We always talk about how bad Vince Russo’s booking was in WCW, and it was as bad; if not worse than you’ve heard. Yet, even at its peak there were issues with booking within WCW. We’ve always known WCW missed when making new stars; and the number of original names that the promotion created at its peak isn’t great.
Two of those names were Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg. Huge names in the annals of wrestling. Yet both men were mishandled at various points in their tenure with the company. Maybe none more so than DDP. While Goldberg was mishandled and even had an ill-advised heel turn; that was all under the Russo Regime where everything, even a can’t miss moment like Booker T’s title win, was mishandled.
Page was mishandled however at the companies creative peak. When Page was finally getting pushed in 1998, he had feuded with Raven, Chris Benoit and Macho Man Randy Savage; all three elevated Page to a whole new level. Then Page feuded with Hulk Hogan over the summer, helping raise him to main event status. After winning the last traditional War Games bout, Page got a main event title shot against Goldberg and his World Championship. It was here both men would hit huge roadblocks.
As everyone knows by now, this was arguably Goldberg’s best match because of the simple story that was told. Goldberg hurts his shoulder, Page works it before eating a spear, Goldberg can’t capitalize right away, and when he goes for the Jackhammer DDP hits his Diamond Cutter on Goldberg, but only for a two count. The fans went ballistic for that Diamond Cutter and arguably was the biggest pop all year. Fans bought that Page could end Goldberg’s in ring win streak with that move and it makes you wonder why WCW didn’t go with that.
Whether or not you thought Halloween Havoc 1998 was the right place to end Goldberg’s streak or not is irrelevant, Page deserved better after that. For whatever reason when spring hit, the WCW thought that Page should’ve been their new top heel. The man known as the People’s Champion, turned heel to win a title? It betrayed everything we knew about DDP and his character.
This was the man that said ‘no’ to the nWo and was even the first one to get a ‘win’ over the group. He stood up for and came from the fans all the time. He made sure the fans knew that he was fighting for them. So why turn him heel? It was no different than Sting or Goldberg going heel. Some guys don’t work one way or another and those three never worked as heels.
Page was tapped to go heel probably because of the number of injuries. Buff Bagwell, Scott Steiner, Hollywood Hogan, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, and so many others were hurt. Chris Jericho and Big Show, who were unhappy with their place in the company, had just left. The front office also wasn’t too interested with Raven as a top heel, so it made sense that the promotion needed a new top heel. Yet, with Savage and Sid Vicious’ return impending, why would you go with Page? Hell, why even take the belt off of then-champ Ric Flair in the first place if you wanted a heel champion?
Page was a highlight reel wrestler in 1999, and to be turned heel showed that the company didn’t know what they were dong. By the end of the summer, Savage, Sid Vicious, Sting, Luger, Rick Steiner and others would be on top as heels and Page would be relegated to mid card title feuds and tag teams. Page was screwed by a company that didn’t know how truly iconic he was in the moment and it showed. His title matches and victories were used for nothing more than to advance other people’s storyline. Page wouldn’t even hold the belt for more than five weeks across two reigns in ’99. His run was pathetic and short-lived, and a man of his caliber and fan support deserved so much better.
In a follow up column, I’ll document just how differently this could’ve gone. DDP deserved better, and I’m going to write a scenario where he gets it.