The Fortunate Son?
“Everybody’s got a price. But me…I’m simply priceless.”
A bold proclamation from the WWE’s newest acquisition, Ted DiBiase Jr, on his Raw television debut on May 26 2008. At one point primed for a main event push, with comparisons to Randy Orton, as well as being considered the stand out of his tag team with Cody Rhodes (the HBK to Rhodes’ Jannetty, if you will) it’s astounding to find that, three plus years later, DiBiase is floundering in the mid card, struggling to get TV time. A seemingly impossible task for DiBiase if not for the aid of his, at one time tag team partner, at another time, rival; Cody Rhodes. It is almost impossible to write about the decline of one superstar, without mentioning the rise of the other – these two are that closely connected.
I Come From Money…
After being introduced by his father, Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase Senior, DiBiase would instantly legitimize himself by going on to win the WWE Tag Team Championship with Cody Rhodes in his debut match at Night of Champions, unceremoniously dispatching with Hardcore Holly in the process. Showing off natural athleticism, as well as a certain smug cockiness and charisma, DiBiase was already a champion with the main event calling.
Certainly, it seemed as though the sky was the limit for DiBiase, with the WWE putting a lot of initial stock, and TV time, into his ability and character alongside Rhodes. It wasn’t until they partnered him and Cody up with another multi generational superstar, Manu, that Randy Orton would get involved, irrevocably changing their fates by assuming the role of a mentor.
Having Orton guide this group provided the rub needed to allow them to be featured in a series of main event matches. Simply put; without Orton, and with the tag team division being as it currently is in the WWE, there is an argument that DiBiase and Rhodes would have been pink slipped long ago had they stayed as a team.
Furthermore, having Randy Orton directly grooming this talent (in the same way that Ric Flair and Evolution had done for Orton and Batista) allowed for obvious comparisons to be made between DiBiase and the Viper. Here was a young, third generation star with great in ring skills, amazing athleticism and with movie star good looks. Just like Randy Orton. The comparisons were apparent, with DiBiase Snr by his own admission claiming that his son “got off to a bang-up start.”
Consider the fact that the WWE had, at one point, enough faith in DiBiase being a draw that they felt confident to write him off their programming, via a punt to the head courtesy of Randy Orton, so that DiBiase could act in direct-to-DVD sequel, The Marine 2. This is the kind of belief they once had in him, and it wasn’t long until the internet was awash with rumors about his imminent return and subsequent revenge against Orton.
Finally, on January 12 2009, DiBiase made his return to the ring to assist Manu and SimSnuka against Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton. The crowd registered, but didn’t pop in the way the WWE perhaps hoped. All eyes were on DiBiase to step up to the plate, to go solo, to get his revenge and cement his main event spot with a feud against Randy Orton.
Instead, he turned and helped Rhodes and Orton with their beat down of Manu and Snuka, forsaking one potential legacy for another…
It would be unfair to say that The Legacy didn’t benefit Rhodes or DiBiase. By forming this heel stable with Randy Orton it allowed them main event TV time week after week, their faces on screen, the fans learning to hate them as they fell comfortably into their new roles – Orton’s stooges.
Outside of a few main event matches (the matches themselves usually consisting of 6-man tags, handicap matches, etc) and what, frankly, should have been a defining match for them against DX at Breaking Point in 2009, Legacy amounted to little more than Orton and his cronies. Whenever Orton had a match, you knew DiBiase/Rhodes weren’t too far away ready to pounce. Which is why it was so refreshing to see the two superstars go toe to toe, and hold their own, against such legendary superstars such as HHH and Shawn Michaels. These showcases against established superstars helped to shine that break out spotlight onto Legacy and, specifically, DiBiase all the more.
These matches weren’t going unnoticed by the WWE Universe, and neither was the treatment of Legacy by Randy Orton. Having not fulfilled their purpose during the Royal Rumble 2010 by assisting Orton to the victory, it was written into the story that Orton would feel it necessary to reprimand Legacy and put them in their place. Tensions began to rise and a spotlight began to shine a little more brightly.
Million Dollar Main Eventer
DiBiase earned a spot at the WWEs next PPV, Elimination Chamber. The Elimination Chamber is a now perfect opportunity to incorporate upcoming talent on the roster, those primed and ready for a big push. It happened before to guys like Chris Masters and Carlito and, unfortunately, the same fate that befell them would eventually play out for DiBiase.
During the match DiBiase managed to eliminate Randy Orton, a monumental feat and one that sealed the fate of Legacy as we knew it. This was DiBiase’s moment! The revenge that he could have sought in 2009 had finally presented itself with a new opportunity, old wounds were seemingly picked open.
On the February 22nd edition of Raw, Orton attacked The Legacy, believing that they were planning to do the very same to him, which they would do a week later.
From a storyline perspective, it makes perfect sense – it showed Orton to be extremely paranoid, incapable of trusting those closest to him. It also showed that DiBiase and Rhodes were sick of being Orton’s stooges, that they were willing to break out of the roles they had inhabited for over a year.
More importantly however, it began to build towards something much bigger – Wrestlemania 26.
A triple threat match between the disbanded Legacy. This was the moment, more so than any other, for DiBiase to break free of the bonds of being Orton’s main event stooge and to show everyone; those who had backed him, the internet smarks, the guys backstage, the suits in the office, everyone – that he was deserving of a spot in the main event.
Orton went on to take the obvious victory. However, as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels testify; you can still come out a winner even as a loser. Both DiBiase and Rhodes put in strong performances, and no man had anything to be ashamed of at the end of the match. But was it enough to earn a spot in the main event?
Million Dollar Left Overs
In short, no. For whatever reason the WWE felt that they needed to roll off the back of Wrestlemania 26 by repackaging DiBiase as a rehashed, watered down version of his father, going so far as to reintroduce the Million Dollar Championship. It was around this point that the main event turned to the upper mid card, and the upper mid card slid into the mid card for DiBiase. At this time there were rumors of Ted’s little brother, Brett, moving up from FCW and forming part of a stable to have been called The Fortunate Sons. If that were to have happened, it would probably have been enough to keep DiBiase in the upper mid/mid card position. Robert Aitkin, of the Bleacher Report writes; ““After Legacy split up following WrestleMania 26, Rhodes was chosen as the former member who would falter in comparison to Ted DiBiase. Fans flocked to the DiBiase bandwagon and all but left Rhodes for future endeavoring.” What a surprise then, that the WWE would stall on DiBiase they way they did, killing any momentum he had.
Involved in an inane storyline that involved trust fund money, DiBiase became a pale reflection of his fathers gimmick, which extended as far as to wanting to find himself his own manservant, akin to what Virgil was to Ted DiBiase Senior. The WWE in, what can kindly be called, a misjudgment, decided that DiBiase would approach R-Truth. This lead to a mid card feud between the two of them that would see the WWE bringing back the original Virgil, and culminating in a PPV match at Over The Limit, that DiBiase lost. Probably for the best, given what a DiBiase victory in this particular feud would have meant.
Following this uninspired misfire of a feud, the WWE then chose to have DiBiase fire Virgil in order to partner him up with Maryse, a partnership that would see them both mired in the midcard for a long, long time.
Having reintroduced the Million Dollar Championship earlier in the year, it would take them only 7 months before retiring it after another ridiculous feud, this time with Goldust. Having stolen the Million Dollar Championship, it appeared that Goldust was going to have a positive effect on DiBiase. A chance to wrestle a ring veteran, potentially get the rub and move back into the upper mid card. Instead, the WWE chose to play the feud as a farce and both DiBiase and Goldust lost even more momentum because of it. The shortlived feud ended with Goldust returning the Million Dollar Championship to Ted DiBiase Senior, who then offered it back to his son, who refused it. DiBiase was ready to move onto a real challenge, one that included wrestling for a recognized belt within the WWE, he was scripted to go after Daniel Bryan and the United States Championship.
Although now moving towards a positive push, it ended the Goldust feud on a moot note – all those weeks of chasing Goldust and the belt, just to say he didn’t want it? It made all involved look weak and, truthfully, foolish. The main event probably seemed like a distant memory to DiBiase.
Even a strong match with Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series couldn’t do much to re instill the managements faith in DiBiase. Undeniably, DiBiase was on a losing streak…
“…based on coming out of WrestleMania in Phoenix a year ago, it looked like the sky was the limit. Then all of a sudden, it just didn’t go that way.”
Quite an understatement from DiBiase Snr, considering that DiBiase Jr would go on to tread water in the lower mid card for a few months, rarely appearing on Raw, instead showing up on C-grade shows such as NXT and Superstars. Whilst DiBiase was struggling to get on TV, Cody Rhodes was busy in a high profile Smackdown! feud with Rey Mysterio. Nothing could highlight the different turns these superstars took after the Legacy split than their participation at Wrestlemania 27. Cody Rhodes featured in a huge match with Rey Mysterio, with Mysterio giving Rhodes his biggest singles victory to date – solidifying his position in the upper mid card. DiBiase however was in a sporadic 22 man battle royal that was relegated to an untelevised dark match at the beginning of the card.
Thankfully, things were slowly beginning to change. The 2011 Supplemental draft saw DiBiase traded to Smackdown leaving Maryse, and their overly drawn out relationship storyline, behind on Raw. The WWE hoped that this would be the new beginning that Ted DiBiase needed.
As was the standard at this point, DiBiase lost his debut match against his former tag team partner and Legacy stablemate, Cody Rhodes. The following week however, it was clear that the WWE did not want to have the two feud, they wanted them to reform, only this time the position of power between them had clearly shifted.
No longer was DiBiase the break out star, no longer was he primed for greatness. Instead, it would be Cody Rhodes; riding high off his push and feud with Rey Mysterio, that would be the focus of the duo.
DiBiase, who main evented as a crony for Randy Orton, who was the supposed breakout star between himself and Rhodes, now acts as Cody Rhode’s stooge.
From impactful debut and instant championships, to main event spotlights then mid card struggles, DiBiase was once positioned to take it all. He has all the attributes that the WWE look for in a future champion, and yet for whatever reason they were capable of so completely dropping the ball with him. It is a shame to see such a talent go to such waste, especially after being hailed by many as the superior member of Legacy. Booker T inadvertently surmised the situation on the 26th August 2011 edition of Smackdown; “DiBiase is what I call a lost soul. Right now, he doesn’t really know what’s going on.” Without a doubt a blur between being scripted commentary and harsh truth.
It is perhaps easy to pinpoint the moment where his path in the WWE took a wrong turn. Rather than have him become a part of The Legacy, the WWE should have allowed DiBiase to form his own personal legacy, by allowing him to turn face in 2009 against Randy Orton. If he had, we may have seen a one on one bout between himself and Orton at Wrestlemania 26.
Let us hope then that there is truth to the rumors that this association with Rhodes is leading, once again, to a potential DiBiase face turn. Indeed, given the fall out of the 26th August episode of Smackdown! the WWE seem to finally be moving forward with plans for DiBiase. After a strong performance against Orton, which he lost, and having Rhodes land a Cross Rhodes on him it seems that, once again, this duo will be going their separate ways. Although the story would directly mimic the fallout that occurred between The Miz and Alex Riley, it seems to be the only logical thing that they can do if they want to drastically change the direction of DiBiase’s career in terms of momentum and crowd reaction. Worryingly, it may also be their last. Phil Strum, also writing for the Bleacher Report, highlights that; “the company (WWE) seems to be in the process of reviving DiBiase’s career.” Hopefully they’ll be able to do so and finally provide the push so long denied to DiBiase allowing him to retake the moniker of the Fortunate Son, rather than the Forgotten Son.
The “Million Dollar Man” meanwhile has full faith in his son and his abilities; “the one thing this business can’t deny is talent. I said eventually, the cream always rises to the top. […] Teddy, if he sticks to his guns and just stays true to the gameplan, in time – it’s going to happen.”
As his theme song suggests; he comes from money, he comes from cash. But don’t be fooled; DiBiase has worked hard since his debut for the company and deserves that main event spotlight, something that money simply can’t buy.