A Million Dollar Idea: The Creation of the Million Dollar Belt

Brian Damage

Make no mistakes about it, ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase was once the top heel in all of the World Wrestling Federation back in the late 1980’s. In a lot of ways, the Million Dollar Man gimmick was the precursor to the Mr. McMahon character a few years later. He was sort of a rib on media tycoon Ted Turner with a bodyguard named Virgil aka Virgil ‘Dusty Rhodes’ Runnels (the head booker of NWA/WCW at the time). The Million Dollar Man was all about power and control and he did it through his immense wealth.

As Dibiase’s character developed and became a top heel for the company, there were some discussions and plans for Dibiase to be the man to finally dethrone the WWF champion Hulk Hogan. As plans were being made for Dibiase to use his wealth to buy his way to a WwF championship…things abruptly changed. Pat Patterson broke the news to Dibiase that they had other ideas than to simply put the title on the Million Dollar Man. It was also Patterson who came up with a contingency plan for the character.

If the Million Dollar Man couldn’t buy his way to a WWF title belt…he would create one for himself. When Patterson presented his idea to Dibiase, Ted loved it just as much as becoming a world champion. The WWF commissioned a famous jewelry store named Betteridge Jewelers in the upscale town of Greenwich, Connecticut to create this work of art. The McMahon family have used this particular store for their personal purchases throughout the years.

The storyline had the Million Dollar Man upset that he couldn’t buy Hogan’s WWF title and failed in several attempts to win it…so Dibiase went to this jewelry store and ordered a championship belt fitting for the Million Dollar Man. In reality, Betteridge Jewelers worked with sketches WWF creative sent and also allowed Dibiase to sit in on the creative process. According to the jewelry store’s owner Terry Betteridge, the Million Dollar Belt was made with 5 pounds of sterling silver dipped in 24 karat gold and over 700 cubic zirconias all hand set to make the belt look like it was filled with diamonds.

The title belt took over one month to create and despite the kayfabe price of the belt costing one million dollars….it actually cost $40,000 to make. That price was in 1989, today it would cost well over $200,000 to make. On an episode of WWF Superstars, the Million Dollar Man unveiled his new prized possession on ‘The Brother Love Show.’ It was on that show Dibiase showed the world the Million Dollar Belt and was christened the Million Dollar champion.

The title was unsanctioned by the WWF (meaning that the title could not forced to be defended by Ted Dibiase.) He did of course, put the Million Dollar Belt on the line on a couple of occasions himself. He lost the title to his former bodyguard Virgil and also handed the belt off to ‘Th Ring Master’ Steve Austin and his own son…Ted Dibiase Jr. According to Terry Betteridge, the man who created this wrestling masterpiece, he did add a couple of actual diamonds into the Million Dollar Belt to increase its value.

4 thoughts on “A Million Dollar Idea: The Creation of the Million Dollar Belt

  1. Pingback: Top Five Best Character Changes in Pro Wrestling | Ring the Damn Bell

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