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" The Gravel Pit "
Ted Dibiase Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Feb 3, 2003, 19:00
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Be sure to check out Retro Rob's review of WCW WrestleWar 1991, which contains the most disturbing ending to a Wargames match I've ever seen. Also, check out Dr. Tom's review one of my favorite movies of the past year, The Bourne Identity, which has just been released on DVD.
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“The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase Shoot Interview (2000)
Before the shoot stars, we get a clipped version of Dibiase beating Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy of the Freebirds to become the second ever UWF champion. After that, we get more footage of the Freebirds-Dibiase feud.
The first question, for a change, is what it was like growing up in a wrestling family. Ted compares it to being an army brat and talks about how his late stepfather, Iron Mike Dibiase was in the business. He considers him his father instead of his stepfather considering how close they were and because he never knew his real father. Amongst the places he’s lived were Amarillo, Portland, Omaha, and Arizona. They mainly shuttled back and forth between Omaha and Amarillo because Iron Mike was from Nebraska and he did his best business, money-wise, against the Funks in Texas. Iron Mike died in the ring when Ted was in the ninth grade in Texas. After that, he moved back to Arizona before getting a football scholarship to West Texas State, which has produced more wrestlers than most wrestling schools.
Did he want to be a wrestler growing up? Yes, as he always idolized his dad and wanted to be like him, but Iron Mike didn’t want him getting into the business. He feels the same way about his sons today because of the personal price you pay by being in it. He talks about how many people he knows in the business have either died or lost everything they had because of the business and some of the baggage that comes with it, like alcoholism and drug abuse. “When you’re in the spotlight, you don’t go find trouble, it comes and finds you.” He talks about how success in the business is based on having the right look and being at the right place at the right time. He relates the story of a huge guy who had been a sumo wrestler and had everything necessary to succeed but the timing was bad because he was discovered while Yokozuna was on top of the WWF.
Iron Mike’s death- He had a huge cholesterol buildup in his heart and a propensity for heart disease anyway due to bad genetics, so it wasn’t the match that killed him. It was still devastating for his dad to die so suddenly
West Texas State- He played alongside such wrestlers as Tully Blanchard and Tito Santana. After graduating from high school, he was about to sign a letter of intent to play for the University of Arizona but he happened to catch an ad for a wrestling show held by the Funk family. He went there and hung out with Dory Funk Sr., Terry Funk (another West Texas football player), and Dory Funk Jr. Of the three, he was always closer with Terry than the other two and Terry had suggested that he go on a recruiting to West Texas and he ended up there.
Sidenote- Other notable West Texas State players include Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham, Bruiser Brody, and Stan Hansen.
He talks about how Tito Santana (Merced Soleis) had been drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and that he was released in the last set of cuts that year because they had to keep a lesser player around because they were already stuck paying him too much anyway. Eventually, Tully got him into the business.
What was Tully like back then? Good athlete, good quarterback, etc. When he wrestled against Tully while working for the Funks, he started cutting promos about their history as teammates but how things were different in the ring than on the football field. He also starts talking about how Tully held quite a few records at West Texas, including the most interceptions ever in a game. He jokes that Tully got so distraught about how bad he sucked then that he attempted to kill himself but that someone intercepted the bullet.
Who trained him? The Funks mentored him all throughout his career and he puts Terry Funk over heavily for his intuition into how things were going to change in the business. He says that Terry correctly predicted that things were going to go national, which I can believe because he and Dory Jr. sold the Amarillo territory several years before the other groups went national and destroying the territory system.
Coming into the Mid-South territory- Dick Murdoch got Cowboy Bill Watts to bring him into the territory. Dick had told him that he needed to wrestle there to decide if he really wanted to be in the business. Considering the NCAA had just changed the rules on amateur eligibility so that he continue playing football even if he was paid to do another sport, he took Dick up on his offer during the Summer break in classes. He loved working there so much that he didn’t go back to college when the Summer was up.
Dick Murdoch- He was great but he’ll never get the credit that he deserves. He could be clowning around in his matches yet still be drawing enough heat to nearly get killed by the fans. His style reminded him a lot of Iron Mike’s, as well as vBruiser Bob Sweetan.
Killer Karl Kox- His first main event angle ever was against Kox in Mid-South. Kox mentored Murdoch at one time.
He then goes into a commentary about how you only learn the mechanics of the business at a wrestling school but you learn how to work in the ring. He doesn’t like how some people today will map out their matches move-for-move beforehand. He liked going out and just knowing the finish, and on special occasions having certain spots called for the beginning of the match.
Harley Race- “Harley will always have a special place in my heart” not only for being a great friend but also because he was the guy who ran to ringside to try and save Iron Mike when he had his in-ring heart attack. Harley told him once that he had “it” and that he’d try and help him become as good as he could be and tried to make him into the NWA champion.
The NWA championship- The Funks, Bob Geigel (the promoter in Kansas City), and Harley Race all wanted to make him the champion but politics within the NWA board of directors scuttled that. Instead, they decreed that Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair were going to get the title and that there wasn’t going to be a third young champion at the time. The plan was going to be that the three of them were going to trade the title at some point, but instead it became Dusty beating Race, Flair beating Dusty, Race beating Flair, and Flair regaining the belt from Race. He says that Dusty heavily campaigned to become the champion while he wanted his work to speak louder than politics.
Georgia- He came in just as Ole Anderson left and Robert Fuller (Tennessee Lee, Colonel Parker) had the book. Fuller was okay as a booker but, coming from great bookers like Bill Watts and the Funks, he could see that Fuller wasn’t doing great. Fuller had also brought his own crew in and pushed them, and also “pushed” Dibiase by teaming with him occasionally because Jim Barnett decreed that Dibiase get a push. “I’ve probably gone down in history as the guy who made more champions than winning championships.”
What are some memories of teaming with Fuller and Junkyard Dog? They were trying to get Georgia hot again so they brought in JYD from Mid-South. Despite JYD being a huge draw with both black and white crowds, they still never regained the magic they had a few years before that. He then talks about how the business goes in cycles and that there’s not much you can do when it’s on a downswing. He enjoyed being in Georgia, though, because he wasn’t stuck in the car all the time like in Mid-South or Amarillo.
His original run in the WWF- Around 1979, he went to New York for the first time along with Tito Santana. Because of the exposure he’d gotten in St. Louis, he was brought in as the first North American champion. He feels that Vince McMahon Sr. liked his work but that he didn’t have the right look for the territory (he looked like a green kid while the main draws for years were huge musclebound guys). As a result, he jobbed the title to Pat Patterson when he came into the territory. Patterson then “won” the tournament in Rio for the Intercontinental title and the North American belt was never seen again. (Vince Sr. had found out that Bill Watts had a North American title so he changed the name.)
Wrestling Hulk Hogan in Madison Square Garden- He was in the TV taping when Vince Sr. saw Hogan for the first time and “I almost saw the dollar signs in his eyes.” He was on the way out of the territory, so he offered to job to Hogan and Hogan told him that he owed him big.
Mid-South again- The territory would cool off every so often but it never really got to “death” levels. Around that time, the Funks and everyone else insisted that he go to Georgia and get national TV exposure so that they could make him the NWA champion. He met his wife while he was in Georgia. In order to get some heat on the Freebirds and to get a storyline going for him, they had the Freebirds drop him on his head and then made a huge show about putting him in the hospital, where he stayed for a week despite being perfectly fine.
The highlight of Georgia- His match with Dusty Rhodes after Dusty won the NWA title. People thought he wouldn’t do the job for Dusty because of the ugly political situation behind it, but Ted sees himself as a businessman and did the job because he was convinced it was the right thing for business.
Ted had lost favor with Jim Barnett for some unknown reason, so he fell out of the title hunt. He feels that his criticism of Robert Fuller’s booking probably cost him the title. When Buck Robley came in, they did the Freebirds angle mentioned beforehand. Gordon Solie then announced what hospital he was at and people started calling left and right, so the hospital made him write a list of people whose calls could come through and he accidentally left Jim Barnett’s name off the list. Once he found out Barnett had been trying to reach him, he called him up and heard “My boy… I’ve been trying to reach you. Why is my name not on that list? I AM paying for that room.”, to which he replied “Well, Jim, I didn’t think you’d call.”
What about the famous loaded glove? It was a gimmick that Watts slowly built over time that got huge. Because the Samoans, Paul Orndorff, and several other guys left the territory, they needed a heel bad and asked him to look for one. At the time, he and JYD were the top babyfaces and an idea hit him, so he went to booker Ernie Ladd and suggested he turn heel on JYD. Ladd loved it because he thought no one would ever expect him to turn on JYD.
Back to the glove… Watts did a deal where Ted “broke his hand” and, once his cast came off, he started wearing the glove and it happened to be the same night where he wrestled JYD in the finals of the North American title tournament. At one point in the match, Ted is out of it on the floor and JYD goes to put him back in the ring so he can win it fairly. As JYD is getting back in the ring, he “loads up” the glove and waffles JYD with it to win the match and the title.
Bill Watts- “Bill Watts was the Vince Lombardi of professional wrestling. You either learned a lot or you left.” Watts was a bully, but he knew the business and he learned from one of the best, Eddie Graham. He says Watts paid fair money to non-stars, but the travel schedule was horrid.
How did things change when he went national? It was too little, too late because Vince McMahon already had a head start and a lot of connections in New York City. He talks about how there was a cult following of Mid-South/UWF over the years and that it is one of the promotions which is most heavily traded for.
“Dr. Death” Steve Williams- “One of the biggest jobs Watts ever gave me was Steve Williams.” Doc came in for a Summer between his junior and senior years at Oklahoma then joined the business after graduation. Watts had told him to teach Doc how to work. One night, he had him in a match and told him to reverse the turnbuckle, get in the center of the ring, and football tackle him. He wanted to take a backdrop over Doc, but Doc instead hit him with the tackle and drove him back into the turnbuckle. (Well, driving through a guy IS what’s drilled into your head as a lineman.) After that, he tagged out and told his partner “He’s ALL yours.” Doc caught on quick, though. He says that teaming with Doc helped his face turn after being the big heel for so many years. They worked against the Sheepherders (Bushwhackers) and the team of Hector Guerrero (Gobbildygooker) and Chavo Guerrero Sr. at various times.
The Murdoch/Flair deal- Their huge angle in Mid-South was that Flair came in for a title defense against Dibiase but his old friend Murdoch came up early in the show and asked for the title shot. Dibiase responded that “It isn’t your time, it’s my time” and gets clocked by Murdoch, thrown into the post, and bled like there was no tomorrow. He bled a gusher, literally, because he’d taken aspirin and a shot of brandy beforehand and then bladed too deep. The announcers played up that there may not be a title match, but Dibiase came back out bandaged up like a mummy to fight Flair and got HUGE babyface heat because the bandages came off in mid-match and the blood was flying everywhere. Finally, he went for the figure four, Flair kicked him out of the ring, and he ended up being counted out in the floor because he couldn’t even stand up. Afterwards, Murdoch acts like he’s helping him then giving him a brainbuster on the floor. He spent a night in the hospital then had a feud with Murdoch afterwards.
Jim Duggan- “I love Duggan. He’s another guy I helped break into the business.” Duggan had been playing for the Atlanta Falcons but he came into wrestling and was in a tag match against Dibiase and Tommy Rich. He said when he did a lock up with Duggan, it was like having a vice grip on you as opposed to working “snug” like trained workers did. “I did one move with him then I tagged Tommy and said ‘He’s all yours.’” Duggan came on quick, though, despite being a sub-par worker in the ring. “It wasn’t always about being a great athlete or worker. JYD was a bad worker but had great charisma.” He also talks about how the average non-fan would take one look at Dusty Rhodes’ flabby, out of shape body and wonder why he was a champion or announced as a contender, but once they saw his match they bought it because he has great ring psychology.
He also jokes about how Duggan was afraid of blading so when they had their series of matches, Ted would be wearing a true crimson mask while Duggan would blade so gingerly that the little papercut Lex Luger gave himself at Bash 88 looked like a gusher.
The Freebirds coming into the UWF- It didn’t surprise him when they came in and did great because he’d worked with them in Georgia and Mid-South before and knew they could connect with the crowd easily. He’d worked with Buddy Roberts before when he was still teaming with Jerry Brown as the Hollywood Blondes. Current WWE road agent Michael P.S. Hayes “was not a great worker, but he was a great talker and had good psychology.” Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy was great. He hasn’t seen Gordy since he almost died but he was one of the best. One night, he had just flown back from Japan and was jet-lagged to the point where he couldn’t remember his own name but he wrestled Gordy that night and had a great match because Gordy lead the match the whole way. They had a 59 minute match with a finish just to show the fans that they could have a long match with a finish instead of going for the hour broadway. He says that people would usually yell about how the match was boring for the first 15 minutes or so but they would be totally enthralled after that. He feels that those kind of matches are what true wrestling is, not telling most of the story in backstage vignettes or “driving a halftrack through the ring.”
Sidenote- This interview is from 2000 and Gordy died in mid-2001. From what I’ve seen of Gordy before he died, that particular near-death experience in the mid-90s where he OD’ed on an international flight left him with a tremendous amount of permanent damage that contributed to a death in his mid-40s. That was on top of his first near-death experience where he was severely dehydrated after a match in Japan then started convulsing because he drank a lot of beer and had a pain pill instead of re-hydrating himself.
Working with Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody in Japan- He loved working in Japan. It was hard to adapt to working there his first few times, but he learned to love the country. When Brody and Hansen had their split, the Japanese fans accepted him as Hansen’s partner because he’d put in his time and had seen him grow as a wrestler. Hansen had asked him to start coming on all the tours as his partner and he jumped at the chance, even becoming “Ted the cowboy” in a way to match Hansen’s tobacco-chewing, bullrope-swinging, shit-kicking, redneck cowboy bad ass gimmick. He knew he was going to be seen as the weaker link in the team and, as a result, being the guy to play Ricky Morton before giving Stan the hot tag, but he was fine with it because it was a great opportunity.
Did Watts have a problem with him splitting time between Mid-South and Japan- Bill was great about it because he felt, rightly, that disappearing every so often kept him from burning out in the eyes of the fans.
Watts getting tired of the business- In the mid-80s, he says that Watts burned out on the business and retreated to being the owner, turning over the booking duties to a variety of guys including Ken Mantell and Bill Dundee. Ted personally feels that Dundee hot-shotted the entire territory, which was great for a while but it bottoms out. Mantell and Jim Ross were the guys who got the job of rebuilding the wreckage left in Dundee’s wake.
Coming back to the WWF- Bruce Pritchard (Brother Love) was working for Houston promoter Paul Boesch in the mid-80s when he went to interview with the WWF. Ted asked him to mention his name while he was up there because he wanted out of Mid-South because he was just tired of being there, but didn’t expect anything to come of it. He went to Japan on a tour and got a call while he was over there from the UWF that Jim Crockett was buying out the company but that he was one of the guys that Crockett really wanted to keep and sign to a new deal. Pritchard then called him up and said “Don’t sign anything yet. Vince is very interested in you.”
He went back to the US and did a TV taping for the UWF and was asked what it would take for him to sign. He told them that he wanted as much as Lex Luger was getting because Lex hadn’t put in nearly as much time as him and wasn’t near the caliber of worker he was, and they agreed to it in principle plus the right for him to still go to Japan. A week later, Vince McMahon called him up and told him that he had an idea for something but that he wouldn’t tell him about it over the phone. He asked him to at least fly him up and hear about it. They flew him up and gave him the first class treatment all the way but wouldn’t lay out the gimmick unless he signed because Vince thought it was so great. They talked about how it had never been done before which made it a great opportunity. Pat Patterson then told him “Ted, let me put it to you this way… if Vince could climb into the ring himself, he’d use this gimmick that he’s going to give you. He’ll put everything into it that he needs to in order to get it over.” He went home and called Terry Funk for his advice and Terry told him to go to New York if Vince was going to be that serious about a huge push. He then called up Jim Crockett and told him “Jim, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
The next time he went to New York, they flew them up first class, put them in the best hotels, etc. and were told that he was going to become the Million Dollar Man. He’s not sure if the other guys were jealous of him for getting that because most people know that something like that is great for all of them and will make them all money. He loved the gimmick from the start. He and his wife couldn’t believe that not only was he getting a great push, but he was also getting it in style. Vince paid for a limousine wherever he went and put him up in first class hotels, etc. in order to get the gimmick over.
He also goes into a side story about how he always used to imitate promoter Jim Barnett and that, while he was in New York, Barnett was working for Vince and was talking with Ted’s wife while he was doing all his interviews. Later on, his wife told him “I almost bit a hole through my lip because he talked EXACTLY like you imitated him.”
He makes a big deal about how Vince gave him the biggest break in his career and treated him better than anyone ever did in the business, but it doesn’t keep him for feeling how he does about the direction where Vince has taken the business.
He says the wrestling business is not wrestling anymore. It used to always boil down to good vs. evil. He says that suspended disbelief is what made the business. Wrestlers were even making huge money during the Great Depression because people just wanted to watch the matches and be happy. The thing that disappoints him so much about the business today are things like how Owen Hart, who was such a good person, dying as an indirect result of the direction of the business. Owen had refused to do an angle where he had an affair because he didn’t want to have to explain it to his kids, so management remembered that he hated doing the Blue Blazer gimmick back in the late 80s when he started with the company and made him do it again. Owen felt pressured into going along with it, even being dropped out of the ceiling to the ring, and is dead today as a result. While it was not intentional, it never should have come to that.
He also hates how the anti-hero is now the big star in the business and that the young people idolize wrestling thugs and pimps as a result. It makes him sick today to have to explain how he was a wrestler back when things were different instead of today when it’s such a smutty product. He says that people may see him as bitter, but he wonders what’s happened to our society when we’re entertained by guys like Howard Stern and Jerry Springer. He starts talking about how we might as well revert back to the days of the gladiators, then immediately brings up ECW. He gives ECW a lot of credit for trying to compete with the big federations but he questions their product because they’re selling hardcore brutality. He says there was a time where he would have been proud that wrestling was seven of the top ten shows on cable TV but he isn’t because of the content within them.
He then starts talking about the Roman Empire and how great it was until they started feeding people to the lions and watching people kill each other for entertainment.
He thinks that the story of the Hogan-Dibiase feud was supposed to be that money may buy a lot but eventually it will blow up in his face when someone refuses to be bought. Whenever the blowoff came, it would always be the babyface who came away with the win. These days, if the bad guy can get away with it, he’s cool, and he’s disgusted with it as a result. He loves the business because it’s provided for him but he can’t stand what it’s become today.
WXO- He was approached by Rene Goulet and Barry Darsow (Demolition Smash) about this. He told them right off the bat that if it was anything like today’s product that he wasn’t interested. They told him that they wanted to bring back the old wrestling with no crotch shots, double birds, topless women, etc. They just wanted him to lend his name to it and be the figurehead commissioner of it. He then signed on with them and feels it was taking off for a while before the money behind the scenes suddenly pulled out. He says that the money men were supporting two organizations and he’s not sure if they didn’t want one with potential threatening the other or if they just said “We’ve already got one… why do we need two?”, but their contract was breached and the money disappeared. He says their first three shows had subpar talent but great production values. If it ever resurfaces, he feels that there’s an audience for it.
He then sends out an open message to Vince McMahon claiming that he has a moral contract with the people watching his product where he should be putting on a clean product. He feels that integrity is lacking in the business today. While Vince made him the Million Dollar Man as a gimmick in 1987, he feels that Vince really HAS become the Million Dollar Man today.
Sidenote- This was a LONG section and a bit preachy, but Ted was right on the money with about 90% of it. The hot-shotting of angles in the last year has proven over the last year that Sportz Entertainment is not a huge draw in itself… it’s more of a nice topping which puts a few extra people on top of all the ones who come to see wrestling. I know I would certainly rather see longer matches, less interviews and backstage vignettes, and less crap like the Dawn-Torrie feud involving Al Wilson “dying” and the whole Katie Vick mess. Putting aside any moral objections to it, it’s just plain stupid to begin to do things like that. Not only does no one believe it, I’m sure even less people were entertained by it. It’s like what Jim Cornette said one time on an angle where Marlena (Terri Runnels) had a miscarriage… “If it really happened, it’s a tragedy. If it didn’t really happen, then why do it because it’s not entertaining?“ Whoever wrote the Katie Vick mess won’t even have the excuse that Ed Ferrara used to justify the Marlena angle, “Well, they did it on Dallas.”
Hulk Hogan- Everyone’s got a different opinion of him, but he was always good to him. Hogan would work with who he was comfortable with and he was chosen because Hogan wanted to pay back the favor Dibiase had done for him all the way back in Madison Square Garden in about 1980. Whether you like him or not, he was the right guy at the right place at the right time who caused the business to go through the roof. Hulk wasn’t a great wrestler but he was a great worker because he could talk, he had charisma, and he could put butts in seats. He feels that Hogan may have gotten a bit paranoid by being on top because everyone was always calling him and asking for favors. He’s heard people say Hogan didn’t know when to pass the torch and he’s not sure what to think of that. He feels that you’re in the business to make money, so you sell yourself the best you can. If you stop selling, you need to reinvent yourself so that you can start selling again. What he never did, though, was to step over people or trash them backstage in order to get himself an opportunity and he doesn’t think Hogan did it either. He considers Hulk a friend but hasn’t talked to him since he left WCW. He saw when Hogan turned heel it was because he’d exhausted his drawing power as a face but he also saw that Hogan would try to leave the business back in the red and yellow as a face, which he sees now. (This is an oddly appropriate part of the interview… this is about a three year old interview but Hogan has just shown up for ANOTHER “last” face run in the WWE in the past week)
Was his size ever a problem in the WWF? No, because he knew how to work his style around having an opponent much larger than himself. He would have to do cheapshots when people weren’t looking, etc. “If Andre The Giant could work with a heel and get sympathy, then I could work with Hogan.”
Ric Flair- Most of these 20 year olds in the business don’t have the cardiovascular ability of Ric Flair, but Ric definitely looks his age (about 50 at the time of the interview). He enjoyed working with Flair and he was very easy to work with. He says that there are times when you have to think about hanging it up and that many people in WCW thought that Ric should retire during the nWo era.
Young guys in the business- He misses the business whenever he sees a really good match or a young guy who really loves the business and gives it his all. Some of those guys are Eddy Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, etc. There are more but he just can’t think of them at the moment. He doesn’t like how psychology has mutated, though, and Japan in particular drove him nuts because guys would do 30 suplexes, drop each other on their heads, and powerbomb someone on the concrete but they’d stand right up. (This is very evident in the business today because most of the hot young talents such as the guys listed above either spent a lot of time in Japan or were influenced heavily by that style in other ways.)
“There is no logic to the business anymore.”
Virgil- The name was, in fact, a rib on Dusty Rhodes’ real name, Virgil Runnels. He thinks that either Afa or Sika of the Wild Samoans had referred Virgil (Mike Jones) to Vince MdMahon. They went out to eat with Bobby Heenan one night and wondered what they were going to call him and Heenan came up with the name Virgil, and the only Virgil any of them knew was Dusty. When Virgil came into WCW, they asked Heenan for a new name and he suggested “Vincent”.
Dusty in the WWF- He thinks that Vince was sending a message to Dusty by bringing him in and immediately jobbing him out and making him wear polka dots. Dusty got the message loud and clear and just went with what he was told to do. (I think Vince was doing a little more than that… the whole mess with Sweet Sister Sapphire and how “You can beat my prices but you can’t beat my meat” seems to be an outright humiliation than a message of who the boss is)
Wrestlemania 4- Honkytonk Man refused to drop the Intercontinental Title to Randy Savage at The Main Event. As a consolation prize for not shooting on HTM, Savage was given the WWF title at Wrestlemania. One problem… the belt was already promised to Dibiase. That is part of why the Million Dollar Belt was created the next year when he completely dropped from WWF title contention. He was slightly upset that a world title had eluded him again but he didn’t kiss asses or play the game to get the belt and wasn’t going to start then. The Main Event was still a huge night for him because he got to be a part of the main event of the first prime time network TV wrestling show in 30 years. On top of that, he got to be involved in Vince finally taking the WWF title off of Hogan by hiring Dave Hebner’s twin brother Earl to make the illegal three count on Hogan. Walking out of The Main Event carrying the WWF title and totally screwing over Hogan in the process put the Million Dollar Man into overdrive.
Wrestlemania 5- He felt his spot slipping a bit since he was programmed against a returning “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka after being in the main event match against Savage the year before.
Tiny “Zeus” Lister- Most of the locker room was pissed off that an actor who had never paid any dues in the ring was getting a huge push.
Ultimate Warrior- He was a horrible worker yet Vince made him the champion. “He’s given a lot of lip service over the years to becoming a great worker. Jim Hellwig used the wrestling business. It was a means to an end. To his credit, he was tremendously dedicated to keeping his body in shape. That’s about it.” He does give credit to him because he was there when Warrior and Sting came into Mid-South as the Blade Runners and Warrior trusted him to lead a match. He thought the Wrestlemania 6 match where Hogan dropped the belt was a great match through Hogan’s own force of willpower. He even told Vince McMahon that he thought that Warrior getting the title was a mistake though because he didn’t appreciate the business and that he was a monster in the making. Vince’s response to that was “Well, he’s my monster and I can control him.” He never told Vince “I told you so” even after Warrior held him up for money several times. Warrior being a total asshole to the fans didn’t help. He doesn’t know if a lot of Warrior’s problems were drug-related or what. He feels that Vince bringing him back the second time was more desperation than anything else (I think that was the 1996 run) and that he may have been thinking that the success of the business was all him and not the talent. “Vince will even tell you that between the first big run and the second big run that he wasn’t listening to people anymore and just did what he wanted to.”
Jake “The Snake” Roberts- He hasn’t seen Beyond The Mat yet but hears that Jake was exceptionally honest in it. He’s known Jake since he was a referee just waiting to get into the business. “Jake Roberts is another one of those guys who has an unbelievable amount of talent.” He enjoyed working with him a lot and, even though he wrestled three times at WM4 and was in the co-main event of WM9, his favorite Wrestlemania was WM6 because he faced Jake there. He thinks it’s sad what’s happened to Jake over the years and has tried to contact him and get him back on track several times over the years.
Undertaker- “Mark Callus had a look and some raw potential which has developed well.”
Dustin Rhodes- He saw immediately that Dustin had potential and that him being a second generation talent helped him out a lot. He enjoyed working with him.
Kerry Von Erich and the Von Erich family- He liked them all a lot but it was very sad what happened to them. He knew Kerry, David, and Kevin more than Chris, Mike, and Fritz. David was the best worker of them. Kerry had the best body of them. He feels it’s a real credit to Kerry that he worked as long as he did with a prosthetic foot and kept up his body so well. “It was a situation of ‘Too much, too soon’” and he doesn’t know if Fritz’s unwillingness to believe his sons were drug addicts was what finally destroyed them all. They were all, individually, very nice guys and that “Kerry Von Erich would literally give you the shirt off his back.” The police in Dallas liked the boys a lot, which hurt them in the end because they kept letting their indiscretions slide until Kerry got busted for writing his own subscriptions. Kerry then killed himself rather than face jail time.
What was the vibe in the locker room when Ric Flair came in? It was probably the same as when any other huge name comes in from elsewhere, where people wonder if they’ll get over, etc. He doesn’t feel anyone begrudged Ric being there, though.
Why’d he leave in 1993? A variety of reasons, mainly the aftereffects of a personal crisis he had shortly after Wrestlemania 8. He dances around it a bit, but he mainly says that he did everything that he could have possible done and that his wife had a confrontation over it. (He doesn’t go outright and say whether it was drug abuse, affairs, etc., but he says he covered it in his book and I’m sure it’s more complete there.) “There’s a fine line between being confident and being cocky about it and I certainly got cocky about it.” He says that the road becomes a very lonely place and compares it to being any famous entertainer (TV star, movie star, etc.) or a travelling salesman. As a part of the whole personal crisis, he turned back to God and became born again. From the year between Wrestlemania 8 and Wrestlemania 9, he struggled to keep him from falling back into old bad habits. He finally decided to leave the WWF after Summerslam 93 and go back to Japan because he’d be able to stay at home for a month after each tour. Vince wasn’t happy with him because Vince wanted him to stay. There was also the matter of a comment where he said “I’m finally glad to be out of here”, which he meant was the pressure every night and the tough road schedule, while Vince interpreted it as “I’m getting out of this horrible place.”
Going back to Japan- Working in Japan was like something Terry Funk said once. “In America, you think ‘shoot’ but you work. In Japan, you think ‘shoot’ and almost do, but it’s actually a work.” Giant Baba treated him great while he was there and he was back in the main events with Stan Hansen at Budokan. When he came back to the US, he had an MRI and was told he probably shouldn’t go back to work. He was told he could have surgery and go back, but there was a small chance of permanent injury. If he didn’t have a Lloyds of London insurance policy, he probably would have had the surgery and gone back to work. He said it also weighed heavily on his head that his dad died at 45 in the ring and that he’d always promised himself that he’d retire while he could. His last match was in Japan with Abdullah the Butcher and he was pretty sure that he’d never go back and, after an MRI, made the final decision to retire. He ended up sitting around the house for months and gaining 20 pounds because he was eating all the time. He eventually got together with Francois, the masseuse used by many WWE wrestlers including Mick Foley, and trained to get back in shape.
Going back to the WWF- Around the time he was getting back in shape, Bruce Pritchard called him up and asked if he wanted to do commentary at the Royal Rumble with Vince. He told Vince if he was happy with it, he was willing to come back as an announcer or a manager. Vince thought about it for a few months then brought him to Wrestlemana 10 and sat him near the Bill Clinton imitator. Right after that, he started doing commentary on most of the shows and started up the Million Dollar Corporation. He only had to work every three weeks for TV tapings and fly up to Stamford once a week to do commentary. Eventually, they asked him to start grooming Sid to be a top guy. This was after he’d just had the infamous scissors incident with Arn Anderson, so they told him “You need to help him keep both oars in the water.” Pritchard eventually asked him to be a road agent, so he said that he’d do it if they made him a salaried employee of the company and paid for all his travel and lodging expenses. He never heard a word about a road agent job again. He said that back then, agents basically babysat the talent and ran the shows, so he wasn’t interested in it anyway.
What was the locker room vibe when Monday Night Raw launched? Most people wondered “What the heck is Vince doing?”, but they soon saw the potential after a few shows. Most people were pissed that they had to come into New York every Monday though.
Did he see potential in Steve Austin? Oh yeah. He saw a lot of himself in Austin. He told Austin not to change anything he was doing because it made him different than everyone else, which wouldn’t get him over as fast but would keep him over solid when he made it. He wasn’t happy with HOW Steve got over, though, as he found the whole Austin 3:16 bit distasteful. If he was still there when it happened, he would have resigned immediately. “When you make a hero out of a guy who comes to the ring, chugs a beer, flips everyone off, and emblazoned upon his chest is Austin 3:16, I wouldn’t want to be there.” He knows that Austin 3:16 was a direct result of Jake Roberts proclaiming himself born again “then Jake started screwing up again and it was widely known within the company.” He doesn’t know if there was personal heat between Austin and Jake, though.
How did he end up in WCW? He heard through the grapevine that they wanted him. They’d heard indirectly that he wanted out of the WWF because he hated being on the road. He would have wanted out anyway when the Attitude Era hit.
What was Bischoff like compared to McMahon and were politics worse in WCW? Vince disappointed him because, for all the good things he did, he went against every principle he ever declared he had. Those included running a family-oriented program, having no swearing, never bringing up the competition, his family would never be involved on camera, etc. etc. etc. He wonders why he went that direction, although he thinks that Vince’s attitude may have gotten worse after the whole government steroid trial. He sympathizes with Vince fighting the government because they were wrong, but he feels that Vince has kept a chip on his shoulder about the whole situation. He doesn’t feel that the program is suitable for ANYONE, like the Howard Stern show. He wonders where Vince can go now that he’s had an 80-year old woman take her top of on pay per view (one of the few bad spots on an otherwise great show, Royal Rumble 2000). “It’s just like hot-shotting a territory. There’s only so far you can go before it just bottoms out. After a while, you can’t top what you’ve already done so I don’t know what that’s going to lead to.”
Sidenote- Why does this sound SO appropriate? The WWE/WWF hit its peak in 2000 but has been slowly going downhill ever since. The whole year of 2002 was spent in total panic because every time people thought things had bottomed out, Vince did something to make the numbers drop even further like getting Triple H to hump the “corpse” of Katie Vick. Hell, about the only time things WERE going right the whole year was the month between Vengeance and Summerslam and they pissed that away completely the night after Summerslam by making Brock into the bitch of Triple H and Undertaker.
What was his run like in WCW? He came in as the money man behind the nWo but they couldn’t call him Million Dollar Man because Vince held the rights to that character. Fortunately for him, he was always known as Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, so just calling him Ted Dibiase worked well enough. The big problem he had with the nWo angle was that Eric Bischoff joined it, a good business move on their part, which eliminated his position as the spokesperson for the group. Eventually, he went to Eric told him that he was sick of standing in the corner holding Hulk’s belt because Eric had taken his spot. If they weren’t going to do anything with him, he’d rather just go home. They sent him home to collect his checks until they came up with something for him, and when they called him up they just told him “Be in Detroit, you’ll have a ticket.” He didn’t appreciate that they weren’t showing him the respect he deserved with the position he had within the industry.
They put him with the Steiner Brothers, but it made no sense because they didn’t need a manager. It was done, apparently, because Eric couldn’t think of something for him to do. He had wanted to be a commentator but Eric told him they were happy with they people they had and they weren’t looking for anybody to do that. Since Eric ran out of ideas for him, he became the spokesman for NASCAR and was the technical advisor for a video game, etc. It was all just excuses for him to do something to earn his check, which he appreciates because it was a lot of money for doing nothing. He doesn’t think that Eric knew what he was doing because he was never in the ring, so he didn’t realize what worked and what didn’t.
What does he think will happened with Vince Russo involved in WCW? “It’s the blind leading the blind.” At least Vince McMahon knows how to create stars and get guys over. He lost all of his stars to WCW, which is why WCW was on top for a few years. Since WCW didn’t know what to do with all of them, the WWF created new stars and surpassed WCW again. He told Eric one night that Vince was never going away because he was too persistent and that Eric got pissed over it because he didn’t want to hear it. As for Vince Russo, “While the guy may be a very creative guy, all I see him creating is smut.” When they say “We’re giving the public what they want”, he responds with “Do you let your kids do what they want all the time?”
Where does he see the business and himself in a few years? He’s a full-time minister/evangelist these days and he’s done two mission trips to India already. He does a lot of public speaking. He wants to eventually found the wrestling equivalent of PowerTeam, which is a bodybuilder outreach group which tries to keep kids in school, etc. and will do feats of strength to impress people. Their version would be a small wrestling show with no pyro, no video wall, no women losing their tops, etc. As for the business, he knows there’s a lot of stuff in the news about kids doing wrestling moves to each other and people dying and wonders if the government will get involved. (The particular situation he describes seems to be the infamous Lionel Tate case, where the kid basically beat a little girl to death and, on his fourth or fifth version of the story, started claiming that he’d given the girl a jackknife powerbomb.) What he does know is that the business he grew up in has now died and a lot of it is now just brawling. He compares it to the movies, where you rarely see a great drama anymore because everyone wants to make a lot of violent movies with no depth.
Eddie Gilbert- “I liked Eddie.” He met him when he was just starting out in the business. Before that, he’d known his dad, Tommy Gilbert, back from his days in Texas. Eddie was another second-generation wrestler who caught on quick and developed a great mind for the business. He wasn’t surprised that Eddie became a good booker.
Shawn Michaels- He met him when he came into Mid-South for the first time. He used to be shy and withdrawn, which is the furthest thing from what he is today. He loved the business and they’d had a lot of conversations about when Shawn would get a break. After he got his break, though, he became real cocky. He feels it’s a growing process because the same thing happened to him, although he didn’t get THAT cocky and he never mistreated anybody, although he doesn’t know if Shawn did. He also puts Jose Lothario, Shawn’s trainer, as a great guy.
Closing comments- “I talked for a long time on this, so you might as well label this ‘The Epic- Ben Hur.” He talks about how he speaks to high school kids and college kids and tries to help them. He just wishes that wrestling could remove the garbage and go back to the clear definition of good and evil.
Buddy Roberts and Michael Hayes of the Freebirds vs. Dr. Death and Ted Dibiase in a lumberjack match- I think I actually covered this in my Dr. Death shoot. This is one of the two typical UWF main events, as the match ends in a DQ because someone gave Hayes a belt, which he uses to choke out Dibiase and then whips him with it. At least this wasn’t the OTHER typical UWF main event, where the match would go about 10 seconds in before Jim Ross would say “And we’re out of time, see you next week!”
JYD and Dibiase vs. the Freebirds- This is the infamous match in Georgia where Dibiase ended up in the hospital. Joined in progress as Dibiase gets tossed out of the ring and Terry Gordy gives him a piledriver on the concrete. He just barely crawls back into the ring, so Gordy keeps giving him piledrivers and going for the pin, but Dibiase just barely kicks out each time. When Gordy starts to attempt a fifth piledriver, Tommy Rich throws in the towel for Dibiase then attacks the Freebirds. Footage is shown of Dibiase being wheeled from the ring as well as an interview with him in his hospital bed.
Dibiase vs. Bruiser Brody from Japan- Long match. Brody eventually wins with a flying knee from the top rope.
Ted Dibiase and Steve O vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and Terry Gordy- Michael Hayes is on commentary here and they’re pushing hard that the Gordy had broken off from the Freebirds. The match ends as Hayes knocks Superfly off the top rope for the DQ. Hayes then starts whaling away on Gordy.
Stan Hansen and Ted Dibiase vs. Riki Choshu and an unidentified Japanese wrestler- This is severely clipped and appears to be an Iron Man tag match. Dibiase looks pretty big here, so I think this may be from his tour in 1993 instead of from his first run tagging with Hansen in 1986 and 1987. The match appears to end at a score of 7 to 6, although I can’t say which side won because I can’t read Kanji.
Comments- Dibiase is very well spoken here and this is an informative and long (nearly three hour) interview. While some of his feelings are a little too old-school for my taste, mainly in his preference for hour long matches that build slowly, he has many valid points and could contribute significant things to the business today. However, his devotion to being a minister as well as his distaste for the current direction of the business will keep that from happening on the national level.