Wrestler of the Week: Mick Foley

HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OWW Wrestler of the Week: Mick Foley
Our resident philosopher, Jay Shannon, profiles the new TNA World Champion. Foley defied all the odds to take the gold from Sting,

In pro wrestling, there is a saying: Never say never, brother. That was never more clear than when Mick Foley hoisted his obese frame up and over the top of the cage and dropped to the floor, winning the World title. Foley has beaten the odds his whole career. He’s been a success in wrestling, as well as writing. Mick Foley’s upset win over Sting catapulted Mick to this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

The early days

Michael Francis Foley, Sr. was born in Indiana on June 7,1965, but moved to New York at an early age. Foley was a fan of wrestling from an early age. The WWE ran videos of Foley’s teenage attempts at being a wrestler, including diving off the family room onto his friend. Fortunately, Foley moved away from the dangerous (and idiotic) world of backyard wrestling to the “real” world of wrestling by 1986.

Mick received the lion’s share of his training from Dominic DeNucci in Pennsylvania. Foley documented all the craziness of his training in Have a Nice Day. DeNucci used his close relationship with the then-WWF to get Foley a match on WWF TV. Foley, using his father’s name Jack Foley, got squashed in his debut against the British Bulldogs. Mick also rode up and down the roads working the indy circuit.

A World Class Icon

After working the indies for some time, Foley had several offers on his plate. He went to Jerry Jarrett’s CWF organization, based in Memphis, TN. It was there that the character of Cactus Jack was born. Jarrett and Fritz Von Erich were working hand-in-hand during this time and Foley was eventually sent to the World Class area. World Class was just at its peak when Cactus Jack Manson. He was managed by the legendary Skandor Akbar, who further trained Mick. Mick also received training from Chris Adams, with whom he feuded for most of his stay in the organization. Foley took the surname of Manson, due to his odd resemblance to the psychotic, Charlie Manson.

During this time, several of the regional promoters tried to band together to counter-act the juggernaut that was the WWF. Foley worked for World Class, the UWF, the USWA and the NWA. In 1991, Foley took a booking with Tri-State Wrestling. Within a couple of years, Tri-State and Mick Foley would be forever changed. Before that change, Foley headed to Atlanta.

WCW

By the fall of 1991, most of the smaller federations had either failed or merged with larger groups. This was the case with the UWF. Bill Watts sold his organization to Ted Turner. Most of the stars were moved from Bixby, Oklahoma to Atlanta, GA. Foley debuted in September of 1991, attacking Sting. That instantly made Foley, billed again as Cactus Jack, one of the top heels in WCW.
Cactus Jack feuded with several mid-card stars. His next big feud after Sting was against Vader. During this time, Foley injured his knee. Instead of getting a doctor to repair the damage, Foley tried to fix it himself. Because of his poor decision, Foley ended up on the shelf for eight months. To explain the disappearance, Vader and Foley had one more match. Vader pulled off one of the most dangerous stunts of the time. Vader removed the protective mats around ringside. He then Powerbombed Cactus Jack onto the hard concrete floor. The move was somewhat botched by Vader and Cactus ended up with a concussion and temporary paralysis in his left foot.

As Cactus prepared to return, WCW ran a series of bizarre comedy skits about searching for Cactus. Cactus returned and extracted his revenge on Vader. Cactus turned face when he saved Davey Boy Smith from a brutal assault by Vader. Cactus battled Vader and the other members of Harley Race’s stable. Several of the Vader/Cactus matches were incredibly violent. Eventually, WCW stopped all PPV matches between Foley and Vader. Sadly, they didn’t stop all their battles. On March 16,1994, Cactus Jack and Vader battled in Munich, Germany. The WCW ring crew had tightened the ropes to full strength. The ropes were, in fact, steel cables wrapped in a thin rubber coating. Cactus’ head was trapped between the top and middle ropes, something that was common in those days. While trying to escape, Cactus Jack tore 2/3 of his ear.

Cactus Jack became frustrated when WCW refused to incorporate the lost ear into any kind of storyline. Cactus was teamed with Kevin Sullivan and allowed to win the tag team titles. WCW and ECW began to run joint shows in 1994. On one episode of ECW, Foley spat on the WCW World tag titles to get over with the ECW fans. That disrespect, as seen by Ric Flair and WCW Creative, got Foley reprimanded by the company. Foley decided to take an offer from Paul Heyman and walk away from WCW.

Getting Extreme

Foley went to ECW, full time, after leaving WCW. He began a long-running feud with Sabu. One of their wildest battle was actually at the Silver Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. The two battled up from the small arena into the casino. They tumbled across the tables and disrupted a card game, in progress. A casino security guard was injured in the melee.

Foley also worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Foley battled with Boo Bradley (B.G. James) and Chris Candido. Foley went to Japan where he first worked with Terry Funk. Funk took Foley under his wing and continued to train Foley in the more violent styles of wrestling native to Japan. Funk and Foley would begin a friendship that lasts to this day. Foley returned to ECW and both teamed and feuded with Mikey Whipwreck. It was during this time that Foley came to the attention of WWF scouts. He was approached to join the WWF, once his contract with ECW expired.

The Faces of Foley

Foley was brought in to feud with Undertaker. He was re-dubbed as Mankind. His character was a tortured soul who ripped out his own hair and screamed. The TNA character Abyss is seen as a lift from Mankind (with a little Kane thrown in). Mankind attacked Undertaker, the day after Wrestlemania XII. Mankind would eventually take Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer, as his own. He called Bearer, Uncle Paul.

After an initial feud with Undertaker, Mankind moved on to face Shawn Michaels for the WWF title. Mankind didn’t win the title on their first battle. Gold was on the way for Mick Foley, but not for Mankind. Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels won the tag titles from Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart. Shawn was injured in a match against the Undertaker and needed to take time off. Jim Ross had been doing interviews with Mankind and brought up his childhood days. The WWF ran a grainy video of Mick playing a hippie character called Dude Love. When Austin refused to team with A Freak (Mankind), Foley re-debuted his old childhood wrestling character. The shredded brown clothing and Hannibal the Cannibal mask were replaced by tie-dyed shirts and bright white wrestling boots. Dude and Austin eventually had to drop the belts due to Austin’s neck injury.

In a silly split-screen interview, Dude Love and Mankind talked about which one of them was going to face Owen Hart in an upcoming match. The two personas decided to give the duties to Foley’s old persona of Cactus Jack. For quite some time, the Three Faces of Foley worked in the WWF.

A Night of pure Hell

In 1998, Mick Foley reignited his feud with the Undertaker. That led to the most notorious match of his entire career. The two were set to meet at King of the Ring. Foley came out as the “new” Mankind, with dress shirt and loose tie. The match started with both men climbing to the top of the 16-foot cage. Undertaker grabbed Mankind and chucked him off the cage. Mankind fell onto the Spanish Announce table (always a popular target). Jim Ross nearly had a coronary as he screamed about the fall.

After several minutes, Foley climbed off the stretcher that was dragging him to the back and climbed back to the top of the cage, again. Undertaker then Chokeslammed Foley. The original plan was for ‘Taker to pin Mankind on top of the cage. The problem was that the cage gave way and Mankind fell a good 10 feet and landed awkwardly on his already injured ribs. Mankind was actually knocked out by the fall. By the time that Undertaker climbed down from the cage and entered the ring, Mankind was semi-awake. Undertaker quickly finished off Mankind to a standing ovation. The highlights of this match were included on no less than six different video releases.

The birth of Mr. Socko

After the Hell in a Cell match, WWF Creative expected Mankind to be embraced as the newest hero of the masses. He wasn’t. Mankind was snubbed by the fans of the WWF, who had tired of having the newest face character force-fed to them. Foley worked with Creative to come up with a new idea that would excite the crowds and lead to better marketing ideas. The idea came as part of a silly hospital skit.

Vince McMahon had been brutally attacked by the Undertake and Kane. While in the hospital, Mankind showed up with balloons, a clown and all kinds of hoopla. When nothing served to brighten up the grumpy Chairman, Mankind took off his white sweat sock and slid it over his hand. In much the same way children’s programs had done in the 1950s, Mankind’s puppet character was brought to life. Mankind dubbed the creation, Mr. Socko. Mankind did a really bad ventriloquist routine with the sock.
Over the next few months, the sock was augmented with crudely drawn facial features. Mankind, while battling in the ring, would whip the sock from the waistband of his sweatpants and slip it over the hand used to deliver the Mandible Claw. The addition of the ridiculous sock puppet helped to boost Mankind in the eyes of the fans. The marketing of Mr. Socko puppets didn’t go quite as well. The sock puppets were test marketed but quickly removed from the shelves.

Calling it a (Nice) day

Mankind finally won his first WWF/E Championship with a pre-taped battle against The Rock. WCW decided to spoil the WWF’s title change, so they announced during Nitro what the ending of the match would be, before the match ran. It was done to keep fans from tuning into the match. WCW figured if the fans knew the ending, they wouldn’t bother to watch. The plan backfired, as more fans than ever tuned in to see the title change.

Mankind and The Rock continued to battle over the title. Mankind won the title back from The Rock and then had to drop it due to a knee injury. Mick Foley learned from his previous attempt at fixing his own injury and went in for surgery by an actual doctor. Mankind returned in a Triple Threat Match to win his third WWF title at Summerslam. He overcame Triple H and Steve Austin to win the title. Mankind wrestled against Triple H in a Retirement Match in a Hell in a Cell match. Trip defeated Mankind, who retired. He did return for Wrestlemania to battle as Linda McMahon’s pick for the Fatal Four Way match. He lost to Triple H and didn’t wrestle for four years.

Commissioner Foley

After he retired from wrestling, Foley took an on-air position as the Commissioner of Raw. Foley’s character was never meant to be a law and order kind of commissioner. He was always joking around and pulling stunts on the various heels on the Raw show. Foley was eventually fired by Mr. McMahon. This was mainly to give Foley time to work on his writing career.

Finishing up with the WWE

Over the next five years, Mick Foley would make random appearances with the WWE. He usually served as a special ref or worked major cards, like Royal Rumble. Foley had feuds with Evolution and Edge that were both highlighted at Wrestlemania shows. The Hardcore Championship, which was created for Foley/Mankind, was brought out of retirement for Mick Foley. The title was quickly shelved, again, after a quick program with Edge.
Foley began to do commentary during the early days of the re-born ECW. By mid-2005, Foley was being courted by TNA to join their organization. The WWE upped Foley’s on-air appearance to try and keep him from leaving the company. When Jonathan Coachman left the WWE, Foley stepped in as color commentator on Smackdown. That job would only last a few weeks. Edge attacked Foley, prior to Summerslam. Foley had taunted Edge about his match with the Undertaker. Edge’s spear would send Foley out of the WWE.

TNA

On September 3, 2008, the Gillespie Agency (which represented Foley) issued a statement that Foley had signed a short-term deal with TNA. There is question as to length of the original deal. Foley’s first duties with the company was as a special ref for high-profile matches (almost exclusively PPV battles). Foley also took the time to trash talk his former boss, Vince McMahon, and several WWE stars. It was scripted so Foley could garner some face time with the TNA fans. In fact, It actually came across as bitter and childish. The fans rebelled against the rants and they were quickly dropped.

Once Foley decided to sign on, long term, with TNA, his next character twist was added. Foley, who is renown for his thriftiness, invested (storywise) in the upstart company. Foley had focused on Kurt Angle, next. He began to talk about Angle’s exit from the WWE. Angle Headbutted Foley, which is when Foley announced that he was the Majority Stockholder in TNA. Foley used his new position to make life difficult for Angle and his new Main Event Mafia.

Foley also began to cross swords with Alex Shelley of the Motor City Machine Guns. Shelley ridiculed Foley’s obesity and slowness. Foley forced Alex Shelley into a turkey suit, after Shelley lost the annual Turkey Bowl. Foley would eventually face Shelley and Sabin in a First Blood match, later on. Foley and Shelley traded barbs over the months.

The path to the TNA title started when Foley served as a guest ref during the Kurt Angle v Sting title match. Foley helped Sting win, after attacking Kurt. During the match, Foley also struck Sting. On the following Impact, Foley and Jeff Jarrett united to battle Sting and Kurt. At the end of the match, Foley cracked Sting in the head with a steel chair.

Foley began to transform from the fun-loving Foley to the crazed Cactus Jack. It culminated with a twisted interview with himself on Impact. Foley/Jack had already challenged Sting to a match at Lockdown and when he completed his switch to Cactus Jack, he destroyed Sting in the middle of the ring. At Lockdown, Cactus was able to scale the cage, despite his out-of-shape form. Jack’s feet hit the floor just ahead of Sting. Cactus had defied all the odds to capture his first TNA World Title.

In Conclusion:

Mick Foley may not hold the TNA World title for very long, but he did win it. Foley’s attitude has been converting over from being a goof to that of a vicious battler. Foley will likely drop the strap to Kurt Angle or another member of the Main Event Mafia, unless he chooses to join them. Foley has been an award winning writer, a respected commentator and a multi-time World champion. He has had one of the most memorable battles in the history of the sport, against the Undertaker. Foley’s career is way past its prime. Years of in-ring abuse have converted Foley to a near-cripple. Foley apparently has one more run left in him. Foley taking the World title was a shocker and the catalyst for him receiving this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award.

— Jay Shannon
[email protected]
(4/20/09)