Million Dollar Man among legends appearing at Jaffa

Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s famous laugh will be bellowing through the Jaffa Shrine Saturday when Big Time Wrestling returns to Altoona with a fanfest starting at 5 p.m.

You can laugh back – but it might be at a price.

“I get a request every day to do my laugh,” said DiBiase with a chuckle. “After all I put into wrestling and all the years I’ve worked in this business, people associate me with the laugh. Maybe I should be like Michael Buffer and have it trademarked.”

Buffer charges a fee for people to use his famous line, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” but DiBiase, at least his character, certainly wouldn’t need the extra money.

DiBiase is best known for his stint in the World Wrestling Federation that spanned from the late 80s until the mid 90s. As the Million Dollar Man, DiBiase used his considerable wealth to buy off officials, other wrestlers and even buy the championship belt from the late Andre the Giant.

“The concept [of the Million Dollar Man gimmick] is a [WWE owner] Vince McMahon original, and he picked me to do it,” DiBiase said. “At the time he had seen me, I’d been in New York and been in Mid South wrestling as a heel.

“I think he saw the way I portrayed myself as a villain, and in his words, he said I was good on the mic and thought I’d be perfect for this.”

DiBiase was featured in several memorable vignettes building up his character as a member of the elite, and it didn’t take long for him to reach the pinnacle of pro wrestling.

“It’s hard to pick one event, simply because it was seven days a week, almost 365 days a year,” DiBiase said. “A couple that would stand out was my first Wrestlemania, which was Wrestlemania IV. The final match was me and Randy Savage.

“My favorite Wrestlemania match was with Jake Roberts at Wrestlemania VI, and the largest crowd was at SummerSlam 93 in [England’s] Wembley Stadium. It was a pretty big thrill.”

Saturday’s crowd won’t be as big as that night, but DiBiase is looking forward to it. He’ll serve as the special guest commissioner during the show, which begins at 7 p.m. and participate in the meet and greet before it.

“For me it’s a little more opportunity to get up close and personal with fans,” DiBiase said. “Back when we were on the road all the time, the pace was so fast that there was never an opportunity to meet fans.

“It’s like what they’re doing with Wrestlemania now where they have different opportunities for wrestlers to get one-on-one with fans and hear from them on what they like.”

DiBiase will join Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the Nasty Boys, Jeff Jarrett, Karen Jarrett, Sabu and “The Franchise” Shane Douglas. Jeff Jarrett will challenge BTW champion Flex Armstrong for the heavyweight championship in the main event.

“Fans should come out, Jake Roberts is going to be there as well, and he was one of the guys I was so happy to see inducted into the [WWE] Hall of Fame this year,” said DiBiase, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. “If you want to have a good time and have some fun, even if you aren’t a fan of today’s wrestling but watched it in our era, we are going to have a good show.”

DiBiase still occasionally appears on WWE programming as the Million Dollar Man, but wrestling isn’t his life these days.

“Well I grew up in the industry,” said DiBiase whose adoptive father and three sons were professional wrestlers. “I’m a minster now, and people go ‘wow, how do you go from wrestling to that?’

“There will always be a spot for wrestling in my heart. It’s one thing to be a fan and become a wrestler, but when you literally grew up in the business, it’s always going to be a part of my life.”

Most fans, however, remember DiBiase’s character as a heel – a professional wrestling term for a bad guy.

“I’ve said it a thousand times, wrestling fans are always so loyal,” DiBiase said. “I have fun with that, because fans will say I hated your guts when they meet me. I say thank you, because you weren’t supposed to like me.”

Big Time Wrestling has brought stars such as DiBiase, Roberts, Ric Flair and Bret Hart to Altoona over the past few years.

“We’ve has a great run of shows in Altoona,” Big Time Wrestling co-owner Steve Perkins said. “Not only do people come out and see a great show, but they get to meet their heroes before the show. It’s family friendly, and we may not be back until 2015.

“Legends, hall of famers, action-packed wrestling and a few surprises are all in store for the fans.”