I recently spoke with WWE Hall of Famer "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase. In the third part of the interview below, Dibiase discussed 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: How did you end up working in the WWE creative department?
Ted Dibiase: I think it was late '04 that I was back there. I got a call, they wanted me to come back and be a part of the creative team. I said, "you know, that's not really me." I'm not Clint Eastwood. I'm not good on both sides of the camera. I'm good in front of it. And they wanted me to come back and at least try, so I did for about a year and a half and I guess it took them that long to figure out I was right. But going back, I reestablished a very good working relationship with the company and with Vince so all's well that that ends well. Again, when I left, I think John Laurinaitis was the head of talent relations at the time. He called me in he said, "Ted," kind of hanging his head. I said, "you're letting me go?" He said, "well...," and I said, "thank you very much" and he looked at me with a shock on his face. And I said, "Johnny, this was the most miserable year and a half I have ever had." I love the business, but I'm just not made to do this. I tried and I'm like I wasn't just going to quit, because I wasn't just going to quit. I'm not going to just quit.
It's just one of those things. When you're a wrestler you're thinking about one guy, yourself, your character and whatever guy it is you're working with. When you're a writer and you're kind of in a booking type role, you're thinking about the entire roster so you're thinking about wrestling 24 hours a day. Quite frankly, life's too short. I put in a lot of time and it just wasn't for me. Anyway, I've got a great relationship with the company today, I'm on a Legends contract with them and they're free to call me whenever they like and I'll go back and make a cameo appearance and go make some public appearances for them for charity events and whatever they want me to do based on my availability. And I'm fine with that.
WrestlingINC: After your time with WCW you had started Ministry, right? The Heart of David?
Dibiase: Right. I mean Heart of David Ministry is something I made. It's a non profit organization, a 501 (c)(3). Basically I am the company. I am Heart of David because Heart of David Ministry, the Ministry is a Ministry of evangelism. It's like I'm the chief cook and bottle washer. What the Ministry is is it's me going out, it's me going to churches. I go to prisons. I go to foreign countries and I share the gospel. Churches will pay me to come in and do events and then I still do school assemblies from time to time, but that's not church related, that's still trying to bring a positive message young people in our country today about the importance of making smart choices. Of course, I share the smart and dumb choices that I made in my life in an effort to help them make better choices. That's Heart of David. Again, it's about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. That, more than anything else, is what I do.
WrestlingINC: Was this a case of your faith was always there and it became stronger later on, or were you reborn?
Dibiase: As a young man, I had a strong faith in God. It dwindled and I pretty much abandoned it when I went to college. Basically, what I tell everybody is what took over my life was my pride. And it became a big ego trip. I went through a failed marriage and I got married a second time and you know, wonderful wife who gives me two children. I get my son back from my first marriage. On top of that I get the biggest break of my wrestling career and things are going really good. But, in spite of all that's going good, because I'm traveling and being gone all the time, I'm just falling into the same junk that everybody else is. I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol, but I did my share of drinking and drugging and of course, I guess the real demon in my life was womanizing.
That's the deal. It's like, you know, just after Wrestlemania 8 my wife confronted me. She discovered what was going on and that was the wake up call. It was kind of like, you've blown it, I really thought my marriage was over. Just looking in the mirror, it's like I have blown the best thing that's ever happened to me and why? To have a good time just to stroke my ego. It's pretty hard to face. Again, that's another reason I speak to a lot of men. I tell 'em, I say this all the time, I say all you guys that think your masculinity is measured by the size of your biceps and how much beer you can drink and how many women you can bed, well, I've got two words for you. Grow up. Because your manhood is measured by the size of your character and your integrity. So those are the things I had to gain. Those are the things I had to work on and in doing that, I turned back to my faith in God. It changed my life, I mean totally changed my life. Totally changed the way I look at everything. From that time to today, the most important thing in my life is my wife and my family, not my job, not my career, not me me me me me. It's them.
People say, you know what, Ted? If you'd have wrestled a couple more years and the reality was, I probably could have. My doctor told me, "I recommend you retire." He said you can probably have the surgery and go back to work, and several guys have had that surgery and gone back, but I chose not to. And I chose not to for my family. I never said that to anybody at the time, but that's really why I made the choice. I'm going to do this right this time. Maybe I would have had one of those million dollar contracts that Ted Turner was giving away if I had stayed a little longer. People say, "don't you regret missing that?" And I do not for a day. That's because what I have now is far greater. I have the love and respect of my wife and my kids. I could look in the mirror and I'm happy with that guy now. He's okay. He's not a schmuck.
WrestlingINC: What were your thoughts when your sons said they wanted to break into the business? Were you concerned at all, or were you fine with it?
Dibiase: I was like, are you kidding me? My boys were obviously old enough by that time to, I wrote a book about my story so they got a bit of understanding about what went down. They know what went down. They see me. Up until this past December, I was hobbling around because my knees were horrible. I've had them both replaced now. When they said they wanted to wrestle, they knew that's not what I wanted for them, but because they loved me and I guess idolized me, they wanted to try it and I knew if I said no or went against that, that they would just do it. Even if they didn't do it, they would always wonder, "could I have done it?" I'd have been blamed. So it's one of those times that as a parent, you have to just let them go and say okay. And of course Brett, my youngest, he was doing great down there in the developmental program and then he just kept getting hurt. He had like four knee surgeries in two years and a neck fusion. He finally realized that Dad, I don't think I was made for wrestling.
[Editor's note: The interview was conducted before Ted left WWE earlier this week] And of course Ted Jr. went there and did very well. Shot out of the cannon like a ya know, did a movie and did the whole thing with him and Orton and Cody Rhodes. I don't know, that's a debatable point. It's kind of like everything seemed to go cold That's kind of a mystery. He's also had a couple of injuries, but when you talked to the boys, when you talk to the guys producing the show, Arn Anderson and Michael Hayes and the guys that are helping the talent, they've all told me. They've said your kid is one of the best wrestlers we've got. So, I don't know. Timing's everything, I know that. They kind of went off in the wrong direction, in my opinion, when they tried to make him an extension of me. That whole where I gave him the belt and he kept saying, "I'm not my dad," but that's when he's starting to act like me. It didn't work.
WrestlingINC: I think that's something that has never worked.
Dibiase: What's that?
WrestlingINC: When someone's trying to act like someone else as opposed to being their own person.
Dibiase: Right, and of course that's not what he wanted to do. It's really a mystery to me. People constantly come up to me, even now, and they go your son is so good, why aren't they doing anything with him? I say you know, that's a good question. I don't really know. I'm not really sure where my son is too right now, in terms of, he had an injury and while he was injured he was off during the last couple months of his wife's pregnancy and during the first couple month's of his son's life. I remember when he was getting ready to go back on the road he called me and he said, "dad, he said I just want you to know, I get it now. Now I know why you didn't want me to do this." He said it's really hard to leave this little boy. I said, "well, I tried to tell ya, but some things you just have to learn that way."
So he's been back on the road wrestling, but they haven't put him on television at all. Basically what they've said is we don't want to just throw you back out there. Which they could do, they could throw him out there because he's good and just abuse him and let everybody beat him. But they haven't done that. What the future holds for Ted and wrestling, I don't know. I don't know how interested the company is in really pushing him and I'm not sure how real interested Ted is in continuing at this point. We'll all know soon enough, I guess.
WrestlingINC: I've heard from several second and third generation wrestlers, where they'll talk about it's easier to break into the business, but it's harder to get pushed or get to the top because there's much higher expectations placed on you.
Dibiase: It is, it's true. That's what I told my son. I said getting in or getting the opportunity to be seen, getting you into the program to train, that's not the problem. But I said once you go, when you walk out the curtain, the expectation of the crowd goes way up because of the name. Ted seemed to handle that well. His movie did, of course they've had some other movies life time I've checked, but one time, somebody told me they said Ted, The Marine 2 is the second most profitable movie that the WWE had produced. At one point Nickelodeon wanted to do something with him. They told him, they said they looked at everybody, we want you. Vince didn't want to let him do it because he said he was working too much, four days for Vince and three days for them. So I don't know. It's just one of those kind of you have to wait and see.
Again, the business is just a business. There's people that have labored and labored and it takes them a long time before they get that break and then they get it. Then sometimes, I've seen guys with a lot of talent never get it. It's the nature of the beast.
WrestlingINC: What are your thoughts on today's talent? Do you get to watch much of wrestling?
Dibiase: I was watching more when my son was more involved. It's kind of like, I lived so much of my life doing that, if you talked to Terry Funk or talked to any one of those old guys, they don't watch it either. We tune in every now and then to just take a look, but it's like I don't run to my TV every Monday night and watch RAW. I of course watched RAW this past Monday night because I did a RAW party up in Poughkeepsie, New York. A bunch of people came to a wing place. This guy hosted a Monday Night RAW party. He was the Million Dollar Man. It was kind of fun.
WrestlingINC: Do you enjoy doing appearances like that?
Dibiase: Oh yeah, I have fun with the fans. It's fun to mingle with them and listen to them. You get an idea of what they like and what they don't like. When you talk to the fans, a lot of the older fans say the wrestling's not as good as it used to be. Your era was the best era. In a lot of ways they're right and there's a lot of reasons for that, but by the same token, everything changes and evolves and WWE today is a tremendous business. It's marketed very well and they've got a fan base, a young fan base, that just loves them. It is a lot more drama than it used to be It is what it is. Once again, it's branding. Why do you go to Starbucks and pay five bucks for a cup of coffee?
WrestlingINC: I just feel like, from your days in Mid South, and NWA and WWF, just story lines and feuds really stood out back then. There was a real reason behind them. The matches were great. You had time in a program, it wasn't month to month or week to week and things just don't seem to resonate nowadays as they did back then.
Dibiase: I agree. I really don't understand that. I don't understand that. A lot of people will say people's attention span. I don't agree with that. I mean, I think it worked then, it would work now. Why can't you have one of these story lines, instead of it being over, you start the story line and by the time you get to the pay per view it's over. Why can't you carry that over to two or three pay per views? Keep that story line going. I think a lot of that has to do with the talent. Are you a good enough worker to carry it? Are you a good enough worker to go out there and continue to give the people their money's worth with that same guy? That might be one of the reasons that they don't continue to do it. I don't know. There's not a plethora of excellent workers. There's a few, but there's not as many as there used to be.
WrestlingINC: You mentioned that you also do public speaking engagements for churches and things like that. How can someone contact you if they want you to speak?
Dibiase: I have two websites. Once is milliondollarman.com and the other is heartofdavidministry.com. Also, I'm on Twitter @MDMTedDiBiase and I have a Facebook page that is associated with both websites, Million Dollar Man and Heart of David Ministry. There's lots of ways to get to me.
WrestlingINC: You mentioned that milliondollarman.com recently launched and you're now blogging. What's that experience like?
Dibiase: It's something new but I'm having fun with it. It's just another way to keep myself out there and stay connected with the fan base. My motives now are not just wrestling. It's kind of like I have a message. It's kind of like I have a hope and a savior and I think that everybody that's willing needs to hear that message. It's a way for me to connect with people. So I'm going to keep blogging.
WrestlingINC: You've also written two books, Every Man Has His Price and The Million Dollar Man. Can people purchase those books off your website?
Dibiase: Yes. Right now if you go, the store is there but right now I'm about to, I've actually added four chapters to the original book, Every Man Has His Price. It will be available to purchase and also download, if you have an iPad or Kindle or whatever you have, we're going to make it available that way. I also have a video, a DVD version of my story, that will be available as well. And then of course if you want the wrestling book, The Million Dollar Man, you can also buy that book at WWE.com.
Click here for part two of the interview, where Dibiase discussed working with Andre The Giant, why he left WWF, returning as a manager, why he signed with WCW and much more.