener,” still making the transition from a heel to a babyface. You could tell the fans were beginning to respect him as a performer. Page ended ’96 with a great match against Eddie Guerrero in the finals of a United States Championship tournament. During that tournament, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would get DDP to the finals by assisting him in his matches. It was great storytelling by WCW. The two founding members of the nWo, had both been managed by DDP earlier in their careers. It made sense that they would try and bring him into their stable. They would ultimately cost Page the US title in that final, thinking that he did not appreciate the support they were providing. This all came to a head at the January pay-per-view “Souled Out.” Page would give his answer to the nWo in the form of his devastating finisher, the Diamond Cutter. It was an awesome moment and a major blow to the nWo’s dominance. It would also cement Diamond Dallas Page as a bonafide babyface and a true “people’s champion.”
He would next begin an epic feud with Macho Man Randy Savage. These guys would have several incredible battles throughout the year. The first being the main event of the April pay-per-view “Spring Stampede.” This No-Disqualification match was one of the best of the year. Just a few short months ago he was coming to the ring chomping on a cigar, with big sunglasses on. Now he is beating one of the best of all time in the main event. It just goes to show how quickly careers can change, and how much hard work pays off. 2 months later Page and Savage would once again be in the main event at the Great American Bash, this time Savage got his revenge in a Falls Count Anywhere match. All in all he would face Savage 5 times on PPV in 1997, in both singles and tag matches, culminating in a “Las Vegas Deathmatch” at Halloween Havoc. I highly suggest going back and watching these matches on the WWE Network. They are all brutal and hard hitting. It was fun to watch two of the best characters to ever lace them up beat the hell out of each other.
The night after his match with Savage in Vegas, Page would add another notch to his belt of career making moments. On that Nitro, Hollywood Hulk Hogan would issue an open challenge to anyone in the WCW locker room. That call was answered by none other than the master of the Diamond Cutter. To put this in perspective, Hogan only had 7 matches on Nitro throughout all of 1997, and one of them was against DDP. If that doesn’t prove that by the end of the year Page was a made guy, I don’t now what will. Of course, like most matches featuring members of the nWo, it ended in a disqualification. Nevertheless, facing the World Championship, on national television is nothing to scoff at. Page would end his ’97 with one of the biggest victories of his career. At Starrcade, he faced nWo member Curt Hennig, whom Page managed in the AWA, for the United States Championship. Unlike the prior year, DDP would walk out of Washington, D.C. with his first US title. It was a fitting end to a fantastic 1997.
Diamond Dallas Page is still one of my favorite wrestlers ever. What he may have lacked in traditional wrestling ability, he more than made up for in hard work and determination. It is why he still beloved 20-plus years later. We as fans can relate to that. We will always adore the working class hero. In an era of the “cool heel,” Page was able to channel his frustrations and be a badass babyface without coming off as corny. DDP rose to the top in an already established WCW main event scene. He turned his career around in 1997, and followed on that path all the way to the Hall of Fame. That is a fact that can never be denied. BANG!!