Most old school fans will remember Ted Dibiase from his days with the WWF as the Million Dollar Man in the late 80’s challenging for the WWF Title and coming close but never actually winning the belt. He was a tag team champion with Irwin R Shyster in Money Inc., But fans of the time feel that was in his waning days before he retired from wrestling in 1993. But beyond all that is the stories you can hear about how close he was from winning any world title, not just the WWE belt, only to come up short for one reason or another.
Back in the early 1980s, There was the talk of making him the NWA World Champion. However, the champion at that point was the great Harley Race. Before he left us Race has said he didn’t want Dibiase as champion because the one who brought him into wrestling Dick Murdoch, someone clowned around in the ring during matches and for some reason that kept DiBiase from the world Title. Never understood Race’s logic with that one and the NWA went with a young Ric Flair instead.
Fast Forward to the mid- 80’s where Ted was a big star for Bill Watts and Mid South Wrestling. He was both a big heel and big face for the company but right when Mid South became the UWF, he left for Japan without ever becoming the World Champion. Stories have it that Dibiase was supposed to team with Dr. Death Steve Williams and be part of the first Crocket Cup Tag team tournament, but left the company and was replaced by Terry Taylor as Williams partner instead.
Then came his run as the Million Dollar Mam in the WWF and February 5, 1988, and the closest he ever got by buying out Andre the Giant to beat Hulk Hogan for the WWF title only for Andre the hand it to him. Of course, that would not be allowed and the title was declared vacant. It would be decided at Wrestlemania 4 in a tournament won by Randy Savage (beating DiBiase in the finals). That was the closest to the WWF title he ever got.
I have never heard stories of anyone else being that close to a World Title and never getting it. Guys like Magnum T.A. or Lex Luger are often brought up as being close but not hitting the mark, but even they had some version of the title around their waist. Luger was WCW champion and Magnum was Mid South North American Champion (That eventually became the UWF Title) twice (DiBiase also held that title once before) before that horrible car accident ended his career.
With DiBiase coming ever so close, we as fans can fantasy book those title reigns and what could have happened. Immagine him headlining thew first Starrcade show in 1983, or being the top guy in the UWF when they were bought out by Jim Crockett in 1987, or even better, being the top guy to take the UWF into the 1990s. Of course, there is all the fantasy booking around DiBiase and the WWF Title with the stories he was originally booked to win the title and win the Wrestlemania 4 tournament and feud with either Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage. But that is kind of where we as fans find ourselves. What could have happened? We have to ask ourselves in three different titles and what might have happened. Those questions have been asked for decades. We will probably be asking those questions forever.