‘Fame’ Comes At A High ‘Price’ For The Million Dollar Man
If you were a fan of professional wrestling during its ‘glory years’ in the late 1980s, one name that would be instantly recognizable is ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase. Along with his loyal, mostly silent, bodyguard Virgil, DiBiase played the role of the heel, or the ‘bad guy,’ to perfection.
He was the man that fans loved to hate. And that was a good thing; it meant he was doing his job properly, since without villains of the squared circle such as himself, Ric Flair, and ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, there couldn’t be heroes like Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat to root for. But despite the evil persona of ‘The Million Dollar Man’ being just a television character that DiBiase was portraying, it wasn’t long before the second generation grappler started to become a real-life ‘bad guy.’
The 1980s saw the sports/entertainment hybrid of pro wrestling thrust into the mainstream like never before and for the performers who were lucky enough to work for Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF), now known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the closest equivalent, in terms of popularity and lifestyle, would be that of a rock star. For DiBiase, he quickly bought into his own hype and fell into the dangerous pitfalls of life on the road, also known as sex, drugs, alcohol, and all-around debauchery.
The behavior lasted for several years before what ultimately became DiBiase’s wake-up call in 1992. After he and tag-team partner Irwin R. Schyster battled their opponents the Natural Disasters at WrestleMania VIII, DiBiase did what was second nature by that point in his life – he showered, got changed, and prepared to hit the town for yet another night of partying. However, when placing his requisite check-in phone call to his wife Melanie back home, the fantasy life he’d been living was about to get pounded with a reality check of epic proportions. Recently learning of his philandering, she confronted her husband about his ongoing adultery. And DiBiase’s life would never be the same again.
“I was at the top of my game and my profession and when I was confronted with cheating on my wife, in a fraction of a second, I realized that I put the most valuable things in my life in jeopardy,” DiBiase told Royal Flush. “And it was all over simply feeding my ego and it was very ugly.”
From that moment on, DiBiase became determined to clean up his life and the former wrestler has never wavered. Today, he’s a full-time evangelist, minister, and motivational speaker. And instead of spending his free time lounging in hotel bars getting into trouble, his focus is now much more honorable – spreading the word of God.
While DiBiase has shared his story of redemption via various mediums over the years, including in books and at a plethora of live speaking engagements, it had never been told through film – until now.
The Price of Fame, set for a one-night-only release in theaters nationwide on November 7, has the unique twist of not merely telling DiBiase’s tale, but telling it through the eyes of his son, Ted DiBiase Jr.
The younger DiBiase, himself a former wrestler, along with brother Brett, were shielded from their father’s exploits for several years. Looking back, DiBiase is happy with that decision. “When this all happened, my wife said ‘Despite what you did to me, you’re a great dad and your sons hold you on a pedestal.’ She didn’t want to destroy that. The boys only started hearing the stories when I would share them in church. That was a good thing in many ways,“ DiBiase believed.
One obstacle DiBiase has run into and will probably continue to deal with from time to time is the belief by some that his commitment to faith is a cop-out and all just a facade, much like the ring wars that DiBiase participated in years ago. He understands the skepticism. “One day I’m happy-go-lucky Ted and then I’m this. And on top of that, I’m saying I’ve given my heart to Jesus Christ and I’m a Christian now. For some of my peers, that’s a lot to sink in. But I realize that for a lot of them, this is just something that they’re going to have to see for themselves,” DiBiase admitted.
In addition to family and friends, including fellow man of faith Hal Santos, a pastor that aided DiBiase on his journey, many of his contemporaries are featured in the film. Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Lex Luger, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Terry Funk, and the late George ‘The Animal’ Steele are just a few of DiBiase’s former colleagues with cameos. The finished product profoundly impressed him. “I’ve been telling my story for years but to see it come to life onscreen, it touched me in a way that surprised me,” DiBiase recounted. “I just hope that at the end of the day, whether you’re a person of faith or not, or just a wrestling fan, that you walk away from watching it and realize that what’s really valuable in life isn’t money, fame, a big house, or a fancy car. All of that will make you happy momentarily but in the long run, if you don’t have family, loved ones, and people that you care about, you really don’t have anything.”
Despite the turmoil and heartache that came as a result of DiBiase’s wrestling career, his response when asked if he’d do it all over again is unmistakable. “It was such a big part of my life. There are a lot of things I’d do differently but I’m a lot wiser now. Hindsight is 20/20. I’ve had both knees replaced, two surgeries on my neck, and my lower lumbar is constantly bothering me. Other than that, I’m doing great,” laughed DiBiase. “But I went to work every day and absolutely loved what I did and not everybody can say that.”
One-night-only event, in theaters nationwide on November 7, 2017.
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