The world of professional wrestling today looks almost nothing like it did 20 years ago. We, as fans, focus far too much of our energy on blurring the line between what is real and what is not and thinking we're far better options as bookers than those that are actually in power.
Even if we are, it has no real bearing on anything and our ceaseless negativity, although borne from our love of the business that has jaded us so, prevents us from fully enjoying the small things pro wrestling has to offer.
It wasn't always like this. There was a time when we could enjoy the simple things and not get so caught up in the details of the latest plot holes in the main event storylines. Pro wrestling used to be filled with fun characters and over the top gimmicks that we ate up because it was hard not to.
I've already professed my bias towards Shawn Michaels here on Cageside Seats as the greatest of all time. All around, he was the greatest performer in the history of the business. But he didn't have the greatest gimmick, nor was his character the strongest.
That honor undoubtedly belongs to Ted DiBiase, who played his "Million Dollar Man" character to perfection. A crass, overbearing, freewheeling, high roller, DiBiase was the consummate heel who was utilized to perfection in a series of segments in which he charged fans at an arena with a menial task and offered them a substantial amount of money upon its completion.
The most famous instance of this was unquestionably the basketball segment with a little boy named Shawn, in which DiBiase told the young boy that he would pay him $500 to bounce a basketball 15 times consecutively. He recounted the story in a recent interview with Under the Ring:
"Of all the stunts that we did to get the people to understand that I was a scoundrel, was that one. When we rehearsed, I wasn't really hardcore harsh. When we did it live in front of the crowd and it got to the place where he dribbles the ball, he was supposed to get to 15, he gets to 14 and I stick my foot out and the ball bounces off my foot. Everybody knows I just screwed this poor little kid. I say to him, 'I'm sorry son, but at a young age, you're going to have to learn a harsh lesson of life. When you don't get the job done, you don't get the money.' My loud voice and deep voice scared him. He had these great big crocodile tears. He ran to his mother. In reality, he couldn't have done it any better. We couldn't have rehearsed it. It wasn't that good when we rehearsed it. I look like the biggest heel because I just made this little boy cry. I remember going in the back and everyone's saying, 'oh man, that was great.' I said, 'it might have been great, but you guys are going to need an armored car to get me out of this building tonight. Those people want to lynch me right now.'"
Thinking back on it, it really is a shame that old Ted couldn't overcome the Hulk Hogan political machine to become champion. It didn't help that his physique was never as comically inflated as was necessary at a time like that before the big steroid trials of the early to mid 90s, though.
After the jump is the video of the famous segment so you can relive DiBiase's brilliance.