With pleasing physiques and outrageous characters, these wrestlers certainly make for fun drawings. I’m sure, therefore, you’ll forgive me another look back at their crazy ‘squared-circle’ universe.
Though Ted DiBiase had a storied career throughout the seventies and early eighties, earning him acclaim and numerous gold belts, it was his arrival in the WWF in 1987 that saw his rise to super-stardom. Coming in at the peak of Hulk Hogan’s reign as champion, DiBiase was packaged as the iconically evil ‘Million Dollar Man’, a contemptuous millionaire replete with bodyguards and diamond-encrusted apparel, using his money only to buy his way to the top.
Sure enough, in DiBiase’s first major storyline he tried to buy the championship from Hogan, who of course refused. With that, he bought André the Giant’s contract in the hope that the giant could snatch the belt on his behalf. At The Main Event in 1988, André did indeed pin Hulk and pass the strap on, if under somewhat controversial circumstances. You see, DiBiase had paid off the referee, not just to fast-count Hogan when he was down, but to undergo plastic surgery to masquerade as original referee Dave Hebner. We’re dealing with an evil mastermind here…
With such commotion, the title change was declared void and the belt vacated. WrestleMania IV hosted a (largely boring) fourteen-man tournament for the title. DiBiase, flanked by bodyguard Virgil and André, made it to the final, but lost to “Macho Man” Randy Savage. It’s widely reputed, though, that DiBiase was originally pencilled in to become champion here, while Hulk was off shooting movies; it was backstage politics amongst other superstars that caused changes to the card, ultimately scuppering his star turn. This is a shame – I would have loved to have seen what possibilities arose with the spectre of Hulkamania out of the way and ‘The Million Dollar Man’ as villainous champion. This didn’t really matter though; DiBiase was such a charasmatic performer and the gimmick allowed him so much that he really didn’t need the title belt to sell tickets. The legitimate title belt, that is – in a masterstroke, they had a decidedly frustrated Ted buy his own championship belt, The Million Dollar Championship, which certainly looked far better than the World title and formed a perfect exclamation point for the gimmick.
DiBiase would win tag team gold with Irwin R. Schyster – IRS – as Money Inc. in 1992, before retiring late the next year. He continued to make appearances in a non-wrestling capacity for several years, notably mentoring one Steve Austin in his WWF infancy, and later made brief appearances in WCW. I’m sure he continues to pop up now and again, especially given that his son, Ted Jr., was a WWE competitor until fairly recently.
A dastardly villain who was infuriatingly rich in ring prowess, DiBiase is quite rightly hailed as one of the greats of a golden era. He took an uncertain gimmick and made it iconic and, more importantly, durable; from the fantastically evil laugh of his joyous entrance music to stuffing his fallen opponent’s mouth with dollar bills he didn’t need, every single outing with ‘The Million Dollar Man’ was a treat.
Here’s that joyous entrance music: