I recently spoke with WWE Hall of Famer "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase. In the second part of the interview below, Dibiase discussed working with Andre The Giant, why he left WWF, returning as a manager, why he signed with WCW and much more.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the third part of our interview, where Dibiase talks working on the WWE creative team, his ministry, not wanting his children to enter the business, how WWE was using Ted Jr. and much more.
WrestlingINC: I've heard a lot of stories about Andre the Giant and how when he works with someone he likes, he's great to work with, but if he doesn't like, you then it's not so good.
Ted Dibiase: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I mean, Andre was a wonderful guy, and I'm going to tell you, Andre was, in my opinion, a very good judge of character. If you were a schmuck, he was going to let you know you were a schmuck. It's true. He either liked you or he didn't like you. There wasn't too many people that disagreed with his opinion. Way in back in like 1979, when I was there working for Vince Sr., I had a tag team match one night. It was me and Andre and Ivan Putski against the Valiant brothers. Andre did not like Putski, at all. Andre told me, 'you tag me, no one else.' 'You bet, boss. Whatever you say.' He made sure I did that. It's like, I would start going to the corner. I was the young guy on the totem pole. I was the one that got beat on. So I'd be reaching to tag and he would just reach way out over past Putski, he made Putski basically stand on the apron the entire match. Putski was not really one of those guys that a lot of people liked.
The night that Randy [Savage] and I had the cage match in Madison Square Garden, just prior to our match Andre worked with Bam Bam Bigelow. That's the night Bigelow walked in the dressing room and threw all his stuff together, grabbed his bag and walked out the back door and quit. He came back later, because I actually managed him for a while, and he told me, he said you know what? That's the best thing that ever happened to me. He said, because Andre was right. He said I had a horrible attitude. Andre suggested a new attitude.
WrestlingINC: That's what I've heard. It sounded like he was one of the real early locker room enforcers, once Vince [McMahon] took over WWF. After your feud with Randy, you dropped down the card a little bit, but you still remained near the top of the card for a long time. You were very protected. You were rarely lost at pay per views or anything like that. When you did form the tag team with Mike Rotundo [as Money Inc.], was that something the company came up with? Or were you looking to do something different?
Dibiase: It was a company decision. I liked it. I didn't know Mike real well at the time, but I'd seen him work and I admired his work. We did real well as a tag team. I've had a few tag team partners. I tagged with Steve Williams and I tagged with [Jim] Duggan at different times. Those guys were great, but me and Mike had real good chemistry.
WrestlingINC: What made the company finally decide to split you guys up? It seemed like you guys got a lot of success pretty quickly, but the tag team was only together for a little over a year.
Dibiase: Wrestlemania 8 was in Indianapolis, we defended the titles against the great big guys, I can't rememberů Yeah! The Natural Disasters. It's like we had them, we lost them. We got them back, we lost them, we got them back again and lost them. Part of that might be due to the fact that I had decided to leave. My decision to leave after SummerSlam 93, it wasn't because I was dissatisfied with business or anything else. Number one I was tired. I was tired of the grind. My personal life. I had, back in March of 92, Wrestlemania 8, just after that is when I had a major confrontation at home and very nearly lost my family and I wrote a book about it. It was kind of a life changing experience for me and when I left in 93, it really wasn't for any other reason except for I guess you might say, if you're going to overcome your demons, it's kind of like if drinking's your demon then you have to get out of the bar.
What I recognized was that although I had a heart change, and I had stopped in so many ways being selfish and self centered, as far as my family was concerned, the demons on the road would still be there. It's kind of like one of those deals where I realized I had to separate myself from this environment, at least for a while. I guess I was just scared. I was afraid I was going to get sucked back into it. That's really why I left in
'93. I don't know much longer we could have gone on or whatever. We weren't tag team champions at the time, but there was a good chance that we could have been again.
WrestlingINC: When you did leave and you went to All Japan, was your thinking that this was the end of your wrestling run? Even though I know you did end up getting injured.
Dibiase: It really wasn't. What happened was that on my first trip to Japan, they welcomed me back with wide open arms. The first night I was there, they tagged Hansen and me back up and put their world tag team titles on us at Budokan. So I was off and running again. But what happened was, that's when this disc problem in my back manifested itself. Not on that first tour, but the next tour, the second tour I went back, it's like one night I took a bump, just a regular bump from my feet to my back and all of a sudden pain shoots down both of my arms. Then it would just happen every now and then.
So I went home and I went to a doctor and got it checked out and he said you've got a herniated disc. He said what we need to do is, we can treat this with therapy and doing the thing where you stretch your neck, he said but ultimately you're going to have to have surgery and have the disc removed, something put in there in its place and fuse them together. He recommended that I retire from the ring. Now, he said chances are it wouldn't happen, but one you have that surgery, if you get dropped on your head again it could either cause paralysis or even worse. I was about to turn 40. When I looked at all these things together, my dad was 45 when he had a heart attack in the ring and died. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't stay too long. I would get out at the top of my career and not be one of those guys who's body had started to go away and sag and look like and old man trying to still make a living. I thought about where I was with my family and how important it was to get that right. Fortunately, I had a really good disability insurance policy.
So I decided, it wasn't like I was going to quit wrestling or quit the business, but I at least was going to get out of the ring. When I left the WWF after SummerSlam '93, I didn't leave there thinking this is the end of my career. A couple of months later, when the neck injury took place and everything and I had that conversation with the doctor, I took the insurance and I got out of the ring. I stopped wrestling, physically stopped wrestling and at that point, I really wasn't sure what I was going to do. I had some time to think about it and I had the disability. I went out to California. I had gotten kind of out of shape and I went back out there to get in shape and I got a call from Bruce Prichard and he said hey, Ted, he said Vince wants to know if you'd be willing to do color commentary with him.
WrestlingINC: You had mentioned Bruce [Prichard] contacted you about wanting to return to the WWF and do some commentary.
Dibiase: Right, so I went to Providence and did the color commentary with him for Royal Rumble. He said I did a pretty good job for first time. I said well I'd like to give this a try and he said why don't you come to Wrestlemania and make a cameo appearance at the show and we'll talk about it. So I went to Wrestlemania 10, and that was in Madison Square Garden, and we actually didn't get around to talking about it there. He called me late that night, two or three o'clock in the morning, and said hey, you still want to try that commentating? And I said yes, sir. Well, he said, the limo will pick you up at the hotel at seven o'clock in the morning. So, I started doing the color commentary and I worked with Gorilla Monsoon. I did Wrestling Challenge. As I started doing that I got back involved, not wrestling, but in a managing role. By '94, February, March, April of '94, I was back in the business. I was back in the WWF, or WWE, but I wasn't wrestling anymore. I was a manager commentator. I had no idea that my life would take that course and those things would happen in that period of time, but they did.
WrestlingINC: You had mentioned when you were wrestling how you had a hard time separating your lifestyle from being a wrestler. Was it different when you returned as a commentator and as a manager?
Dibiase: It was because again, the danger signal for me was being constantly on the road. When you're on the road all the time, you're in an environment where you're with a bunch of guys who are we're going downtown to town, and it's just the way the culture was then. It was kind of like rock stars. It was the next town and the next show, the next bar and the next girl and all that other stuff. My attitude had changed and that's what I was afraid of, but when I went back to work I was never on the road. The only time I was on the road was at television tapings which was two days every three weeks and I was spending one day a week in the studio in Stamford. It was a much better atmosphere. And it stayed that way for a while until Vince decided he wanted to take me out of the commentating booth and physically put me back on the road and I think basically to help groom a couple guys.
I know that I managed Bam Bam Bigelow for a while. I was on the road with Sid Vicious. And then, of course, the last guy was Steve Austin. I just wasn't, again, it wasn't as bad. I had had my fill of the road. So this was about the time that guys were starting to jump over to WCW and go to the other company and I basically found out in a roundabout way that I could go to WCW and have a managing role and a commentating role, the same thing I was doing. And, it would only require me to be there Monday nights and pay per views. So again, I made a choice to leave the company.
Now, hindsight's 20/20, I should have just gone and sat down and talked to Vince. I really should have done that. But at the time I thought, well, Vince has made a business decision and he's going to do what's best for his company. He's not concerned with what's going on at home for me. That's for me to deal with and if I can't deal with that, Vince is the way he wants it. We later had that conversation and he said yes, you should have come to talk to me. At the time, I didn't. So I basically sent them a letter saying that I wanted to kind of renegotiate my contract. I'm sure that somebody had gotten word to Vince that this was a possibility anyway. I just showed up at TV one day and he said, "you'll finish tonight." I said okay. So I went to WCW for three years and quite frankly, it was the most miserable three years of my life in terms of business, in terms of the most poorly run company I ever did business with, ever, in spite of the money.
Basically, I think they tagged me as Billionaire Ted. I was supposed to be the mouthpiece and financial backer of the nWo but what really happened as this thing got hotter, Eric Bischoff saw where he could slip himself into the role that he hired me for. And that's what he did. So, a couple weeks go by and I'm not having anything to say anymore, I'm just walking out there, standing in the corner with the rest of the gang. And I just went to Eric and I said look, I said I didn't spend my career so I could end it being Hulk Hogan's belt wearer. I'm not Virgil. I said if you want to have my job, great. You hired me, so do it, I said. Bottom line is, you still have to pay me. So he agreed. I went home and they brought me back as a babyface manager to the Steiner brothers, which really didn't make a whole lot of sense either.
So I just did my time there and when it was over, basically at that point, I was out of the business. I had been going out and doing a lot of speaking. I was ordained into the ministry through my local church in February of 2000. I had already been doing a lot of speaking. So basically, my vocation in life changed and I went from a professional wrestler to a itinerate preacher. Not a lot to do with wrestling at all and I had a great run. I wasn't mad about anything, I wasn't disappointed about anything.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the third part of our interview, where Dibiase talks working on the WWE creative team, working on his ministry, not wanting his children to enter the business, how WWE was using Ted Jr. and much more.