Ted Dibiase Sr. Talks Signing With WWF, Why His WWF Title Reign Was Nixed, Savage, Mid South
So, I flew up and he laid it out there and described the character, the Million Dollar Man, and what it would entail and one of the marketing schemes was to basically make the public believe I was rich by flying me everywhere first class and giving me the limousine service and the whole nine yards. You talk about your ship coming in, it was credible. So, fond memories.
WrestlingINC: Were you at all concerned when you signed? Just because at that time most of the guys getting pushed were these jacked up monsters. Were you worried that the push wouldn't come through or anything like that?
Dibiase: No, not really because wrestling is a business where you got to have variety. Yeah, I knew that New York was a big man's territory. They liked the big, chiseled guys. And quite frankly, that's why I didn't last long when I was there in '79. I looked like an athlete. The attitude back then was a little different. A lot of guys would tell me, you need to stay in shape enough that you look like an athlete. If you look at a lot of amateur wrestlers, they're not all chiseled, but they're athletes. I wasn't that concerned because I realized that it was Vince's idea and he wasn't just going to give it to anybody. They had enough confidence in me and my wrestling ability and my ability to be that character. And of course, he did say to me though, one of the things he told me was you know how I am. I want you to be more visible in the gym and beef it up a little bit. I said I can do that. And I did. I probably was, in those years as the Million Dollar Man, I probably got in the best shape of my life.
WrestlingINC: Did you know that they were going to pair you with Andre the Giant pretty early on?
Dibiase: No, not really. I knew that they were going to get me the valet, Virgil, this guy that was around that would appear to be my man servant, but he would eventually turn on me and get tired of my stuff. But I didn't really know until they did the Saturday Night Main Event, the first time that wrestling was on national, live network television since the '50s. It was Andre in his first rematch with [Hulk] Hogan since Wrestlemania 3 in a record setting crowd. The story, as much as it was Andre and Hogan, was me because I had hired Andre's services and storyline was going to beat Hogan and sell me the belt. People ask me about my mile markers, that was one of the mile markers of my career because that night really set in motion, more than anything I had done up to that time, I had done all the introductory vignettes and things like that, but that night with that match and the twin referees and that whole thing, the way it went down, was brilliant. That really put me on the map and that was the set up for Wrestlemania 4. I did know that going into Wrestlemania 4 and coming out of that that I'd be spending a lot of time with Andre. It was great.
WrestlingINC: You mentioned that episode of The Main Event where you basically walked out with the WWE Championship. You were actually recognized as WWF Champion at a couple of house shows, and even defended the title, right?
Dibiase: Right. I don't know whether it was a week or two where I would go to a few house shows and they introduced me as the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion. Of course, that was to continue to let people's anger stew, so to speak. How could this jerk do this? Then of course they come out with the statement from [storyline WWF President] Jack Tunney, the supposed boss, saying there was no way I could buy the title. They were stripping me of the title and since technically speaking, Andre had won, whether it was fair or not, that was the decision made that night. And since Andre was unwilling to take the belt back because I had paid him, what are they going to do? Well, the only thing they could do was hold a tournament to crown a new champion. So there was the setup.