Wrestling superstar and WWE Hall of Famer “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase visited L.P. Frans Stadium on Saturday at the Hickory Crawdads game against the Kannapolis Intimidators.
During his time at the game, O-N-E Sports Editor Cody Dalton spoke to DiBiase and interviewed him on a variety of topics.
Q: We’re here at a minor league baseball game. Do you have any ties to baseball? I know you played football collegiately.
DiBiase: “I played high school and college football. A scholarship in football put me through college. It’s funny because I was telling the young lady that picked me up at the airport today that although football and wrestling became my favorite sports as a kid, I loved baseball. What happened to me was in my early years my biological parents divorced, and I was raised between the ages of 2-6 by my grandmother. She lived in a very small town. As a little kid starting to play baseball, I was left-handed. I couldn’t find a glove for a left-handed person. It was so rare. Back then, if you started eating with your left hand or writing with your left hand, a lot of times they would force you to be right-handed. I basically taught myself to throw a baseball right-handed because I couldn’t find a glove for a lefty. I was never a great baseball player, but as far as loving the game, actually I’ve always loved the game. I’m from Omaha, Neb. — the home of the College World Series. I’ve lived in Mississippi for 28 years. Mississippi State went to the College World Series. I just got though watching that. There is a part of me that has always been a baseball fan. I’m not a great collector of autographs, but two of my prized possessions are an autographed football helmet signed by Walter Peyton and the other one is a personally autographed baseball from Mickey Mantle. I got that because I played in his celebrity golf tournament. It wasn’t too long before he passed away. That’s a prize for me.”
Q: Tell me a little bit about the birth of the “Million Dollar Man,” how that idea sort of came about and how it took off.
DiBiase: “I wished I could take credit for the idea, but it was Vince McMahon’s personal idea. As a matter of fact, the way it was posed to me, and not by Vince, but by Vince’s right-hand man at the time, Pat Patterson. He told me when Vince was out of the room that if Vince were going to be a character himself, this is it. This was his idea. If he were going to put on the tights and get in the ring, he would be this character. What’s funny about that is after I left and Vince started involving himself in the show, he more or less became that character. He isn’t the maniacal ‘Million Dollar Man’ in real life, but in real life he is the ‘Million Dollar Man’ or more like the ‘Billion Dollar Man.’ It was his idea. They thought that I was the guy for it because Vince thought I was very articulate, I spoke very well and interviewed well. They had seen matches that I had done in what wrestling terminology calls a ‘heel’ or bad guy. I always carried myself that way. I would always talk down to people because people hate that. It’s almost like you carry yourself in such a way that when you are looking at people, you are looking at them like they are trash. That was just part of the personality I tried to project as a bad guy. Vince thought that was perfect. The one thing everyone hates is someone who is filthy rich, and by virtue of their wealth, thinks they can buy anyone or anything. I started laughing because I couldn’t stand someone like that myself. That was the essence of the character. In an effort to market that character, one of the marketing things they did was make the public think I was really rich. Every time the public saw me, I got off of a plane and out of a first-class seat. I was going to be flying first class from now on. Every time I left an airport, I was picked up by a limousine, arrived at a hotel and the building. I got limousine service every day and wasn’t staying at the Red Roof Inn anymore. I’ll be at the Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott. I laugh and tell everyone it was a tough job and that someone had to do it. It was amazing. You talk about going from territorial wrestling and driving to all of these towns we used to go to and do business to becoming part of this organization that has become global, but at a time when it was becoming what it is today. I was given an unbelievable opportunity, and I’ve always been very grateful for that.”
Q: Talk about two of the “larger than life” guys you were able to work with in Andre the Giant and Steve Austin before he became “Stone Cold.” Talk about those two guys, working with them and seeing their rise.
DiBiase: “People ask me about Andre all of the time. I’d known Andre even before I was wrestling. Andre was in the wrestling business and was booked out of New York all of the time. What New York did with Andre was send him to all of these individual territories. He would go to a territory and spend a week or two maybe. Once he got done with all of the territories, he’d start all over. The first time I saw Andre, I was still a college student playing football at West Texas State. I met Andre. I took him out after a show to a local sports bar where college kids went. The waitress comes up and asks him what he’ll have. He asked if they had a trash can. She said they had a lot of them. He told them to empty a trash can, clean it out a little bit and feel it with beer and ice. She looked at me, and I told her to do it. It was incredible. That was my first experience with Andre. You figured a guy that big could sit there and drink beer. I never saw him stagger. Not one time. He was a wonderful guy. He was a personal, gentle giant. As for his involvement with me and my career, when I became this “Million Dollar Man” character, the first major story or angle we did was telling the world I was going to purchase the world title by having Andre wrestle Hulk Hogan again and beat him. That set up Wrestlemania IV. We went all over the country doing tag team matches — me and Andre versus Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage or a number of guys. We call that a ‘rub.’ The ‘rub’ I got by being with Andre really elevated me and kicked my career into overtime. I have a lot of time and a big heart for Andre. I miss the guy very much.”
“At the end of my active wrestling career, I was now managing and commentating when Steve came along. Basically, Vince gave him to me more or less to help groom him, share with him some things and help him along. I remember telling Steve that he was getting a lot of advice from agents to do more and there needs to be more action in his matches. I told him no and that he needed to keep doing what he was doing. He was unique, and what he did was very believable. It took him longer to ‘get over’ or be accepted as a star, but once he got there, he was there and would always be there. Then, he could do whatever he wanted. He did what I encouraged and told him to do, but no one in their wildest dreams could ever imagine that he would become as big a star as he became. I can’t take any credit for that. The whole ‘Stone Cold’ thing was all him and his doing. I’ll say this. I wasn’t crazy about the ‘Attitude Era.’ He is a great guy and performer. Where I drew the line was guzzling beer, flipping everyone the bird and cussing like a sailor. I don’t want my kids looking up to a guy like that. I don’t want that to be my son or daughter’s hero. Although I like Steve, we are friends, and he has had a phenomenal career, but that is the only thing I don’t like. If you are a bad guy, that is great. That’s something I’d ask Vince and Stephanie McMahon. Is that someone you’d want your kids admiring? Obviously, they’d say no.”
Q: I notice you are wearing your WWE Hall of Fame ring. Is there anybody that you can think of that isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame right now that deserves a spot in there?
DiBiase: “There are guys I believe from the era just before me. Terry Funk is in the Hall of Fame. He actually did wrestle for the WWE. I don’t know if Dick Murdock ever did. There is a Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame that isn’t associated with the WWE. Dick Murdock would be one of those guys. I was trying to think of anyone off of the top of my head.”
Q: I know a lot of people throw out “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s name to the Hall of Fame. Do you think he deserves to be in there?
DiBiase: “Absolutely. I think that will happen. I really do. I don’t know when, but I think sooner rather than later. I know that he and Vince had a falling out. No one really knows for sure what it was all about, but for the longest time, he was never to mentioned. You never saw his face. You didn’t see him on any books or magazines. He had such a vital role in the beginning of what the WWE is today. I think that will happen. I think that wound is healed. Sooner rather than later, I think he will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I think that his brother will induct him.”