“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase has a wrestling legend surrounding his name that keeps growing as time passes by. His legacy is wrought with controversy and curiosity, therefore this podcast was more than justified. DiBiase is not only a unique character in WWF history, but he also has one of the most intriguing etymologies of any professional wrestler.
“Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” delved into the topic of the Million Dollar Man on January 6, 2017, episode. This edition of the popular podcast was not only the longest to date marking just over three hours and ten minutes, but it was also thoroughly entertaining and informative.
From the true story behind the million dollar belt to whether or not naming his manservant Virgil was a rib, this podcast is definitely one for the ages.
Virgil’s Name Was Not A Rib
Ever since Mike Jones debuted as Ted DiBiase’s manservant Virgil in 1986 it was rumored that the name given to him was a jab directed at Dusty Rhodes. At that time the only other Virgil known in professional wrestling was that of Rhodes. Since Dusty was a man who had alluded WWF’s clutches at that point it was reasonable to draw this conclusion.
But Bruce Prichard continues to deny that naming the Million Dollar Man’s servant Virgil was an inside joke directed at the son of a plumber.
Prichard fervently claims that donning him with the name Virgil was an idea brought up in all seriousness by Joel Watts during a creative meeting. When co-host Conrad Thompson mentions that DiBiase claimed Bobby Heenan brought up the name during dinner as a joke, Prichard stuck to his story.
Bruce claims that the only real rib which took place surrounding Virgil was when they coerced him to pose for pictures next to an FTD florist truck in between takes while shooting the Million Dollar Man restaurant vignettes. Since it was joked about within the creative circle that Virgil’s outfit looked like an FTD uniform, Prichard found it funny to snap these photos without letting Virgil in on the true intentions of the auxiliary photo session.
Ted Borrowed Clothes From Vince
Vince McMahon is essentially the OG million dollar man. During the initial pitch of the character to DiBiase, Pat Patterson explained that if Vince could wrestle he would take the gimmick himself. This rang true in practically every aspect of the character from that point onward.
Vignettes in which Ted DiBiase was shown at his home were actually filmed at ‘Casa de McMahon’. The Million Dollar Man was intended to show the utmost class, sophistication, and wealth. Therefore, he only borrowed from the most affluent.
Prichard reveals that the cape Ted DiBiase wore during the segment where he picked up the million dollar belt from Betteridge Jewelers was chosen out of Vince’s personal wardrobe. The full length fur coat he wore in vignettes was borrowed from The CEO as well.
Why BJS Left WWF For Good
Although Andre the Giant was a monster of a man he was still a human being, therefore imperfect like everyone else. He found the need to protect his spot in WWF which included being extra stiff with anyone he felt was a threat to him. Andre was especially rough with fellow big men that he saw as direct competition.
Unfortunately for Big John Studd, he found himself in a position where he was perceived as a threat to Andre’s position in the company. John was paired with Andre in a feud in 1982 and the two battled in various forms until Studd left WWF in 1986 claiming retirement.
Big John Studd returned back to the fold in late 1988, reappearing on the Brother Love Show and soon rekindled his feud with Andre the Giant. His return didn’t last long as Prichard says that in June 1989 Studd finally had enough of the abuse from Andre and exited the WWF for the last time.
Prichard says the rumored grounds that Studd’s exit from WWF was due to low pay-offs is fabricated. Bruce says the real reason for Big John Studd’s leaving WWF was solely due to the fact that he was tired of being beaten up by Andre.
Truth Behind The Infamous In-Ring Promos
When WWE began running in-ring segments where Ted DiBiase would choose a member of the crowd and make them perform humiliating tasks for money the plan was to get heat. The only problem was that the original payoff to each bit was awarding the participant with money. As people scrambled over each other to be a part of the segment WWE realized they needed to shake things up to get boos.
This is when they started screwing people over. But in reality, they were merely keeping kayfabe alive to the public while giving victims the money they were promised after the spotlight was off them.
Bruce confirms that WWE did, in fact, pay the little boy who almost bounced his basketball enough times at the end of the night. Prichard says everyone who was victim to those televised shenanigans were given their money afterward although none of them knew of the planned trickery beforehand. The only one he can remember that was a plant was the woman who didn’t bark like a dog properly, as she was a local make-up artist the company used while in town.
Another interesting note concerns an earlier segment in this series featuring a young man kissing DiBiase’s foot for cash; that boy grew up to be Rob Van Dam.
Ted Was a Savvy Businessman
Ted DiBiase was a young man working in Japan and the United States as he paved his way toward professional wrestling popularity. He wanted to work as much as he could in Japan while still having a solid working relationship in America as well.
As Ted attempted to work out a deal with Jim Crockett Promotions he didn’t like the amount he was being offered. But he knew someone who was getting a better deal, Lex Luger.
When Ted DiBiase found himself in this dilemma he was able to leverage a deal with Crockett that would ensure him the same payday as Lex Luger while he was still allowed to accept any dates he wanted in Japan.
Bruce Prichard says that he was called to WWF a short time before DiBiase and brought him into Vince’s Land of Powerslams before the deal with Crockett could be finalized.
VKM Was The Real MDM
Prichard tells a story of flying with Vince McMahon in first class when a man behind them in the smoking section lit up a cigarette. Vince is a notorious critic of smoking and he was noticeably unnerved that the man had begun puffing away behind them.
Vince turned around and asked the stranger to put out the cigarette offering him $100 in return for the favor and the man refused. Vince upped the offer to $200, then $300 but the man kept denying McMahon his request. Finally, Vince proclaimed that he would pay for the man’s entire first class ticket and give him an additional $500; the man extinguished his smoking material while accepting the offer.
Bruce Prichard says that as he watched Vince McMahon peel hundred dollar bills off of a roll of money that he had on him he realized the true meaning of the Million Dollar Man character. He saw that Vince was the Million Dollar Man, giving him a new understanding of the persona.
Wrestling Isn’t Fake
Bruce Prichard is a proud product of the Houston wrestling scene and tells a story about the ‘glory days’ of the business. After their weekly wrestling show, Dick Murdoch would go to a honkey tonk bar called Gilley’s for drinks when inevitably someone would walk up to him every night and say something in line with, “You’re one of them fake ‘rasslers, ain’t ya?”
Dick Murdoch was a many of little words in situations like these as Prichard says Capt. Redneck would then turn around and knock the head off of the questioning party.
These bar fights became such a regular occurrence that the local sports reporter would usually do more stories about the fights at the bar rather than the wrestling show itself. Eventually, Gilley’s asked Dick Murdoch to stop coming to their bar after shows because he kept beating people up for calling wrestling fake.
The Million Dollar Belt’s Secrets
Betteridge Jewelers was commissioned to make the million dollar belt because WWE wanted a high-quality belt made by craftsmen. The real surprise came when Bruce Prichard says they went to pick up the finished product.
Bruce says the original design of the belt consisted of the same size plates without the three larger pieces in the middle that we know today. He continues telling that the initial size of the belt looked more like something Elvis would wear rather than a professional wrestling championship.
WWE had to postpone unveiling the million dollar belt for a few weeks to give Terry Betteridge more time to make the proper alterations to create the belt we know today.
The real diamonds in the million dollar belt were actually planted in the brown leather on the back of the belt and all of the visible stones on the front were cubic zirconium. Prichard says that the whereabouts of the belt is currently unknown because Ted claims he gave it to a member of the ring crew when he left the WWF.
Prichard says the gold plated belt fabricated by a world-class jeweler cost close to $50,000 to complete.
Vince Financed Ted’s Public Persona
Vince McMahon not only lent his clothing to Ted DiBiase to give the appearance that the character was legit, but he would also make sure DiBiase had money to burn.
To keep up public appearance Vince McMahon gave Ted DiBiase a pocket full of petty cash and an American Express card just in case he had to prove that he was indeed the Million Dollar Man. Bruce Prichard says that he spent many nights with DiBiase where he would pick up the bar tab on Vince’s dime just to keep up the public persona.
DiBiase flew first class with the affluent spending company money being as flashy and generous as he wanted to be. Bruce says that Ted DiBiase bought him at least four rings and a couple watches during this time. The only thing DiBiase had to do at the end of the day was submit his receipts to the boss.
Bruce and Ted’s Bogus Belt Adventure
Brice Prichard tells a story about stopping in Boston’s Chinatown with Ted DiBiase to wet their whistles and get a bite to eat late at night after a show. When the two returned to their Bronco they discovered that the windows of their vehicle were busted out and their belongings were missing, including a gold Halliburton briefcase which held the million dollar belt.
The two wrestling legends called the police making a report about the break-in and Bruce was tasked with calling Vince McMahon at 3:30am to relay the news from a nearby payphone.
Understandably annoyed, Vince asked Bruce, “What the hell do you want me to do about it?” he then ordered Prichard to call the news and “make some goddamn noise”.
Before the media was alerted they called some fellow wrestlers and found out later that morning Virgil had the belt in his possession. This meant the chairman of the board was woken up for no reason. Ted was instructed to call Vince the second time to make him aware that the belt had been in a company employee’s possession the entire time.
Prichard says it was a weird night in Chinatown.
You can listen to the full episode below.