Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Mick Foley

WILPW

 

As I sit here wearing my brand new Viking Hall t-shirt, I’ve been thinking about the world of Extreme. Speaking of Extreme, we just passed an anniversary that’s very special to me at least in the way of the world of sports entertainment. We’ll get to that very special date in a bit. First, I want to start at the beginning. I want to tell you about one of my personal heroes and a legend in sports entertainment and in life. I’m talking about Cactus Jack. I’m talking about Mankind. I’m also talking about Dude Love. But really, I’m talking about Mick Foley. He’s one of the big reasons I kept being a fan through the end of the previous century and why I keep giving the WWE in particular the benefit of the doubt. But I said that I would begin at the beginning but that means the beginning of my experience.

 

 
I first heard of Mick Foley when he was performing under his Mankind persona. More specifically, I mean his heel role as a deranged basement dweller. My best friend Farris, who introduced me to watching WWE, told me about this guy he had seen premiere. He was crazy, he wore a mask, he ripped his own hair out and he couldn’t feel pain. I was intrigued. When I finally saw him out there in the ring I was even more intrigued. Pretty much every other performer out there was muscle-bound or lithe and fast. Here was a guy who was very rough around the edges and strange. Little did I know that I was becoming intrigued with something that Foley himself put a lot of work into. He read psychology and somewhat based his character on Hannibal Lecter. He debuted and almost immediately went after the Undertaker.

 

 
As he continued to fight in the WWF, I was interested but to be honest I wasn’t that interested. I was way into Shawn Michaels and Undertaker and soon enough Steve Austin and although he was interesting, he was a bad guy and I was in a period of my life where that mattered. Then the atittude era hit and wrestling became way more fun. It was no longer an exciting Saturday Morning cartoon. It was still exaggerated but it felt a little more “real” somehow. That feeling really hit home when Mankind sat down for an interview with the legendary Jim Ross.

 

 
That interview weaved together elements of the Mankind character with elements from Mick Foley’s own life. Never before had I seen a character in sports entertainment with so much backstory and heart. I had no idea at the time that a huge amount of that backstory was real and that Mrs. Foley’s baby boy was a guy after my own heart. From that moment on I was a Mankind fan and I was glued to Raw to see what happened next with him. What came next was that he got to evolve. He became his childhood creation of Dude Love. Who among us wouldn’t be thrilled to bring a childhood dream to life? Really? It was so different from what everybody else was doing.

 

 
Then he became Cactus Jack again but I had never heard of Cactus Jack before because I hadn’t watched WCW back then and I had, at that point, never even heard of ECW. Watching Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack made it clear to me that Mick Foley was the real deal and could put on a hell of a match. This was still a tape world and I had no access so I stuck with his WWF career like glue. Mankind returned but he had now merged all three characters and he was even more entertaining to watch. Then the moment that shocked the world happened.

 

 
I watched Mick Foley fall twenty feet and then get up and fall about fifteen and then keep going. On purpose. For a match. I loved Foley and I was a huge fan before but at that point I was a Foley fan for life. I followed his career even closer at that point and I loved every step of it. Finally he became a babyface, an odd term applied to a guy who was missing teeth. He became more of a comic character but he still fought with heart and I loved him more and more. He had one of my favorite feuds of all time with The Rock and it was the first real experience I had where I loved both the babyface and the heel. It is here that we reach the anniversary of Mick Foley winning his first Heavyweight Championship. It happened on my birthday (December 29, 1999) but it wasn’t broadcast until about a week later. I felt like it was the greatest birthday present in the world.

 

 
It was around this time that he published his first autobiography and I grabbed it up. It was here where Mick Foley became a personal hero. His life, in his own words was an inspiration and I still have my first copy which fell apart from re-reading it over and over. It was here that I learned who Mick Foley was and how I connected to him not just as a character on television but as a human being. It was also here that I learned about ECW and his days in WCW. I tried to get footage where I could but it was still hard to do in 1999. I have since watched a lot of it and enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed his run in TNA as he wasn’t just the same old Foley in a different pond, he adapted. It seems he’s more or less retired from the big spotlight now but he’ll never be forgotten.

 

 
I’m still a big Foley fan but I follow him these days more as a writer than a performer. His insight into the writing and performing part of the business is invaluable. He’s so good at adapting and evolving with the times that he knows just the way to use new and current talent. I would watch him perform again in a heartbeat but I have a feeling he knows he’s better applying his mind to the business and elsewhere.

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One Response to “Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Mick Foley”

  1. Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: January 4 1999 | Wolf of Words Says:

    […] Mick Foley had been one of my favorites since he popped up on my radar when he debuted on Raw. I heard about Mankind second hand but as I watched his career, I definitely got more and more interested. I was unaware of his earlier career but I knew how devoted he was when he was thrown twice off of the Hell in a Cell structure. Later that year, his character started to become more comedic and I loved him even more. Somehow it was easier to see the amount of thought he put into the character and I loved his feud with The Rock and the McMahons. In a lot of ways it complemented the story they were telling with Stone Cold and told it in a more humorous way. […]

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