WWE Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase on managing Steve Austin, the WWE Mid-South DVD, Ted DiBiase Jr.'s departure from WWE, playing the Million Dollar Man character in and out of the ring
Ring Rust Radio with Ted DiBiase
Host: Donald Wood
Audio available at Blogtalkradio.com/ringrustradio
When asked about the WWE Mid-South DVD release and his time with the organization: Well, I think the thing that will surprise some people is that, of course I haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know what matches they have of mine, but the better part of the early part of my career I was a babyface, or "good guy", and, you know, WWE fans don’t remember me ever being a "good guy and, actually, I turned heel the first time when shooting an angle with Junkyard Dog. But I think one of the things that’s on the DVD is a match that Ric Flair and I had where I actually had been a heel for a very long time, and Bill Watts, in my opinion, his knowledge and psychology for the wrestling business are remarkable. I mean he turned me back babyface in one night. There was a scheduled match where somebody gets a shot at the World Heavyweight Champion and it ends up being me, and as this match is about to start, Dick Murdoch interrupts, and everyone knew that Dick Murdoch and me had a history where I was his protégé and he broke me into the business and brought me into Mid-South. So he comes up to me and says "hey kid, you know this is my time, this is not your time, you know." And I said "your time? Your time is way past, pal. Hit the road."
And of course he busted me open before the match starts, and so I go back into the dressing room and they tape me up and do the old spirit of ’76 thing where, I guess there isn’t going to be a World Title match tonight and then I come out to the ring and have this match and I’m bleeding and what really made it exceptional was I actually really hit myself pretty hard with the blade back when we were bleeding and the bandage actually came off and every time my heart would beat it would just shoot ha-ha. But anyway we get to the end of the match and, as a babyface; my finish was that I would do a Funk Spinning Toehold into a Figure Four Leg lock. And of course Flair’s finish has always been the Figure Four Leg lock as well so I go for this move and he kicks me off and I take this bump over the top rope to the floor and I get counted out but it’s like in the mind of the people it was the most valiant fight of my life and the whole thing with Murdoch turned me babyface and then Murdoch comes out and looks like he’s going to help me up off the floor and he picks me up and gives me a brainbuster on the floor on the outside, so it started another program. So it’s one of those matches where you just go "Oh my god, wow."
On playing the Million Dollar Man Character in and out of the ring: Well, I think everyone would agree that Vince McMahon, although he doesn’t get it right every time, he gets it right most of the time, and he is a marketing genius. The way that he has marketed wrestling is just incredible, and one of the things he told me is that one of the ways we are going to market your character, of course they did vignettes and all that stuff, but nothing spreads faster than the word of mouth. He said, so every time the people see you they should see the picture of wealth. So we’re going to fly you first class to everywhere you go, you won’t be staying in anymore Red Roof Inns, it’ll be the Hilton, Hyatt, or the Marriot, and every time you walk out of a hotel or out of an airport or out of a coliseum people will see you getting into a limousine.
Then they gave me "flash cash" is what Vince called it, which means that every time you reach into your pocket to go to buy a newspaper or a cup of coffee, people will see a roll of 100 dollar bills, and of course that could be dangerous, depending on where you are ha-ha. He said, for example, you’ll have to pick your spot, and obviously don’t go to the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan and there are 50 people in there and say you’re going to pick up a tab. But you pick your spot and when you’re having breakfast or lunch or dinner somewhere and there’s a few people in the restaurant just stand up and announce yourself as Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar man and I’m in a particularly good mood tonight and because of that, dinner’s on me, and have Virgil go around and pick up everybody’s check. He said pay for it, bring me the receipt, and then I’ll replace the money. And I said oh my gosh, you know, that was fun and of course he added onto that saying if you abuse it, you lose it. Obviously we want you to have some fun with it but don’t be going nuts, and I never did really abuse it so it was a lot of fun.
On being in the new WWE 2K14 game: Well, just have a good time. The amazing thing is, like you said, here I haven’t been in the ring physically to have a match in 20 years, and I’ll be 60 on my next birthday so I’m an over the hill guy, even though some of my contemporaries are trying to still go, and they’re almost 60 or older, but that’s another story. I’ll give you an example; it amazes me the marketing (for the game). I was in Scotland and I’m walking into their equivalent of a Walmart and I’m going to be there for a couple of weeks there’s going to be an Indy wrestling organization that I became good buddies with the owner, SWE, Scottish Wrestling Entertainment, and so this particular trip, this was a couple of years ago, and I was staying a couple of weeks so I went in to buy some things.
As I’m walking in, there’s a little boy and he’s got his grandmother by the hand and they’re walking out. And as they pass me I heard the little boy say to his grandmother, "that’s the Million Dollar Man". I almost had a heart attack. I swung around wide eyed and with my jaw dropped open and I said "you know who I am?" You know, I don’t have blonde hair anymore, I’m 20 years older, I’m wearing glasses and about 30 pounds heavier and this kid recognizes me. He says yes, you’re the million dollar man. I said how do you know me? He said one word, video games. So it’s incredible the marketing and yes I’m thrilled I’m in the new game and, as the million dollar man says, everyone’s got a price and I’ll get a pretty nice royalty check. So, of course I’m always happy to know when they put me on a new game.
On managing Steve Austin: No, I guess I’d say I don’t that anybody would say that they thought Steve Austin would become, in my opinion as a wrestling star, he’s the biggest guy we ever had. Now the Rock, of course the Rock went on to become an A list movie star and nobody’s going to deny that but in terms of worldwide recognition and popularity I don’t think anybody is going to top the Rock. But, as far as wrestling goes, yeah as a matter of fact the reason Vince put me with Steve basically because Vince, you know, he put me with several guys to more or less help groom them, give them advice and be with them what have you, and of course that rub also helps them because anyone that was put with me automatically was hated. I can remember some of the agents back at the time telling Steve he needed to spice up his TV matches and do more stuff and I told him no, don’t change anything. I said what you do is very believable, you go out there and wrestle and you’re not going to get over as fast as, say, some other guy, but the guys who get over real fast are the ones that die real fast, even though it’ll take you longer to get over you’re going to be over so solid you can do anything you want, and I think you’ll be one of the biggest stars we’ve ever had. I don’t think anybody realized it would be as big as it has been.
On being misused by the WWE: Well, you know, I was a top heel in the company for a long time and whether I was moved over to a tag team with Mike Rotunda, you know, we were a top heel team. One of the things everybody asks me is it seems like you’ve been one of the all-time greatest heels but you were never the World Champion, whether it was NWA or WWE, and they say "don’t you regret that?" And I say well, you know I guess to be able to have the career that I had and to at one point say that I was the Heavyweight Champion of the World would be great, but here’s what you gotta understand. Wrestling is a business, it is show business and wrestling championships are props. Now, it’s true that, most of the time, the guy that’s wearing the World Heavyweight title is an extremely good wrestler, but again, the first Wrestlemania I had, Wrestlemania 4, initially the thought was that I would win that tournament somehow, underhandedly, you know, screw Hogan out of it, and have that run.
Of course at the end of that run with Hogan you would lose the belt and Hogan would be champion again and then a new heel comes in, it’s kind of like you go from the top to a simmering stage where you’re still there but you’re not the top guy, but it was presented to me this way, I think it was Pat Patterson, who said, "Ted, what’s going to give you more heat? What’s going to generate more heat and what’s going to generate more money? If we do what we would normally do, and been done a thousand times, and we go to this Wrestlemania and you underhandedly win the title and you have the run with Hogan and on and on you go. Or, you don’t win and somehow you get screwed out of it and then in your arrogance you declare to the world that you don’t need the WWE’s world championship belt you’ll create your own." And I said that’s the ticket. For me to walk out every night with my own belt declaring myself champion, I mean, people would just absolutely loathe me and I’ve made more money with the Million dollar belt than I ever would have with the other one.
When talking about the Heart of David Ministry, his son's departure from WWE, Jake Roberts and more: Well, the mission statement of Heart of David is that we’re a ministry of evangelism and encouragement. Evangelism meaning that I evangelize I travel on a weekly basis to churches not only churches but I find myself doing a lot more men’s events, I talk to a lot more men and I go to a lot of prisons. I speak to people that are in recovery programs, they used to call one of them teen challenge now they call it life challenge, which has a tremendous success rate so I tell people all that time that you hear about these stories about Hollywood stars going into rehab and they keep going back to rehab and Lindsey Lohan will continue to go to rehab until it kills her, until she realizes that just going to rehab isn’t going to do it and that rehab has worked at 95 percent success. This is faith based rehab; it’s more about developing a relationship with Christ.
So that’s my heart and my passion, my goals are to see my boys come alongside me and they are in a lot of ways, even though my son decided not to re sign with WWE, it was a personal decision that I was very very proud of. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how he wasn’t used in a better way which is kind of a thorn in my side but you know, it is what it is, and it’s a funny business. But nobody will argue the point that he was one of the best hands they had. He made a life choice, he finally said look, and I realized that you’re right. The reason I didn’t want my children to be wrestlers wasn’t because I didn’t love to wrestle, it was the lifestyle and the demand on me to be away from my family. Once he had a son, that just hit him like a brick. So he’s doing great and I can’t even get into the things he’s got going but I’m just very proud of him to be honest.
But the ministry is ongoing, people ask me all the time did you see yourself becoming a pastor? And I say no not really, because I feel like the celebrity that I was allowed to have is far reaching and worldwide and it’s kind of like when you go fishing, you’ve gotta have bait and there’s different bait for different people and I guess my being a former wrestler is the bait and people who often come to see me are wrestling fans and they come to see a wrestler and a lot of them leave having met god so that’s what I want. Will I be a pastor? I don’t think I have the patience to be a pastor but it would be just like god to say okay son I’m going to teach you a little patience now why don’t you be a pastor, and if that happens then fine but I’m happy doing what I’m doing.
Again, it’s an opportunity to give back, it’s like I tell guys all the time that one day we’re all going to die and someone’s going to stand over us and give a eulogy, "how do you want to be remembered?" do you simply want to be remembered for being a world famous wrestler who made a lot of money or do you want to be remembered for somebody who was compassionate and took the opportunity to count your blessings and try to give back, and it’s what I did to change my life, I put the needs of my family and my wife and my kids ahead of my own needs at a time in my life where, had I not chosen that path, I could’ve ended up like a lot of my buddies who unfortunately aren’t with us anymore. And I’ll tell you what I’m really proud of Jake, I’ve been with Jake since we both started, I’ve been down the dirt roads with Jake and I kept waiting to pick up the paper or get the call that Jake had been found dead somewhere and the guy’s just doing a remarkable job and I’m just really really proud of him and I just hope he keeps going.
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