|Posted on January 25, 2016 at 5:15 PM|
The hosts of Ring Rust Radio – Donald Wood, Mike Chiari and Brandon Galvin – recently had the opportunity to interview wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Fame inductee, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Widely regarded as one of the best heels in the history of the business, DiBiase held several championships during his time in WWF, won the 1988 King of the Ring, and even headlined the first ever SummerSlam event, tagging with Andre the Giant against The Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage). DiBiase shares his experiences in the Royal Rumble match, his thoughts on Hulk Hogan, his time in WCW, thoughts on the Ultimate Warrior and more.
Ring Rust Radio: The Royal Rumble is approaching fast, and you’ve had some very memorable moments at the pay-per-view during your career. What were your thoughts on the match as a performer and what are some of the moments you remember most from your Royal Rumble appearances?
Ted DiBiase: I guess probably the most memorable Royal Rumble for me would have to have been the year that I went in first and stayed almost to the end of it. I was there for almost an hour and this was back before I was a minister. The funny part is, we were on the road all time back then, and we had wrestled somewhere the day before the Rumble. So we were going to the Rumble the day of, and I remember thinking, “Gosh it’s just the Rumble.” In other words, it's a glorified 20 guys over-the-top rope match and so not too difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of preparation for the Rumble compared to how you would prepare for a match where it’s you and another guy. I actually had a little bit too much to drink and woke up with a hangover the day of the Rumble and I thought it won’t be too bad. So now I am at the building and Pat Patterson walks up to me and says, “Don’t eat too much, Ted.” I asked him why and he said, “You know you are going in first?” I said, “Yeah I know,” to which he said, “You are not going to be the last in the ring, but will be pretty close.” I was like, “Oh my God,” but I managed to make it through it. Actually being in the ring was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because it let me sweat everything out. It's just funny how we can operate the way we did back then and to be honest with you, I never did things like that. I never went to the ring drunk; I never was on drugs, nothing like that. Business is business and I take it very serious. That was funny to me because of all the times for me to drink too much and then get told that I am going to be in the match for almost an hour. You live and you learn, right?
Ring Rust Radio: One person who was a big part of your character and your career in WWF was Virgil. He seems to be a pretty polarizing figure with wrestling fans nowadays, but what’s your relationship like with him now, and looking back, how do you regard your time working with him?
Ted DiBiase: You know the thing about Virgil, or his real name is Mike Jones, when we were together he was never a problem. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, and he was always on time. Of course, you know you lay the foundation down when the relationship begins, and I think Virgil understood at least what his job was and he knew where his place was in means of the pecking order. He never got out of line and there was never any real problem with the guy. I guess the nicest way to say it is sometimes you didn't think that the elevator went to the top floor. He wasn’t the brightest guy, you know? I always got along with him though. We would do our thing on the road and then I would see him in three days or a week, whatever it was at the time. I didn't really socialize a lot with him so to speak, but we had a great working relationship and we were friends. I don't know anything about Mike's personal life now. I knew back then that he lived at home with his mom, and post wrestling, according to him, he was a substitute schoolteacher and taught math. I'm not sure about that either or sure about any of that. Here is the thing where he really hurt himself and our relationship: The guys got to make a living, and I understand that. He was struggling and he had gone to some comic con events to do autograph signings. He started doing that long before I ever started doing it because when I got out of wrestling I went right into this ministry that I've been doing. I was spending most of my time speaking at churches and speaking in schools and things of that nature. I didn't do a lot of autograph signings, but I found out when I started doing a couple days, is that what he would do is call these promoters and say, “Would you like to book Ted and I,” and they would say sure. He paid his own way and he would pick up his own hotel. What he would do is he would go or wait like a week or two weeks out and then call them and say, “Something has come up and Ted won’t be able to make it, but I will still be there.” I was oblivious to this and never knew what he was doing. It was just one of those things that I found out about later on. Then when I started doing more of the autograph signings and events like that, some of these promoters would say, “We got a call from Virgil so that works fine.” What he was doing was going on my website and looking at where I was booked and tried to add himself to the deal. I just had to put my foot down say, “Look Mike, I like you, I am more than happy to work with you, but if I think it's right and that you should be there with me to do this then I'll let you know. Do not call these promoters and try to invite yourself to these events, you can’t just do that.” I think that's what hurt him. I know somebody told me that he actually set the table up in Grand Central Station, is that true? I just couldn’t believe that, it's just unbelievable. I do know this: no matter where he does go, wherever he sets up a table, there's a big banner behind him and it’s a picture both of us. He is advertising Million Dollar Man and Virgil, but the Million Dollar Man is no longer there with him. It’s just sad, but I don't wish Mike any ill at all. You sometimes reap what you sow. You do things the wrong way and it comes back to bite you. I really think that is what happened to him.
Ring Rust Radio: Like many of the top heels in WWF during the late-1980’s and early-1990’s, Hulk Hogan was one of your greatest rivals. He’s obviously been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. What are your feelings on everything that’s happened with him lately, and what was your working relationship with him like over the years?
Ted DiBiase: I had a great working relationship with Terry from the very beginning. The first match he ever had in Madison Square Garden was with me where I was the baby face he was the heel. He thanked me that night and said, “I owe you one.” Years later he's become this big star, and I come into the WWF and the first time we laid eyes on each other we shook hands and he said, “It's payback time.” I had a great working relationship with him, and work wise I think a lot of people don't give them enough credit. If you watch the match that he had with the Ultimate Warrior when he put him over and made him the champion, it’s the best match I've ever seen the Warrior have. That was all because of Hulk Hogan. Recently he has been through a lot of stuff. The whole deal with his family and the divorce, but I will tell you right now: he's the guy who tried to hold that family together. He did everything he could to make it work. This most recent thing is just a bunch of garbage. Hulk Hogan or Terry Bollea, is no more racist than you or I. As a matter-of-fact when the news broke, the next day I was at an autograph signing with Ron Simmons and he looked at me and said, “I’ve known that guy ever since I was in the business and what a bunch of baloney.” We have all said things in anger in a moment that we don't mean. Especially when you are in a situation where you think it's safe and certainly you don't think you're being recorded. Not to mention the fact that it was how many years ago. I understand and I think that the WWE is in a situation where we live in this age of political correctness, which I absolutely hate, but there are some things I guess you just have to do. WWE is not owned by Vince McMahon anymore, it's a publicly held company and I think that they didn't have a choice in doing what they did. I hope at some point in the future that could be rescinded because he doesn't deserve it, he really doesn't deserve it. Anybody black or white that knows him personally for any length of time can tell you he is in no way racist.
Ring Rust Radio: You went to WCW in a pretty high-profile spot in 1996 as the fourth member of the nWo. What were the major contributing factors in your decision to make the leap to WCW at that time, and how do you feel about the way you were utilized there?
Ted DiBiase: When I left the WWE then I wasn’t unhappy with the company at all. This goes back to March 1992, post WrestleMania 8. I called home and my wife confronted me with adultery. That was a game changer, that's when Ted took a long hard look at his life and all that I was doing. I turned back to the faith that I've been raised in, that being my Christian faith. I made probably the best choice of my life right then. I could have tried to lie my way out of that deal and all that would have done was eventually blow up my face. I threw myself on the mercy of the court, so to speak, and I really thought that my wife was going to leave me. If I had been her, I would have. Her faith was such that she was willing and this is hard to explain, but it was like, “I don't really want to do this right now, right now I’d like to hit you in the head with a brick, but I serve a God of forgiveness and of restoration.” Those were her words to me. I told her I am going to try, and she said, “I think you really want to change and I think you really want to be a man of God. I'm just not sure you're man enough.” So she challenged me, and I took the challenge. I say that to bring you to where I was. When I went back to work for Vince after I had left in 1993, I realized that I have got to separate myself from this environment. Because if I don't separate myself from the environment, it’s going to suck me back in again. Back then, we were all like rock stars. It was the next town, the next show, the next party, the next girl, and on and on and on. Whether it's football, basketball, baseball, movie stars or rock stars, it's the same old story. If you have a drinking problem, stay out of the bar. If you have a drug problem you stay off the street corner and get away. So when I went back to work for Vince, I went back to work as a ring-side manager managing talent and a color commentator. That did not require me to be on the road. The only time I was on the road was when I would go to the TVs which back then were done once every three weeks. I would go to the studio in Stanford for voiceovers once a week, the pay-per-views, and that was it. Vince decided that he wanted to utilize me, so he put me with Sid Vicious, Steve Austin and a lot of other guys. That rub as we call it, was to help elevate those guys at the time and I understood that. Where I think I failed was that when he decided to put me back on the road, the road for me was danger. If I stay out here long it’s going to suck me back in again. I just can't do this. Vince has a business to run and he is going to put me where I'll best serve his purpose. He's not interested my personal problems, and so instead of going to him which I should've done, my contract was coming up so I wrote a letter basically saying I would like to renegotiate this. The word had already gotten out that there was a possibility that I was talking to WCW. What I found out from the WCW is that I could go to the WCW on a guaranteed contract and I would only be utilized as a manager and commentator. Which meant I was safe because I was not going to be on the road all the time. That's basically why I made the jump to WCW. It really wasn't for any other reason. I just chose basically my family; to save my marriage and to save myself from destruction. You look at the WWE today and there are a lot of things in place now to help that. They are only on the road four days a week and they probably have one of the most stringent drug testing policies going. That wasn't the case at the time. So I go to the WCW, and I’m brought in as part of the nWo and to be the spokesperson for them. I can't be the Million Dollar Man, so Hogan said, “Well, we will just call you Billionaire Ted.” Great idea but you know, I got there and I just have to say it was probably the most ill run organization I've ever seen. As good as the ratings were, they were the best wrestling ratings ever. We were actually competing with NFL football, which is insane. The biggest angle in wrestling was the battle between the two companies and everybody knew it. There were nights that we would be getting ready to go on air live and they still were trying to figure out what they're going to do in the last segment. A lot of the guys that moved over had this creative control clause in their contracts. In other words, if you asked me to do something that I think is detrimental to my career then I have the right to refuse. Well that's like who is running the show? I remember Eric Bischoff one night after a show having a beer at the bar said that he is going run Vince of the business. I literally laughed in his face. I’ll be honest with you, and I don't have any hard feelings towards Eric, but to be honest with you, I don’t know how he got the job. He didn't create any new talent and the only talent that he could take some credit for creating was Goldberg. Goldberg had charisma and Goldberg had that look. It's hard not to get over it when they feed you everybody that's ever come down the pike and you beat them all. The war was going on at that time still because Ted Turner had basically bought all the talent created by Vince McMahon, but there was no new talent. So what did Vince do? He created new stars and thus the Attitude Era came into existence. I wasn't a big fan of the Attitude Era based on my faith and some of the sleazy stuff they did. A lot of it was extremely entertaining and funny, but a lot of fans’ parents would say that we can’t watch it anymore. Vince would tell you he was pulling out all the plugs and doing whatever he could do to survive and I can understand that. Those three years at WCW is probably the worst years of my career in terms of not being happy at all. The best part was that guaranteed contract. When Eric saw how my gimmick was getting over then all of a sudden he's involved himself. He is not the announcer now he is part of the nWo. He slowly is putting himself in that position of spokesperson, and so I just went to him and said, “Eric look, this is what you hired me to do and if you want to do it great, but for the last couple weeks I've been walking out there, standing in the corner, like a trophy holding Hogan’s belt. I'm not Virgil, and I did spend 20 years of my life building a reputation and a career to go out being the Hulk’s belt bearer. If you want the job great and if that's the case then send me home or give me another job to do.” He said okay so I went home and collected my check until they brought me back. When they did, they brought me back is as babyface manager for the Steiner brothers. It didn’t make any sense, but by that time to be honest with you, I didn't care anymore. When that contract was over, I was basically out of the wrestling industry because by that time I had started going to do a lot of speaking and getting my ministry up and rolling.
Ring Rust Radio: Closing thoughts on the Ultimate Warrior?
Ted DiBiase: Do I have any regrets? I have one to be honest and it’s going back when the DVD was done about the Ultimate Warrior, the Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. All things that were said on that DVD were said for a reason. Nobody could understand the guy. I grew up in the business and it was like a family and you come into the family and become a part of the family. It seemed like he never wanted to be a part of the family. He was one of those guys with a lot of charisma, unbelievable body and obviously respected his work ethic in terms of his shape. In the ring, unless he had someone leading him, he was helpless. He never really got any better at that and that's okay. A lot of guys are like that, but they were appreciative of it. That's what everybody felt like was that he doesn't appreciate the help we were giving him. When the WWE offered the hand and said let's bury the hatchet I thought that was great. I am a minister and I preach forgiveness all time. The night of his induction, when he said my wife is here, my children are here, my mother is, but my father is not here because he abandoned us when I was very young. That really told me something. There is the wound that made Jim Hellwig angry. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but something about the clotheslines I gave him or something. All those guys wanted us to do is pack our bags and leave, but that really wasn't the truth. He was referring back to our Mid-South days. I started to walk backstage to say, “Look, I want to shake your hand and congratulate you,” but I didn't. The only reason I didn't was because this is his night and I'm probably the last person he wants to see and there will be another opportunity, but there was no other opportunity. That's probably the one thing that that I really regret because I didn't have the opportunity to shake his hand and say let's just forget this thing. So I'm glad that I'm doing this interview with you guys so I can have the opportunity to let all the fans know that. There were lots of reasons why Jim wasn't liked, we all have our problems, and you can’t hold a grudge. I applaud the company for reaching out to him and that my only regret is that I personally didn’t have the opportunity to make amends with him. I want to throw that in here so everybody would hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.