HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. (BP)–Ted DiBiase made himself famous with the phrase “Everybody has a price.” He was billed in professional wrestling as the “Million Dollar Man,” a villain in a black and gold suit with a diamond-encrusted belt. He has been featured in video games, and action figures bear his likeness.
A popular wrestler in the 1970s and ’80s with the World Wrestling Federation, DiBiase toured the world flying first class, staying in five-star hotels and dispensing $100 tips in an effort to maintain the illusion that he was a powerful, confident, self-made man with no needs he couldn’t meet on his own.
People snicker about the authenticity and even the sanity of professional wrestling, and DiBiase freely admits his character was pure fluff and the luxuries he enjoyed were handouts from his bosses.
But there’s no doubting the reality of DiBiase’s faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, his messages to two packed morning worship services at Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo., earlier this year were as blunt as a body slam.
“Bear fruit or perish,” he said, referring to Matthew 7:19, which says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
“That’s my story,” DiBiase said. “I have had all the things the world says are good. I was a success, a rags to riches story, and I had a lot of fun. But I wasn’t content. Worldly success is a lie straight from hell.”
Born into a Catholic family, DiBiase claimed to be a child of God but bore no fruit. His stepfather was wrestler “Iron Mike” DiBiase, so he grew up around professional wrestling. His father died of a heart attack during a wrestling match when Ted was 15, and his mother soon slipped into depression and turned to alcohol. She and Ted moved to a small town in southern Arizona, and after a few years in college he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the ring. Through the trauma of his father’s death and his mother’s alcoholism, Ted had remained faithful to the Catholic Church and even served as an altar boy.
Even though he knew of the things of God, he knew there was no evidence of Christ in his life. DiBiase knew that despite the million-dollar persona, he was worthless in his sin. One day while attending church with his wife Melanie, he heard a truth that changed his course.
“All those years of my life I’d been paying God lip service, but I had no relationship with Him. Why? Because I enjoyed being a self-serving egomaniac,” DiBiase said. “My mouth said one thing, but my actions said something else. The Bible says in 1 John, ‘For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.’
“That’s who I was,” he said. “That day I asked the Lord to forgive me; if there’s a price to pay, then I’ll pay it. Today I’m a different man with Him guiding and leading me.”
DiBiase is no longer the Million Dollar Man. A neck injury in the early ’90s forced him to retire from wrestling. Although he has numerous championship belts, he now spends his time bearing fruit, preaching the Gospel and encouraging people through his Heart of David Ministry.
DiBiase’s messages at Union Hill did not fall on deaf ears in mid-April. Pastor Frank Whitney said two people were saved after hearing DiBiase, and more than a dozen people rededicated their lives to Christ.
Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.