Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #31 – Ted DiBiase

#31 didn’t have to buy his way onto this list. But he would have if it was necessary. After all, everybody’s got a price.

31. TED DIBIASE

HometownMiami, Florida
DebutedJune 1975
Titles HeldAJPW Unified World Tag Team (with Stan Hansen); NWA United National; PWF Tag Team (with Stan Hansen); NWA Central States Heavyweight (2x); NWA National Heavyweight (2x); NWA National Tag Team (2x, 1 with Stan Hansen, 1 with Steve Olsonski); Mid-South North American Heavyweight (5x); Mid-South Tag Team (5x, 1 with Matt Borne, 2 with Steve Williams, 1 with Jerry Stubbs, 1 with Hercules Hernandez); NWA North American Heavyweight (tri-state); NWA United States Tag Team (tri-state) (with Dick Murdoch); NWA Western States Tag Team (2x, 1 with Tito Santana, 1 with Irvin Smith); NWA Missouri Heavyweight (2x); TASW Heavyweight; WWF North American Heavyweight; WWF World Tag Team (3x, with Irwin R. Schyster); Million Dollar Championship (2x); WWF World (presented by Andre the Giant – unofficial); 1988 WWF King of the Ring
Other AccomplishmentsFirst WWF North American champion; Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Technical Wrestler in 1981 ; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Feud Award in 1982 (against Junkyard Dog); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Feud Award in 1984 (against Jim Duggan); Back-to-Back Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Heel Award in 1987 and 1988; Ranked #17 in PWI Top 500 in 1991; Ranked as #32 of the best singles wrestlers of the PWI years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated; Ranked #20 in best 100 tag teams of the PWI years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (with Steve Williams; Ranked #24 of the best 100 tag teams of the PWI years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (with Stan Hansen); Ranked #61 of the best 100 tag teams of the PWI years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (with Irwin R. Schyster); Member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (class of 1996); Member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (class of 1997) Appeared in 1978 Sylvester Stallone film Paradise Alley

Wrestling was in Ted DiBiase’s blood. DiBiase’s mother, Helen Hild, was a professional wrestler. When Ted was young, she married Iron Mike DiBiase, who adopted Ted. When Ted was 15, Iron Mike suffered a heart attack during a match against Man Mountain Mike. Harley Race rushed to the ring and performed CPR, but Iron Mike was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Ted went to West Texas State University on a football scholarship, but wound up dropping out of school to pursue a wrestling career of his own.

DiBiase first came to notice in the Mid-South territory. He won his first title in April of 1976 when he teamed with Dick Murdoch to win the local version of the NWA United States Tag Team titles.

Singles gold soon followed. He defeated The Brute (who was defending the title for the Spoiler) in December of 1976 and captured the local NWA United States Heavyweight belt. He held if for a couple of months before losing it to the Great Zimm (better known as Waldo Von Erich).

In May of 1977, he captured the NWA Central States Heavyweight title from Bob (later Sgt.) Slaughter. Although he soon lost the title, he was never without gold for long. He teamed with Irvin Smith in July to gain the Western States Tag Team titles.

January of 1978 saw him recapturing the Central States title for a short time. DiBiase’s next title win was for the prestigious NWA Missouri title as he took it from Dick Slater in February. He held it for roughly two weeks before it switched hands again to former partner Dick Murdoch.

DiBiase arrived in the WWWF in 1979 and was billed upon his arrival as the North American champion. DiBiase lost the title to Pat Patterson in June, who unified it with his South American title to become the first Intercontinental champion. DiBiase didn’t stay long, but he did perform one other act that would impact his career nearly a decade later. On his way out, DiBiase put a young man named Hulk Hogan over in an act that would make an impact on Hogan.

After leaving the WWWF, DiBiase returned to the familiar arenas of Mid-South Wrestling. DiBiase immediately found success back in Mid-South as he won the Mid-South North American title on February 1, 1980. He held the belt until September, when he was defeated by the Grappler.

In November, he returned to St. Louis, where he defeated Ken Patera to begin his second reign as NWA Missouri champion. He held the belt for nearly a year, losing it to Jack Brisco the following October.

In January of 1981, DiBiase headed to Georgia and teamed with Stan Frazier. Here he defeated the infamous Freebirds team of Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes to win the NWA National Tag Team titles. The Freebirds vowed revenge and reclaimed the belts a week later. In June, DiBiase and Steve O regained the belts in the midst of the Freebirds feuding with each other and held the gold for nearly a month until Gordy and new tag team partner Jimmy Snuka captured it.

As 1981 started winding down, DiBiase returned to Mid-South and defeated Paul Orndorff to regain the North American belt. He held it until he was defeated by Bob Roop the following March.

Still, DiBiase wasn’t done with the belt. When his arch foe Junkyard Dog captured the belt on June 21, 1982, DiBiase took it away two days later. DiBiase lost the belt in November to Stagger Lee. Lee was the Junkyard Dog who was wrestling under a mask to get around a loser leaves town stipulation.

DiBiase further infuriated the Dog in October when he and Matt Borne defeated the Dog and Mr. Olympia in October of 1982 to capture the Mid-South Tag Team titles. However, a new foe was on the horizon. In March of 1983, the duo was dethroned by Mr. Wrestling II and Tiger Conway, Jr. DiBiase and new partner Mr. Olympia regained the belts in April, and lost them again in July to Magnum TA and Jim Duggan.

In October of 1983, DiBiase headed to Japan and won a tournament to crown a new NWA United National champion. He lost the belt to Michael Hayes on January 28, 1984.

In November of 1983, DiBiase returned to Georgia Championship Wrestling and captured their version of the NWA National Heavyweight title by defeating Brett Wayne. He held the belt until February when he was defeated by Brad Armstrong. He regained the belt from the Spoiler (who had defeated Armstrong) in July and lost it to Ron Garvin in October.

December of 1984 saw DiBiase back in Mid-South, and again with gold around his waist. He and Hercules Hernandez defeated the Rock N Roll Express to capture the tag team titles. Morton and Gibson reclaimed them less than three weeks later..

That wasn’t all of DiBiase’s gold. In January of 1985 he defeated Brad Armstrong to reclaim the North American title. That reign lasted until March, when he lost to Terry Taylor.

Even though DiBiase’s singles reign had ended, he wasn’t done with the Rock N Roll Express. In May of 1985 he teamed with Steve Williams to regain the belts. This time their reign would last until August, when Al Perez and Wendell Cooley defeated DiBiase and Bob Sweetan, who was a substitute for the injured Dr. Death.

DiBiase and Williams regained the titles in December and held the belts through the company’s name change to the UWF in early 1986. They lost the belts a final time to the Sheepherders on March 16.

After the UWF was purchased by Jim Crockett’s branch of the NWA in 1987, DiBiase got a call from the WWF. He was flown to Stamford for a meeting with Vince McMahon, but was informed that he wouldn’t be told his gimmick until he signed a contract. All he was told was that it would receive a major push, and this was the gimmick that McMahon himself would use if he was an active wrestler. DiBiase signed, and the Million Dollar Man was born.

The Million Dollar Man was introduced to the WWF audience through a series of videos in DiBiase (through the use of his money) got away with dastardly deeds, such as bribing the owner of a public swimming pool to kick everyone else out so he could relax in the water by himself.

In addition, DiBiase began offering WWF fans money to do degrading things to further prove that every man had a price. A young man who grew up to be Rob Van Dam earned $500 for kissing DiBiase’s feet. And then there was the young man DiBiase paid to dribble a basketball fifteen times…

The WWF wanted the gimmick to get over so badly that DiBiase was given hundred dollar bills whenever he needed them and was instructed by the WWF to pay for everything with hundreds to build the gimmick. The hundreds also served another purpose – after DiBiase won a match (usually with his finisher, the Million Dollar Dream), he would stuff money into his vanquished opponent’s mouth.

But what is a millionaire without a butler? DiBiase soon gained a servant by the name of Virgil, whose job was to serve as a bodyguard and also flaunt DiBiase’s cash for him.

DiBiase debuted at the top of the card. Late in 1987, he approached Hulk Hogan and offered to buy the WWF title from him. Hogan refused and told DiBiase the only way he would get the title was to win it. DiBiase tried, but failed every time.

In early 1988, DiBiase figured out another plan. He approached Andre the Giant for a plan that would culminate at the February 5 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event.

At the Royal Rumble, Hogan signed a contract for the above episode that granted a title shot to Andre. After the deal was signed, Andre announced that he would win and give the belt to DiBiase.

At Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hogan was defending the title against Andre when referee Dave Hebner made a fast three count to give the title to Andre, despite Hogan kicking out at 2. Andre handed the title over to DiBiase, who proclaimed himself the WWF champion.

Things got stranger as Dave Hebner came out from the back and announced that DiBiase had locked him in a closet and replaced him with a lookalike (actually Dave’s twin brother Earl). The two brothers began fighting. Hogan finally picked Earl up and threw him out of the ring.

WWF President Jack Tunney took quick action. Tunney ruled that the championship could not be bought or given away, and pronounced the title vacant. Further, a tournament was set for Wrestlemania IV, where the winner would become the new WWF champion.

A new champion was soon guaranteed, as Hogan and Andre eliminated each other from the tournament in their first match (which was against each other).

DiBiase took his time, defeating Jim Duggan in the opening round, and then Don Muraco in the quarterfinals. DiBiase had a bye in the semifinals, and then faced Randy Savage for the belt.

The odds were against Savage, as DiBiase brought Andre to ringside. Finally tired of Andre’s interference, Miss Elizabeth headed to the back and returned with Hogan, who was carrying a steel chair. Hogan cracked DiBiase with the chair, and Savage hit a flying elbow for the win.

DiBiase’s feud with Hogan and Savage continued through the summer and finally culminated in a tag team match at Summerslam. Billed as the Mega Powers against the Mega Bucks, Savage and Hogan teamed together against DiBiase and Andre. Despite installing Jesse Ventura as the special guest referee, DiBiase still came up short as he fell victim to both the elbow drop and a leg drop.

October saw the annual King of the Ring tournament. DiBiase defeated Brutus Beefcake in the opening round. The quarterfinals saw him pin Ken Patera, and he put away Ron Bass in the semifinals. The finals saw a Wrestlemania rematch as DiBiase squared off with Randy Savage. This time DiBiase won the match. It was by countout, but DiBiase still walked away as the King of the Ring.

During this time, DiBiase’s personal entourage grew as Bobby Heenan sold Hercules’s contract to DiBiase for use as his personal slave. Hercules soon chafed at DiBiase’s ownership and he broke away. At Survivor Series, Hogan, Hercules, Savage, Koko B. Ware, and Hillbilly Jim faced DiBiase, the Red Rooster, Big Boss Man, Akeem, and Haku. Although DiBiase’s team lost (the sole survivors were Savage and Hogan), DiBiase did gain a measure of revenge as he eliminated Hercules.

In February of 1989, DiBiase decided to try another tack to gain a championship for himself. During the Brother Love Show on the March 4 episode of Superstars, DiBiase unveiled the Million Dollar belt. The belt was stunning. It was shaped in gold dollar signs and covered in diamonds.

And of course, DiBiase was the champion.

DiBiase spent 1989 in the midst of feuds with Jimmy Snuka and Jake Roberts. Again at Survivor Series, even though DiBiase’s team lost, he eliminated his foe (this time, Roberts).

The Roberts feud fired up at the January, 1990 Royal Rumble. DiBiase was #1 and Roberts, returning from a neck injury he said that DiBiase had caused, was #4. Roberts immediately went after DiBiase. Although Roberts was eliminated first, he gained revenge by stealing the Million Dollar Belt.

That led to a title match at Wrestlemania, where DiBiase (with a bit of help from Virgil) defeated Roberts to regain his belt. Summerslam saw DiBiase buy Sapphire, Dusty Rhodes’s manager. At the October 13 Saturday Night’s Main Event, DiBiase bought the entire front row and evicted everyone else. However, one man (Dustin Rhodes) refused to sell his ticket or move. DiBiase and Virgil attacked and Dusty left his match with Savage to save his son.

That led to Survivor Series, where the Million Dollar Team (DiBiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, and a mystery partner) faced the Dream Team (Dusty, Koko, Bret Hart, and Jim Neidhart). The match immediately made WWF history, as DiBiase’s mystery man was revealed by Brother Love to be a hulking giant known as the Undertaker.

The Million Dollar Team took a quick lead, as the Undertaker eliminated Koko, but Neidhart soon followed by pinning the Honky Tonk Man. DiBiase (with Virgil’s assistance) sent Neidhart to the back, and then Undertaker pinned Dusty. Undertaker was then counted out and eliminated while he brawled with Dusty on the outside. Bret then eliminated Valentine, and DiBiase reversed a bodypress to pin Bret and win the match.

The feud with Dusty wasn’t over yet, however. At the 1991 Royal Rumble DiBiase and Virgil defeated Dusty and Dustin in a tag team match. Afterward DiBiase, whose behavior toward Virgil had been getting more and more abusive, ordered Virgil to fasten the Million Dollar Belt around his waist. Virgil dropped the belt and refused. On DiBiase’s orders, Virgil picked the belt up and then cracked DiBiase across the head with it.

DiBiase immediately went to war with Virgil, who began training with Roddy Piper. Thanks to Piper, Virgil defeated DiBiase at Wrestlemania VII (by countout), but all was not lost for the Million Dollar Man. He gained a new manager – Sensational Sherri.

DiBiase’s feud with Virgil lasted through the summer, and only got worse at Summerslam. Virgil defeated DiBiase and claimed the Million Dollar Belt. DiBiase wanted his belt back, so he turned to a professional – the Repo Man. With Repo’s help, DiBiase defeated Virgil at November 11’s Sunday Night Slam to win his belt back.

The following February, DiBiase’s career took another turn as he entered the tag team ranks. Jimmy Hart had a contract signing coming up for a tag team title shot against the Legion of Doom. Instead of signing his team (the Natural Disasters – Earthquake and Typhoon), he instead signed DiBiase and IRS, now known as Money Inc. Money Inc. made the most of their opportunity and captured the WWF tag team titles.

Unfortunately, their methods to win the belts had left two very large men furious with them. The Natural Disasters began chasing Money Inc and defeated them at Wrestlemania by countout (which meant that the titles did not change hands). The pattern continued throughout the summer. The Disasters would win matches, but Money Inc always managed to hang onto their belts. That changed on July 20, as the Disasters finally managed to win the gold. They hung onto the belts until October, when DiBiase and Schyster regained their titles.

Up next were the Nasty Boys. At Survivor Series the Disasters and Nasty Boys faced off against Money Inc. and the Beverly Brothers. The match came down to Money Inc against the Nasty Boys, and the match ended when Sags pinned IRS. The Nasties never had another major win and the feud finally fizzled out.

On a Raw in February of 1993, Money Inc’s next major feud got started. Brutus Beefcake had made his return after a parasailing accident had shattered his face in 1990. After a match with DiBiase, DiBiase held Beefcake up so IRS could hit Brutus’s face with his briefcase (after shoving Jimmy Hart out of the way). Hart called for medical assistance and soon thereafter Beefcake gained a tag team partner in Hulk Hogan. The Mega-Maniacs were born.

Money, Inc. defeated Hogan and Beefcake at Wrestlemania by DQ and spent the rest of the year battling to keep the tag team titles. At Summerslam, DiBiase, who’d been mocking Razor Ramon for losing to the 123 Kid, lost to the Kid himself.

DiBiase then disappeared for a few months for one final tour of Japan. During this time he retired due to a neck injury and had a tryout with the WWF as a commentator at the 1994 Royal Rumble.

DiBiase returned in the spring of 1994 as a manager, now running a stable he called his Million Dollar Corporation. The first member was his old friend IRS. The second was Nikolai Volkoff, who kept showing up at WWF events looking for work.

DiBiase wasn’t through, however. He began promising Paul Bearer that he had found the missing Undertaker, and Undertaker now worked for him. This led to the Undertaker vs. Underfaker match at Summerslam which saw the Undertaker win and DiBiase’s Undertaker vanish.

Also that summer, Bam Bam Bigelow joined amidst swirling rumors that Lex Luger was as well. Luger feuded with Tatanka over the rumors, and the truth was revealed when Tatanka attacked Luger and allied himself with the Million Dollar Man.

In late 1994, DiBiase knew he needed backup in his war with the Undertaker. He rehired King Kong Bundy and brought him in to the Corporation as well. While Bundy battled the Undertaker at the 1995 Royal Rumble, IRS stole the Undertaker’s urn.

At Wrestlemania, DiBiase did not have a good night. Undertaker defeated Bundy, and Bigelow lost to Lawrence Taylor. In response, DiBiase fired Bigelow and hired Psycho Sid.

The Corporation grew through the summer as DiBiase hired Kama, who melted the urn into a necklace, and also Henry O Godwinn. Godwinn soon left the Corporation and they entered into a feud.

The next member arrived at in late 1995 as the 123 Kid turned on Ramon and joined the Corporation.

Going into spring of 1996, the Corporation was collapsing. DiBiase brought in a new signee – the Ringmaster, who soon became known as Steve Austin. In addition, DiBiase named Austin the new Million Dollar Champion.

This led up to May of 1996, when Austin faced Savio Vega in a Caribbean Strap match. If Vega lost, he would become DiBiase’s chauffeur. If Austin lost, DiBiase was fired. Austin lost and DiBiase left the WWF. (Later, Austin would claim in kayfabe interviews that he threw the match just to get rid of DiBiase.)

DiBiase headed to WCW soon thereafter and was, as Trillionaire Ted, revealed as the money man behind the New World Order. In less than a year, however, DiBiase left the group and began managing the Steiner Brothers and Ray Traylor. This arrangement continued until Scott Steiner joined the NWO. After that, DiBiase vanished from WCW programming.

DiBiase left the national wrestling scene completely and immersed himself in his ministry – traveling the country speaking to groups and also was involved with a wrestling promotion with a Christian slant.

This changed in 2005 as DiBiase was hired by the WWE as a road agent. DiBiase was released on October 26, 2006 due to cutbacks.

DiBiase returned for the Raw fifteenth anniversary show. After IRS won a battle royal, DiBiase came out from the back in full Million Dollar Man garb. DiBiase offered IRS a handful of money, IRS put it in his briefcase, the two shook hands, and IRS hopped over the top rope to give DiBiase his first in-ring victory in over a decade.

During his in-ring career, DiBiase had almost everything he needed. In Mid-South, he was consistently at the top of the cards. He was a superb technician and knew his way around the ring. In addition, he was excellent on the microphone.

DiBiase’s WWF jump in 1987 provided him the one thing he’d been missing – a can’t-lose gimmick. The Million Dollar Man firmly established DiBiase as a top contender for the rest of his career. After all, even when he and IRS were a tag team, they still had Hogan to contend with.

Today, DiBiase is best remembered for his Million Dollar Man years, but to dismiss his Mid-South tenure is to do him a great disservice. DiBiase’s in-ring career saw him steadily at the top of whatever company he was in, and even afterward, Vince McMahon trusted him to try and build up the members of his Million Dollar Corporation as well as hiring him to work as a backstage road agent. Overall, DiBiase’s career is one that will stand the test of time, thereby earning him his spot on this list of the top 100 wrestlers of the modern era.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.

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