Every Man Has His Price
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This article was originally published in Wrestling Perspective Volume VIII, Number 70. Copyright © 1997 Wrestling Perspective.
At the risk of violating the rules of criticism, let me say I'm biased: I'm a Ted DiBiase fan.
In 1980, I started following wrestling by watching Georgia Championship Wrestling. At the time its top stars were Tony Atlas, Kevin Sullivan, Steve Keirn, the Freebirds, Robert Fuller and a guy named Ted DiBiase. DiBiase's feud with the Freebirds became one of the central points of the promotion and led to one of the greatest angles of all time. Who can forget the tag team match where Ted DiBiase and the Junkyard Dog (who replaced Fuller as DiBiase's partner) took on the Freebirds in the TBS studio? The Terry Gordy piledriver on the floor (when such a move actually meant something) followed by three more in the ring. DiBiase was portrayed as the guy who would never quit as he kicked out of each pinfall attempt before Tommy Rich finally threw in the towel. This was followed by a stretcher job masterfully called by Gordon Solie ("I think one leg may be shorter than the other," - hey, I bought it at the time). A week later we were treated to a hospital interview where DiBiase really did appear to be on tranquilizers. As DiBiase notes in his book, he received cards, flowers, and visitors in the hosptial and after following this business for 17 years I've yet to see another angle that had such an impact. Part of it was the newness of the sport to me and part of it was being a mark. But, it was also brilliant. I still occassionally watch my copy of it, which must be a 10th genearation video at best (content is king).
After DiBiase left Georgia, I only followed his career sporadically. I did not get Mid-South television, but did watch him when he returned to GCW and occasionally caught some of his UWF matches through the now defunct Tempo Television cable network. Since then, through tape trading/bootlegging (gasp!) I've been able to watch some of his great matches I missed in the mid-Eighties and they were splendid. Unlike some of my other early heroes who shall remain nameless, DiBiase's matches still look good to the jaundiced eyes of a hardend fan. Few wrestling fans would disagree.
Then there's the Million Dollar Man. Who can forget the vignettes? DiBiase kicking kids out of a pool on a sunny afternoon: "I think the chlorine content is a little high, don't you?" DiBiase evicting a couple from a honeymoon suite: "Don't feel sorry for them. Two years from now they'll want separate rooms." The TV angles: "Here's $300 to kiss my smelly stinking feet..." "Bark like a dog..." "Bounce the basketball 15 times..." The appearance on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was priceless when DiBiase put Robin Leach in his place by pouring champagne in the dog dish and when he asked the kid selling raffle tickets, "How's it feel to want?" How many of us have said, "Everybody has a price, for the Million Dollar Man!" and followed it with that evil laugh? It was great television and it sold tickets. The gimmick has pretty much kept DiBiase in the mainstream for over a decade, even though he abandoned it upon entering WCW in 1996.
When DiBiase's book came out I was excited to read it, not only as a wrestling fan and writer, but also as a Ted DiBiase fan. So, it is through these non-objective eyes I tell you Every Man Has His Price is worth buying. But, not for the reasons you may think.
In terms of books about the wrestling business, Every Man Has His Price is neither particularly revealing nor insightful. It's not that DiBiase protects the business, he really doesn't. But, he doesn't expose it either. He calls it sports entertainment and he insinuates what pro wrestling is, but there are also points where he describes the action from the storyline instead of reality (Hulk Hogan is not 6'8" and Andre the Giant was not 7'4" - you get the picture). This doesn't make up a significant portion of the book, but it does occur in a few places and hardcore fans will certainly catch these spots.
If you are expecting a story about the inner workings of the business, the various political forces that drive it and how they affected DiBiase's position in the sport, then you will be disappointed. This isn't a book about the wrestling business. It's a book about DiBiase's life, how the wrestling business played a part in it, how achieving his goals in wrestling often conflicted with his personal life, and the role Christianity has played in dealing with the temptations of the sport and life.
The story's foundation is laid by focusing on DiBiase's developmental years and the key figures of that time, most notably his mother, grandmother and Iron Mike DiBiase (his adoptive father). Wrestling fans will note Iron Mike is a very important figure who's impact on Ted was profound. Mike raised Ted as if he were his natural son (he always introduced Ted to the boys as "my son"). Ted's religious upbringing is also given focus - he was an alter boy - and in many ways foreshadows his return to religion decades later.
A local football hero, DiBiase was courted by several colleges and exposed to some shady recruiting practices back in the early Seventies. While he played football in college, several injuries convinced him football was not to be and he channeled his drive into pro wrestling. It is at this point the story takes off for the wrestling fan. Whether or not you're familiar with DiBiase's career, this makes for intriguing reading. But, of equal interest to the wrestling stories is how wrestling affected him. DiBiase chronicles the demise of his first marriage, the blurring of the line between fantasy and reality, how he started living the life of the Million Dollar Man, and how he almost lost his second marriage.
In 1992, faced with the potential of losing his second wife and two children, DiBiase turned to Christianity. Every Man Has His Price builds to this climatic point quite smoothly as Christianity is a central theme of the book and while not the book's sole focus, it is prevalent because of its importance in DiBiase's life. The fact that the book is published by a Christian book publisher also plays a part in it. Since his personal crisis in 1992, DiBiase has become a popular speaker on the relegious circuit and it was through telling his story to many people that he got the inpiration to write the book.
For fans concerned more about wrestling than DiBiase's life story, there are enough interesting wrestling items to make Every Man Has His Price enjoyable: The story behind the classic kid bouncing the ball angle. What life was like on the road for a young pro wrestler in the mid to late Seventies. How a young wrestler makes ends meet. How some of DiBiase's friends like Harley Race, Terry Funk, and Dick Murdoch (mistakenly spelled Murdock in the book) played crucial roles in his life. How the Million Dollar Man was created and many other fascinating stories. But, this is not a wrestling book. It's a book about a wrestler and there's a big difference.
As a DiBiase fan I recommend this book without reservation. Learning more about Ted DiBiase, the man, was a thrill, like reading a biography about a favorite entertainer or athlete usually is. As a book about the wrestling business, it's not much more than a cursory look into it. As a book that is intended to deliver a powerful Christian message it is also successful, yet I never felt DiBiase forces religion. As a book about a man this receives a thumbs up.
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This article is Copyright © 1997, 2000 Wrestling Perspective. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be quoted, reprinted or distributed without written permission from Wrestling Perspective publishers Paul MacArthur and David Skolnick.
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