The true history of WWE's most expensive title: the Million Dollar Championship

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February 12, 2013

On Feb. 15 1989, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase set out to create the most expensive wrestling championship to date. The Million Dollar Title, so named for the seven figures worth of diamonds intricately woven into its façade, became an integral part of the millionaire’s persona. The championship has come and gone from WWE TV in the 24 years since it debuted with wavering interest from the WWE Universe, but urban legends surrounding the title remain. Was it made from real gold? Was it actually worth a million dollars?


To find out, went to one of the most despised Superstars in the history of sports-entertainment — “The Million Dollar Man.” Introduced to WWE fans through a series of vignettes, the snide aristocrat bought out a public swimming pool (WATCH) and booted a honeymoon couple from their hotel suite, all by virtue of his tremendous cash flow. (MORE “THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN”)

“The first time I walked out into an arena, the people were booing me out of the building,” DiBiase recalled.

From the beginning, it seemed inevitable that “The Million Dollar Man’s” talent and infinite resources would lead him to the WWE Championship. And that almost happened at The Main Event on Feb. 5, 1988. The show featured a massive WrestleMania III rematch that saw Andre the Giant shockingly defeat Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship. (WATCH)

“It was the first time wrestling aired live on national network television since the ’50s,” DiBiase explained. “It was a big deal. I had boasted I was going to prove to the world that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t buy, including the title, because I had hired Andre and he sold me the title.”

But WWE President Jack Tunney voided the transaction, declared the title to be vacant and arranged an unprecedented tournament at WrestleMania IV to crown a new champion. Once again, DiBiase’s presumed victory seemed like a foregone conclusion.

“The thought was I would somehow win that tournament and be the WWE Champion and then have a rivalry with Hogan,” DiBiase revealed.

But it didn’t go down that way. Instead, he succumbed to Randy Savage in the final, paving the way for the rise of the “Macho Man.” (WATCH FULL MATCH) Although frustrated with the outcome, “The Million Dollar Man” spoke with WWE official Pat Patterson soon after the event, who suggested he set his sights on a different kind of championship. “You just come out and say, ‘Y’know what? I don’t need your stinkin’ title. I’m going to create my own. A title that’s beautiful, worth more money than the WWE Title and declare myself the champion.’ ” DiBiase said of Patterson’s instructions. “And as history has shown us, it did exactly what it was meant to do. It took me to the next level.”

A series of visits by DiBiase to Betteridge Jewelers in Greenwich, Conn., were presented on WWE television, showing “The Million Dollar Man” demanding a custom-made title, checking on its progress and showing off the final product.


“Terry Betteridge is legitimately a world-renowned gemologist. That jewelry store is the place to go in Greenwich. You don’t go there if you’re looking to buy a Timex watch,” DiBiase said with one of his signature cackles.

The beautiful, golden title perfectly fit the first-class lifestyle of WWE’s wealthiest Superstar, but its actual value has long inspired debate among WWE fans. Was it actually worth $1 million? Or even a $100,000?

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