From Grapple To Chapel
Ted DiBiase, wrestling's "Million Dollar Man," was one of the most recognizable grapplers of the 1980s who never was able to win a world championship.
Oh, sure, he got close. In February 1988, before the largest television audience to watch a World Wrestling Entertainment (at that time, World Wrestling Federation) program, DiBiase paid Andre the Giant to win the title from Hulk Hogan and hand the championship title over to him. The plan worked, somewhat. The Giant won the belt after a "crooked" referee counted Hogan out of the match, and the title was strapped around DiBiase's waist after Andre surrendered it to him. But even all the money in the world couldn't help DiBiase - he was later stripped of the belt, and his "purchase" of the championship was never recognized by the WWE.
"Not only was that one of the (most) highly viewed matches ever, but it was the first time professional wrestling was on a national network since the 1950s," DiBiase said about the match, which aired on NBC. "That night really launched my career in the biggest way."
DiBiase would continue a career as the WWE's most hated villain, popularizing the phrase "Everyone's got a price." DiBiase, now an ordained minister, is the father of WWE tag team champion co-holder, Ted DiBiase Jr., who will likely be a featured wrestler during the Aug. 17 pay-per-view "Summerslam."
The Million Dollar Man, whose recently released autobiography is on bookstands now, took some time recently to talk to the Journal Star.
- John Sharp
A lot of wrestlers tend to write books that sell well. Why decide to do one now?
My first book was primarily about my spiritual journey. I was raised in a Christian home and fell away from it and (eventually) became a minister. Over the years, I had a lot of fans saying, "We loved your first book, but we'd love to learn more about your wrestling career and what it was all about in becoming the Million Dollar Man" - wrestling stories as opposed to the spiritual journey. (The WWE) said, "Look Ted, you are still on top. ... Your action figure is still a top (seller). There is still a lot of interest in the Million Dollar Man."
Where did the idea of the Million Dollar Belt come from, and where is it at today?
The idea was Vince's (McMahon, the WWE's owner) idea. As opposed to putting the WWE title on me, they said the Million Dollar Man and his arrogance would have his own belt, one that is worth far more than any other belt. I thought it was perfect. It had the desired effect. The belt itself, when they had it made some 20 years ago, was $40,000. The belt, my understanding is, is tucked away in a safe in Stamford (Conn., corporate home of the WWE).
Your career ended because of a neck injury. A lot of wrestlers face injuries today in the ring. What kind of advice would you give your son or any young wrestler about avoiding injuries inside a wrestling ring?
It's like when I played football; it's the same thing. You are in a business that is very physical. By staying in great shape, it's the one thing to help avoid injury. When you are injured, the better shape you are in, the quicker you will recover. There is dangerous stuff guys do today, like taking great big falls over the top of a cage or jumping off a 30-foot ladder. What I told my son was to save those great big ones for the great big money. It's not something you want to do every night. Save that great big bump.
Your son recently won the WWE tag team title with, of all people, Dusty "the American Dream" Rhodes' kid. How do you feel about that? (Note: DiBiase and Rhodes had a rivalry in the WWE about 20 years ago.)
I'm very proud. I've heard nothing but good things about my son. All my buddies still (at the WWE) are saying the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. It's like watching yourself again. I think it's great.