Interview: Wrestling Superstars Diamond Dallas Page And Scott Hall Talk Addiction And Recovery In THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE

Featured Contributor; New York City, New York (@TheDivaReview)
Interview: Wrestling Superstars Diamond Dallas Page And Scott Hall Talk Addiction And Recovery In THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE
The Resurrection Of Jake The Snake focuses on one of professional wrestling's greatest stars, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and his fight for recovery from addiction.  Another wrestling legend, Diamond Dallas Page is the catalyst for Roberts' rehabilitation, seeing his old friend and mentor through tough times. Page's success with Roberts spurred him to help another pal, wrestling star Scott Hall.  Page and Hall spoke with me about addiction, recovery, the encouragement of fans and friends.

Diamond Dallas Page

The Lady Miz Diva:  How did you come to meet director Steve Yu?

Diamond Dallas Page:
  That's something that happened at LaGuardia Airport about 10 or 11 years ago.  I was coming up to do something at some show - I was out of wrestling at that time - and he came up to me like a lot of fans did, and he said "Hey man, I love your career. When are you coming back? I loved what you did in the ring, but I really love what you're doing now."  He'd been starting a movie that we're all working on now called "Inspired, The Movie." He said to me, "If you ever have someone that you might think interesting, I would really find it interesting to follow you and how you work with someone." Enter, Arthur Boorman, the disabled veteran from the first Gulf war, morbidly obese, relegated to thinking of himself as a piece of furniture.

Steve is a Cornell graduate, and Ivy Leaguer and he was on the fast track with IBM.  He was making six figures, doing really well, but he said, "That's not what I want to do. I want to make films," and he just made a shift.  That's about when I ran into him. We're just buddies, we help each other with our projects.

When this project came up, it wasn't really meant to be a big thing.  It was like, 'Let's try to get Jake. Get him that respectability, then he can walk away from the business with his head held high.'  He's one of the top five guys of all time on my list.  That being said, we wanted to be able to do that. And then with Scotty {Hall} coming in, to me, it was like it was supposed to be. {Laughs} It was like weird the way it happened.

LMD:  When Steve Yu told you he wanted to make a documentary about trying to help Jake, you said "You don't know what you're getting into."

Oh yeah, big time!

LMD:  What did you mean by that?

  Cos I know him.  And as an addict... Jake embellishes to begin with, but when you're serious addict, you tend to lie a lot.  It took a long time to start to break that.  It was like, "Dude, you can't do that. You can't say shit like that."  Because Jake was intoxicated with drugs and alcohol and everything for twenty years or more, so it was tough breaking down those walls, but eventually, every time, I'd see him get better, and better and better.  Today, I don't even know that guy.  He's in such a good spot and I'm just hoping every day he stays there.

But I know when Jake first got there, everything was going great for the first eight days.  Steve said to me, "I love that he's really doing well, but there won't really be any story here if he doesn't screw up from time to time."  I said, "Dude, remember you said that. You don't know."  I would tell him things that Jake would do, and he'd say, "Why would he screw with us if we're helping him? Why would he lie to us?"  Because he's an addict, still, and that's what a lot of people don't understand.  It's almost like loving someone for who they are, and you try to help them change, try to help them see it.

LMD:  How close was your prediction?  Was it as bad or worse than you imagined?

You know, I knew he was gonna fuck up from time to time.  Towards the end of it, I wasn't like, 'I'm done,' but I figured out what he really needed more than anything was to take his Antabuse in the morning.  If he takes his Antabuse in the morning, there's nothing else that can factor in there.  For a year, he took a video of himself taking Antabuse to show accountability.  Here's my two things; take the Antabuse, be nice to people.  That's all you gotta do and I'll stick with you forever, dude.

And then there's his daughter, Codi, she's a godsend to the project and she has her dad for the first time.  We're not worried about him dying.  We're not worried about her never having a relationship with him.  And I've watched him get like total respect for her; but they still play with each other, they rib each other all the time.  But he knows without Codi, he might not be able to pull this off.  She makes sure he'd take certain meds he has to take, and that he goes to the doctors, and on the road, she handles all his money; she does everything.  She's really been a godsend to him and it's great for her to have a relationship with her dad.

LMD:  Before Jake, had you ever worked with an addict before?

No.  I just hung with them.  I knew a lot of recovered ones.  I was just doing it ad hoc.  Me and Steve are pretty good at adapting to whatever the circumstances.

LMD:  You've lived as a celebrity for many years with cameras everywhere, but what did it feel like to have the cameras in your personal space at all times?

  You forget they're there.  If something started to happen, like that scene with Steve yelling at Jake, wherever that scene started, that's when they came running with the camera. Everybody knew, like Scotty coming in there, and Jake knew, the camera's going to be rolling 24/7.  We've got a couple around in case we miss shit, like when Jake was pacing at night; we'd never have had that if we didn't have the cameras up.  It was important that they knew we could be talking about anything and it's going to be a camera there.  Jake got them to shut it off twice, it came right back on.

LMD:  Did you place limits on what Steve could shoot?

  Oh yeah, they can't go to the bathroom when we're there. {Laughs}  No, no, because I wanted everything to be raw, because I hate reality TV, because it's so bullshit.  Wrestling is realer than reality TV. {Laughs} We were the first reality TV, anyway.

LMD:  What did your role as the film's producer entail?

  Paying for everything. {Laughs} That was part of what is said to Jake, is "I'm going to pay for everything."  And {regarding crowdfunding for Robert's shoulder operation} I would've paid for whatever IndieGogo didn't pull together, because without that he never would have been able to do that.  It went all the way to $29,000, we only put $9,200, so fans wanted to help out; they wanted to give back.

Scotty needed hip surgery, which is way more expensive, but I had a feeling it would happen for him too.  He didn't think it would, but it did and it helped him a lot.  It helped him get healthy, that was the main thing.  But more than anything, for me, is how people really still do care about you.  So maybe you should start caring about you?

LMD:  When did filming end?

  We did the final scene maybe three or four months ago.  And the reason why we did that was Stone Cold Steve Austin's notes, he said, "I don't feel like you guys really wrap it up at the end here."  We had the Hall of Fame, and we go home, and blah blah blah, but we had something completely different where Jake was just talking and he didn't really like it.  So, Steve started thinking about it and he came up with the old Rocky idea; Rocky and Apollo Creed.  Stone Cold wanted something that made him feel like, what was the whole journey?  How is it encompassed?  And he loved that ending when it came back around, it really brought everything together.

LMD:  One of the things I enjoyed watching was the brotherhood of wrestlers that you see in this film.  The regard that wrestlers like Austin, Ted DiBiase, Chris Jericho and Edge show for Jake in their interviews.  Scott Hall hitting bottom is brought to your attention by another wrestler, Sean Waltman.  Has being successful starting Jake's path to recovery inspired you to want to help other wrestlers with similar problems?

I'm not looking to do anything for rehab as far as addicts, because that's not really what I do.  I help people own their lives.  And you can get them to understand that they are the story they tell themselves.  These guys just happen to be really close friends of mine.  Any one of the boys - that's what we call ourselves, the boys, the wrestlers - every one of them, if they want the program, I'll just give it to them.  If they want to go like Stevie Richards, he wanted to be certified and I won't charge anything, I'll just certify him.  He's gotta go through the work, but then he can do it.  It's another way to not have a "real job," but do something that you love and make a living at it.

LMD:  I understand the WWE has offered its former wrestlers financial help overcoming addiction.  Is there anything that they or any other pro wrestling company could do more of that would stop this long chain of addiction?

Jake did that after his rehab and they paid for all that, but when he came to me; it wasn't like I was charging him anything, so they weren't going to pay for that, but they did pay for his counseling.  And he has a guy he still talks to, and the company takes care of it.  I think the WWE has the best policy out there and I mean because of what they do after the fact.  Unions, we didn't get any of that stuff, but we knew that coming in.  That was really the focus.  It was like, how you have a wellness program that helps the guys that are in this spot, especially mentally?

LMD:  I've been an admirer of your attitude and positivity since I first saw you as a wrestler. Your own story of becoming a wrestler at 35 years old is amazing.  What do you owe that positivity to?

  Being a kid, by the time I was three years old, my mom was married, divorced and had three kids; she was 19 - so, my brother's just older than my mom.  My mom moved up north to make more money to support the family, and I was left with my dad and I was just bounced around from one family to another.  I don't really remember much before was eight, but I do remember that my dad brought me to drop me off at my grandmother's house, and he was a very emotional guy, but that was the first time I really saw him cry, cos I knew it killed him to have to give me up, but he knew I needed some family structure.  That was the last time I'd see him or talk to him when he was sober for the next 10 years.

So, I'd be staying with my grandmother and they would bust my dad's balls, and then I'd go to a company called Falkinberg's {Page's paternal surname}, which was a cesspool service company and when I went in there, they'd bury my mother, "Oh, your mother...," they were kids, 17 and 21.  And I started to stop judging people.  I didn't really have anybody to raise me, so I figured out how to do shit on my own.  I think it was instinctive at the beginning, but later on, I was watching Tony Robbins' shit when I was 26 years old and Tony was freaking 22.  I saw him on TV and all of his crazy attitude, and I thought, 'God, I got that same kind of attitude.'  I literally said to myself, "I'm going to be in his freaking infomercial," like that became a goal of mine.  Then I had my own, but I would listen to that shit and listen to it, and listen to it.  It doesn't answer your question; I've always been like this.  I've always worked at it.  Einstein said, "It's not that I'm so smart, just that I stick with the problem longer."  I've always done that; I don't quit.  If someone quits on me, that's on them, but I'm not going to quit, especially if I say I'm gonna do something.

LMD:  What would you like for viewers to take away from THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE?

  I always think anything is possible.  I have so many people who say they can't, but like Jake said, they don't have to go down like that.  That's we're really hoping. You gotta surround yourself with positive people, people who care.

Scott Hall

The Lady Miz Diva:  Having endured your own struggles and seeing many of your colleagues fall to addiction, beyond providing financial help, what more can wrestling companies like the WWE do to help their wrestlers?

Scott Hall: 
I don't think it's confined to wrestlers.  All I've ever done is work in bars and be a wrestler; I often wonder if I'd have pumped gas, would I have been a womanizer and had addiction problems?  I don't think it's confined to one line of work, but I think they're at the leading front of coming forward.  The policy is, anybody who's ever been under contract - it doesn't matter where you were on the totem pole, or under what circumstances you left the company - if you've ever been under contract, they offer you rehab.  They offer transportation to and from.  If a family member contacts on your behalf, and some guys maybe need intervention services, they provide that.  If you get out of an inpatient thing and maybe you need to follow up with outpatient therapy or psychological counseling; they're there for all of it, and it's great.

Now that I'm doing interviews about this subject - like I've been in front of microphones and cameras a long time, but always in my character and promoting events - now that I'm having to talk about me, I'm thinking about it kind of differently.  I think that had I not left the WWE and gone to work for the competition; at that time WCW and that whole NWO run, I think had I stayed working there because of the way they are a family company - obviously, they're publicly traded now, but it's still run by the family, there the major stockholders - I still feel that my relationship with Vince, and his wife, Linda, and his daughter and his son-in-law, I think that they would've stepped in much sooner.  When I went to work for Turner Broadcasting, I had a buffer between me - which I chose - but I had an agent, I had lawyers, so they weren't allowed to come to me and say, 'Hey, we're worried about you.'  They had to go through this chain of command, and I think that had I stayed working for Vince, he'd have pulled me aside and said, 'Hey I need to talk to you.'  I really think that I wouldn't have spiraled as far down.

LMD:  What is it about Diamond Dallas Page's approach that made you respond so well to try and get healthy?

He is so positive that it rubs off.  It does.  I have a son who is wrestling in Japan now, and I direct message him on Twitter, and I like that because it's a one-way conversation, so I can say what I want without him going, 'Yeah, but,' and he gets to look at it and think about it.  I say, "Be positive. Keep grinding. Stay positive."  It works.  I was looking back on when Dally and I first came together.  My son is 24, so when he was in his mother's belly, I was done with wrestling.  I had one commitment left working for a European promoter on a seven-month tour.  I'd given up on wrestling.  I thought, 'Well, I guess it's not going to happen. I want the other riches in life; I want to get married. I'll get a job at Sears, maybe driving a forklift.'  When I reached out to Dally, and pitched the idea to him, it all happened.  As soon as I stopped obsessing about it, it all fell into place.

I don't know if there's something there, but I've been thinking about this whole thing; my life has changed so dramatically since I connected with Dally again.  In fact, it's in the movie, but when we both go in the Hall of Fame at Wrestlemania 30, which was a year ago in New Orleans... Dally was the first guy to ever touch the NWO, we were red-hot at that time, that happened the Superdome in New Orleans that Dally got to us.  April 5th I had the hip surgery; a year later, I walk across the stage in the Hall of Fame in New Orleans where all that took place, where we have a history already.  April 5th is Dally's birthday, and we had a little celebration for him in the House of Blues, and as I look at all this stuff, I really feel like it's a God thing.  My saying is, coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.  The only thing that I'm sure of is I don't know, but I know that positivity works, and this cat is so positive.  He defied the odds; he started wrestling at 35, a lot of guys are in the business ten or twelve years at that point.  He became the world champion for the first time in his 40s.  That doesn't happen.

He's always defied the odds and when he reached out to me, at that point, I had drank myself into a hospital.  I was so sick that I had no visitors and no phone calls.  The only people I interacted with was the medical staff and the kid who served the food trays; sure enough he's a wrestling fan.  Now, I've got an IV in both arms, oxygen gimmick up my nose... I don't feel good, but the kid is so excited, and I grew up a wrestling fan, so I understand.  Then he shows me his phone and a before and after picture of Jake, and he had been there about six months at that point.  I remember looking at that and I knew Jake had been in dark places - I certainly had - and I felt like, wow, whatever they're doing is working.  I thought if nothing else, even if I don't get clean, if I just get back in shape, I'll take that.  So then, when they reached out to me, I wasn't aware of it, I mean, I'm on the phone and stuff, but I have no memory of it.  I'm uncomfortable watching the movie, because I'm not proud of that guy, but there's one point - and they say it in treatment all the time about a spiritual awakening - by the time I uttered those words {Responding to Roberts and Page's invitation}, it seems my voice starts to clear right after that.  Like all of a sudden, the funk started to lift.  I've lived in Florida for thirtysomething years.  I call it home, but now I'm living in Atlanta, and I don't know where I'm going to end up, but I'm two blocks away from him.  I can walk to the Performance Center, which is a mile from my house, so I'm surrounded by this support system that he's built.  There such a family vibe there, such a cool vibe.  It's just like an extension of him.

I've been in twelve inpatient rehabs.  All the really famous ones, and of course, everyone says they are the best.  The first six or seven were twelve-step-based programs, where the message is, "Don't drink. Go to meetings. Call your sponsor." Oh gee, don't drink?  I never thought of that!  How much do I owe you? Oh, forty grand?  Here you go, is there a money back guarantee?  The last five or six places, the WWE picked up the tab.  I've never been in denial that I had issues, hence twelve treatment centers, but it just wasn't sticking for me and I couldn't figure out why.  At one point, I was going to rehab every year and my thought at that time was, at least I'll get thirty days.  So, when Dallas reached out to me, it was like, 'Well, go to rehab again? Let me try something different.'  The thing that I really treasure about my friendship with Dallas is that we always communicated really effectively, because we don't BS each other, we always cut right to the chase.  I always know that if I need something, he's there, and that's a good feeling to have.

LMD:  What were your thoughts about coming into Dallas Page's house with the documentary crew there filming Jake Roberts at the same time that you were trying to recover?

Well the thing is, initially when Dally reached out to me when I was coherent, he said, "Bro, bro, bro, we're filming this thing about Jake... and Scott Hall."  First of all, out of respect for Jake, I said, "Nah, man, just keep it about Jake."  Plus, having tried and been unsuccessful in the past, I didn't want that.  I said, "I'll just come and hang out. I don't know how long I'll last? Whatever, bro."  I'm thinking I got nothing to lose, maybe at last a week and at least I'll have a week.  I just wanted it to be about Jake, because I think it would be better that way.  If I'm in the movie, I'm in the movie, who knows?  If it was a scripted movie, there'd have been a table meeting and they'd have said, 'No, we can't put them in the Hall of Fame in the same year. No one will buy that.' And it's just the way it happened.  What I like about the movie is that it's organic. It's not real slickly produced; it's cut like a home movie, you know?  But it's real, it's all real.  We had no idea any of that was going to happen, I was just trying to get a few days strung together.  If all I got was a week, hey, then that would be a week I didn't have.

LMD:  What would you like people to take away from THE RESURRECTION OF JAKE THE SNAKE?

I think what {Ted} DiBiase said in the movie is really powerful.  He said, "Love. You just keep loving people. Love conquers all."  It sounds kind of hokey, but look what it's doing to me.  It's real, it's true.  My message is, if you need help, ask for it.  I really struggled with that and I was worse when people offered me help.  I got really defensive, cos I thought I was fooling everybody.  Naw, I didn't have anybody fooled.  It's like something my dad told me one time - he died 20 years clean after having been a raging, abusive alcoholic most of my life - and he said, "It's a slippery slope. I don't want you to, but you're going to fall. Try to fall forward, because if you fall on your ass, guys like me and you, sometimes we get comfortable there. If you fall face down, you won't stay down."

This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos there.

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Diamond Dallas PagedocumentaryJake "The Snake" RobertsScott HallSteve YuThe Resurrection of Jake The SnakewrestlingWWE

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