Diamond Dallas Page needs to make some phone calls. He's sitting in a high-backed chair at the head of a gigantic, cherry-wood table in the dining room of his home in Smyrna, Ga. He calls this his Sons of Anarchy room, because the table reminds him of the one the bikers in the television show sit around when they discuss business in their clubhouse. His laptop and phone sit in front of him, and he's perusing an email folder full of automated confirmation messages that have been sent to recent purchasers of the DDP Yoga DVD—the latest and final iteration of the instructional workout program that Page has spent the last decade developing and selling. (Tagline: "It Ain't Your Mama's Yoga.") He clicks on one addressed to John in North Carolina, and scans the purchase form for a phone number. He finds it, dials, and puts the call on speakerphone.
"Yo, John," Page barks.
Page doesn't so much say those three letters as spit them, the "P" snapping percussively out of his mouth. Even casual wrestling fans know what those initials signify—the bleach-blond mullet, the gravelly voice, the Diamond Cutter finishing move, the surpassing '90sness of it all. DDP. Page wants those three letters to hit John right in his memory bank. He is going for shock and surprise.
He gets what he wants. After a brief pause, John can muster only a meek "Hey." Page takes it from there. After thanking John for purchasing the yoga program, he asks John a series of questions about how he heard about DDP Yoga (YouTube), what he hopes to get out of the program (weight loss), and what his life goals are (become a cop). Page then urges John to join the (fairly large) community of DDP Yoga zealots who congregate at DDPYoga.com to offer support and encouragement to each other. Page asks the still-shellshocked John if he has any questions. Here, Page looks up at me with a big smile on his face and mouths, "They never do!" John doesn't have any questions. Page thanks him again for buying the program, and hangs up.
While Page makes his calls from his secluded dining room the rest of the house comes alive with activity, as it does every day. That's because Page has turned his home into a secular ministry of sorts, a place where anyone—fitness-conscious wrestling fans, friends, relatives, even a couple damaged former wrestlers—can come for guidance and coaching and yoga and rehab. A visitor might see Page himself demonstrating downward dog for 20 yoga students, while another former wrestler, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, picks basil from his garden out back. It's a weird, bustling place.
Page makes another handful of calls before heading off to a doctor's appointment. Next up is Kathryn, followed by Barbara and Corey. Kathryn, who sounds like the world's sweetest stay-at-home mom, says she plans on using the DVD when it's too rainy for her and her friend to do their usual morning-workout routine of walking around the neighborhood. She's actually purchased this DVD to replace the one that her daughter, Tracy, took with her when she moved out of the house. So Page asks for Tracy's number, and then he calls her, too. "I just talked to your mom, she told me you stole her DDP Yoga," he says playfully. Tracy can barely muster a response before Page's bellowing laugh fills the room.
Page tells me that he goes through this routine every day, selecting three to 10 customers to reach out to at random. One time, though, while bored on a long road trip, he spent hours making calls to customers from the road.
Why does Page do this? Because he's a savvy businessman, sure—he asks each person he calls to connect with DDP Yoga on Twitter and Facebook, and suggests that they write something on the Facebook wall about his call—but he also does it for another reason: He's chasing a high.
Smyrna, Ga., is an upscale suburb just 15 miles northwest of Atlanta. It's littered with uninspiring brick condominiums and mansions, many sitting in fenced-off housing developments with names like "Stonehaven," "The Palms," "New Haven," and "Montclair." Diamond Dallas Page's house sits just off Atlanta Road, beyond some train tracks, lying recessed in the lush forest that surrounds Smyrna. The sparse neighborhood is accessed through a series of narrow, unlined roads that wind and circle around each house, most of which feature multiple floors and imposing brick patios. These houses sit next to a few remaining one-story bungalows, likely holdovers from an older, less affluent time.
When I arrive at Page's house, just after 9 a.m., I'm greeted by two cats and Jake Roberts. They lead me into the living room, where another former wrestler, Scott Hall, sits in a recliner, watching SportsCenter on the wall-mounted flat-screen TV that sits above the fireplace. Roberts, Hall, and the cats all live here.
Both men still carry the large frames that once made them look Herculean in the wrestling ring, but age, drugs, booze, and years of physical punishment have conspired to soften their bodies and ruddy their features. Hall still wears his jet-black hair pulled into a tight ponytail, and he keeps his signature toothpick tucked behind his ear. Roberts wears a graying handlebar mustache and keeps a ponytail as well, with the remaining wisps of his hair fighting a Loser Leaves Town match against encroaching baldness.
Both men are dressed in gym shorts and T-shirts (Roberts is wearing Crocs), and seem to be waiting for the day to get started, like a pair of kids who woke up too early on a lazy Saturday. I sit on a stool at the kitchen island and make small talk with them for a bit while we wait for Page to come down from his bedroom. Stephen A. Smith appears on the screen to scream about something. "I like this guy," Hall says. Roberts grumbles in agreement from the kitchen.
Hall and Roberts used to be two of the biggest names in wrestling. Roberts's heyday spanned a six-year period from 1986-1992, when he wrestled in the WWF and became known for carrying a giant Burmese python into the ring with him. Hall's rise to prominence began 1992, when he debuted in the WWF as Razor Ramon, a persona that remains one of wrestling's most memorable heels. Razor Ramon was modeled after Scarface's anti-hero, Tony Montana, and was known to proudly refer to himself as "The Bad Guy." He would later move on to the WCW, help found the nWo, and eventually bounce back to the WWE for a brief stint in 2002 before flaming out.
Since leaving the world of professional wrestling behind, Hall and Roberts have struggled and failed to overcome their addictions to drugs and alcohol. That's why they've come to their friend's house in Smyrna, which has unironically been dubbed the Accountability Crib. (Page himself isn't in recovery.) Here is where they have decided they can get clean once and for all. Roberts has been here since October, and Hall joined him in February. Neither was in a very good place before arriving.
"I don't know what day it was, but my defibrillator fired while I was in the middle of a bad binge," Hall tells me. "I was on that vodka-for-breakfast diet, which I don't recommend." Hall was at his home in Florida when this, just the latest in a series of calamities brought on by his substance abuse, happened. After a stay in the hospital and a weeklong medical detox, he booked a flight to Atlanta.
"I spent my days hiding from people, hiding from life," says Roberts. "I would look in the mirror and want to punch myself in the face." Before moving here, Roberts spent most of his days holed up in his house in Texas, drinking booze and snorting cocaine. He was broke, isolated, and without hope. Coming here was a joint idea, and Page moved to Smyrna from Los Angeles in part so that Roberts could live with him.
Many things have changed for Hall and Roberts since arriving in Smyrna. Both men have lost a considerable amount of weight, and they have each undergone long-overdue surgeries thanks to a pair of Indiegogo campaigns that well exceeded their targets: $29,547 earned Roberts a repaired shoulder, and $109,432 earned Hall a complete hip replacement.
They've also had much of their day-to-day lives recorded by two professional filmmakers, allowing their journey toward sobriety to be thoroughly documented on Page's YouTube channel. The idea is to eventually use the footage in a feature-length documentary about Hall's and Roberts's efforts to get clean.
It's those YouTube videos that have grabbed a lot of people's attention. If you've seen one of them, it was probably the one made in February in which Page and Roberts speak to a clearly inebriated Hall over the phone. They're trying to convince Hall—who was still in Florida at the time—to move into the Accountability Crib after another former wrestler, Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, had urged Page to reach out to Hall. It's hard to make out most of what Hall says during the conversation, save one repeated, slurring declaration: "I'm dying."
Many, including Hall's former tag-team partner, Kevin Nash, found the video to be exploitative and tasteless. Some saw the video as Page taking an opportunity to capitalize on Hall's struggles in order to drum up PR for his yoga program. "It was really controversial. It turned this house upside down," said Steve Yu, Page's business partner and the man in charge of the documentary production.
The video was immediately removed from Page's YouTube channel, but when Hall arrived at the house a few days later, it was reposted, with a introductory endorsement from Hall.
Hall and Roberts tell me they have been completely sober since moving into Page's house, though as we'll see, that's not quite true anymore. (Roberts did have one relapse a week after he moved in.) At the very least, the two of them seem outwardly a lot healthier. For the first time in a while, both men look good—nothing like the wasted shells that turned up in mugshots and videos over the past few years.
The inescapable question, though, asks how real these improvements are. And it's a question that's greatly complicated by the fact that Page, Hall, and Roberts come from a sport in which artifice and deception are part of the very fabric of day-to-day life. A pro wrestler is an entertainer, yes, but he is also a con man. A wrestler's purpose is to manipulate, dazzle, and deceive. He fulfills this purpose by cultivating a talent for selling a false reality.
It's hard not to watch Hall and Roberts's lives unfold on YouTube and wonder if you are being deceived, or if they themselves have been deceived by Page. Has Page sold them a false promise for the purpose of strengthening his personal brand and selling yoga DVDs? Or has this wrestler-turned-foul-mouthed-Yogi somehow found a way to bring peace to two men who have spent their adult lives battling addictions that have brought them to the brink of death numerous times?
Diamond Dallas Page is standing at attention at the front of his living room. On his head is a red bandana and a headset microphone, which he needs in order to speak over the AC/DC on the stereo system behind him. He's wearing a pair of Vibram Five-Finger shoes on his feet, which are currently placed at the front end of a yoga mat. He's about to begin an hour-long session of his DDP Yoga workout program.
Radiating out from Page's position are 10 pupils. To Page's left is a 79-year-old tax consultant named Ted who comes here two or three times a week to get a morning workout in. To Page's right are his 25-year-old daughter, Brittany, and her fiancé, Sean. They are both currently living in the house. Directly in front of Page is Andrew, a peppy kid from New Jersey who has lived here since April, acting as Page's personal assistant. To the right of Andrew is Linda, a honey-sweet, motherly woman who has known Page since she tended bar at a Jersey Shore night club he managed in the '80s. On the other side of the room is Cody Hall, Scott Hall's son and a 22-year-old budding giant who moved into the house two weeks ago in order to repair his relationship with his father and jumpstart his own pro-wrestling career.
Page is entirely in his element throughout the course of the workout. He would have been a fantastic high school gym teacher. His gruff voice is perfectly suited for barking words of encouragement—when he notices me properly striking a pose he gives me an enthusiastic "Atta boy, Tommy!"—and urging everyone in the room to count off their stretches out loud. It feels silly to be sweating in a room full of strangers and doing yoga that involves a stance built around Page's iconic Diamond Cutter hand signal, but the workout, a mix between yoga, old-school calisthenics, and a sort of violent form of Tai Chi, is useful, and I work up a considerable sweat before the hour is up. I'm later told that Page leads a free yoga session like this every day of the week, filling his living room with a rotating cast of friends, family, and acquaintances. Twenty people showed up for the session that took place the day before I arrived.
Page has a knack for bringing people under his influence. Linda is actually Brittany's biological mother, but she allowed Page to legally adopt both of her daughters in the mid-'90s, and she and Page have since raised the girls as friends. Linda now works for Page, and eagerly adheres to the dieting (no gluten, no genetically modified foods) and exercise (DDP Yoga) regimens that he has laid out for her. Andrew first met Page at a WrestleCon in New Jersey, where he made it clear that he was looking for work. He has been living with and working for Page ever since, and he claims to have never felt this healthy or this good about himself before. Ted befriended Page in a gym 10 years ago and was featured in an early iteration of Page's yoga DVD and book. The two have stayed in touch all these years, and Ted credits Page's workout regimen for his sharp mind and his Jack LaLanne-esque physique. The house is full of these kinds of stories, in fact.
"He enjoys helping people, and it's valid," Scott Hall tells me. "He gets high off helping people."
Scott Hall has been to rehab a dozen times. Every time he's gotten clean, he's relapsed. "I thrive in rehab, but I struggle as soon as I hit the door," he says. So he knows better than to get cocky about the fact that he hasn't touched any drugs or alcohol since moving into Page's house in February. Still, he can't help but feel that there is something different about this latest journey into sobriety. "Before, I quit because I knew I shouldn't [drink]. I quit because people were worried—my family was worried, my friends were worried—or I might lose this high-paying job. But all that wasn't enough for me. I had to not want to [drink]. I don't know how I arrived there, but I'm happy I'm there. ... I'm not afraid to drink a couple cases, brother. But, I don't know, I just don't want to now."
Roberts has his own explanation for the success he's found at Page's house. He tells me that for the first time in his life, he looks forward to attending his AA meetings (he goes a minimum of two times per week) as well as his weekly therapy session. "The great thing about being here is that you can keep your self-esteem," he tells me. "When you go to rehab, you're there for four months, and then when you come out you've got bill collectors up your ass, and it's like, 'Thanks for fuckin' letting me out,' you know? But here, I never have to leave."
Hall and Roberts are also here to answer a question, one that every ex-wrestler must face: How do I fill the void in my life that was created when I left wrestling behind? Or, as Hall tearfully asked in his now famous E:60 profile, "What do you do when they stop chanting your name?"
But it's not just fame and adoration that Hall and Roberts miss. They also miss the way that wrestling gave them an outlet through which to satisfy their compulsions.
During his E:60 profile, Hall spoke about the high that comes from wrestling in front of a crowd of 50,000. "It feels pretty good. Where can I get 10 refills of that?" he said at the time.
He gives me the exact same line during our conversation, but then he goes deeper: "For me, it's really satisfying because it is entertainment... To talk things over with [my opponent] in the back, figure out what they've got, put together what we're going to do, run it by the boss, get it OK'd, and then do the finisher in front of the audience—it's really satisfying to lay stuff out and then have it work. I love that."
Roberts recalls doing promos with an equal fondness. "They used to call me One Take Jake, because I could always film a promo on one take," he tells me. "I was so good that I used to get bored, so I would go to the producers, say, 'Just give me a fucking word, and I'll make it work.'"
He decides to give me a demonstration. He blurts out, "Spaghetti!" before turning away for a brief moment. When he turns back around, his eyes are squinted and his features have hardened.
"Listen up, man," he growls. "You might be the sauce, man. And you might even be the spaghetti, but I"—and here he pauses to make an emphatic gesture toward his crotch—"I am the meatballs."
Roberts's voice alone would sell the performance. It's the kind of voice that every country singer would kill to have. His words come out of his mouth like smoke, and every sentence he utters ends with either a loud smack of the lips or a Texas-twanged "man."
He goes on to perform another one of his favorite promos from memory, and it's not hard to tell that he misses being in front of a camera. He misses the creative work that he used to do behind the scenes, as well. "Back in my day, I had the opportunity to write my own storylines, and write storylines for others as well," he says. "I would love the opportunity to do that again some day."
Roberts has begun taking acting classes (on the day I visited the house he had an audition for a popular HBO comedy that he asked me not to mention by name), and is committed to making an appearance at the Royal Rumble in January. "I'll be there, goddammit," he says. "Hopefully Vince [McMahon] will hire me by then, because if not, I will hit the ring anyway and get arrested."
Hall relishes the opportunity to be involved with the production of the documentary, and to help his son forge his own wrestling career. "I feel stimulated again, both creatively and mentally," he says. "So many good things happen to me during the day, that when I go to bed I can't fall asleep because I'm so excited. I just lay there and wait for the sun to come up."
He credits, of all things, his Twitter account for much of his newfound mental stimulation. "It gives me that creative outlet. ... I'm learning to express myself concisely," he explains. "And brain function is returning. I have documented brain damage from multiple concussions. I've got lesions. I think using Twitter, and making myself use words and type, I think it's helping."
But Hall's ultimate goal is to get his own travel show. "I'm an expert traveler. Hotels, airports, all that—that's my home.
"I'm gonna try and put a healthy slant on it," he adds.
Page has indeed sold Roberts and Hall something, but it's not exactly false promise. In a way it's something they all would've learned from their time in pro wrestling: With a different costume and a new gesture or two, anyone can change identities.
Diamond Dallas Page is the kind of guy who says things like, "We're selling inspiration here," and, "Our goal is to make an Oscar-worthy documentary. We want to change lives." He cites the successes of Ted Turner, Lee Iacocca, Donald Trump, and Roger Bannister as sources of inspiration. He's quick to quote Robert Frost's passage about the road less traveled when discussing the course of his own life and career.
Page's optimistic outlook on life isn't unearned or especially grating, though. He's battled dyslexia and ADD all his life, and he says he didn't read his first book until he was 30 years old. His path through the ranks of professional wrestling was about as unlikely as it gets. In the '80s, Page managed a nightclub in Fort Myers, Fla., and it was there that he started to befriend various pro wrestlers. He broke into the business as a manager in 1988 but decided that he wanted to start wrestling himself in 1991. He was 35 years old at the time, and success was a long shot. "I told people I was going to be a wrestler, and they fell down laughing," he recalls. But Page wrestled for 20 years while overcoming a number of serious injuries, won numerous world championships, and is now a certifiable legend in the world of pro wrestling.
Page is also a man of strong beliefs. He is, after all, the guy who accused Jay Z of ripping off his Diamond Cutter hand gesture. (The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.) To speak with him is to watch his mind pinball from one thought to another, each getting him worked up and eliciting a growling, sincere declaration. Over the course of one conversation he can go from telling you all about how to conduct a proper juice cleanse, to railing against companies like Monsanto that pump our food full of GMOs—if you want a good list of documentaries about the horrors of the food industry, he's got it—to ranting about how all the banks and corporations are just trying to fuck us.
But he believes most fervently in people's ability to transform each other. During my time with him, Page reminds me multiple times that he wouldn't be who he was if it hadn't been for Dusty Rhodes, a Hall of Fame wrestler who began his career in the 1970s and went on to manage and wrestle in just about every pro wrestling organization. Page is quick to remind me, too, that it was Roberts who taught him how to handle himself in the business. "He taught me everything. And he was right, every fucking time," Page says.
One of his favorite topics of conversation is Arthur, a once-hobbled army veteran who lost 140 pounds in 10 months using DDP Yoga and chronicled his transformation on YouTube. It was that video going viral that brought DDP Yoga its first meaningful spike in sales. "Without Dusty Rhodes, none of this happens," he tells me. "And there's no big fuckin' company without Arthur."
And without Page, of course, there is no Arthur. After talking about his connection to Rhodes, Roberts, and Arthur, Page leans back in his chair, staring past me and nodding slowly to himself, marveling at the interconnectedness of it all.
In this house, Page stands at the center of a web of influence. He is surrounded by those who have dramatically influenced his life, and he in turn has dramatically influenced theirs. The more time you spend with Page, the more of these connections and influences you become aware of, because it's moments of transformative influence that Page most wants to talk about. He never once regales me with stories about his most memorable matches or feats of strength. Instead, he excitedly tells stories like the one about how he set Scott Hall's wrestling career in motion.
It was Page who got Hall his first gig at WCW after turning him into the Diamond Studd—a villainous persona that would eventually be the forerunner to Razor Ramon—and it was Page who put that iconic toothpick in Hall's mouth.
Says Page: "Scott Hall called me, and I had this idea about bringing in a character called the Diamond Studd. Hall said to me, 'Dally, man, I need a job. Is there any way you can help me out?'"
So Page went about turning Hall into the Diamond Studd. For starters, he made Hall dye his curly brown hair jet-black and pull it into a tight ponytail. Thanks to a bit of late-night inspiration, he also made Hall shave the big, bushy mustache he had worn for years.
"I was watching TV one night, and I saw George Michael or Rob Lowe on TV, and he had this fresh-cut beard. ... So I call Scott and wake him up at 2 in the morning. I said, 'Bro, bro, you gotta shave that mustache. You gotta get a fresh-cut beard, man. A nice five-o-clock shadow.'"
And then came the final piece:
"We were at Wal-Mart, and as we were leaving I grabbed two toothpicks. I said, 'Scott, I got an idea.'"
Page then walked Hall through a routine that he had worked out in his head, one that began with the two men circling each other as if they were about to face off in the ring and ended with Hall flicking his toothpick into Page's face. That move—so perfectly smug and malevolent—would become an iconic taunt that helped define Hall's in-ring persona.
Page scored a WCW tryout for Hall—now armed with his new look and dressed in one of Page's flashier outfits—and the Diamond Studd was born.
"That's what I do," Page says. "I'm still transforming people. You know? Like, wow, right?"
Before I leave, Roberts takes me outside to show me his garden, which he planted right next to the driveway. It's the place where he's been spending a lot of time recently. With a cup of coffee in his hand and a Kool cigarette dangling from his lips, he bends down to pull some leaves aside and show me how the squash has run wild. "I planted about 15 squash plants hoping that just a few of them would survive, and now I've got more goddamn squash than I know what to do with." We move down the driveway a little further, and he points out more plants. "There's watermelon over there, strawberries, mint, some other bullshit."
He takes me around to the back of the house and shows off the two giant meat smokers with which he loves to make meals for the house. "Tonight we're doing bison." Next we head to the garage, where he shows me two tables he's built since moving in, as well as an antique shotgun that he is refurbishing and planning on giving to Page as a gift.
While we're outside, I can't stop thinking about all the damage Roberts has sustained over the years. A few hours earlier, Roberts had shown me the palms of his hands. They are marred by rigid tendons that shouldn't be visible, protruding cruelly from underneath his skin and making it hard for him to form his fingers into anything other than a claw. "From all the blows to the head," he'd explained. I remember how he'd told me that the reason he was so good at doing wrestling promos was that he grew up in an extremely abusive home; out of necessity he learned to be a good liar. I think about his toes, which he'd told me are so mangled and crooked that he can't walk across carpet barefoot without rolling over one of them and breaking it. When he speaks again, I recall that it was a crushed larynx at the age of 19 that gifted his throat with all that gravel and smoke. In many ways, he is the sum of his own personal destruction.
But out here—with his smokers, his workshop, and his garden—everything is simple and painless for Roberts. He can smoke, drink his coffee, pick tomatoes, cook, build things, and live the life that every 58-year-old retiree wants to live. Out here, any worries or fears that you might feel about whether he'll be able to stay sober, make it to the Royal Rumble, or ever land a paid acting gig all fade away.
On the way back into the house, I ask Roberts if he can make any other kind of furniture besides tables. "Oh yeah," he says. "I can make all kinds of furniture by hand." As he steps through the door he turns around and pauses. "You know," he says. "Sometimes I think I might like to start my own furniture business."
A few days later, Roberts will have a relapse with alcohol. A female friend of his will come to visit, and Roberts will give her a ride to get her hair done. While he waits for her to return, he will go and have a few drinks to kill time. The aftermath of this incident will be documented in a four-part series on Page's YouTube channel, the last of which sets Roberts up on yet another path to redemption.
One of the videos captures the moment Roberts comes clean about his relapse to Page, and the two go on to discuss what might have caused him to fall off the wagon. "I just don't feel like I'm doing anything," Roberts says at one point. "But I am! I know I am!" Here Page interjects: "And you're changing people's lives, dude."
Roberts is back in the house, though—back in the Accountability Crib, back beneath the faux-tin roof that Page put on the eaves, so that everyone can listen to the summer rain while they sleep.
Top image by Sam Woolley. Photos courtesy Dallas Page.