Ted Dibiase has been one of those wrestlers who’s had success everywhere he went throughout his entire career. But to most, he will be best remembered as the “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, the overbearing, cocky, wealthy snob who was hated by fans in the 80s and into the 90s.
Ted is the son of wrestling legend “Iron” Mike Dibiase, who is one of the few ever in the business to die IN THE RING of a heart attack, witnessed by Ted himself. But that didn’t scare him enough to not enter the business and become a huge success. Ted was a hot-fire babyface in the St. Louis territory, Bill Watts’ Mid-South/UWF, All Japan, and more. In the WWF, Ted was the first WWF North American Champion in the late 70s, a precursor to the Intercontinental Title, but his second run would be his legacy.
Ted Dibiase, in the ring, was one of the absolute finest technical wrestlers in the sport. As The Million Dollar Man, he added a successful gimmick to that, a new layer to his legend. Ted Dibiase came in with his bodyguard Virgil, and WWF filmed vignettes of him using his money and power to bully others and do things that average “nickle and dime peons” as he called them, could not do. His trademark laugh and modified cobra clutch finisher, the Million Dollar Dream, will always be remembered.
Ted had a number of memorable angles in the WWF, but the biggest would have to be in 1988 when he set his sights on becoming WWF Champion. He orchestrated a plan to take the belt from Hulk Hogan, who had it for over three years at the time. Ted’s attempt at “buying” the belt from Hulkster failed, so he had to be crafty. First, Ted purchased the services of Andre the Giant from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Andre got a near flash-pin and came half a second away from beating Hogan in their Wrestlemania III match PLUS he was the most feared man in the business. Collectively, they were called The Mega Bucks. On February 5, 1988, Hogan and Andre had their historic rematch on a special edition of the Main Event, which to this day stands as the most watched pro wrestling tv show in North American history. Dibiase paid Dave Hebner’s twin brother Earl to screw Hogan out of the title. After the match, Andre handed Ted Dibiase the championship. The next week on TV, WWF President Jack Tunney vacated the belt due to the controversy of the hand-over, which led to the Wrestlemania IV tournament. Little known fact: Ted actually worked a couple of house shows as WWF Champion despite not officially being recognized as one. Ted would go on to make the finals of the tournament and main event the show in a losing effort to Randy Savage.
Distraught after the Hogan feud and his inability to capture the WWF Title, Ted Dibiase created his own championship to dwarf the WWF one; a belt that cost a million dollars to make, covered in diamonds and stones: The Million Dollar Title. Ted was the first wrestler I can remember creating his own belt, something that would be emulated by Taz and Booker T in the future. To this day, while other wrestlers have fought for the title, only Ted and Virgil have held it.
The creation of the Million Dollar Title:
Even though Wrestlemania IV was the peak of his career, Ted would remain as a main eventer and upper card heel until his in-ring retirement in 1993. Ted had notable feuds with Hercules, Jake Roberts, The Big Bossman, Dusty Rhodes, and finally his own bodyguard Virgil, which was a rebellion angle that had been teased since both entered the WWF. After his singles run, Ted teamed with I.R.S. to form the tag team Money Incorporated and went on to hold the WWF Tag Team Titles on two occassions and rekindled his feud with Hulk Hogan in a tag match at Wrestlemania IX. Ted would go on to feud with Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid until he retired.
After a brief stint as a commentator, Ted started his infamous Million Dollar Corporation mega-stable in the mid-90s. Dibiase would manage a massive group of heels composed of his former partner I.R.S., King Kong Bundy, Nikolai Volkoff, Tatanka, Bam Bam Bigelow, Kama the Supreme Fighting Machine, Sid, and finally, the Ringmaster, who would go on to become Stone Cold Steve Austin. Looking back, the two most memorable angles during the Million Dollar Corporation’s run in the mid-90s would be the Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at Summerslam 94 and the main event of Wrestlemania XI between Ted’s Bam Bam Bigelow and NFL legend Lawrence Taylor.
Ted would leave the WWF in 1996 and go to WCW to play the role of the financial backer of the NWO (as if Hogan didn’t have enough money himself). He turned babyface and managed the Steiners for a while before leaving the company. He’s made a few appearances here and there for WWE in the 2000s, but his legacy now is with his sons Ted Dibiase Jr. and Brett Dibiase, both of whom are in WWE. Dibiase was immortalized as the main entrant in the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame. But with or without that honor, Ted Dibiase’s important place in the business can never be taken away from him.
Defining Match Of The WrestleMania Era: Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV
Dibiase has had a plethora of downright amazing technical matches with everybody ranging from Brad Armstrong to Hulk Hogan. Dibiase had great chemistry with guys like Jake Roberts, Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, and his own bodyguard Virgil. The match I’ve chosen here is Dibiase’s biggest career match in the main event of Wrestlemania IV from the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City against Macho Man Randy Savage in the finals of the WWF Championship Tournament.