I am a bit of a cynic. I don’t believe in fairy tales. I don’t buy happy endings. The glass is always half empty. I roll my eyes at the pics people share on Facebook; like the one with the wannabe cutesie kids holding up a sign that reads “My dad promised to quit smoking if we get a 10,000 likes”. I scoff at things that I find simplistic and corny, like the painting that has Jesus and the Devil in a arm wrestling match. Jesus, with his flawless flowing hair and trimmed beard, that makes him look like a member of the Allman Brothers band, standing over a beautiful valley with a radiant waterfall. The devil looking like a piece of crispy bacon given human form, watches over what looks to me to be Mordor; lacking the all seeing eye at the top of the mountain. Now I’m no fan of the dark prince, but let’s be honest here, in that pic he has some major guns on him. I’m not saying J.C. would loose straight-up. But I imagine a victory would look a bit like Stallone vs Bull Hurley in the final arm wrestling match in Over the Top.
I can’t stand corny movies, unless they are from the 80’s. Roadhouse rock’s! Basically anything that is overly mushy, dramatic, or sentimental makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I guess I just wasn’t hugged enough as a child. However I do make an exception. I love me a good inspirational story. You know, there is a guy or a girl, that have this impossible dream. They tell the world about it, and the world laughs in their face. The world tells them that they are too poor, or stupid, or ugly, or old to accomplish said dream. The guy or girl are at first discouraged. Then something happens that serves to rekindle their passion for the impossible dream. They get off their ass, go through an elaborate montage, showing us all the hard work they put into it. And by the end of the story, the guy or girl is sitting on top of the world. The world looks up at them and humbly apologizes for ever doubting them. End scene.
According to Wikepedia (which we all know never, ever lies) “a late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. The term is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops more slowly than others in their age group, but eventually catches up and in some cases overtakes their peers, or an adult whose talent or genius in a particular field only appears later in life than is normal – in some cases only in old age.” I’ve recently found myself gravitated to stories about famous late bloomers. Actors, musicians, athletes, novelist, and so on, that have manage, despite the odds, some unlikely level of success. I am a sap for those kinds of stories. I mean, you have to be a heartless monster to not root for little Rudy to get into the game or Andy (Anne Hathaway’s character in the Devils Wears Prada) to finally land that journalism gig she had always dreamed about. Those corny, pie in the sky, despite all odds, stories give me hope that perhaps someday I can make a living doing something I love and that I am passionate about.
I recently came across a story that really served as an inspiration for this cynical bastard. A story about a kid from Point Pleasant, New Jersey; who dared to dream big, even though his short comings at times made him feel very small. That kid’s name was Page Joseph Falkenberg. Now that name may not be all that familiar to you, but if you were a wrestling fan back in the 90’s like I was, then you will be rather familiar with his in ring persona, Diamond Dallas Page, aka DDP.
Little DDP dreamed of being a wrestler some day. But he didn’t have the most stable upbringing. His parents divorced when he was a toddler, and he ended up living with his father. At age 8, Page moved in with his grandmother who would raise him. He suffered from dyslexia and ADHD, at a time when nobody knew these disorders existed. He was not a great student. His prospects were not the best. But the young kid wanted one thing out of life. To some day becoming a wrestler. So he gave it a go. Unfortunately for DDP he had a pair of bad knees. The pain was too much, and he was forced to walk away from from his boyhood dream. He became a nightclub manager. Partied hard, and rocked out like many people did in the 80’s. Yet the ring called him still.
It was at this time that he got back in into the wrestling business. Only this time as a manager. Usually a wrestling managers primary job is to be the mouthpiece for a wrestler that may have difficulty cutting compelling promos (interviews) or does his best to get the crowd riled up by doing something underhanded, like interfering in a match. DDP had a small stable of talent that he was managing, but he understood the nature of the business. At some point, when the promotion felt that the wrestlers were ready, they would make the decision to have the telnet go off on their own. Leaving DDP as the odd man out. He was advised by an ex-wrestler Magnum T.A., that if he wanted to stay in the business and continue making money, then he would need to become a wrestler. DDP followed Magnum’s advice and began training to become a wrestler at the WCW Power Plant wrestling school.
What I find really inspiring about this fella and his love for mullets, is that DDP was 31 years old, when he forced himself to learn how to read properly. He was 35 years old, when he started training to become a professional wrestler. The man was a rookie at an age when most of his peers were established veterans with over a decade of in ring experience. Not only that, but the fact that he was 35 also meant that he was no longer at his physical prime. But the man was hungry. He loved the business. Yet he understood that the path he would need to take would be a difficult one. There was no guarantees that he would succeed. Wrestling is an incredibly competitive and cutthroat business. He would have to contend with other performers who were younger, faster, stronger, and who had more potential to make the promoters money. Yet he was not deterred.
Now I get it. You are probably rolling your eyes. You are probably thinking to yourself, “everyone knows wrestling is fake”. And yes, who wins and losses in a pro wrestling match is predetermined. But trust me, there is nothing fake about wrestling. Getting body slammed, having a steel chair cracked over your head, or getting jackknifed powerbombed from 8 feet up in the air by Kevin Nash cannot be faked. The pain wrestlers go through is as real as slamming your pinky toe against that corner table that always manages to escape your notice. The bumps (what wrestlers call taking a hit) take a toll on their bodies. That’s partially the reason why so many wrestlers don’t tend to see the age of 50. The art of professional wrestling takes a lot of skill. Not only must you have some athletic ability, and have a ridiculously high threshold for pain, but you must learn how to invoke a reaction from the audience. That is what put butts on the seats and how wrestling promotions make their money. It takes years in the ring to master all those skills sets.
DDP took the bumps. He learned the psychology. Every chance he got, he took his ass to the Power Plant, and trained, and pushed his not so young body as far as it could take him. Many of DDP’s contemporaries might have thought that the man was delusional. Yet after watching him work on his art day in and day out, even on days that he didn’t have to be there, he earned their respect. After months of brutal, painful training, DDP was rewarded for his ferocious work ethic by being called up to the main WCW roster. He had finally made it.
Other’s would have been totally content with that accomplishment. Most people would just sit back, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. But just making it would not suffice for the old rookie. He was on the roster, but he he had the unenviable task of being a jobber. Jobbers are wrestlers whose sole purpose is to get trounced by the big name guys and make them look good. That would not be good enough for DDP. He wanted to be one of the top dogs. He wanted to earn his spot in the limelight. It took 5 years, and one blown out back later, but at 41 years old DDP became WCW World Heavyweight Champion. And yes who wins or loses in wrestling is predetermined. But the top prize is only awarded to the wrestler that the promotion feels has earned the privilege to hold the belt. That belt is like the oscars. Only the best is entrusted with it. And DDP earned his dues, paid his keep, and finally got to the mountain top. Pretty inspirational stuff if you ask me.
Now at 57, DDP is a motivational speaker, and the creator of DDP Yoga. He also has gone out of his way to help out some of his old wrestling colleges that have fallen on hard times. DDP, with the help of the online community, raised $80,000 to help cover the medical cost for Scott Hall’s hip replacement surgery. He has also aided Jake the Snake Roberts with getting back in shape and staying sober, after a long bout of addiction. Not bad for a dyslexic kid with ADHD from Point Pleasant New Jersey.
It just goes to show that you can achieve great things, with a little luck, and a whole lot of grit. That sort of story gives a lost souls like myself a glimmer of hope. Some people are blessed with natural, god given talents and abilities. Some have luck land gently on their lap like a feather. For the rest of us poor saps, we have to fight and claw for every tiny thing we earn in this life. Our short comings will only act as an anchor if we permit them. Let’s give ourselves permission to dream big. Then lets use every ounce of strength that we have to turn those dreams into a reality. It won’t be easy. There will be no guarantee of success. But me must believe in ourselves. We all should be motivated to earn a shot at life’s world heavyweight championship belt.