I would like to take some time and talk about one of my favorite wrestlers ever. During his time with the WWF he was arguably one of the best heels in the history of the company. He had a gift on the stick and was just as good in the ring.
The man I am referring to is the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
While researching information on this great ring warrior I learned a lot, to say the least. His life was filled with a lot of highs and lows and the path that he traveled through life is one that many would run from.
Through his struggles, he would learn and triumph over anything that life lay in front of him. Like many other wrestlers he would face, he would give in, and overcome life’s temptations.
I learned so much more about one of my heroes as a kid after doing this project. I can only hope that you not only learn, but also appreciate the life of Ted DiBiase. He was a great wrestler who deserves respect from everyone in the wrestling world.
Theodore Marvin DiBiase was born January 18, 1954. His mother Helen Hild was a female grappler at the time. She would later marry “Iron” Mike DiBiase, who would become Ted’s stepfather.
With both parents as wrestlers, Dibiase would live an interesting childhood. He would learn at a young age the ins and outs of the business. He would also find out how hard life can be as wrestler at the young age of 15.
In a match against Harley Race, his stepfather would die of a heart attack in the ring. Race would try to give him CPR to save his life, but he was unable to help the fallen grappler.
If that wasn’t enough for young DiBiase to deal with, his mother would fall into a deep depression that led to her becoming a major alcoholic. DiBiase would have to learn to deal with a major crisis at a very young age.
Instead of letting these problems swell up inside though, he would face these problems head on. With some self-determination, and a new-found spiritual guidance with God, he would overcome these setbacks.
"I didn't choose to have my father die and my mother to become a drunk or to end up in a little bitty town in southern Arizona. Now I could have taken the easy way―chosen to be bitter and angry at my mother and just wallow in the same self-pity that she did.
"But you have to say: 'OK here's a circumstance, I didn't choose it, but what am I going to do with it? Am I going to let it get the best of me, or am I going to rise above it? When I had problems, that choice was mine, and the choice to overcome them was also mine."
He would move to a small town in Arizona with his grandparents. It was there he would start to make good with his life. DiBiase would go on to become an outstanding football player in high school.
It was his athletic ability that would earn him a full scholarship to West Texas State University. In his junior year of college he decided he was done with school. He chose to drop out and follow his stepfather’s footsteps and became a pro wrestler.
Ted DiBiase would get trained by Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk. He made his pro debut in 1975. For the next four years he would pay his dues working the small venues. In 1979, though, he would be spotted by the WWWF and would finally catch his first break.
Upon arrival, he would be made the first-ever North American champion. This would be a short-lived run, though, as he would lose to Pat Patterson in June of that year. Patterson would later unify the belts (including the South American Championship) to form the Intercontinental Championship.
He would leave the WWWF and head back down south where fate would step in and change his life. In 1980, he became the Mid-South Wrestling's North American Champion. He would hold this belt for seven months before dropping it to The Grappler.
In 1981, he would have a special year for a couple reasons. He not only would win the title again that year, it was also when he would marry his girlfriend Melanie, who he had met earlier while on the road.
Much like his stepfather, he spent a lot of time on the road going from place to place including overseas in Japan. He would win the heavyweight title again and also capture tag team gold. Once his son Ted was born though, he decided to stay close to home for a while.
He would stay close to home with Mid-South until 1987. It was then we would be faced with a life-changing decision. In 1987, he was contacted by Vince McMahon and was offered a contract with the WWF.
DiBiase was faced with the decision of either staying close to home with his family or he could sign with the WWF and make a lot more money. To make matters more difficult, McMahon refused to tell DiBiase what his gimmick would be. All they would promise him was a strong push.
DiBiase found Vince’s offer too good to pass up and decided to head to the WWF. It would be a decision that would ultimately be a bittersweet one for him. During his time in the Mid-South he wrestled with many greats like Junk Yard Dog, Paul Orndorff, Mr. Wrestling 2, and Jim Duggan.
When DiBiase arrived to the WWF he really wasn’t sure what he was in for. He didn’t know what his gimmick would be and they never told him what direction they would push him in.
Well, to his surprise, it was not only a good gimmick, but it was also the gimmick he would carry for the rest of his wrestling career. Ted Dibiase would become the “Million Dollar Man.” Before he was even in the ring, they would run a series of vignettes of him displaying his wealth.
While there were many that were shown, my favorite one was when he had all the kids kicked out of the pool. They also had other entertaining ones like when he tries to buy gum with a $100 bill. It was vignettes like those that would help create the great heel that he became.
In fact, Vince wanted him to be so believable that they would often travel him first class and book him in the best rooms. He was also given spending cash to carry around just to throw it around for people to see.
His in-ring antics wouldn’t be much better once he arrived in the WWF. He had skits where he would tease kids into thinking they would get a lot of money for doing something. This would only lead up to him somehow swindling the kids out of the cash.
He would show up to ringside with a bodyguard named Virgil who would often help DiBiase to victory. With DiBiase’s ring ability and monster heel status, he soon was on his way to becoming one of the company's top stars.
It is also worth noting that DiBiase never had to dabble in steroids to get ahead. He would find another vice though that would cost him. He, like many others in the wrestling business, took to the arms of other women.
In 1987, he would receive his first real push in the WWF. In his attempt to prove that everybody has a price for the Million Dollar Man, he would attempt to buy the world title from Hulk Hogan.
They, of course, let the fans believe this might happen. In the end, Hogan answered with a thunderous “Hell No.”
This would only be the beginning. He would then hire Andre the Giant to win the belt from Hogan and have Andre give it to him. In what turned out to be a scripted screw job, Andre won the title and gave it to the Million Dollar Man.
He would be stripped of the title, though, and be forced to square off in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. He would make it to the finals but would end up losing to Randy Savage. That was the closest he would ever get to the title again.
Throughout the rest of his time with the WWF he would never become the heavyweight champion. It became an issue that would put a wedge between his and Vince’s relationship. Although he did feel slighted, he understood that it was better for the business at the time.
“Being a good worker in WWE is the worst curse that you can have. Instead of being given the title for being a great worker, they give it to someone who isn't and have that person work with the good worker, so they look good in the ring.”
Although he would never end up winning the “Big one,” his career would continue to flourish. He would go on to feud with Hogan and Savage. He would also win the 1988 King of the Ring tournament.
In 1989, he would introduce to the world the Million Dollar belt. It was a belt made of gold and filled with diamonds. He would rarely defend it but it was, in a way, a show of gratitude for his hard work over the years.
In 1990, DiBiase wound up having a very nice year with the company. He would be in a few high profile feuds. In a twist, Sapphire would turn on Dusty Rhodes after DiBiase brought her services.
He would wind up having a memorable feud with the American Dream. During this feud he would attack Dusty's kid, Dustin. This would lead to a Survivor Series showdown where DiBiase's mystery partner would be none other than The Undertaker.
Later that year, he would also have a fall out with his long time bodyguard Virgil. This feud would go on for some time with both exchanging victories. He would wind up losing the Million Dollar belt to his former bodyguard at Summerslam.
He wouldn’t go long without it, because he would regain it a short time later on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
The early 90's would end up being trying times for DiBiase. As his success got bigger, so did his ego. He would spend more carelessly and also wound up spending more and more nights with women other than his wife.
His habits would get out of control and he would end up getting caught. It was a mistake that almost cost him his family. He was faced with the choice to either change his ways or lose his loved ones.
He would try to work things out with his wife and that was when he found his way back to God.
"What finally broke that cycle was my adultery being caught out. I called home the day after WrestleMania VIII from a payphone in the lobby of a Detroit hotel. That was when my wife confronted me about the fact that she had discovered that I'd been fooling around.
"In a fraction of a second, I realized that I had put at risk the most valuable things in my life: the love and devotion of a committed wife and the stability, future, well-being and peace of mind of my three children.
"And all for what? To stroke my ego, to be a big shot out there? It just hit me and I took a long, hard, look in the mirror and realized in spite of my success I didn't like what I saw. That's what caused me to turn back to God and all of those values that I had as a young man."
In 1992 and 1993, he would end up winning the tag titles a few more times with IRS. They would have some notable matches with LOD and the Steiners. In 1993, though, he would injure his neck and be forced to retire.
He would be away from the WWF for a year before he made his way back. In 1994, he was still under contract, but unable to perform in the ring. So the WWF would decide to use him as an announcer for a short period of time.
Whether it was because they felt he wasn’t cutting it as an announcer, or they just decided to try something different, DiBiase would later become a manager. He would go on to form the Million Dollar Corporation.
In this stable he had the likes of Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, Psycho Sid, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy and others. At the time, this was the largest stable of wrestlers seen ever in the WWF. This stable would go on to produce a couple of well-remembered matches.
The first one that comes to mind was the famous Undertaker vs. Undertaker match. Ted DiBiase brought in an impostor "Undertaker, played by Brian Lee. This would start a brief feud that would end at SummerSlam after the real Undertaker defeated the fake one.
The next high profile match that would come out of this stable was Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI. Bigelow would end up losing to LT. At the end of the match, DiBiase tore into Bam Bam, which led to him leaving the corporation.
The last real big moment for DiBiase came in 1995. He would introduce the world to the Ring Master, and as we all know, he would go on to become "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
In 1996, DiBiase would make his final appearance for the WWE at an In Your House PPV. In his final role as manager, he would see Austin lose to Savio Vega. This loss would force DiBiase out for good.
There are two sides to the story of DiBiase's departure from the company. If you go by Vince’s side, DiBiase left for more money with WCW. If you go by DiBiase's side, Vince just decided to not renew his contract.
Either way, Dibiase's tenure with the WWF was officially over. He was now on his way to the competition.
His time with WCW was very brief, to say the least. He became the fourth member of the NWO when he arrived. He couldn’t use his "Million Dollar" gimmick, so instead he became "Trillionaire Ted."
Needless to say, it really didn’t fly that well with the audience. He turned face once and managed the Steiner Brothers, but this to be a very short-lived run. He would up leaving WCW in 1998.
After retirement from wrestling, he decided to work with charities and even became a minister. He would hold charity events for years. Most of this money went to whatever charity he was sponsoring at the time.
He pops up now and then on TV for the most part, though he stays very low key. While he does play an active role in the careers of his boys, in general he lets them decide their own fates.
He has an upcoming independent film entitled "Wrestling with Faith" coming out in 2010. It will be about the life and career of the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
Throughout DiBiase's entire life he has had his struggles. Whether it was the loss of his parents, or his own personal demons, he has always fought through them and came out on top.
He is a great man who will always be remembered by the wrestling world. We know get to see his legacy passed down through his kids. If they turn out anything like their old man, then we are in for one hell of a ride.
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