I recently had the honor of an interview with Ted DiBiase...formerly known as The Million Dollar Man to wrestling fans everywhere. He was the very first WWF North American Heavyweight Champion, a 3-time WWF Tag-Team Champion and the 1988 King of the Ring and was inducted into the prestige WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
This particular interview was especially interesting and an honor for me as I remember watching Mr. DiBiase wrestle, on a regular basis, in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early 1980's. I grew up in a family of loyal wrestling fans so a lot of my childhood memories include professional wrestling.
Me: Mr. DiBiase, you were raised by a family of wrestlers, as your mother and your father, "Iron" Mike DiBiase were also in the business. Was this an influence on your choice to become a professional wrestler?
Ted DiBiase: Yes, my dad had a huge influence on my life. He was a good man, well respected and regarded as one of the best. Not only was he an athlete, but a great dad as well. He didn't want me to wrestle, but would have supported me.
Me: What is one of your most memorable occasions as a professional wrestler:
Ted DiBiase: It's hard to choose one time or one match but probably the first year they introduced me as The Million Dollar Man. Prior to that, Wrestlemania 3 put us on the map with a world record attendance record and right after that event is when I came on the scene. In 1988, they did an event in Indianapolis and the main event was a match between Hulk Hogan and Andres the Giant. The storyline was that The Million Dollar Man could buy anything, including the World Title, which I did. To be a part of that night and to be a huge part of that event was very special to me. That was the night that launched my career.
Me: Wow...I bet the fans were excited! Speaking of fans, is there a particular "fan moment" that stands out?
Ted DiBiase: Yes, (laughing), when I became a bad guy, before the Million Dollar Man, my job was to get people to hate me. Little kids and older people love wrestling and I remember being in Jackson, Mississippi where this little old lady would always point her finger at me and shout at me. I would make a point to rile her up and have fun with it. Everyone knew who she was because she was extremely vocal and always out of her chair. During one match, I rolled out of the ring and backed up to the barricade that happened to be right where she was sitting. She immediately stuck me in the rear with her hat pin...I jumped straight up and yelled. When I realized it was her, I tried really hard not to laugh because she is someone I had been dogging for months!
Me: That's hilarious! I guess she got you that night! Now, we all know that The Million Dollar Man was a persona, created for the fans...is there any part of you that was or still is The Million Dollar Man?
Ted DiBiase: No, nothing. Obviously the character was over the top and all about money. Everything I'm not today. Especially being a minister, I'm completely the opposite. Vince McMahon described my character as the man everyone hates and that includes me. Well...maybe the laugh. His laugh is a very extended version of my natural laugh!
Me: Are you still in regular contact with Vince McMahon?
Ted DiBiase: In 2005, I went back to work behind the scenes and wasn't comfortable so it didn't last long. I am, however, on a Legend's Contract and a group of us go back to make cameo appearances and I see him then.
Me: Of all the wrestlers you've worked with and interacted with, are there any that you had a true friendship with? Even off camera?
Ted DiBiase: Yes, I've always had a really good friendship with the Funk family and have known them since I was young. My dad and their dad were good friends and Terry Funk gave me a lot of advice in my career.
There are always a couple of guys that you bond with as you spend so much time on the road. Even if they aren't around for awhile, you always pick up where left off...it's the nature of the beast. Nikita Koloff was a good friend as we shared similar stories and both became Christians and Ministers. One tag team partner, I.R.S., was a good friend. Tully Blanchard as well. A lot of wrestlers came from West Texas, such as Tito Santana, who was a good friend from college.
Me: If you could go back in time and do it all over, would you have made the same choice to become a professional wrestler?
Ted DiBiase: Yes, I would do things differently but as they say hindsight is always 20/20. Most of all I would change my life choices...making a point to prioritize things, like family time and not put myself into situations where I would get into trouble. The WWF was growing so fast and we were almost like rock starts...it was always the next show, next town, next girl, etc...When you're surrounded by those things, it can get the best of you but the actual work itself I loved.
Me: You had the honor of being inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010. Is this one or your proudest accomplishments?
Ted DiBiase: It's always a special moment to be recognized by the industry and your peers.
Me: Do you ever miss the wrestling industry?
Ted DiBiase: No, I had a great run and it will always be a part of my life. It doesn't define who I am and I'm very happy with what I'm doing now so I don't live in the past.
Me: I understand that all three of your sons have been involved with the wrestling industry. How do you feel about that?
Ted DiBiase: All have moved on and that makes Dad very happy! Ted Jr. had a five year contract but basically came to a place when he realized that to be a star would take away from his family time. It wouldn't be fair to his family. Of course I supported them although I didn't want them to do it, but as a dad, you gotta let it go!
Me: You have definitely come a long way from The Million Dollar Man and the WWF. You are an Ordained Minister, an author and live a very different lifestyle. Any regrets?
Ted DiBiase: Obviously there are things I would have done differently but as long as I've learned from my mistakes and I have that's what's important. I was 38 years old when I really grew up and became a man with maturity, integrity and a devotion to God and my family. Up until that moment my job was my priority. If I would have listened to my Dad I would have prioritized God, family and then job but to some degree we all have to make those choices at one time or another.
Me: Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me, I look forward to seeing you at Comicpalooza...and telling my sons about you!
Ted DiBiase: You're welcome...I've done a few comic cons in the past but this is the first time in Houston begin a guest for my wrestling career. I look forward to it!
during Memorial Day Weekend!