It’s crazy to think that the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase just turned 60. Talk about a character who is timeless.
DiBiase talked about his classic character’s development with Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer and Figure Four Weekly website during a recent podcast. DiBiase said the circumstances that allowed him to create the Million Dollar Man gimmick aren’t around any more.
“I had time to develop my own character because I would watch other wrestlers,” he said. “You can’t do that in a [wrestling] school. You can’t go to any developmental program and learn that. You have to learn that on the job. You have to be in front of a live crowd … That’s what’s missing [today].”
He also noted something that comes up a lot when comparing the 1980s WWF wrestlers to today’s current crew: A lack of improvisation.
“Even interviews, I had the basic idea of where we were going and what I wanted to accomplish … but it wasn’t scripted. When it came out of my mouth, it was me, ” DiBiase said.
Vince McMahon picked him for the gimmick because as a heel wrestler, that’s how DiBiase would carry himself, so it worked with Million Dollar Man character.
The best heels are what we refer to in the business as the chickenshit heel,” DiBiase said.
“He talks real big, he really can wrestle, but he chooses to take shortcuts and then he runs his big mouth. And when he’s confronted, he always cowers and he always back up,” he added. “Those types of heels, you never get tired of seeing them get beat.”
In other words, people like DiBiase and Ravishing Rick Rude were not cool heels. They played assholes so well that you rooted for the good guys to win. Compare that to how Triple H portrays himself as the bad executive of the WWE. It’s not the same vibe.
When asked by Alvarez a whether McMahon lived vicariously through the Million Dollar Man gimmick. DiBiase said Vince probably did relate to the character.
It was well known at the time that Vince wanted to be a wrestler, but his father, Vince, Sr., forbade it. It wasn’t until more than 10 years later that McMahon finally put himself into the heel spotlight in the aftermath of the Montreal screwjob. In some ways, the Mr. McMahon character was derivative of the Million Dollar Man’s traits.
Alvarez also asked about a famous skit that many of you will remember: DiBiase, who would pay planted fans to perform humiliating stunts for some of his money, asked a young boy to bounce a basketball 10 times. Even if you never saw the skit, you know how it turned out: Just as the youngster was about to bounce the ball for the 10th time, DiBiase kicked it away and did his awesome laugh. The kid had this sad, confused look on his face when he didn’t get the money.
“Of all the stunts and all the gimmicks we did, the one that is brought up the most often is … the little boy and the basketball,” DiBiase said.
It was taped in Milwaukee in October 1987. “People were handpicked and it was rehearsed — and, of course, they were all paid,” he added.
Gorilla Monsoon actually suggested the scene with the kid and kicking the basketball. “It went off even better than we expected,” DiBiase said. “[The boy] couldn’t have done it any better.”