Ted DiBiase Jr. has been away from in-ring competition for nearly a decade now, but wrestling follows his family name on a daily basis.
Speaking to Chris Van Vliet, DiBiase Jr. says that he felt expectations were higher because of his legendary surname.
“Personally I feel like they were, that’s a personal opinion,” DiBiase Jr. said. “But yeah, you want to do justice to the legacy, when that torch is passed and you are trusted with the opportunity and to be blessed with the opportunity. But yeah they give you time and pay a lot of money on these networks to deliver, and in a short time.”
That short time was no joke either. DiBiase Jr. highlighted his fast-track to worldwide television, noting he made the leap to WWE far sooner than his father.
“The difference was my dad had I don’t know how many years in Mid-South and in the territories leading up to his career in WWF,” DiBiase Jr. said. “Whereas for me, I trained for a year in Elden, had 4 months in Japan and when I get back WWE hires me. A year later I am debuting on TV. It’s about 2 years in the making and then here I am a WWE Superstar. And my dad introduces me May 26th, 2008. I believe it was in Denver Colorado. I felt the pressure big time that night for sure.”
Regardless of the pressure, DiBiase Jr. admitted he always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” DiBiase Jr. said. “There was a period where I just didn’t think it was gonna be a possibility. He was pretty adamant about us not wrestling. That was due to a lot of road life and his focus on having a family when he shifted out of the business. That focus on having a family became more his faith and became more important than being a global icon. But when you’re watching your dad wrestle Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant at Madison Square Garden, it’s like watching Batman and Superman go at it. Of course I wanted to be like him.”
The son of the Million Dollar Man was an active WWE superstar for just under six years, where he most notably wrestled alongside fellow generational talents Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton in Legacy. DiBiase Jr. has made a couple of one-off appearances on the independent scene in the time since, but he considers himself “mostly” retired from the sport.
“I’ll say yeah. As of today I’ll say yes, but if somebody called me, I’d be totally lying if I said there wasn’t an itch,” DiBiase Jr. said. “I can still go, I just like to keep doors open and don’t burn bridges. If you’re going to burn one then blow it up. My connection to that world, at times it’s like being married. Sometimes it’s this love-hate relationship. No it’s hard, but it’s such a deep routed piece of who I am and what I come from being a 3rd generation wrestler. My grandfather and grandmother were wrestlers, then my father so you know. I leave that door open, but it would have to be the right scenario for me to get in the ring again.”
DiBiase Jr. left WWE in the summer of 2013, ending a five year run on the company’s main roster. The former tag champion detailed his decision to leave, attributing a lot of it to mental health issues he was battling at the time.
“I was offered another 5 year deal. It was generous, but when it came down to it, I was battling some things internally,” DiBiase Jr. said. “There were some mental health issues. I was going through depression and anxiety, and also being a new father. I just knew. What I didn’t have growing up, although I had this iconic father I love dearly, he wasn’t at my birthdays. He also wasn’t there for my football or soccer games. I believe the greatest asset we have in our world is time. You’re not guaranteed more and you can’t get it back. That was one of the greatest gifts I could give my son.
“With no plan I left and we are doing good. I thought I was going to wrestle and have a long career, but I really believe it’s not what we do that defines us but who we become along the way. I spent a lot of time while I was there trying to climb the ladder. But I realized that’s not who I am. My core values are faith, family, love, wisdom, service, in that order. I was dying internally and losing sight of who I was. I love helping and serving people, and also entertaining people. To be able to walk into a hospital or a base and bring a smile onto the face of a family or a veteran, that was such a blessing.
“There really wasn’t a lot of back and forth. I think at that time in my career it was kind of part of me thinking I was just going to come back. I was going to figure this out, but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t the usual best of luck in your future endeavors. I quit on YouTube or Twitter, I did a video and announced [I was leaving]. I just wanted to be me, I wanted to let people know how grateful I was and let WWE know how grateful I was. Also, I was walking out on my own accord for personal reasons. There wasn’t any back and forth. There’s tons of guys sitting in the wings waiting to take that spot. That’s what makes this industry hard to get into and even harder to hang onto.”
With his in-ring days in the rear-view, DiBiase Jr. has focused his time on helping those involved in physical sports, military service and beyond plan for a life after their grueling careers.
“I launched Combat Veterans with a couple of buddies of mine. It’s also majority veteran owned. I love those guys, they are mission minded like me. They are always seeking significant living. You learn how to define what success is for you. For me, that is serving and serving alongside guys that served for our country.
“It’s really to serve guys like my father. When you leave WWE, which is this global conglomerate multibillion dollar marketing machine, minus the work you do in the ring, everything is done for you. When you leave, it’s good luck in your future endeavors. The average life of a wrestler is 5 years. A lot of guys don’t plan for life after wrestling. We’ve got subsidiary collections as part of 16 creative. There’s the wrestling collection and the military collection. We are getting NFL legends soon too. It’s helping these old timer legends too. We are building a community where they can engage with their fanbase and take care of their families. It’s creating a legacy and an insurance policy. When they pass, their legacies will live on for their families.”
Even though he’s been away from WWE for nearly a decade, DiBiase Jr. still carries many of the lessons he learned in the promotion in his daily life.
“Never stop growing and never stop learning. I think my time with Legacy, I can look back at how focused I was,” DiBiase Jr. said. “It wasn’t that I stopped, but I got comfortable. What it took to get to the WWE was this insane focus and mental grind. Then you get there and for 2 years I show up and I’m in 3 segments. All night long we are opening and closing the show. We were main eventing all of the overseas tours and I was having the time of my life. The second we had that match at WrestleMania 26, Michael Hayes asked me what I wanted to do next. I’m like, ‘That’s your job.’ We had all of these promos and storylines, but there was nothing planned for after that day. You can always live out a mission. If I can’t serve someone who is needy, I can serve my wife or my son. If I’m constantly serving myself, it is easy to get distracted from what really matters. When they said what do you want to do next, I should have had a book of ideas. I got dependent on the system.”
DiBiase Jr. himself is a third-generation wrestler, and with a family name like that, questions will always arise about whether the family business will continue with his children.
“I’m gonna support whatever they do I believe in that, and giving them the proper instruction,” DiBiase Jr. said. “Also positioning them for the greatest success they can have, whatever that is. I would want to know if it’s something they are really passionate about or if it’s chasing fame or money. Those things are fleeting and it isn’t a good reason. I remember my dad told me, ‘You’re not going to be a wrestler. Over my dead body.’ I’m not going to do that to my kids. My daughter wants to be a diva, oh man. She is three years old and I am already struggling. If some punks around I’m answering the door in my boots and Speedos. I’ll show him highlights of me beating up John Cena.”