Ted DiBiase Talks Origin of Million Dollar Man Gimmick

When Ted DiBiase signed with WWE in 1987 and began using the Million Dollar Man gimmick, he was given approval to travel in a lifestyle befitting the character.

DiBiase discussed the origins of the Million Dollar Man in an interview that appeared in Sports Illustrated's Extra Mustard column.

It all started in 1987, when Jim Crockett Promotions purchased the Universal Wrestling Federation -- DiBiase's home promotion in the U.S. at the time -- from Bill Watts. DiBiase was working in Japan at the time the tour took place.

DiBiase recalled the following on his initial meeting with the WWE Chairman:

I fly back, and Vince called me. He said, ‘I want to fly you up here to discuss an idea.’ So I went to New York, and he told me everything except for what it was. He said, ‘Ted, you grew up in this business. Everything has been re-done and repackaged, and it’s very seldom that something is fresh and new and different. This is it, and you’re the guy for the job. I can’t tell you what it is, but you’re going to have to trust me.’ I needed to talk it over with my wife, so I called Terry Funk, who was one of my best friends and a mentor to me, and he said, ‘Teddy, if Vince McMahon has an idea that is tailor-made for you, you pack your bags and don’t look back.’

“I called Vince and told him I was his guy, but he wouldn’t tell me his idea over the phone. He flew my wife and I first class to New York, and he laid out the whole idea behind the ‘Million Dollar Man.’ He said that the one thing everybody hates is the man who, by virtue of his wealth, thinks he can buy anyone or anything. Then Vince said, ‘In order to make the public believe you’re really rich, we’re going to fly you first class, you’ll have limousine service every day, and every time the public sees you, they’ll see the appearance of wealth. He even went so far to give me ‘lash cash.’ I’d pick my spots and go into a restaurant, announce myself, and tell everyone it was their lucky day because the ‘Million Dollar Man’ had arrived. Virgil would pick up everyone’s check, I’d slap down the hundred bills, and the WWE office would replenish me after I gave them the receipt.

DiBiase played the part well enough to become one of the top heels in WWE, headlining the first Summerslam in 1988 as well as the second Survivor Series that fall. DiBiase entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.

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