“Everybody has a price,” were the words echoing through arenas when the ‘Million Dollar Man,’ Ted DiBiase, wrestled on the highly popular wrestling events and television shows for WWE and the WWF. As he portrayed the money-grubbing villain, the young man born in Miami, Florida, was also experiencing the seduction of the limelight and all that went with it.
Even with a faith background and a family at home, DiBiase’s world nearly crumbled when his unfaithful behavior touched his home. In the documentary, The Price of Fame, premiering Nov. 7 as a Fathom Event presentation, DiBiase’s life is profiled through those who knew him best, including his family as well as wrestling colleagues Mick Foley, George “The Animal” Steele, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Jim Duggan. In this interview with Reel Faith’s DeWayne Hamby, the Hall of Famer recounts the life-changing forgiveness he experienced from God, his wife Melanie, and his three sons that propelled him into full-time ministry. He is also asked how exactly one escapes from the dreaded “figure four” leglock.
The movie is very personal, focusing on your infidelity as well as your wife’s forgiveness of it. The average person might be hesitant to have such a personal look at their life onscreen.
I had a very strong faith when I was young, which carried me through my stepfather’s death and my mother’s subsequent alcoholism. When I got to college, 18 years old, basically I felt that God had given me the desires of my heart. I got the scholarship to go play football, but then from 18 to 38, basically, my male ego took over. It was all about Ted, pretty much. When my career took off in the WWF, which is the WWE today, everything just was in the fast lane. I caved in to so many things that everybody else was caving into.
There’s an old rock n roll song “Drugs, Sex and Rock N Roll.” We literally became like rock stars. We were traveling 21 days straight, different town every day. I just got caught up in it. There was no question of the love I had for my wife and my children. But it was filling a void. I say this all the time, “God will give you enough rope to hang yourself.” At the very pinnacle of my success, I called home the day after Wrestlemania, which was in Indianapolis, and my wife confronts me with adultery. That was my real “Come back to Jesus” moment. In the very moment, it was the realization that I had put at risk the most valuable things in my life, the love and devotion of a committed wife as well as the future and stability and the peace of mind of my children. It was the turnaround moment for me. When I came clean about the drinking and the drugs and all that stuff, it was hard.
The amazing thing about our amazing God is His amazing grace. The really remarkable to me quite honestly is that my wife did forgive me. And she was very grounded. She says that God tells us forgive as you’ve been forgiven and there aren’t any parameters on that. Now she knew, she also she said that to me. I was very really overwhelmed by it. She said, “I’m not going to make you a promise I can’t keep, because I don’t know if I’m strong enough but I’m going to try and do this because I serve a God of restoration, not divorce.” In many ways, the fact that she was willing to forgive me and give me that second chance, it was like the booster shot. I had already laid myself bare before God.
Why am I willing to share this story? It’s because God genuinely humbled me. My life is an open book. There are some things very hard for me. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, my hope is that the story will show people that all the things that they chase so hard, whether it’s fame or just a big job and a lot of money and having a fancy car and big house, it may make you happy for a little while, but it will never satisfy you and it will never give you peace. I have a pastor friend who’s been my closest friend for 36 years, Hal Santos. In my darkest hour, I went to him, “What do I do?’ He said, ‘Ted, Jesus said the truth will set you free. He never said it would be painless or easy, but it will set you free.” The other thing he said, “God will forgive you and God will restore you, but there’s always consequences and in your case, the consequences may be that you lose everything, because your wife has the right to leave you. But even if the worst happens, if you’ll cling to the cross and trust Jesus through the storm, you’re going to come out of the storm with a peace in your life that the Bible describes as passing all understanding.” I walk in that peace today. I have a lot of people ask me, “Are you really a multi-million dollar man?” Nope. But what do I have today? I have the love and respect of my wife and I have the love and respect of my children. I have the extreme pleasure and privilege of watching my grandchildren grow up. I think back to that moment in time, “Man, had I made any other choice, I don’t know where I’d be today or even if I’d be here.” But God is good.
One of the things that stood out to me is how much your children respect and treasure you and it’s very admirable of how your wife shielded her pain from them in order to keep that respect. That is maturity on a level most people don’t have any clue about.
In her words to me, she said, ‘”In spite of what you’ve done to me, you’re a great dad and your children hold you on that pedestal. I don’t want to destroy that.” She said, “Until they’re old enough to understand, they don’t know it.” They knew, but they didn’t start knowing until they were old enough to be in church and be sitting in there hearing me share the story. And my attitude toward that was, “Okay, they’re hearing the story now, so they know. If they have any questions, I’m sure the time will come when they come to me with them.” Of course, the movie tells that that moment happened. I can understand that angst, like they see how happy we are together that we don’t fight and we’re truly in love and yet it’s like, “Dad, how could you do that?” It’s hard to explain. It’s like being two different people.
One of the other things I noticed is how you shared your story and you making a stand and how it affected others, such as your colleague George “The Animal” Steele.
Here’s something crazy about that. Pete, who did all this, that’s where this all started. It was a God thing. He came to interview me as a favor to a friend and it was what we in our business call a “shoot interview,” in other words, it’s real, it’s not wrestling storylines, it’s real life. When you start talking about real life to me, I’m going to start telling you about what God did in it. In Pete’s own words, “At the time, I was the backslidden son of a minister. Ted’s story got all over me.” He decided he wanted to do this. When we started this project three years, I never envisioned this. I never envisioned a Fathom Event in almost 700 theaters across the country. It is amazing. It’s gotta’ be a God thing.
I’ve got a really important question for you. If someone puts you in a “figure four” leg lock, how do you get out of it or do you just cry for mercy? My brother would put me in them when I was kid.
(laughs) With us, the figure four leglock, it’s a move that looks like it is excruciating and there is a way to do that and make it hurt…
Yeah, and that’s what he did.
It doesn’t really hurt in pro wrestling. If you can roll over, it’s supposed to reverse it.
It has to be gratifying that you provided entertainment that’s been popular across the board, all ages that enjoyed watching you guys.
I talk about how hard the life was. The wrestling was great. I loved what I did. Loved entertaining people. Sometimes I was the good guy, sometimes I was a bad guy. I get a lot of fans that come and I’ll do occasionally autograph signings, Comic-Con appearance-type things, and they’ll say, “Please don’t be offended, Mr. DiBiase, but when I was a kid, I just hated your guts.” I laugh and I go, “Thank you. That means I did my job well.”
Listen to more of DeWayne’s conversation with Ted DiBiase on The DeWayne Hamby Podcast link below: