In the summer of 1987, Ted DiBiase made his debut for the World Wrestling Federation going by the Million Dollar Man persona. After arriving a face, he turned heel on Sam Houston in Texas and would find himself becoming one of the top heels in the WWF.
He wasn’t by himself, though. DiBiase would be accompanied to the ring for his matches and interviews with his own persona bodyguard, who was named Virgil. Virgil was a muscular African American wrestler who didn’t necessarily have great in-ring work. Regardless, DiBiase found himself having great success competing in feuds against Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Big Bossman, Dusty and other WWF baby faces from 1988 to 1990.
Despite his success, DiBiase was unable to win the WWF World Championship, though he did pay off Andre The Giant to defeat Hulk Hogan in 1988, but the title wasn’t awarded to him and a tournament was setup for the vacant WWF World Championship at WrestleMania IV. Ever since that moment, DiBiase had been obsessed with being a champion. Since he failed to win the WWF World Championship, he would create his own championship. DiBiase created the Million Dollar Championship. The belt was created in 1989 and was a focus in a feud between DiBiase and Roberts.
Often times when DiBiase would be in trouble against various faces in the WWF, Virgil would help out DiBiase often times taking the punishment allowing DiBiase to escape. However, by late 1990 DiBiase began to treat Virgil rather poorly and making him do embarrassing things. Virgil would show a little bit of a backbone, but would end up doing various deeds such as cleaning Ted’s shoes, toes or other cleaning things because DiBiase held some kind of secret over Virgil. Leading into the 1991 Royal Rumble, Roddy Piper had been inserted into the angle showing support for Virgil to break away from DiBiase.
DiBiase and Virgil successfully defeated Dusty and Dustin Rhodes at the 1991 Royal Rumble when DiBiase pinned Dusty. Following the match, DiBiase ordered Virgil to put the Million Dollar Championship around his waist, but instead of doing so, Virgil ended up nailing DiBiase with the championship effectively breaking free from DiBiase. The angle got over with the live crowd and I personally remember growing up a fan of Virgil, so it must have worked on me, too.
Virgil would be associated with Roddy Piper following the match, though the association would last a very long time. Piper helped Virgil after the Royal Rumble in winning a singles match against Haku when DiBiase was at ringside for it. It was clear that Virgil was the top challenger to DiBiase for the Million Dollar Championship at WrestleMania VII. The night before the event, Virgil distracted DiBiase causing him to get counted out against an enhancement talent. At the event, Virgil was victorious managing to defeat his former boss by count-out, but as a result, didn’t win the Million Dollar Championship.
Following WrestleMania VII, Virgil would routinely use the Million Dollar Dream to win his matches. The move was also DiBiase’s trademark finishing move. At the 1991 SummerSlam Spectacular event, Virgil was able to defeat a mystery man recruited by DiBiase, who would later be known as Repo Man. Virgil would have several vignettes training with Piper leading into the 1991 SummerSlam bout with DiBiase for the Million Dollar Championship.
At the 1991 SummerSlam event, Virgil earned the biggest victory of his career when he was able to pin Ted DiBiase in Madison Square Garden to win the Million Dollar Championship after ramming DiBiase face first into an exposed turnbuckle, which DiBiase had removed earlier in the bout. In the months following the event, Virgil would go around encouraging children to chase their dreams because they can indeed come true.
Virgil would hold the Million Dollar Championship until the 1991 Survivor Series Showdown where Repo Man ended up costing Virgil the championship by hitting him with the title belt. After the match, Virgil was saved by Tito Santana which would lead to a tag team feud involving the four men.
For the first half of 1992, Virgil would trade wins with other low level wrestlers and feud with Repo Man briefly. He also had a memorable match with Sid Justice on WWF Superstars leading into WrestleMania VIII. By the second half of 1992, Virgil was putting over new talents which included Nailz and Yokozuna. Virgil would be gone from the company nearly two years following his triumph moment at SummerSlam 1991.
Meanwhile, DiBiase would dominate the tag team division in 1992 and half of 1993 after forming a tag team with IRS known as Money Inc. DiBiase would retire from pro wrestling in early 1994 due to a back injury. Both DiBiase and Virgil would jump ship to WCW in 1996 to be part of the New World Order.
As a kid, I remember renting Coliseum Video tapes and looking forward to a match between DiBiase and Virgil, or any match involving the two. I grew up supporting the underdog in Virgil and recall getting an autograph from him at a local K-Mart. Yeah, that actually happened. He had a TV with him that was showing his highlights from WrestleMania VIII on a loop.
Their 1991 SummerSlam match is the best of the series they had and is truly amazing how the crowd got behind Virgil and the reaction he got. It’s one of the best underdog moments in pro wrestling. It’s equally amazing how quickly he fell off and wasn’t presented as a top threat. To be fair, Virgil was often very awkward in the ring and didn’t showcase much improvement through the years. His work with a veteran like DiBiase shouldn’t surprise anyone that Virgil was made out to look like a star at the end of the feud.
What are your memories of this feud? Leave your thoughts below!
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