Mike DiBiase was a legendary professional wrestler. After serving in the Navy
during World War II, he wrestled at the University of Nebraska, where he captured AAU
National and Big Seven Wrestling Titles. DiBiase’s wife was wrestler Helen Hilde and his son Ted was also a legendary pro-grappler out of West Texas.
DiBiase made his professional wrestling debut in Lincoln, Nebraska in early April 1950.
His second match was held on April 10, 1950 in Omaha against Lord Hall. He was said to have seen only four matches live before turning pro and a handful of others on
television. DiBiase’s wife accompanied him to his match in Omaha and sat ringside with two children at home. Mike pinned Hall in 21:27. He wrestled Jack Conley to a 45-minute draw on April 17th in Omaha after capturing the only fall in 24:05.
On May 1, 1950 at Omaha, Mike drew with Emil Dusek in 45-minutes at the Legion Gym. DiBiase submitted the first fall away in 23:40 and pinned Dusek in 6:20. With Danny Plechas the next week, May 8th, he lost to Emil and Joe Dusek in two-of-three-falls. He left Nebraska and embarked on a national tour. DiBiase teamed with former boxing champion Primo Carnera on October 23, 1950 in his Omaha return and lost to Emil and Ernie Dusek. He was defeated both times in his team’s loss with Carnera scoring the second on Emil.
DiBiase traveled to Colorado in the later parts of February 1953 to appear in a title
tournament to declare a new Rocky Mountain Champion. On the 17th, DiBiase beat
Danny Plechas in Denver to capture the title, also winning the $200 cash prize. He
became a duel local champion when he and Chico Grava won the Rocky Mountain Tag
Title on March 31st. Soon afterwards, he left the area. After DiBiase and Karl Von
Schoeber were tied at one during a main event match in Denver on June 30, 1953, the
assigned referee, Tom Corbett refused to give a third to Schoeber after he had scored a
pin. Fans showered the ring with cushions as they watched DiBiase declared the victor.
Throughout the rest of the summer, DiBiase remained the heavyweight champion of the
Rocky Mountain Region. In October 1953, he would receive two of his stiffest challenges, one being the man he won the title from, Danny Plechas, and the other was a newcomer Reggie Lisowski. On October 13th, DiBiase won over Plechas in two-of-three at Denver while Lisowski appeared and crushed Jack Allen in straight-falls. A week later, Lisowski and DiBiase were matched for the championship. Despite losing the bout, Mike retained his title. He was thrown from the ring at the 26:07 mark of the first fall and was unable to continue due to a head injury. Promoter Mike London was quick to resign the bout for November 3rd. DiBiase couldn’t halt Lisowski’s challenge, and lost the Rocky Mountain Title in three-falls.
DiBiase won the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title in 1956. Also in ’56, he won the
Central States Title. It seemed that every region he toured, he won a belt. DiBiase
returned to Omaha on January 4, 1958 to team with Bobby Bruns against the NWA
Nebraska/Iowa Tag Team Champions, Emil and Ernie Dusek. Their bid failed. He feuded with Don Evans in Amarillo. DiBiase lost an important match there and was forced from the state. DiBiase returned and beat Evans on June 5, 1958. He faced Angelo Savoldi, who was on the rebound from losing the World Junior Title, on June 12th. The two fought to a time-limit draw.
“Iron” Mike participated in a tournament to determine a new North American Champion in Amarillo on June 19, 1958. He wrestled Art Nelson to a draw in the second round and thus, was eliminated. He gained revenge on Nelson the following week with a win.
DiBiase challenged Dory Funk Sr. to a World Junior Heavyweight Title Match on July 3rd and the two wrestled an even 60-minute draw. Funk retained the belt. He beat the Great Zorro on July 17, 1958 to capture the North American Heavyweight Title at the Sports Arena. He opposed Funk, Bob Geigel and Tokyo Joe in a three-man tag team bout with Art Nelson and Hard Boiled Haggerty at the Sports Arena in Amarillo on August 14th. The battle went to a draw tied at one-fall apiece. They lost by a unanimous judge vote.
A week later, DiBiase beat Tokyo Joe in a two-of-three-falls match. On the 28th of
August, 1958, he again teamed with Haggerty and Nelson against Funk, Geigel and Al
Kashey. This time they were the winners. DiBiase lost the NWA North American Title to Ricky Romero in Lubbock, during the fall of 1958. On September 11th, he was billed as co-holder of the NWA World Tag Team Title with Art Nelson. The champs beat Chico
and Ricky Romero in two-of-three. They held down the challenge of Larry Chene and
Ricky Romero on October 2nd. DiBiase lost to Chene in a singles contest in Amarillo on the 9th, by way of reverse decision by Commissioner Sammy George.
DiBiase and Nelson lost the World Tag Title to Gory Guerrero and Ricky Romero in
Lubbock during the latter parts of September 1958. After losing to Dory Funk Sr. on
October 16, 1958, DiBiase was escorted unconsciously from the ring, and then on to
Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. His injuries were not severe. He appeared in
Omaha on October 25, 1958 on the undercard of the Verne Gagne-Edouard Carpentier
World Title Match. DiBiase pinned Legs Langevin in 17:42. He returned to Amarillo rings on November 20, 1958. On that day, he destroyed Dick Steinborn, injuring his neck. It was payback for the way he last left the Arena. A week later, he teamed with Art Nelson and Danny Plechas in a three-fall victory over Doug Donovan, Sonny Myers and Ricky Romero. He drew with Emil Dusek on Saturday, January 3, 1959 in Omaha.
DiBiase received the first Amarillo shot at the NWA International Tag Team Championship and The Fabulous Kangaroos on January 15, 1959 with Danny Plechas, a former enemy in Colorado, as his partner. They lost by disqualification in the match, which was held under Australian rules. He lost to Dory Funk Sr. on January 29, 1959 in a rematch for the North American Title. DiBiase had suffered a severe cut through his eyebrow, and the match was stopped by a ringside doctor. Promoter Karl Sarpolis and Commissioner Stanley Blackburn assisted in the decision. He teamed with Plechas in a sixty-minute draw with the Fabulous Kangaroos on February 5th in Amarillo. In another shot at the reigning North American Champion on February 12th, DiBiase failed after accidentally being struck by Danny Plechas, who was attempting to act on his ally’s behalf against Funk. The mistake didn’t effect their relationship, and their tag team.
DiBiase and Plechas captured the coveted NWA International Tag Team Title a week
later in Amarillo. They beat the famous Kangaroos, Al Costello and Roy Heffernan in two-of-three-falls. The champs lost the belts back to the Kangaroos on March 5th in
Amarillo. DiBiase interfered on Nick Roberts behalf on May 28, 1959, causing Dory Funk Sr. to lose the NWA North American Heavyweight Title in Amarillo. Deputy Wrestling Commissioner, Stanley Blackburn quickly suspended DiBiase from wrestling in the state for two weeks and fined him $50.00 for his actions. He regained the North American Title from Poncho Lopez on a huge card in Amarillo on October 27, 1960. The match nearly went sixty-minutes, with each wrestler tied 1-1 when DiBiase capitalized after a Lopez mistake and placed the champion in an arm stretch. Seconds later, the move forced him to submit the final fall and the title. It was Lopez’s first loss in his career, and just another title victory to add to his mantle for DiBiase.
International Champion Sonny Myers received the first Amarillo title shot at “Iron” Mike on November 3rd. DiBiase beat Myers in the first fall, but a sleeper by Myers put him away
for the second. Mike used a soft drink box to hit Myers over the head and pin the
challenger after the latter was caught in-between the ropes. DiBiase was rolling through
the local competition once again. Dory Funk Sr. returned to Amarillo the following week
to challenge for the North American Title. It was a very familiar situation. Fall one was
given to DiBiase via disqualification when he had been tossed over the top rope. The
bloody contest ended when referee Alex Perez disqualified both men for punishing him
throughout the event.
On December 15, 1960, DiBiase wrestled Funk in a match in which the loser agreed not
to wrestle in Amarillo for six-months. Stanley Blackburn refereed the bout from outside
the ring and Bobby Christy was the third man inside. During the first fall, the three inside
the ropes fell out of the squared circle to continue the action on the ground. Only two
combatants returned. At this point, Ripper Leone ran out from the dressing room and
attacked Funk from behind, hoping to get the advantage. Christy returned and DiBiase
pinned Dory. Blackburn then reversed the decision. The match continued and Funk
caught DiBiase in his spinning toe-hold. He forced a submission and won the match, as
Mike was unable to go on any further.
In a match that received national attention, DiBiase battled boxer Archie Moore on
Saturday, March 16, 1963 in Phoenix. The referee stopped the match in the third round,
giving the bout to Moore.
Mr. DiBiase continued wrestling until July 2, 1969 when he died after a match against
Gary Fletcher in Lubbock, Texas. DiBiase was a legend in his time, touring regions in
Florida, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and California and the list of achievements
are lengthy. His son, Ted DiBiase, went on to gain the same superstardom in the
professional ring. When Archie Moore died in December 1998, DiBiase was mentioned in
newspaper articles all around the United States.
- December, 24, 1923
- New York City, New York
- July, 02, 1969
- Lubbock, Texas
Cause of Death
- Heart Attack while wrestling
- Sunset Cemetery
- Willcox, Arizona