Jason Setnyk

Interview with WWE legend The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase

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Kingston Ontario – WWE Hall of Fame wrestler The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase will be at the Kingston Gospel Temple on December 17th for a wrestling and charity event, and he will be at Yuk Yuks in Ottawa on December 18th for a spoken word show. There is more information about both events towards the end of this article.

Ted DiBiase became a professional wrestler in the summer of 1975, and he would adopt the “Million Dollar Man” persona in 1987, and become one of the top heels of professional wrestling at that time.

The Million Dollar Man gimmick was priceless. It was about a wealthy and greedy wrestler who wanted to buy his way to the to the top. With his manic laugh, cold eyes, and his charismatic voice, he was able to sell this sadistic character successfully to audiences around the world.

When Vince McMahon approached Ted DiBiase with his million dollar idea, he would go from rags to wrestling riches. It was through this character that DiBiase experienced the high life of professional wrestling.

“The whole concept of this character was Vince McMahon’s idea. He said ‘Ted, the one thing everybody hates is this: somebody by virtue of their wealth thinks they are better than everybody. You know, a guy who looks down his nose at everybody, who is arrogant, a hotty’. I started laughing and said I can’t stand guys like that myself. That’s the kind of wrestling character you’d never get tired of somebody kicking that guy’s butt. Basically that is what Vince said, that’s the character. In an effort to market the character to the best of their ability, and we’re having some fun with it as well, we’re going to make it look publicly that you’re this really rich guy,” DiBiase reminisced.

Ted DiBiase had paid his dues as a wrestler, traveling thousands of miles each year by car, spending many a night in less than luxurious hotels and motels, and living pay cheque to pay cheque on the circuit. Playing the Million Dollar Man meant experiencing a much more extravagant lifestyle.

“So first class airfare, limousine service, the whole nine yards. I did an episode of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ with Robin Leach. It wasn’t even my house. It was all for show. But what I was told by Pat Patterson (a WWE creative consultant) in a private conversation, he said look at it this way, if Vince could be one of his characters on the show, this is who he would be. In those days Vince was just a commentator and nobody knew he owned the company. Later on, when everyone did know, and he started interjecting himself in the show more, he basically became that character because he was the rich boss, the rich CEO, and I thought it was kind of funny. It wasn’t based on him, but it was his idea,” DiBiase explained.

The character of the Million Dollar Man was rich enough to thumb his nose at the wrestling establishment. This is similar to Donald Trump being rich enough to the thumb his nose at the political establishment and win the Presidential Election. Although the character of The Million Dollar Man and the real Ted DiBiase differ in many ways, the Million Dollar Man would probably be a Trump supporter just like Ted DiBiase.

“Hahahaha. I will tell you this. I’m glad that Trump won the election. I think that the United States of America is going to be a much better place. I am very much a conservative. I’m a very strong Christian, I’m a Minister (Heart of David Ministry). Those values I share. The thing I like about Trump most is that he is not a politician. He can’t be bought. He’s going to serve as President and he’s not taking the salary. He’s not making any money for it. He’s doing this for the country. All those things I admire, all the hoopla. The other way I agree is our mainstream media, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN – I call CNN the Clinton News Network. I was not a big fan of Hillary, never. They (the mainstream media) were always talking about all these horrible things that Donald Trump said. I said, well what is that old saying, sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I said, look at all the horrible things that Hillary Clinton did. She lied, she erased thousands of emails. You don’t do that unless you’re trying to hide something. Anyway, we don’t need to get all political on this. What I think Trump did was, he is an outsider, and that is what we needed. Back when Reagan was elected, Reagan was another outsider who came on the scene and made a big difference,” DiBiase proclaimed.

The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s first and second WrestleMania appearances were at WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V respectively – both events were hosted by Trump Plaza and held at the Atlantic City Convention Hall in New Jersey. This is where Ted DiBiase met the man who is now President-elect of the United States.

“Wrestlemania IV was my first Wrestlemania, and because it was my first probably one of the ones I remember the most. Not to mention that both Wrestlemania IV and V were hosted by Donald Trump at the building in Atlantic City that he owns where they host the Miss America Pageant. I actually met Mr. Trump, and I have a picture of it somewhere, prior to Wrestlemania IV, and I believe he was in the front row during the show,” DiBiase revealed.

Ted DiBiase co-headlined Wrestlemania IV. A few months prior to Wrestlemania IV Ted DiBiase tried to purchase the WWE Championship belt from Hulk Hogan, but the Hulkster couldn’t be bought. In retaliation the Million Dollar Man helped Andre the Giant to defeat Hulk Hogan and then proceeded to purchase the title from him. Because a title is not allowed to change hands this way the WWE Championship was declared vacant and there was a tournament at Wrestlemania IV to crown a new champion. The Macho Man Randy Savage defeated The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase in the finals with a little help from Hulk Hogan and a chair. Both Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan were at ring side for this legendary match. After Wrestlemania Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant had many bouts with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage which culminated at the main event of the first ever SummerSlam later that year.

“Those guys, that was my era. Randy Savage had been there for a little bit. He was their slightly longer than I was, and of course Andre, I had known Andre since I was in college, because I grew up in the wrestling business. I ended up traveling with Andre for almost a year, post-Wrestlemania IV because he and I were in a lot of tag team matches together against Hulk Hogan and Macho Man or Hulk Hogan and any one of a number of other guys, and it was great”, DiBiase recounted.

Another historic match for Ted DiBiase was at the 1990 Survivor Series, a match in which he defeated Bret “HitMan” Hart (who two years later would become WWE Champion). It was also the debut of the Undertaker who would win the title one year later against Hulk Hogan. Ted DiBiase also helped introduce the wrestling world to Stone Cold Steve Austin giving him his Million Dollar Belt in 1996. Steve Austin would go on to win the King of the Ring that year, a wrestling tournament Ted DiBiase won in 1988. Ted DiBiase helped give Undertaker and Steve Austin the ‘rub’ when they first started – and both wrestlers would become among the biggest stars during the Attitude Era of the WWE in the late 1990s.

“In context of the story line, the fact that I introduced Undertaker, people need to understand something, I’m not the guy who physically brought the Undertaker into the WWE. Mark Calaway, that’s his real name, signed a contract with the WWE, or WWF as it was known back then, and Vince said this is what we want to do. We call it the rub. If you’re going to try to establish a new character and want to elevate him, then you give him the rub. It’s kind of like new movie stars. They put these upcoming stars in movies with very well established actors and it helps elevate them. It helps elevate their stardom. That’s basically what Vince was doing with the Undertaker and with Steve Austin. I like both guys. I saw the potential in both of them. But nobody, I don’t think anybody, I don’t even think Vince imagined that the Undertaker or Steve Austin would achieve the success that they did. Kudos to them, two of the biggest names ever,” DiBiase exclaimed.

In addition to buying the WWE Championship title from Andre the Giant and creating his own Million Dollar title, Ted DiBiase was also a three time tag team champion with his partner Irwin R. Schyster. The tag team, named Money Inc defeated the Legion of Doom, the Natural Disasters, and the Steiner Brothers for their title wins. Ted DiBiase also got a win over Hulk Hogan in tag team action at his final Wrestlemania appearance as a wrestler. Money Inc defeated the Mega-Maniacs (Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake) by a disqualification at Wrestlemania IX.

Another element that contributed to The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s success was the vignettes he did to develop his cruel and ruthless character. His most famous skit was when he had a five year old boy bounce a basketball 15 times for $500 and kicked the ball away on the 14th bounce. This made his character truly hated and despised by wrestling fans around the world.

“The one with the basketball is my favorite and it’s the one that is most remembered. Number one, it was rehearsed. The child was hand picked before the television show because it was a television taping. When we did it in rehearsal everything was fine. Again, he was like five or six years old, and if you watch it again you can tell he might miss it. My fear was that even though we rehearsed it and he did it right that he might miss on his own, and that would have screwed it up. Haha! When we did it live, and he gets to fourteen, and I stick my foot out and it and the ball bounces off my foot, and I say, ‘Sorry kid, but when you don’t get job done, you don’t get the money’. He had crocodile tears and ran to his mother, he couldn’t have done it any better! Even though it was rehearsed, and I had to be hardcore during the show, the fact is they got the money. Everybody always got the money. When I would do live shows, no television, just a live show, then it wasn’t rehearsed. At the end of my match I would grab the microphone and invite someone from the crowd. I would say raise your hand I got $300 for somebody. I would chew a piece of gum and spit it on the mat, and say push that piece of gum on the mat with your nose – and stupid stuff. Of course everyone would do it. It was a lot of fun, and they always got the money”, said DiBiase.

Wrestling runs deep in DiBiase’s family. He is the adopted son of “Iron” Mike DiBiase, and one of his three sons, Ted DiBiase Jr. also wrestled in the WWE. Will there be a fourth generation of DiBiase’s in wrestling? Probably not. According to Ted DiBiase, had his father Mike “Iron” DiBiase lived longer, he might never have became a wrestler himself.

“The reality is that my dad died before I was ever a wrestler. Quite frankly I probably wouldn’t have been a wrestler had he lived because that is the last thing he wanted me to do. It’s not about the wrestling, it’s about the lifestyle. As I grew into the wrestling industry, I loved what I did in the ring, I loved entertaining people. But the lifestyle sucks, or it did. It’s much better now, in terms of there is much more accountability, stringent drug policies they have today, four day work week, guys are off three days a week. We were never off. We were gone constantly. Even then, the demands if you are a star are pretty stringent, and that’s really what my son figured out on his own. He basically said, dad to be a star, I won’t have a personal life, because even if I’m not wrestling, I’m going to be expected to be going somewhere carrying the banner of the WWE. I said well I’m glad you figured that out on your own. When his contract was up after his first five years he respectfully declined and said I’m going to do something else. My grandchildren are three and four, so they don’t know that much about wrestling. My grandchildren will know that I was a wrestler, and one of my grandchildren will know his dad was a wrestler for a while, but I don’t think we’ll have anymore children wanting to be wrestlers”, DiBiase disclosed.

Ted DiBiase has left his mark on professional wrestling, from arcade games and Nintendo games, to t-shirts and action figure toys, and even writing an autobiography titled “Every Man Has His Price”. One of his most important accolades though was being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.

“Like any Hall of Fame it should be an honor, because you are being set apart and singled out by your peers as being one of the best. When I think of the number of people who went in before me, people who I even looked up to when I was very young, and to be included in that group is a real honor and a privilege and a humbling experience, and I am very grateful,” DiBiase mused.

He has wrestled in iconic venues and arenas all over the world including Madison Square Garden, The Superdome, The Skydome, The Tokyo Dome, and Wembley Stadium. Now wrestling fans itching with nostalgia can see him in a more intimate setting.

Fans will have a chance to see ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase and legendary former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas live and in person on Saturday, December 17th, 2016 at the Kingston Gospel Temple.

While the character of the Million Dollar Man was obsessed with power and greed, the real Ted DiBiase is a philanthropist. He is a spokesperson for and board member of The Sunshine Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill and handicapped children.

“The show in Kingston is a charity to help a lot of kids, and it’s a great cause,” DiBiase concluded.

Chinlock Wrestling’s charity event is supporting Youth Diversion, the ISKA, and the Toy Drive Foundation.

The event features wrestlers like Decker Lockhart, the Barbarians, Freak Nation, CJ Felony, Catalyst, Bret MacLeod, Cecil Nyx, Ray Steele, and many more. There will also be a silent auction, meet and greet, vendor tables, and autographs.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, or $35 for a family pack of four. Tickets are available at www.chinlockwrestling.com. Doors are at 6pm and bell time is at 7pm. The Kingston Gospel Temple is located at 2295 Princess Street in Kingston Ontario.

For those living in or near the Nations Capital, Ted DiBiase will be doing a spoken word at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in Ottawa on Sunday, December 18th, 2016. The event starts at 8pm. Tickets are $20 and are available for purchase at www.yukyuks.com. The Comedy Club is located at 292 Elgin Street in Ottawa Ontario.

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