THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Sharing a Million Dollar Memory with Ted DiBiase
Sep 24, 2015 - 3:22:45 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
Ted DiBiase flipped through the pictures and smiled. Some were 3x5, some were 4x6 - the kind of pictures you’d hope to have processed overnight at your local Alco or Kmart store in the late 1980s.
The photographs capture Dibiase in his “Million Dollar Man” prime at the old Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., with a confidence and swagger that few others have ever exuded. In one picture, from May 1988, he stands in the corner with Demolition, preparing to do battle with new WWF champion Randy Savage, Tito Santana, and the Ultimate Warrior (who was pulling double duty and substituting for Rick Martel). In another, from October 1989, DiBiase stands outside of the ring and prepares to drop an elbow across the throat of Jake “the Snake” Roberts.
“Wow,” Dibiase said, gazing into the pictures and smiling, the way many of us smile while looking back at old high school yearbooks or childhood photos. He signed one picture. “These are great. Thanks so much for sharing these with me.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Colorado Springs was a much different city. It hadn’t yet experienced the population boom of people from all over the country who wanted to build their homes in the shadow of Pike’s Peak and the Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado Springs was 281,140. By 2014, that estimated population had grown to 445,830 - a staggering 58.6 percent increase.
Today, WWE often tapes Smackdown at the new Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs after broadcasting Raw from Denver’s Pepsi Center the previous night. But in the 1980s, the WWF only ran B- and C-level house shows in Colorado Springs. From 1988 to 1990, DiBiase headlined many of those shows.
I sat ringside for every WWF house show from 1987 to 1990 with my dad. Thanks to a friend who worked at the Broadmoor, my dad was always able to secure front row tickets. My father, having grown up in Pittsburgh before the U.S. Air Force took him around the world, was very familiar with Bruno Sammartino, but wasn’t a big wrestling fan overall. But, he knew I was, so every time the WWF came to town, he took the night off to take me to the wrestling matches. Every now and then I caught him clapping his hands and enjoying the action, particularly when old timers like Pedro Morales came to town. My dad shot hundreds upon hundreds of photos at these events, most of which I still have today.
DiBiase spent the weekend of Sept. 18-20 in Casper, Wyo., speaking at a men’s prayer breakfast and a Christian youth group, and visiting three local churches. As he openly shared his own story about his faith and relationships, DiBiase was greeted by long-time wrestling fans who recognized him instantly, and unassuming church-goers who knew him only from his Heart of David Ministry.
After his discussion at The Link youth center on Saturday night, DiBiase stuck around to talk wrestling and faith, pose for pictures, and sign autographs. Kids who attended the event were entered into a drawing for WWE tickets, DiBiase trading cards, and more. One young girl was brought to tears when she won a replica Million Dollar Belt.
I’ve personally never been an autograph hound. Like a lot of wrestling collectors, I buy autographed collectibles, pictures, and trading cards, but I’ve rarely approached an individual and asked for an autograph. But for this occasion, I had something special I wanted signed.
I handed DiBiase the pictures and asked him to sign one. He looked and them and smiled, and then settled on the picture of he and Jake Roberts. He signed it across the barricade in the forefront of the picture, signed a couple of cards for my kids, and took a picture with my family.
I’ve since tweeted the picture and posted it on Facebook. I’ve been overwhelmed by comments from wrestling fans who read this column, and family members, and friends who understand the circumstances that make this so special. My father took that picture on October 29, 1989, and it’s been in my possession for nearly 26 years. I was able to share that photo - and the memories - with Ted DiBiase. Hopefully in another 26 years, my children will be able to share that same photo – and the memories of the time they met the “Million Dollar Man” - with their own children.
Wrestling memorabilia and collectibles have become big business over the last 15 years. Collectors fork over big money for action figures, trading cards, autographed photos, t-shirts, paintings, posters, and items worn by their favorite wrestlers. But quite often, the items that mean the most are those that carry the most sentimental value - old photographs, programs, and souvenirs shared by fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase famously said that everybody’s got a price. Maybe so, but there are some memories you just can’t put a price tag on.
PWTorch collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
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