Hall of Fame, Profile: Part I: Mick Foley
Jay Shannon begins his yearly look at the WWE Hall of Fame. The first profile is that of the Hardcore Icon, Mick Foley.
Welcome to Wrestlemania Week. As part of my annual traditions, I want to take a look at each person inducted. Over the next week, I’ll be bringing you a daily post of another great performer’s career. Let’s get started with the man that used to live just three blocks from me in Irving, Texas…Mick Foley.
In The Beginning:
Michael Francis Foley was born on June 7, 1965, in Indiana. His family moved to New York when Mick was a young child. Mick took to sports and excelled in both Lacrosse and Wrestling. Mick had been a fan of pro wrestling from very early on and had huge dreams of one day joining the WWE (then WWF).
While in college, Foley and some friends hitchhiked to New York City to watch an event at Madison Square Garden. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was battling Don Muraco in a steel cage. Foley has stated in several of his books that seeing Snuka fly off the top of the cage was the inspiration that pushed him into becoming a professional wrestler. Foley signed on at Dominic DeNucci’s Wrestling School in Pennsylvania. Foley would have to drive for hours just to get to the school. The training was brutal but Foley was determined. Thanks to DeNucci’s connections to the then-WWF, Mick got a try-out match (as Jack Foley) in a tag team match against the British Bulldogs. Foley’s first foray into the WWF was forgettable, at best. His identity (a tribute to his father) was seen as too bland for the WWF.
The Birth of Cactus Jack
Foley spent the next few years working for any territory that would hire him. He didn’t really get his first big break until he entered the CWA (later known as the USWA). Due to a passing resemblance to serial killer, Charlie Manson, Foley became Cactus Jack Manson. Not long after moving over to the World Class area, the Manson name was dropped and Mick Foley became Cactus Jack. That identity would stick with him for many years (and sometimes still shows up).
Foley was recruited as a member of Skandor Akbar’s Devastation Inc. group. He often teamed with Gary Young, from whom he learned a great deal about the business.
In September, 1991, Cactus Jack took a lucrative offer from WCW as part of their expansion. He feuded with Sting, initially. Eventually, Cactus was turned “tweener” in a feud with Big Van Vader. Cactus was one of the first men used in the cross-over promotion with ECW.
During a tour of Germany, with WCW, Foley was severely injured in a match with Vader. On March 16, 1994, Vader threw Cactus Jack between the top and middle rope. The ropes were strung way too tight and Foley’s ear was partially sheared off by the steel cables inside the ropes. The ref quickly pocketed the severed lobe and took it to the back. Even though it was iced down, quickly, the doctors said there was no way to successfully reattached the ear.
Cactus Gets Extreme
Cactus Jack was ready to leave WCW. He made a Shane Douglas-like exit as he took his tag team title, spat on it and threw it to the ground. Kevin Sullivan, his tag partner, stood in shock as Cactus Jack stormed off set. Cactus Jack tore through ECW with a passion. He threw himself in the middle of the tag team wars. When it came time to pick a partner, most felt he would choose his idol, Terry Funk, or someone equally brutal. Foley went a totally different direction. He chose the meek Mikey Whipwreck and the duo eventually claimed the tag straps .
It was also during this era in his life that Mick traveled to Las Vegas for an infamous battle with Sabu. The two squared off at Mahoney’s Silver Nugget in North Las Vegas. The battle went through the crowd and out into the casino. Myself, my wife, Linda, and my friends Arnie and Joyce Katz happened to be at the bar, talking, when the two men came over an active gaming table. The brutality towards each other was nothing compared to a half-dozen ticked off card players that just had their game interrupted. One of the casino security guards ended up with a broken arm, not from Foley or Sabu, but from one of the players. Foley talks about it, at length in his first book.
The Evolution of Mick Foley
After 2 years in ECW, Foley accepted a contract offer from the WWF. The ECW fans begged Foley not to leave, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up. However, it was not Cactus Jack that showed up in McMahon-Land. Foley came in wearing a bizarre leather strip mask with sections of his head shaved. The new character, Mankind, shrieked and inflicted pain on himself. He was thrust into an instant feud with Undertaker. Vince allowed Mick and Taker to take the violence to higher levels than ever before seen in his company. Mankind would eventually take “Uncle Paul” (Bearer) as his manager, shattering an 8-year relationship between Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Oddly, the feud went more than two years, but they never fought at Wrestlemania. Foley also made his first attempts to take the WWF/E title. He failed but he pushed Shawn Michaels to his limit and beyond.
Eventually, Mankind was turned from a psychotic brute into a more lovable misfit. Around this time, Foley decided to bring to life a character that he first created during his high school dream days. Dude Love came out in tie-dyed shirts, shades and disco-like music. Dude formed a successful tag team with, of all people, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Foley often went back and forth between Mankind and Dude Love. He would eventually add Cactus Jack back into the mix. That era became known as the “Three Faces of Foley”. All three personas even showed up during the 1998 Royal Rumble Match.
Later that year, Foley made his biggest impact during his time in WWF/E. At King of the Ring, Foley squared off with his old foe, Undertaker, inside the Hell in a Cell. Foley took the most insane bump, ever, when he allowed Undertaker to throw him off the top of the 16-foot cage. The footage of Foley crashing down through the announce table still runs to this day, 15 years later. Foley actually got off the stretcher and went back up the cage. Undertaker then Chokeslammed Foley through the cage. One of Foley’s teeth broke off and went through the roof of his mouth and out his nose. Terry Funk and numerous officials begged Foley to stop, but he wouldn’t. The end of this legendary match came after Foley landed on thumbtacks and then took a Tombstone Piledriver. That match garnered a standing ovation from the crowd and is listed as one of both men’s greatest matches. In fact, the match was listed as the number one OMG moment on the 2011 DVD release of top OMG Moments.
The Comic Side of Foley
After such a brutal match, Foley took his Mankind into a new direction. He became involved with several comic vignettes with The Rock and Vince McMahon. That led to the creation of the “Rock and Sock Connection”. During one memorable vignette, Foley came to visit the hospitalized Mr. McMahon. He brought balloons and a clown (Flutterby, if memory serves). Suddenly, Mankind dropped below line of sight and suddenly a dirty sweat sock shot up with a face painted on it. Yes, it was the birth of Mr. Socko. Despite it being so ridiculously silly, Mr. Socko caught on. Fans began making their own version before the WWE Marketing crew cold mass produce them. Socko got donned just prior to Mankind applying his signature, Mandible Claw.
Mankind feuded with several people over the next couple of years. In 2000, Mankind got involved in a Retirement Match against Triple H. Mankind was defeated and the Three Faces of Foley retired. However…
Foley set Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind aside to become, Mick Foley. He took the role as Commissioner of the WWE. Foley’s term as Commissioner was filled with comedy and brutality. His term would only last slightly over a year.
Winding Down with the WWE
Foley made occasional appearances with the WWE between 2003 and 2008. He also worked numerous indy dates, around the world. Foley’s contract with the WWE expired on September 1, 208 and Mick decided not to renew.
After a brief break, Mick Foley showed up in TNA. Foley came in as a face and feuded with Jeff Jarrett and Abyss. When TNA decided to bring back the former ECW stars, Foley was made the unofficial leader of the pack. Foley and others created Extreme Version 2.0 aka E.V.2.0. They feuded with the Immortal faction. Eventually, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan and their crew dismantled the Extremists. Shortly after that, Foley officially left TNA.
Returning to WWE
As of 2011, Mick Foley signed a Legends contract with the WWE. He has made sporadic appearances over the last two years. In 2013, he was the first man inducted into the Class of 2013 Hall of Fame.
Outside the Squared Circle
Over the years, Mick Foley has extended his creativeness well beyond the ropes. Foley has had parts in several movies and numerous television shows. In addition, Foley had written nearly a dozen books. (I have three of the books in my collection, including an autographed edition of “Have a Nice Day”.) Foley has also done a huge amount of charity work, most of which is geared to help children. With four kids of his own, Foley has a soft spot in his hardcore surface for the “tykes”.
In recent years, Mick has become a successful stand up comic.
Mick Foley is part of perhaps the strongest Hall of Class in the Hall’s 20 year history. He is set to be inducted by his hero, Terry Funk. He will even get to spend time with the man who started it all for him…”Superfly” Jimmy Snuka.
I’ll be back on Tuesday to look at the life and career of the legendary Bob Backlund.