I am a huge pro wrestling fan, most notably of the Mexican lucha libre variety.
Well, the trek through WCW lucha has come and gone and I am left without anything to write about until the next interesting CMLL show. Oh wait, no I'm not! How silly that I almost forgot about that series I started last week talking about the underrated feud between Diamond Dallas Page and Randy Savage. Or did I actually remember it all along and am just claiming I didn’t so that this opening paragraph will be longer than just two sentences? Whatever theory you choose to believe won’t change the fact that part two of our look at Savage-DDP is starting right now. Welcome to the danger zone! Be sure to check out part one right here!
Chapter Four: Simmering Tension
Now where were we? Oh yeah, Spring Stampede. As you’ll recall, Diamond Dallas Page defeated the “Macho Man” that night in what was, without question, one of the bigger upsets WCW had seen in quite awhile. I mean seriously; a dude like DDP beating the legendary Randy Savage, only a year after he was sitting at home because WCW Creative had nothing for him? It’s a testament to how far DDP came within that time, what Savage saw in him to be confident in putting him over and how WCW recognized the need to strike while the iron was hot (oh how they’d for get to do this later on). But there was still work to be done to establish Page as a main eventer, not to mention the Savage-Page story. As you’ll also recall, Spring Stampede didn’t end with a DDP celebration that put a fork in the rivalry. Instead it ended with Kevin Nash powerbombing Nick Patrick to kingdom come and Savage nearly doing something reprehensible to DDP’s wife Kimberly (while Page was unconscious mind you) before Eric Bischoff of all people got in the way. For a feud that kicked into high gear all because of Savage humiliating Kimberly, a near attack on her was guaranteed to only fan the flames of hatred. Wow, that was a great line wasn’t it?! Oops, focus Cult!
Indeed the story would continue the next night on Nitro, though it would wait till the end of the show while Savage and his nWo compadres worked out some internal issues throughout the night (all part of the brief “DISSENTION IN THE NWO!” that went nowhere. Bandaged up and sporting a shoulder brace, Page came out at the climax of the show to simultaneously brag about beating the Macho Man (“I HAPPENED TO YOU SAVAGE!”) and threaten to once more wipe Macho off the face of the earth. I don’t have the video up in front of me, but I’m pretty sure the direct quote DDP used in regards to Savage laying his hands on Kimberly “If I had seen you after that sucka, I’d have killed you.” Do you think it’s gotten personal yet? Page then called Savage out and, to the shock of no one, the Macho Man appeared on crutches ready to do it all again with DDP. Alas it didn’t happen as the nWo followed Savage out and convinced him the more appropriate option was a gang attack, one that would never come to fruition upon Sting descending from the rafters in what would be the first of several times Sting and DDP’s own private war against the nWo would intersect.
Now you’re probably thinking that DDP-Savage II at Slamboree was 100% guaranteed right? NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! As it turns out Savage walking out on Nitro with crutches wasn’t just an act; the Macho Man had in fact torn several ligaments during the Spring Stampede match, something he didn’t even realize till the next day because of course the “Macho Man” Randy Savage is impervious to pain. As it was thought that Savage wouldn’t be back for months, any immediate rematch plans were put on hold. So how did WCW keep the feud going? PROMOS! During the buildup of Slamboree there was at least one segment per show that featured DDP coming out for a match/interview which always ended with Savage and Elizabeth (yup, she’s still around) appearing in the crowd, resulting in a war of words. It was definitely a stalling tactic, though it worked because a) Page and Savage were always entertaining on the mic and b) a small but significant story thread became to take shape. Even though he had beaten Savage at Spring Stampede, it was clear that everything Savage did still set Page off; hence why he would still run into the crowd to try and catch Savage before Macho and Liz disappeared into the sea. Through his actions towards Kimberly, Savage maintained the important advantage of being able to goad DDP into action at any point, even when it was unwise to do so.
This brings us to May 5th, 1997 episode of Nitro. As Page was making his way down to the ring to team with Giant against Harlem Heat, he looked over to the side and spotted Savage standing there. To the shock of no one, Page went over to attack the prone Savage, who was now hiding behind Elizabeth. In the words of Akbar, IT’S A TRAP! No sooner did Page get the crutches away from Savage did they wind up in the hands of one Hollywood Hogan, who proceeded to whack DDP with one of the crutches as if he were chopping a tree down. It was a perfect plan, especially when we cut to the ring to see the nWo rushing it to prevent The Giant or Harlem Heat from coming to Page’s aid. Thus the segment became a brutal Hogan/Savage double team, with Savage forcing a distraught Kimberly to watch as they laid waste to her husband. Great stuff. Even better was that DDP didn’t appear the next week, selling his injuries from the attack. The beat down served as the first bit of physical contact Page and Savage had had since Spring Stampede and quickly re-ignited a feud that, while not cold, had certainly been in stasis lock since Savage’s injury. It also revealed that the rematch between the two was going to happen sooner than later, as Savage came out the next week sans crutches and moving just fine.
Chapter Five: Role Reversal
Two weeks after Savage and Hogan’s beat down of DDP came WCW Slamboree 97, an event remembered of Ric Flair teaming with Roddy Piper and Kevin Greene to defeat The Outsiders (with Syxx), a really good Último Dragón/Steven Regal match and a fifteen minute contest between Reggie White and Steve McMichael that is so horrifying I’m shaking just from the memory of it. It also featured, at least in this part of the story, a major turning point in the rivalry between Savage and DDP. During the show, a perfectly healthy Savage made his way down to the ring with Elizabeth and began to run down Page, claiming DDP wanted nothing to do with Savage after the attack. On cue, DDP appeared in the crowd carrying the same crutch that had been used on him just two weeks ago. Savage spotted him before Page could make use of it and retreated up the stage to where Eric Bischoff and several nWo members were waiting. And that’s when things suddenly took a turn, as Page picked up the microphone and proceeded to take shots at Savage. You’ll see the many things Page said below but the most eyebrow raising statement was the one where he implied that the Macho Man was nothing more than Hollywood Hogan’s lackey. You know; the guy who many would argue Savage was just as good as, if not better, during their heyday. That statement was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Savage made his way back to the ring, where several crutch shots awaited him. Page successfully laid out the Macho Man and even fought off the nWo for a bit before New Japan legend Scott Norton subdued him long enough for a brief nWo flurry till The Giant came out for the save. As the segment ended I think Tony Schiavone summed it up best when he said the following; “If you think this is over, you are sadly mistaken. It has just begun.”
And so two things were now apparent; first, The Great American Bash had itself a new main event, provided Hollywood Hogan wasn’t contracted to defend his title on the show (he wasn’t). Most importantly however was WCW had successfully turned this into a story where not only was DDP consumed with ending Savage for what he did to his wife but Savage was now consumed with ending him! That element had been missing since the beginning, when Savage initially dismissed Page as a nobody and then failed to take him seriously even immediately after DDP defeated him at Spring Stampede. But while it took awhile, the loss coupled with Page successfully goading Savage at Slamboree changed everything. Savage had to beat DDP; had to beat him. And you know what happens when the Macho Man needs to beat someone; the intensity levels go through the roof and Savage turns into Jack Nicholson circa 1980. WCW didn’t show that Savage had cracked at first (initially choosing to build Savage-Page II with video packages and interviews) but they finally couldn’t resist on the June 2nd edition of Nitro in a segment that, evidence suggests, was thrown together on a whim. With only a few minutes left on the show, Savage dragged Mean Gene Okerlund out for an interview which quickly turned so contentious that WCW Commissioner James J. Dillon had to intervene. A war of words between Dillon and Savage then started and ended up resulting in a Savage attack after Dillon all but accused Savage of fearing DDP. Bischoff and WCW security came down to hold Savage back and he appeared calm…till the fans started chanting for DDP and he then started wailing on Dillon again. The mere mention of Page seemed to turn Savage into a wild animal, and the only question left was what the two would do on the go home show next week if they came across each other.
Luckily for fans they ran into each other three times that following episode of Nitro. First was at the beginning of the show, where Page tried to blindside Savage getting out of a limo, leading to DDP actually breaking the limousine window with a kick before Savage got away. Unlike Goldberg, DDP wasn’t hurt in the making of this segment. In the middle of the show, Dillon returned to announce the Page-Savage match at the Bash was now a non sanctioned “Lights Out” match (aka Falls Count Anywhere), which led to both Savage and Page appearing for a quick pull apart brawl that, once more, featured Page goading Savage to the ring. And then there was the final segment of the show, which featured a tag match between The Outsiders taking on Roddy Piper and Ric Flair that generated into an all out, all roster brawl the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again till Lucha Underground season three. I’m pretty sure I even saw Silver King and La Parka doing battle at some point during. Naturally Page and Savage found each other in the mess and brawled till Page was laid out by a Hollywood Hogan title shot that left DDP prone on the floor. Only not for long as Sting, at this point the most over man in the universe, flew down from the rafters, kept the nWo at bay and strapped Page to him, leading to both men flying up to the rafters as Nitro closed and the crowd went absolute apeshit. You want to talk about your go home show getting your fans excited for the pay per view; I’m not sure anything tops your most popular star saving one of your other most popular stars by flying up through the air as the credits roll. The point is, if you weren’t excited for Savage and DDP after that, the only logical conclusion could be that you were Vince McMahon, someone related to Vince McMahon or someone who worked for Vince McMahon. And even he probably smirked and thought it was cool deep down.
Chapter Six: The Great American Street Fight
Anticipation was high for Savage-DDP two at The Great American Bash, but what is often gone unnoticed is how high expectations were for the match as well. It cannot be pointed out enough; as good as WCW’s roster was at the time (filled top to bottom with draws, talented workers larger than life personalities), the match quality for WCW main events weren’t very good. In fact, I’d argue that since the nWo storyline had started the only main event matches I’d consider to be “good to great” were the famous Bash at the Beach six man, the War Games main event from Fall Brawl 1996 and yes, DDP-Savage I from Spring Stampede (you could maybe argue Piper-Hogan from Starrcade was good too, though it if was it was mainly because of crowd heat). That’s three main event matches in the span of eleven pay per views, and really only DDP-Savage I had been considered good due to its in ring work. So the pressure was on both Savage and Page to deliver the goods at the Mark of the Quad Cities Arena in Moline, Illinois. Could they somehow top their heated first encounter with a more personal, violent chapter two? Or would DDP-Savage II be Rush Hour 3 to DDP-Savage I’s Rush Hour 2?
As it turns out, DDP-Savage II wound up being the T2 to DDP-Savage I’s Terminator; a significant upgrade in every sort of way. Beginning with Page jumping Savage at the bell thanks to a distraction from Kimberly, the match becomes the unrelenting, full scale, all across the arena brawl you hoped it would be. Over the course of the sixteen minutes these two got, they spill out into the stands, nearly out of the arena, back to the ring, back out of the ring again and at one point even find themselves in a little picnic style area that saw DDP use everything from picnic tables to a grill to attack Savage. In between all of that we also saw Savage break what looked like a hubcap over DDP’s head, attack a cameraman and a shot for shot remake of a spot from the first match where he hit a referee with a Piledriver, only with Mickey Jay essaying the role Mark Curtis played in the original. It’s a match that basically follows the sequel formula; the action is bigger, the body count is larger and no one is ever assumed to be down for the count. And then there’s DDP’s own involvement. In the first match, Page was essentially the up and coming underdog who took a beating, never quit and fought Savage off long enough to hit the Diamond Cutter for the biggest win of his life. This time around Page is controlling the action as much as Savage. If the first match was about overcoming obstacles to attain glory, DDP-Savage II is about two evenly match men who want to kill each other, with the now more confident hero more than able to hang with the veteran every step of the way.
Well, at least until the end. As it appears Page is about to win with a Diamond Cutter, the match is interrupted by the arrival of Scott Hall; you know, the same man who helped kick start this story by being the man who took the Diamond Cutter the night DDP turned face. Funny how things come full circle. After delivering a swift kick to referee Nick Patrick’s head to break up the pin, Hall and Page engaged in a short battle that distracted DDP long enough for Savage to nail Page with the title belt. Hall then lifted up Page for a wobbly yet ultimately awesome Outsider’s Edge, and from that point forward it was all about how good Savage’s elbow drop looked (amazing) and how long it would take to revive Nick Patrick (not long). And so, the “Macho Man” Randy Savage emerged victorious against Diamond Dallas Page for the first time, finally getting the win expected of him. Of course, it came after DDP was the aggressor for most of the match and was about to win before Hall’s interference, which left a black mark on Savage’s victory in a way that didn’t exist on Page’s win. All of which is to bring back that saying Tony Schiavone used earlier; we’ve only just begun. But that friends is for the next column!