Ted DiBiase Jr. Helping Wrestling Legends Protect Their Legacy With New Venture, Reflects On His In-Ring Career

Ted DiBiase Jr. is getting back in the wrestling business by helping legends prepare for a life outside of the ring in an increasingly digital world.

Ted DiBiase Jr. recently spoke with WrestleZone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard about the launch of 16Creative, a multi-focus branding agency that offers help to wrestlers, athletes and veterans looking to build their own brands online. A ten-year veteran of the ring himself, DiBiase teamed with former Marine David Keller and Navy veteran Jared Ashley for the project, and the roster already includes names like wrestling legend Junk Yard Dog and former veteran/actor R. Lee Ermey.

“We hooked up at a charity golf tournament up in Akron, Ohio, raising money for a children’s hospital up there. And so anyway David is one of the guys that was helping [Jared] manage his stuff online, and he does that for a lot of artists in Nashville and the country music scene. And we got to talking and we just really haven’t done well at all or had any success online,” DiBiase explained, “so they were like, ‘let’s talk.’ And we got to talking one day about my dad’s stuff, I’m like, ‘you know, the “Million Dollar Man” could be like a Betty White,’ and he really just needs to be revised and brought to life and really get the credit he deserves.

“And so that was the goal, was to help him really monetize his brand and the platform he built, not just monetize but promote what he’s invested in and what he’s doing today and his ministry work and the great work that he does. So it just turned into a business venture,” DiBiase said. “There are so many other guys that need this once they leave WWE or wrestling, [they say] ‘well what now?’ There’s the signings and the bookings but in this day and age, everything lives online.”

DiBiase explained how 16 Creative offers design resources and product development resources to retired athletes of all walks, some of which had careers before the social media age.

“That older generation, like my dad’s age, they’re like, ‘what’s Twitter?’ Some of them, they get it, but as far as how to capitalize on that and build campaigns, they’re just not gonna do it. We want to do that for them so their legacy lives on, they can have a life outside the ring, more successful, more engagement with the fans, enhance their communities, give more access to them, and more opportunity for them as well.”

DiBiase isn’t just working with living athletes, but also works with family estates like the one established by the family of Sylvester Ritter, aka Junk Yard Dog. JYD and DiBiase Sr.’s relationship dates back to the Mid-South era of wrestling, and Ted Jr. explained

“He was my dad’s best man at his and my mom’s wedding. God bless his soul, he passed away, fell asleep in the car at the wheel, leaving his daughter’s graduation years ago. But he’s still a known name, and anybody’s who’s a true fan and knows that era remembers my dad’s Mid-South days and they know JYD. So we just want to do him justice,” DiBiase explained, “we want to give his family something that they can be proud of and tell the story and build community and there’s a lot of guys that really love JYD.

“He was an incredible entertainer and wrestler, but an incredible father [and] man as well. So we’re excited to be able to do that, it’s a way to serve. That’s what these guys—I love working with them because that’s what they’re all about, they serve. They protect our country,” DiBiase explained, “and now we’re protecting the legacy and the names of guys that sometimes feel left behind. There’s a lot of guys that we’d love to get going soon and partner with and we’ve got some announcements in the future.”

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DiBiase also looked back on his in-ring career, highlighted by a WWE Tag Team Championship reign with Cody Rhodes on two separate occasions. After his tag team run with Rhodes, DiBiase was also given the ‘Million Dollar Championship’, the same title his father created for himself during his own run in the company. DiBiase explained that everything he did leading up to that was in an effort to stand out and make it on his own, and now he can see that while he’s proud of his achievements, it was also a sign of immaturity as well.

“I didn’t own it, and that was all on me. I didn’t own what they gave me the opportunity to earn. And that’s called immaturity, you know, and stupidity. You get an opportunity, you take it. I just didn’t make [holding that title] my own, because that was my dad, right,” DiBiase explained, “and I did everything I could on the way up [to be different]. I didn’t go straight to WWE, that wasn’t my first contract like some other guys I know, other sons of wrestlers.”

Despite his third-generational status, Ted Jr. didn’t immediately start with WWE and worked his way up through the business, including his training with Harley Race. From working various jobs cutting golf course fairways and stocking shelves, to cleaning a gym for a free membership and working in retail outlets, DiBiase said he worked incredibly hard to make it on his own, and even though there were times that he did want to quit, he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Asked to focus on a positive part from that era, DiBiase says that when he was given the Million Dollar Championship, he could’ve done more with the opportunity and now looks back at the situation in a different light.

“Until that point, I had done all I could to distance myself from being “the Million Dollar Man’s son”, which now I’m so proud to be, but I needed to know that I could do it [on my own], right. So it was hard for me to own but I could tell you right now, that would be a different story today. And there would be more pride and more understanding, with time comes maturity and there’s a lot of things I would have done different, looking back hindsight,” DiBiase said, “but yeah, I could see a positive. The positive is, I know what I did wrong. I didn’t make it my own. And what you have to learn is, you gotta learn how to control the controllables. But with the un-controllables, you gotta learn how to respond to those.”

“It was like me trying to become something, or me pushing something away or almost trying to have this inner tug of war with myself. I didn’t want the fans to associate that [title] with me. I wanted them to see me be Ted DiBiase Jr., Theodore Marvin DiBiase Jr. The positive is, once we realize the weaknesses in our life,” DiBiase said, “we can begin to fix them and you turn them into strengths. You do as much as you can to improve on weaknesses but you operate in your strength zone and own what you got.”

One other way DiBiase tried standing out on his own in WWE was with his “DiBiase Posse” character, a more blue-collar character that embraced fans and tailgating. Asked if the gimmick was a result of being a Gulf Coast native, an area with a huge appreciation for SEC college football, DiBiase said it definitely was something that was true to himself—in several different ways.

“I was taught that some of the best characters are the guys that are really just themselves but turned up and amped up. And that’s me. I do love SEC football, I do love to hunt and fish and I cook all the time, so in fellowship, that’s what we do here. It’s faith, fun, fellowship, food, football, you know? And that was me and it’s nice, I’ve been performing all my life, like since I was I don’t know how old,” he noted. “And that’s one thing I’ve also realized, I love helping people that struggle with seeking approval, or trying to prove themselves by becoming something that they’re really not, that is so much work. And you are missing out on so much productivity, efficiency, happiness and joy just being who you are, who God created you to be, and being authentic. And when somebody doesn’t accept you for who you are, that’s okay. That’s their loss. There’s somebody else that does. And yeah that’s where that generated from.”

DiBiase says that while that character didn’t work out long-term, citing the lack of an opportunity to have it develop, he still has good memories about his time in the ring. He spent some time working on outside ventures, but between the 16Creative venture and seeing his father back on WWE TV with NXT, he’s starting to realize how much he loves and still misses the business.

“I was an employee, I was there to do my job, and I’m not saying that in a way that like, ‘Oh, nobody did anything for me.’ Was I angry? Yeah at times, because I wanted it. I’m hungry, I’m a hard-ass worker, and I was like, ‘teach me.’ And so again that’s what we want to do for guys now, but I wish I could have had more of a chance there. I’m not trolling, I’m just saying, I wouldn’t be opposed to going back one more time. I miss it so much. I don’t see that happening at all,” he stated, “but just doing this alone and seeing my dad back on TV and how much fun and is having conversations, it’s been like, oh man, it’s creeping back in. It’s just, once it’s in you, it’s in you.”

Find out what else Ted DiBiase Jr. is up to by visiting his website, MillionDollarSon.com 

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