DiBiase Name Represents Character
Everyone had a price for The Million Dollar Man, but the price Ted DiBiase paid to play that role, one of the best heel characters in wrestling history, nearly cost him his most cherished possession -- his family.
DiBiase, a former WWF superstar, discusses his interesting life in his autobiography TED DIBIASE: The Million Dollar Man (241 pages, WWE Books, Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 2008).
DiBiase became The Million Dollar Man outside the WWF ring, and his playboy lifestyle on the wrestling road severly damaged his home life.
Now his sons -- Mike, 30; Ted Jr., 25; Brett, 20 -- are involved in the wrestling business. Priceless Ted Jr., a college graduate, won the WWE tag team gold in his debut. Mike, who trained with Harley Race, is working the indie circuit, and Brett, who earned a college soccer scholarship with Holmes Community College in Mississippi, is now competing in Florida Championship Wrestling, the feeder group to WWE in Tampa.
''As a parent, you're always going to worry,'' DiBiase said. ``I feel more comfortable now. The tenure I just had in 2005 and 2006 in WWE as a creative person and producer, it allowed me to go back into the business that I had been away from for 10 years.
``I saw incredible changes. I used to work all but six days a month. We would go 10 days on, three days off; four days on, three days off; 10 days on.
``These guys today are off three days every week, unless they go on a foreign tour. They have a four-day work week and then go home for three days. They have a state-of-the-art drug testing policy. I don't know how they could have improved on what they already had, but apparently they have, and they have a three-strike rule. That is some accountability there for these guys. In other words, what's more important? Your job? Your livelihood? Or the junk?
``The other thing is the atmosphere. The atmosphere in wrestling back when I was wrestling was almost like rock-n-roll. It was the next town, the next show, the next party. You go back to the hotel, and the bar is full of women.
``That's gone. You don't see that anymore. The kids are younger, and the demand for them to be as good a physical specimen that they can possibly be is greater today than it was when I was there competing.
``Now that steroids are out of the question, the work it's going to take to maintain that is greater. Therefore, you're not going to have a lot of time to fool around.
``Do those things still take place? I'm sure they do, but something I try to instill in my boys and all the wrestlers is character counts. You can have all the athletic ability in the world. You can be the greatest at whatever you do, but if you don't have character and a decent set of morals, your talent will take you to a place where your character won't sustain you. We see in the NFL, Michael Vick, O.J. Marion Jones, baseball. Roger Clemens, as far as I'm concerned, he might be a great baseball player, but I have no respect for him as a man. Character counts.
``That's what I've tried to instill in my boys, and they know that's what I expect of them. I've tried to instill them by saying, `Hey look. Here's where your dad went. Here's what I almost lost. I almost lost you guys. I almost your mother, because I was an idiot, because I was out there getting my ego stroked and put at risk the most valuable thing in my life -- my wife and my family.
``By the grace of God, I was able to keep both, because of the grace of God, I firmly believe.''
• DiBiase is the son of wrestler Helen Hild and the stepson of wrestler Iron Mike DiBiase. His stepfather died of a heart attack in the ring when Ted was 15.
His mother then fell victim to depression and alcoholism, so Ted moved to Wilcox, Ariz. to live with his grandparents. He graduated from Wilcox High School and attended West Texas State University on a football scholarship.
DiBiase dropped out of college -- something he regrets -- to begin a career in professional wrestling.
Under the tutelage of the Funk brothers, Terry and Dory Jr., DiBiase had excellent training. There was a connection, a bond between the DiBiases and the Funks.
In 1969 in Amarillo, Texas, Iron Mike substituted in a match for Terry Funk, who could not attend, and that's when Iron Mike suffered a heart attack in the ring. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Terry took Ted under his wing. In June 1975, DiBiase made his debut in Mid-South Wrestling.
Several wrestlers including the Funks added commentary in the book.
Dick Murdoch also helped the young upstart. Those backing DiBiase reads like a Who's Who of stellar wrestling talent. Even with that type backing, DiBiase still had to deliver, and he did.
• DiBiase climbed that mountain, and his career reached a pinnacle, secularly speaking, in 1987 by becoming The Million Dollar Man in Vince McMahon's multi-million dollar conglomerate World Wrestling Federation.
Most wrestlers paid for their own travel expenses. With Mr. McMahon's bankroll backing and blessing, the boss actually paid for The Million Dollar Man's accommodations.
DiBiase was deliberately booked first-class for flights. He stayed at 5-star hotels and also received a stipend of petty cash from the WWF offices so that he could throw money around in public, picking up tabs and over tipping, buying drinks for entire bars and paying for small items with a $100 bill to make the gimmick believable.
Mr. McMahon created The Million Dollar Man character, so the boss wanted it to work, and when Mr. McMahon wants something to work, he will support the effort 110 percent. DiBiase was the right man for the job, playing the role extremely well.
DiBiase became the top bad guy in professional wrestling. He never won the world title, but the WWF created The Million Dollar Belt just for him.
DiBiase was not political backstage, hurting his chances to secure a world title.
''[Not being political] could have something to do with it,'' he said. ``No doubt. I was one of those guys who always felt like `I'm going to let my work speak for itself. I don't want to play politics.'
``Unfortunately in life and in business, there is a certain amount of politics that has to be played. As a citizen, I turn the TV on every night, and I still hate politics.
'I believe if I had spoken up more and been a little more straight forward and to the point, `Hey look, I got the talent, and I deserve this. You need to give it to me.' I might have gotten it.''
Before his days with the WWF, during the days of territories, DiBiase worked the Southeast. He was on the short list to win the NWA world title.
''Politics in wrestling,'' he said. ``Originally the plan was, as I understood it, they were going to rotate that belt between three of us -- Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and myself.
``At the time, I was wrestling for Bill Watts, primarily in Mid-South, which was one of the hottest territories in the country. Watts then pulled out of the NWA. When he pulled out of the NWA, which was where I spent the better part of the first 12 years of my career, that took me out of contention for the title.
``Jimmy Crockett was running Mid-Atlantic, and Mid-Atlantic was one of the other really great territories in the country, financially for the guys.''
• Unlike some of his contemporaries, an unselfish DiBiase put the business ahead of himself.
''It's just being savvy,'' he said. 'Realistically, I understood this is a business. I think some of these guys forget, and they get caught up in it. They begin to really think, `Man, I really am the world champion,' or whatever. Maybe some of it is insecurity.
``Some guys who get into our industry are tremendous athletes, but that's it. They look really good, but they don't really have a whole lot more. They need to be carried, so to speak. A great example of that was Ultimate Warrior. Great body. That's it. He was only as good as whoever got in the ring with him, because he couldn't do it on his own.
``Here's what I understood. I understood that this was a business, and that if I was going to make a lot money doing this, then I needed to do what the front office wanted me to do.
``In other words, if my job out there was to make my opponent look like King Kong, well I'm going to go out there and make him look like King Kong.
``I had enough confidence in my ability in the ring. I was a villain. In wrestling vernacular, I was a heel, and as a heel, I was a leader. Ninety-percent of the times the heel in the ring is the guy calling the shots, directing traffic. I had enough confidence in myself to be able to do that -- make that guy look like King Kong -- and still walk away from that ring with those people still wanting to see me get my butt kicked again.
'I don't know why so many guys were jealous. Maybe it's human nature. I reasoned that if I was going to be very successful in the long term, then the best way for me to do that was to be a team player. It's kind of like the old saying, `There's no I in team.' I was working for the team, and as long as I was working for the team, I had a very successful career.''
• Taking hard bumps and stiff shots occurred, and accidents happened, but did wrestlers intentionally try to hurt each other in the ring?
''That's an isolated type thing,'' he said. ``You're in a business, and you're out there working together to tell a story, and you're telling that story together.
``You're also in a very physical business, and along the way, obviously, you're going to try to do your best to protect the guy you're working with.
``There are going to be those times when you get whacked. We called that a potato. You get a spud. Well, if you get a spud, often times, you should expect to get a receipt.
``It's kind of like one of those things if a guy whacks you one time, OK. A guy whacks you another time, well OK. If a guy whacks you a third time, OK, you whack him back. It's like, `Hey, wake up. You're hurting me.'
'Do tempers ever really flare out there? I answer, `Yeah. It doesn't happen very often, but it has happened.' The funny thing is a lot of the real fights will happen in the dressing room, after the match, not in the ring.
``Because out there in the that ring, you're doing business. Part of doing business is to be professional enough to take care of business as business is supposed to be, and you can take care of other stuff in the dressing room.''
• Terry Funk and Jim Ross wrote forwards to DiBiase's book which he wrote with author Tom Caiazzo.
• DiBiase is one of the greatest wrestlers never to hold a world title. Scott Hall, Paul Orndorff, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jake the Snake Roberts also come to mind.
• DiBiase had a brief stint with the WWF in 1979 as the first WWF North American champ. He lost the title to Pat Patterson who unified the belt with the fictitious South American title, creating the Intercontinental belt.
• On WWF television, The Million Dollar Man invited fans, including a young Rob Van Dam, to perform humiliating acts, such as kissing his feet for money.
One of the more infamous and fondly remembered skits was when he invited a young boy onto the stage and told him if he bounced a ball 15 times in succession, he would pay him $500. After the 14th bounce, DiBiase kicked the ball away, sending the teary-eyed boy home without pay and making the crowd angry.
• Ted Jr. recently teamed with Cody Rhodes, the son of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, to win the WWE tag team titles.
The names for The Million Dollar Man's finisher (Million Dollar Dream) and bodyguard (Virgil) were dubbed by WWF's Bobby The Brain Heenan as inside jokes to the American Dream Dusty (Virgil Runnels) Rhodes who worked for rival Jim Crockett Promotions at the time.
When Virgil joined WCW, Heenan, who was then working for WCW, continued the trend by naming him Vincent after WCW's rival Vince McMahon.
• Living in Clearwater, Fla., DiBiase, 54, is a Christian minister who runs Christian/wrestling events under the promotion Power Wrestling Alliance.
DiBiase frequently works with former wrestler Nikita Koloff, another born-again Christian. In 1999, DiBiase founded Heart of David Ministries, traveling nationwide to give his personal testimony.
In real life, he is not the arrogant, evil character he portrayed on television.
Quite the opposite.
He is a kind, caring man who deeply loves his wife and three sons. He is a man who shares his faith in large group meetings -- especially with teens. He has a deep, genuine walk with Christ.
This is not his first foray in book making. DiBiase penned Every Man Has His Price: The True Story of Wrestling's Million-Dollar Man (180 pages, Multnomah Books, 1997).
A spiritual book, Every Man Has His Price tells the story of DiBiase's life, from his humble beginnings in a broken home to his days on the pro wrestling circuit, to his dramatic conversion to Christianity.
Every Man Has His Price is more than a biography. It is the story of a man's compassionate heart for God and ministry. Readers will be inspired to serve the Lord from wherever they are today and will see through the life of DiBiase that God can make even a pro wrestling villain his beloved child.
• DiBiase will be the guest speaker on Sunday, Aug. 10 at NorthStar Community Church, 116 NE 24 St. in (Fort Lauderdale) Wilton Manors.
DiBiase paid a hefty price to become one of the best heel characters in wrestling history. The real-life playboy lifestyle nearly cost him his family. Through a new found faith, DiBiase repented, turning his life around outside the ring by devoting himself to God.
A Christian minster, DiBiase leads Heart of David Ministries. He presents a powerful message of Christ with his personal testimony. He will speak at the evening mass and be available for a meet-n-greet after service.
Call 954-564-4374. Visit heartofdavidministry.com.