For older WWE fans, Ted DiBiase is a wrestler. For younger fans, he’s the old guy who shows up backstage on Raw specials to laugh. But for those unfortunate handful of fans who grew up with the New Generation era, he’s first and foremost a manager.
Guess which kind of fan I am.
Despite all I now know about the Million Dollar Man’s career — how he dethroned Hulk Hogan, how he once dragged a decent match out of Tom Magee — my first mental image of DiBiase is of him standing at ringside, frustrated at Kama or Tatanka’s latest loss.
My second mental image is of Henry Godwinn telling him to squeal like a pig, years before I grasped the connotations.
Even as a small child, I saw through the announcers’ constant hype about DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation and his vows to rule the wrestling world.
Despite Ted’s bottomless budget, he ended up with a collection of has-beens, odd-balls, and phonies. To make matters worse, he managed to lure some real talents with his money, only to squander them. The whole clown show played out like a mean-spirited parody of WCW.
This got me thinking — could the Million Dollar Corporation have been the worst wrestling stable of the 1990s? This week on WrestleCrap, I break down Ted DiBiase’s organization, member by member, to find out the answer.
When ring veteran Nikolai Volkoff returned to WWF TV in 1994, he had fallen on hard times. Even worse, the only man willing to help was the evil Million Dollar Man, who denigrated everything from Volkoff’s intelligence to his fashion sense.
See, after the big Croatian’s native Lithuania (work with me here) left the Soviet Union in 1990…
…he became a pro-democracy, pro-USA babyface. Despite this fact, and the USSR’s collapse the following year, he still wore the Soviet flag until 1994.
Poor Nikolai could have at least reached out to the Grateful Dead for some new threads…
…but instead it was DiBiase who provided him new gear to mark his lowly position. Volkoff would have to don a novelty tuxedo t-shirt emblazoned with a mere cent sign…
…and, even more humiliating, trunks reading “Property of the Million Dollar Man” on the butt…
…which he struggled to put on like a toddler with his first pair of Pull-Ups.
“At least he looks like he’s got a little cents [sense] now!”, cackled DiBiase with a badly-phrased pun. I’m surprised he didn’t rename him, “Nickel-ai”.
This degrading ordeal was the beginning of a long-term story arc for Nikolai, who began as a conflicted babyface, quickly devolved into a regular heel, and finally disappeared without anyone noticing.
Next, the Million Dollar Man shocked the world by bringing back The Undertaker under his management. The acquisition must have made DiBiase feel about ten feet tall…
…or at least six foot eleven, as he and Taker were now somehow the same height.
In fact, this supposed Phenom was Brian Lee, who had borrowed the real Undertaker’s name, ring gear, music, offense, wife, etc.
He even borrowed Taker’s mannerisms, including this hair flip, which gave away his identity in his very first match.
But instead of drawing his power from the sacred urn, this phony Undertaker drew his power from the almighty dollar. What a zombie needed all that cash for was anyone’s guess.
At Summerslam ’94, the real Undertaker vanquished the fake one in the main event. To follow the classic Bret vs. Owen Hart cage match would be a tall order for any bout, even one that wasn’t boring and completely sucked.
Long after the Summerslam crowd realized which one was the genuine Undertaker, DiBiase’s value brand Taker still kept imitating the Dead Man’s mannerisms. Did he… did he think he really was The Undertaker?
Bam Bam Bigelow
DiBiase’s summer spending spree continued when he bought Bam Bam’s contract.
Bigelow reached new heights under the Million Dollar Man’s management, reaching the finals of a tag team tournament (which he lost)…
…the main event of WrestleMania (which he lost)…
…and a WWF title match (which he lost).
Bam Bam was also the only wrestler to leave the Corporation; when DiBiase tried to fire him, a fed-up Bigelow told him, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”
Anyway, Ted fired him. But at least people noticed! Most everyone else in the Corporation quietly quit the WWF altogether or waited for their release.
DiBiase’s former tag team partner was a natural fit for his Million Dollar Corporation (besides the whole tax thing).
Ted’s first order of business with Mr. Schyster was to sign him and Bigelow for a tag team title match at Summerslam, which they won…
…against a team that had lost the titles the night before. Why no confetti?
IRS’s next pay-per-view assignment was just as special — he hid under the ring all night…
…then attacked The Undertaker, while enforcer Chuck Norris pretended not to see it on the big screen.
This, and Irwin’s campaign to repossess dead tax cheats’ headstones, put him on a collision course with the Dead Man, whom he wrestled at Royal Rumble (and lost).
Still, he managed to steal his urn (though Taker still had until April 15th to declare it on his 1040).
The Native American superstar sold out to the Million Dollar Man in the summer of 1994, but kept it a secret until Summerslam. This allowed DiBiase to frame Lex Luger as the actual sell-out so he could… I don’t know, mess with him.
Tatanka’s fluke pin on Luger proved to be the highlight of his entire heel run…
…as he spent the rest of his WWF days in thrown-together pairings whenever DiBiase needed a tag team. Along the way he ate so many pins, he made the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.
King Kong Bundy
The one-time WrestleMania main-eventer returned in the fall of ’94 and earned an early, rare victory for the Corporation, pinning Lex Luger in a Survivor Series elimination match
The dubious honors continued for Bundy: A favorite to win the Royal Rumble, he’d go on to last three minutes…
…then make history as the 4 in 4-0, losing to the Undertaker at WrestleMania XI. It probably didn’t help that DiBiase brought the stolen urn, the source of his opponent’s awesome power, down to ringside.
The Supreme Fighting Machine joined the Corporation after DiBiase failed to lure Aldo Montoya into the group.
Kama became the Corporation’s WrestleMania MVP when he stole back the Undertaker’s urn, which had been in Paul Bearer’s possession for several long minutes.
Beaming with pride, Kama vowed to melt it down into a chain to wear as a trophy.
Not coincidentally, he would then repeatedly lose to the Undertaker in dozens of casket matches, having worn Taker’s magic power source to the ring.
He also wrestled Shawn Michaels to a draw (a double draw, in fact) at King of the Ring ’95, the closest thing to a PPV victory the Corporation had had all year.
The Undertaker eventually took back Kama’s chain, carrying it for months while the announcers called it an “urn”.
Upon joining the Million Dollar Corporation, Sid set his sights on Diesel’s WWF title, kicking off a string of three PPV main event losses for the big man. Their last match saw Sid, making a bid for Dumbest Man in Pro Wrestling, powerbomb Diesel only to slap hands with the Corporation for twenty seconds.
When the champion inevitably kicked out, Sid decided to pick a fight with 15 guys.
This losing streak was snapped at Summerslam, when Gorilla Monsoon booted Sid out of the IC title match (and the card altogether) in favor of Razor Ramon.
See, everybody indeed had a price, but so did Summerslam, and no one was paying $24.99 for Sid vs. Shawn.
The would-be Intercontinental and WWF Champion finally lived up to his potential the next month, beating Henry Godwinn at In Your House. The hog farmer and former Corporation associate had been on a slopping spree that claimed DiBiase, Bundy, and Sid.
He even managed to slop the Million Dollar Man again after this match. The Million Dollar Corporation had been the butt-monkeys of the Federation all year, but they were finally getting the recognition for it.
At Survivor Series, Sid’s team won the Wild Card match, sustaining only one elimination (Sid).
The big man would disappear from the Federation in January, claiming a neck injury after being made to job to Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly at a house show. Probably a coincidence.
The 1-2-3 Kid
The Kid joined DiBiase’s crew in dramatic fashion when, as special referee, he helped Sid beat Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon. The non-title victory was the closest thing the Corporation ever came to winning a championship.
With titles on their minds, The Kid and Sid climbed the tag team ranks with impressive losses at In Your House 5 and the Raw Bowl…
…before Sid’s injury put the kibosh on their Rumble title shot.
Instead, he spent the next PPV in a diaper, proving that even the Clique’s backstage pull couldn’t counteract the Corporation’s suck.
You’d think that after the fake Undertaker business, the Million Dollar Man would have learned his lesson about impersonators. Instead, he dressed up Balls Mahoney as Santa Claus just to make kids cry.
Dubbed Xanta Klaus, this phony St. Nick lived at the South Pole and stole children’s presents.
Lasting a mere three nights, Xanta was nothing like the typical Corporation member. For one thing, he didn’t stick around long enough to really embarrass himself (See previous entry).
As a shrewd businessman, Ted DiBiase knew the best way to make money with the former “Stunning” Steve Austin was to strip him of his name and all personality.
Still, the ‘Master succeeded where the rest of DiBiase’s proteges had failed, winning at WrestleMania and holding a belt, albeit an unsanctioned one.
Almost from the start, Austin began shedding elements of the Ringmaster “character”, starting with the nickname and ending with Ted DiBiase himself —
— DiBiase’s quest to make Savio Vega his chauffeur backfired when Austin lost to Vega in a pair of strap matches, forcing the Million Dollar Man out of the company.
It was the final chapter for the Million Dollar Corporation (appropriately enough, Chapter 11).
If the Million Dollar Man had a dollar for every time his faction lost… actually, he nearly did.
In their two-year run, the Corporation won nothing of note: no titles, no tournaments, not even a stinkin’ Slammy!
In terms of championships, DiBiase was out-managed by the likes of Jim Cornette, Sunny, and Harvey freakin’ Wippleman.
DiBiase couldn’t even manage to buy any reigning champions like Jeff Jarrett — you’d think Ted could use his mega-bucks to get the “Ain’t I Great” CD into record stores.
Instead of dominating the WWF, the Corporation wasted its entire lifespan losing feuds to Lex Luger, Savio Vega, Razor Ramon, Diesel, and most of all, The Undertaker…
…who for 16 months mowed down the faction like the Dungeon of Doom to his Hulk Hogan.
So was the Million Dollar Corporation the worst wrestling stable of the 90s?