Ted Dibiase Sr. Talks Signing With WWF, Why His WWF Title Reign Was Nixed, Savage, Mid South
WrestlingINC: What were your thoughts when Mid South finally folded?
Dibiase: When Mid South came to an end I had enough respect for Bill Watts, I was actually in Japan. I had made an annual trip to Japan ever since that first trip in 1976, I'd go once a year. Shortly before Mid South sold, Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody were tag team partners, two of the biggest names in wrestling in Japan, foreign wrestlers anyway. Brody had left All Japan and leapt over to the new company, New Japan. So Stan Hansen, and again, Stan Hansen and I had a relationship going all the way back to West Texas State. As I was coming in, he was leaving there. I still remember the first match he had in the Admiral Sports Arena. So there was a lot of wrestlers that came out of West Texas State. But Stan came to me, anyway, and he said, 'Ted, Brody's jumped over to New Japan and he said I need a new partner. Would you like to fill that spot?' And I said, 'absolutely.' I jumped on that because I realized how over Stan was and this was really elevating me.
Reality is, I could have made Japan a career. I could have just gone to Japan and I'd have been great. Anyway, I left Mid South and I went on a tour. This is like right before Bill sold out to Crockett. Nobody knew anything. Bruce Prichard and I had been friends. Bruce told me, right as I was getting ready to go to Japan, that he was flying to New York to interview for a job. He was sitting down to talk to Vince [McMahon] and Pat [Patterson], I said, 'please give them my best and throw it out there. Ask them if they're interested in me coming in.' So I get a call from Bruce while I'm in Japan and it was a two fold call. He called me to let me know that Bill had sold Mid South to Jimmy Crockett and that Vince was definitely interested in talking to me and that no matter what I did, in no way, shape or form do I sign a contract with Jimmy Crockett before I have a chance to talk to Vince.
So when I knew that Bill was getting out, that said everything to me because I know how smart Bill Watts is. Bill's brilliant. The guy's a good, smart, crude businessman. In terms of psychology of our business, he's one of the best and he learned from one of the best down in Florida. I knew if Bill was getting out, the handwriting was on the wall. Bill went from Mid South. It was too little too late, but he tried to start the Universal Wrestling Federation, UWF, in an effort to try to compete with Vince, but Vince already has his network in place. And he had more money. So Bill sold out and got out when the getting was good. I understood that and had it not been for Japan, I might have been hitting the panic button just a little bit because to me, Mid South was one of the best territories in the country. Florida was good. Mid Atlantic was good. But I liked the way Bill did business.
Because I had Japan and was secure in that, I wasn't so worried. And I was also very curious as to what Vince had in mind. Of course the rest of that is history. I came back from Japan and I got the call from Vince. He said, 'I got an idea that I think is tailor made for you.' So I flew up to New York and met with Vince and basically that first meeting, he told me it was something that had never been done. That's saying a lot because a lot of things in wrestling had been done and redone and just repackaged. He wasn't going to tell me what it was until I agreed to come on board because he didn't want to give away the idea. After discussing it with my wife and Terry Funk, who's always been a mentor of mine... basically Terry says if Vince has something he says is tailor made for you and it's his personal idea, he said the same thing Pat Patterson told me, he said how hard do you think he's going to get it to work? Like, get it over. So, I called Vince back and said I'm your guy.