From an outsider’s perspective Ted DiBiase has fallen a few notches in life. From flying first class and staying in 4-star hotels as a professional wrestler to now preaching in junior high gyms in small towns like Pettisville, Ohio, it would seem he is down on his luck.
But don’t pity him. When he gets on stage he is performing for the King.
DiBiase, who used to be “The Million Dollar Man” for the WWF (now WWE), spoke to several hundred people Saturday night, Oct. 15, in the Pettisville Junior High School gym for an old-fashioned evangelistic talk.
The former big-time wrestler now travels the county talking to men’s groups, churches, schools and gathering like the one Saturday, sharing his story and how God restored his marriage and his life after he reached the end of his rope.
DiBiase heads of the Heart of David ministry, a group devoted to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and making it real through having a personal relationship with Him.
Instead of a flashy outfit and blond-highlights in his hair, DiBiase came dressed in black and in his natural brunette color. Other than one rendition of his long-ago character’s catch phrase, “Everybody has a price for the Million-Dollar Man,” DiBiase stayed focused on his task at hand.
For nearly 90 minutes he kept the audience engaged in his talk. He carried a bible, but it was mostly a prop.
What the audience got was a humble man sharing his life story and calling for Christians to come back to their first love and see what God can do for them. If anyone was expecting fond remembrances of the good old days from DiBiase, they left disappointed.
DiBiase said he developed a love for God as a child growing in the Roman Catholic faith. He was an Altar Boy and wanted to serve God. He said this came from his childlike faith from watching his stepdad, Mike DiBiase, himself a professional wrestler, live his life.
Everything went well until his stepfather died of a heart attack in the ring in Texas in 1969. From there he moved with his mother to live with mom in a small town in Arizona.
While his friends got drunk or high on the weekends, DiBiase said he took his grandmother’s car out to a cemetery where his dad was buried and walked and prayed.
He got out of that town through a college football scholarship, but began to walk away from God. By the time he was 27, he had failed to graduate from college, been too slow for the NFL, and had been married and divorced, with a son.
From there he got into wrestling and in 1981 met his future wife, Melanie, a committed Christian. That was in April and by New Year’s Eve that year, they were married.
In 1982 at a non-denominational church at LSU, he said he heard the gospel for the first time. It was there he learned about walking in faith.
“If we are not walking in faith, we are just posers,” DiBiase said.
DiBiase has no use for denominations, arguing the Church needs to get the flesh out of the way so it can disciple new converts.
After a few years of wrestling and wandering, DiBiase was brought to Connecticut to meet Vince McMahon who told him about his plan to create the character that changed the wrestler’s life.
He was given first-class treatment (limos, hotels, air travel) like no one other than Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant received. He was told to flash his money around and pay for everyone’s meal at a restaurant.
His career soared until WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis. After the event ended, he went out on the town and partied with a woman on each arm. He did drugs and got drunk. He failed to check in with his wife until the next day while in Detroit.
That’s where his life crashed head on into a wall. His wife kicked him out of the house and it looked like his marriage was over. But a friend who had come into his life when he had his first altar call helped him and his wife reconcile.
DiBiase had to fall on his face at a youth rally in Chicago before his life got back on track, but the Word seems to have stuck and he has been right since 1992.
Now he has his life together, his ministry going strong and his desire to reach out to lost souls peaking at the right time.
He closed with an altar call and encourage people to come forward and be serious about it.
“Either you are all in or you are not in,” DiBiase said.
James Pruitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org