AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — At this year’s Amarillo Super Mini-Con, a wrestling hall of famer and legend would return to the city that helped start it all for him. That would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
DiBiase spent some of his early life growing up in Amarillo, as his father “Iron” Mike DiBiase, and Dory Funk, Sr. were good friends and in-ring rivals.
“I went to first grade here, when my dad was wrestling….So first grade, I left, came back, I went to the sixth grade in Amarillo and then I went back to Nebraska, 7th, 8th, 9th, came back, thought I was going to go to high school here but that was the summer of ’69 when my dad had a heart attack in Lubbock and passed away, so I went back out to Arizona and finished high school,” said DiBiase.
DiBiase would also play football at West Texas State University, now what is West Texas A&M University.
“I hadn’t seen any wrestling for like three years and I had signed a scholarship to play football, a letter of intent at Arizona. I’m watching TV one day and wrestling comes on and it’s the tape out of Amarillo and it’s the Funks and they are going to Tucson, they are going to be in Tucson. So I went to Tucson, to see them, and Terry and he said ‘Teddy, I can get you a look at West Texas State, he said if you are happy where you are, okay, but it’s a free trip, come back and see everybody, and I said ‘I would love to do that, so I came back, took the recruiting trip and that’s really all it took,” said DiBiase.
DiBiase would first cut his teeth in the ring in Western States Sports, the promotion owned by the Funks.
“Realistically, I tell everybody I didn’t come back to Amarillo to play football, I came back to Amarillo because I knew one day I was going to be a professional wrestler, and my relationship with the Funk family had everything to do with that,” added DiBiase.
DiBiase said he would play for WTSU through his junior year and he said that back then wrestling was regional. He said another local wrestler, Dick Murdoch got DiBiase booked for Bill Watts in Oklahoma in the summer of 1975. DiBiase said he had one year left at WTSU, but he said things went so well that summer, he did not return to WTSU.
DiBiase added it’s always a good feeling to come back to Amarillo.
“The Funk family are like family to me and Amarillo is like, I came in early yesterday and I rented a car and just drove around. Just went back to places where we had lived. I went to the sixth grade at Avondale Elementary School. So I revisited all those things. I have nothing but good memories here,” said DiBiase.
DiBiase would eventually become one of the biggest heels in professional wrestling history as “The Million Dollar Man” feuding with the likes of Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
He added that when he was deciding to make the move to the WWE, then the World Wrestling Federation, he called one person…
“I went up and had an interview with Vince McMahon and he laid it out about this new character and da-da-da, but even as good as it sounded I came home and I called Terry, I gave him all the information and he said ‘Ted, if Vince McMahon says he has something brand new and you’re the guy, he says pack your bags and don’t look back and the rest is history,” said DiBiase.
DiBiase was also a part of some of the biggest moments in wrestling history, including the introduction of The Undertaker as a part of DiBiase’s 1990s Survivor Series team, bringing “Stone Cold” Steve Austin into the WWF as The Ringmaster while serving as his manager in 1996, and becoming the fourth member of the New World Order (nWo) in World Championship Wrestling, seemingly bankrolling the group as “Trillionaire Ted.”
DiBiase said he misses his friend and mentor Terry Funk.
“Terry Funk, in my opinion, there are a couple of people that you can think, he was the goat. The greatest of all time. His brother Dory Jr., a great, tremendous wrestler, was an NWA World Champion at one time, but he had one style, Terry was a guy who could wrestle that way or he could be the wildest orangutan in the ring. He was good, no matter what style he was wrestling, he could do it all. I miss him, I miss him a lot…. I come back here and more than anything else, I think about him,” said DiBiase.
Owner of the Amarillo Super Mini-Con Geoff Cupit said it was an honor to bring DiBiase back to Amarillo to meet and greet fans.
“I’m getting the chance to speak with the fans here and I like this atmosphere because it’s not a line out the door because if there is a line out the door, I’m signing as fast as I can, so everybody gets something, but when the fans have time to come up and speak with me, that’s great and I’m having a blast,” said DiBiase.
Cupit said he really saw the Amarillo community come out and they were really excited to come out and meet DiBiase and share their memories of his wrestling.
DiBiase added that he hope his legacy is that he left it all out there in the ring.
“I’d liked to be remembered as somebody who gave it his all. I remember again, Terry, he said ‘Teddy whether there are 10 people in the audience or 10,000 people in the audience, you give those 10 people that same match you give the 10,000.’ He said they paid their good hard-earned money to see the best that you had and why deny ’em, and I took that to heart. So every time I climbed into a ring, whether there were 10 people in the arena or 10 or 20,000, I tried to do my best and give it my best and that’s how I liked to be remembered,” said DiBiase.