Throughout wrestling history, the best performers have had the ability to combine both sport and entertainment. They are the men and women who have left the greatest marks on the industry and, at the same time, captured the imaginations of millions of fans worldwide.
Ted DiBiase's ability to blend outstanding in-ring work with an over-the-top character made the 2010 Hall of Famer one of the most recognizable Superstars in World Wrestling Entertainment history.
He would tell the world, "Everyone has a price for the Million Dollar Man" before proving as much in pre-taped vignettes or live demonstrations. With his trusty bodyguard Virgil by his side, DiBiase rose to prominence in WWE as one of the greatest villains in the promotion's long and illustrious history.
He is a three-time Tag Team champion, the 1988 King of the Ring (untelevised tournament) and the creator of the legendary Million Dollar Championship. He made it to the finals of the WrestleMania IV WWE title tournament, where he lost to Randy Savage in what was the highest-profile match of his career.
After retiring from the ring due to a back injury in 1993, he turned to managing. From 1994 until his departure from the company in 1996, DiBiase led the members of his Million Dollar Corporation faction into action.
He continued his managerial role in WCW before stepping away from the spotlight of the major professional wrestling promotions in 1998.
During his illustrious career, he starred for Mid-South Wrestling, the NWA, WWE and WCW and became one of the most respected performers of his generation.
In honor of the man who captivated this writer and made him a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, here is a look back at some of the greatest moments of the legendary "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
Mid-South Rivalry with Jim Duggan
One of the most heated rivalries in the history of Mid-South Wrestling was the one between DiBiase and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.
The two competitors mixed intensity, violence and entertainment into one feud that captured the attention of the fans both in the arena and watching at home on television, leading to an enhanced reputation for both men.
The matches were quality brawls, and some of the angles produced during the feud would not have looked out of place during the Attitude Era of the late 1990s.
DiBiase really grew as a performer during his stint in Mid-South. His work there earned him national recognition and was undoubtedly one of the reasons that Vince McMahon decided that he needed him in his company.
The Million Dollar Man
In 1987, a new character hit WWE programming and wasted little time in making a huge impact.
Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase was an elitist who threw his money around, claiming that there was not a man or woman that could not be bought. He often times proved his theory correct, buying his way into jam-packed restaurants, securing a bed at an emergency room for a paper cut and paying off a public pool owner to chase his patrons away so DiBiase could have the pool to himself.
He would heinously cheat young children out of money in front of arenas full of fans or degrade adults looking for a cheap pay day.
DiBiase rapidly became one of the most hated men in sports entertainment, and that hatred from the fans only fueled what was a major push early in his WWE career.
Buying the title and WrestleMania IV
DiBiase had proven that he could buy anything and anyone that he wanted, but what he really cherished was the WWE title. Just as he had with everything else in his life, he set out to purchase it, assisted by the Eighth Wonder of the World, Andre the Giant.
On February 5, during 1988's Main Event program, Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan amid a ton of controversy and immediately sold the WWE Championship to DiBiase. The fans of the WWE hated it and so did company president Jack Tunney, who ordered the title vacated and announced a tournament for the gold to take place at WrestleMania IV.
DiBiase defeated Jim Duggan and Don Muraco, then benefited from a draw between Hogan and Andre to advance all the way to the finals, where he would meet Randy Savage, who had competed in three matches to make it to the championship round.
Thanks to interference from Hogan, DiBiase saw his championship dreams go up in smoke and was forced to watch as Savage celebrated with the title to close out the evening's festivities.
The Million Dollar Championship
Unable to secure the WWE title, DiBiase put his money to use and had a custom-made championship made specifically for him.
The title, as he put it, would make fans recognize him as the finest wrestler in the world.
The belt (it was still OK to call them belts back then) would be made of gold and diamonds and cost a million dollars.
Vignettes saw DiBiase go to a renowned jewelry store in Greenwich, the most expensive place in all of America to live, and tell the fine people there what he wanted his title to look like. A followup vignette saw him checking on the status of the championship.
The belt would go on to become of the most beautiful in WWE history, and it actually served as a prop for a number of DiBiase's rivalries, including those against Jake Roberts and Virgil.
While never officially recognized as a legitimate WWE title, the belt would win over fans en route to becoming one of the more beloved belts in the company's history.
Money, Inc. and the Tag Team Championships
In 1992, Ted DiBiase paired with Irwin R. Schyster, or IRS for short, and formed the team known as Money, Inc. Together, the two in-ring veterans would win the WWE Tag titles on three separate occasions.
The team would have some outstanding battles against the likes of the Legion of Doom, the Natural Disasters and the Nasty Boys.
What appeared to be a big step down for DiBiase was anything but. The Million Dollar Man character was so over and so hated by the fans that DiBiase's involvement in the tag team division helped elevate the Tag titles, as well as his partner. It also allowed the aging star to relieve some of the workload and rest his body more than he was able to as a singles competitor.
In 1992, DiBiase and IRS met Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior in a high-profile Tag title bout, and less than a year later, they defended the straps against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake in one of two WrestleMania IX main events.
Money, Inc. became the centerpiece of a tag team division that, at the time, was rapidly evolving.
Unfortunately, injuries caught up to DiBiase, and in August of 1993, he wrestled his last pay-per-view match for WWE, losing to Razor Ramon in the SummerSlam opener.
The Million Dollar Corporation, WCW and the New World Order
The mid-1990s saw DiBiase assemble a faction made of midcard heels known as the Million Dollar Corporation. Men such as King Kong Bundy, Kama, Tatanka, IRS and Nikolai Volkoff were led into action by the Million Dollar Man, as he remained incredibly relevant on WWE television.
Over the two years of the group's existence, Sycho Sid, 123 Kid and Steve Austin would all be managed by DiBiase.
By 1996, however, Ted Turner's WCW came calling with big-money offers for many of Vince McMahon's most recognizable stars. Sensing there was very little upward mobility for him in WWE, DiBiase took the money and ran.
His first night in the Eric Bischoff-run company saw him revealed as the money behind the rapidly expanded New World Order group, which had helped to catapult WCW to the top of the wrestling world.
Unfortunately, as was the case with many of McMahon's former stars, Bischoff did not quite understand how to use DiBiase to his greatest potential.
After splitting from the nWo, he became a manager for Rick and Scott Steiner and slowly faded from television.
The WCW experiment was largely a disappointing one for DiBiase. Though he was still in a managerial role, he faded to the background of the nWo story, and it was only a matter of time before he became "just another guy" in the group.
In WWE, he would have remained a valuable asset for McMahon, who always saw a bit of himself in the Million Dollar Man gimmick.
Hall of Fame
Over the years, DiBiase has made a number of appearances on WWE programming and even worked backstage for the company as a producer.
His greatest moment, however, came on March 27, 2010, when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his sons Ted and Brett.
As a writer who owes a great deal of his fandom to DiBiase and the way he commanded attention through his performances as the Million Dollar Man, seeing him stand at the podium and accept his honor was a truly great moment.
It was the culmination of a tremendous career, one that exceeded expectations and saw the average-sized DiBiase compete in the land of giants, doing so with a great deal of success.
Though he was never officially recognized as WWE champion, a title he deserved at least once in his storied career, DiBiase is remembered as one of the top stars of the first big wrestling boom. Today, he's celebrated for all of the great work he has done as an ordained minister.