Ted DiBiase needs little introduction to anyone who has been following pro wrestling during the past 30 years.
Regarded as one of the wrestling's best technical wrestlers, he has been a force in the business for most of his career, whether it's been as the quintessential babyface scientific wrestler or as the classic heel, the Million Dollar Man.
DiBiase's autobiography, Every Man Has His Price, was published by Multnomah Publishers (available in Christian Bookstores and through Amazon.com) in 1997 and details his life both in and out of the ring with a special emphasis on the role Christianity has played in his life.
In this excerpt of a fantastic two-part interview available in Wrestling Perspective #69 & #70, DiBiase discusses why he wrote the book and the lack of respect wrestling receives.
Copyright Notice: This excerpt is Copyright © 1997 - 2006 Wrestling Perspective and may not be quoted, reprinted or distributed without written persmission from Wrestling Perspective publishers Paul MacArthur and David Skolnick.
Wrestling Perspective: What was the impetus to write your book?
Ted DiBiase: Well, you know, it's funny. If somebody would have said to me two years ago that I was going to author a book, I'd have said, "Aw, you're crazy." Although, I guess there have been times throughout my career where I thought, "You know, I'm going to sit down and write a book about this." But, it was like a passing thought. I met someone who became a friend of mine who is in Christian music. At one time he managed some of the biggest names in rock and roll music. His name is Rendy Lovelady. He was the manager of Van Halen, Motley Crue, bands like that. His story, I'd guess, would be much like my own in that he was raised in a Christian home - in fact, his father is a minister - and he got very involved in rock and roll and all that is out there in and of the world, so to speak, and just one day walked away from it. He said, "I'm not going to live this kind of life anymore." He walked away from it and turned his life back over, redirected his life towards God. As a result, he became very much involved in Christian music and now manages some of the biggest names in Christian music, Jars of Clay being one of the biggest.
He lived here in Clinton, Mississippi. He has since moved to Nashville, Tennessee, but he and I became very close at a time when I was going though a crisis period in my life, I guess because of the parallels in our stories. I being, and had become the Million Dollar Man, and grabbing the proverbial brass ring, so to speak, in the wrestling world. Finally after 12 years and all of the sudden it's laid at my feet, which it's in the book. One of the stories I tell in the book is about becoming the Million Dollar Man, making the trip to New York and Vince McMahon saying, "We want the full visual effect, Ted. We're going to fly you all over the country first class in lear jets. There'll be limousines everywhere to pick you up and you'll stay at the finest hotels and we're going to pay you real well too." (Laughs) It was like, "Wow!" But I got very much caught up in that and as a result the old saying is, "Wine, women, and song, life's a party." I don't list my sins or my failings to anybody. That's between God and I, along with the fact that I'm raising three children. Suffice to say there was a lot out there that I could get involved in and I got involved in a lot and came to a point where I faced the aspect of losing my family because of it. I was not being the husband, father that I should be, although my professional career was skyrocketing. I tell people this all the time. I enjoyed being a star in my business at a time when it was enjoying its greatest popularity of all time. Well, I say that, but I'm not so sure. It may have just risen to the occasion again, which I didn't think I would see in my lifetime by the way. (Laughs) It took off on a second wave and it's just unbelievable.
The book is that story. It's the story of me growing up in the wrestling world, in the wrestling business and it's a story with that inner struggle of - I guess so many people have it, be it wrestling, rock and roll, the movies, or whatever form of entertainment, professional sports - that inward struggle of self. I mean how many times do you pick up the tabloid magazines and you read about somebody, they're either going into or out of drug rehab, married for the fifth time, divorced for the sixth. All these people who appear to be extremely successful, talented, fame, fortune, seemingly have everything, yet there's something missing in their life. I guess that's the nature of the book. Being the Million Dollar Man, my motto was, "Everybody's got a price for the Million Dollar Man." So I titled the book, Every Man Has His Price, but of course I'm talking about the price that you pay for the choices you make in life.
(Laughs) Once again, two years ago, I'd have never dreamed this. When I sat down with this ghost writer, the guy that helped me write the book, he said, "Ted, give me a short synopsis of what you want to convey here." I said, "Well, number one, too many people - I mean there's a lot of fans and the fans are entertained by our business - but there's a lot of people who don't take our business with any amount of seriousness. They don't give it the respect that I believe it deserves. That's one thing I want to come out of this book. I want people to be able to read this book and realize, 'Hey, these guys work a lot harder than I thought they did.'" When the NFL went on strike and the baseball players went on strike, the first time, yeah I was all for them. But when the baseball players went on strike again, you know, hey, wait a minute. Enough's enough. What have you got to cry about? I live in a world where what you make is what you get. There are no guarantees. There's no player's union. There's no health benefits. You're an independent contractor. What you make is what you get and then you pay your own way. That's what I chose and I'm happy with that. It's been very good to me, but it really just kind of burned me to hear guys that were making these million dollar contracts, not to mention the fact that they had a per diem, and they had all of this other stuff lavished on them, and they're crying?
I don't want to get into all that. It's just that people say professional wrestling, and there's a lot of people won't admit that they watch it. It's kind of like they're embarrassed, like, "Oh, my gosh, well, you know I..." They come and they ask for the autograph and it's like, "Well, it's for my nephew." It's for this or for that, and if you let them talk long enough, you realize they watch every week and they're a fan. It's like, why be ashamed of that? Yes, wrestling is entertainment. It's like saying I watch a soap opera on Saturday morning, or the weekday soaps. It's a storyline. But, the art of what we do, the ability to make that crowd stand up and sit down and orchestrate them and have them sitting on the edge of their seats, or you got them going one way and then all of the sudden you give them something out of left field and they go, "Oh, wow!" I think that people in other areas of entertainment appreciate that. I think we're probably more appreciated by other athletes and other entertainers more than we are the general public.
In telling my story - which is what the book is, it's my story in long form - I talk about those early years. I talk about the four guys in the car, and the bologna blowouts and the six guys heeling a hotel room. (Laughs) Everybody paying trans and trying to make ends meet and doing unbelievable amounts of road miles. I think I listed one week out of a month where you're in New Orleans on Monday night, up to Tulsa by car on Tuesday night, etc. It's just incredible. When you look at that on paper, you go, "That's impossible. They couldn't possibly have done that and wrestled too." But, we did and we did it every week. Having a brand new car and in one year's time putting 65,000 miles on that car and not driving every week. That's just the weeks that I drove I accumulated 65,000 miles in a year. Making people step back and hoping they would step back and go, "You know, wow, I didn't realize these guys had to work that hard for what they got."
Then, the spiritual side of that. The impact that coming to this crisis in my life had on me. Realizing that for all that I had, that my family and my relationship with God were much more important than any of that. That was a strong impact on me. I had a very strong faith as a child and through my father's death. I was 15 years old and my dad died in the ring. I talk about all of that in the book, and what an effect that had on me and striving to reach the goals when people were laughing at me and saying, "You'll never do it." And finally coming to that pinnacle and getting very caught up in the world at large and coming to grips once again with what was important in my life and that's kind of where I'm at right now. That book is this journey.
Why did I decide to do it? Rendy was the first one to suggest it. Because, in hearing my story, he said, "Gosh, Ted, that could really inspire some people. You ought to write a book." I went, "Yeah, right, okay." I would sit down with somebody new that I'd met, business people, and they'd say, "Ted, wrestling's not your everyday occupation. How'd you become a wrestler?" So, I'd start to answer that, which would lead to other questions and pretty soon I'm telling this story again and they'd go, "Gosh, you know what? You ought to write a book." (Laughs) After I heard it about the fifth time, I said, "You know what? Maybe I should write a book." So that's the book. Plus nobody in my generation, or my era, so to speak of guys in this business has done this. I thought, "Well, it's not been done, so why not be the first one to do it."
Wrestling Perspective: The last book I can think of is Pat Barrett's and he protects the business the entire book.
Ted Dibiase: You know, and to be honest with you, I think that's ridiculous. I mean, because what you're doing is protecting... What are you protecting? (Laughs) Today, I mean, believe me, I grew up in that school: kayfabe. But you know what? You know when wrestling really exploded? Wrestling really exploded when Vince McMahon dressed up wrestling, marketed it towards kids, and said, "Hey, look, we're sports entertainment." It has flown higher than it ever did before with that. My way of looking at that now as I look back is: You know what? You're not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. You're telling them, appreciate us for what we are. We are sports entertainment. We are no different than going to a movie. You go to the movie to be entertained and you are entertained. The more realistic you can make that movie, the more you're entertained by it. That's the way I look at that.
WrestlingPerspective: Now you mentioned the lack of respect wrestlers receive to this day. Do you think that may have come from the years of promoters who were trying to protect the business and therefore people looked at wrestlers and said, "Oh, they're just a bunch of actors," instead of accepting them for what they were because the people were being deceived?
Ted Dibiase: Sure. Sure. I do. I do believe that. It's kind of like the thing that really gets you when you talk to the... I've had people go, "I've seen you wrestle on TV on the weekend. What's you're real job?" (Laughs) My God. Yeah, please, what planet were you born on? Yeah, I would have to say that it's like when people go, "Ah, that wrestling, it's phony," or, "It's fake." It's like, come walk a mile in my shoes and take the abuse that I put my body through, not to mention the conditioning that I had to put my body through. Not now, but then. (Laughs) To do what we do. That's just the physical aspect of it. Then you factor into that the ability to orchestrate a crowd and that's what you do. I mean, the true art of it. I can't tell you how many radio stations or TV stations I've gone into and they'll want you to do a local ID for them. Like, "Hey, this is Ted DiBiase, dadadadadada." You know, and boom, and you look at it, and say, "Okay, what are your station numbers here?" They give them to you and you get that thing there and you go, "Okay, I'm ready." And you go 3-2-1 and you do it in one take and they stood their with their mouth open like, "Wow, that was great." I go, "You don't understand. We do this everyday." You get in front of a camera, and to this day, I might get an idea of what I'm going to say, but I don't know until the little red light goes on what I'm going to do. You know, that's the art. People who don't know that, don't appreciate that because they're not behind it. That's why it's the other entertainers...
As a matter of fact, I may have said this in the book. When Terry Funk did Paradise Alley, years ago, with Sylvester Stallone, I was one of the wrestlers that went out there, one of the extras in the one montage scene they had, I don't know what they call that. They called him the Salami Kid. He was fighting his way up the ranks up the old club wrestling. I was one of those guys. Anyway, there were a lot of extras on the set and everything, and guys were making wisecracks about wrestling. Stallone stopped the whole deal. He said, "Hey, that's it. I don't want to hear another word. I don't want to hear another comment or crude remark made in reference to these guys. Because the reality of it is, what we're doing here in a couple of days would take Hollywood stunt men three weeks to do. These guys are the greatest improv guys in acting today." I thought, "Finally somebody stood up and said it." I was kind of proud of that.
There's so much more in this great two part interview.
DiBiase discusses the pitfalls of life on the road, his most memorable moments in the wrestling business, the legendary WTBS piledriver angle, how he turned on the Junkyard Dog, and buying the WWF Title.
He also discusses where the business went wrong in the early nineties and the psychology of today's wrestling compared to the '80s.
This candid interview is one of the best you will ever read.
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