Mick Foley Interview: His new book, Wrestlemania, and falling off cages
I remember about seven years ago, I'm sitting backstage with Mick Foley when the inevitable Hell in a Cell conversation arises. I tell him how I have the match on tape, even passed the tape along to friends, how my girlfriend at the time referred to him as the guy with the tooth in his nose. "Jonny Ballgame, you're one sick son of a bitch," Foley said with a grin, knowing the match that could've ended his career was really the beginning of an era.
I ask him about the match again over the phone the other day as we talked about his latest autobiography "The Hardcore Diaries", as there's never been anyone as hardcore to step into a WWE ring…or off the roof of a cage.
One thing I always wondered. Undertaker pushes you off the roof, what goes through your mind?
"I remember having two distinct thoughts," says Foley. "I was falling really fast and that table looked really small. I have people tell me they watch that match every day and my take is this, isn't watching me get knocked unconscious once enough? Do you have to relive what for me wasn't a great career moment?"
Foley pauses for a second then reconsiders what the match meant to his career.
"I guess the match really got people talking and it did lead to a lot of other things, but from a match standpoint, I've had a lot of other matches where I didn't get knocked out that I'm kind of proud of as well, but that's the match everyone always goes back to," Foley continues. "Kevin Sullivan, who was booking WCW at the time, later told me that once he saw that, he told people that the tide had turned. He said he knew right then that WWE was going to pass them and that they'd never catch us again."
Foley covered Hell in a Cell in his previous writings, while Diaries revolves more around the behind the curtains dealings of everyone's favorite male soap opera/circus on crack.
The legend even painstakingly wrote the book longhand, inking everything from creative meetings with Vince and crew to the day Foley volunteered to join the Kiss My Ass Club. "This is probably the most behind the scenes look you'll ever read," says Foley, and we might not ever read anything like it again. "From what I understand, there are some people within the company who are not happy with how much behind the scenes access I granted the reader."
A true must read for anyone who ever thought the world of politics was reserved for Washington.
IGN Sports: This is a WWE sanctioned book, but you touch on things, especially the politics backstage, that really surprised me in terms of WWE putting this to print.
Mick Foley: At one time, I was really afraid they were going to scrap the whole project, especially when my own personal story started to take a turn for the worse. Luckily for me, Vince McMahon really believed that I should have the right to tell the story as I saw it and literally the only thing he wanted changed was one tiny line that really wasn't important. One line out of everything, and he certainly never gave the criticisms about him a second thought. His feelings are: If that's the way he sees it, that's the way he should write it.
IGN Sports: You wrote the book longhand. Are you ever going to learn to use a computer?
Mick Foley: Two things I can't turn on, a computer and a woman. [laughs] I just feel like there's a better mind-to-pen connection for me than a mind-to-keyboard connection.
IGN Sports: I just hope you're figuring out your cell phone better so you don't speed dial Test all the time (in the book, Test is one of the only numbers saved on Mick's phone, courtesy of Stacy Keibler, and ends up on the receiving end of a lot of the jokes throughout Diaries).
Mick Foley: Actually, I'm afraid to call Test. I may have overdone it from his perspective with some of these jokes. Hopefully he'll see it in the joking manner it's meant, but who knows, he may get serious about it and it may be the last of the Test jokes I ever put down in writing.
IGN Sports: On a more serious note, there are some interesting points in the book where you mention your hardcore style and how many unprotected chair shots you took in the head. What does it feel like for you right now to get out of bed and walk around? How many injuries are you living with?
Mick Foley: I think I had four concussions throughout my career that were diagnosed, and I guess that I've had seven more. But the fact that three of them came in a four month span when I was making a comeback in 2004 is a little bit scary. I really have to accept the fact that I'm not a young man anymore, that I've probably taken one lifetime's worth of punishment already, and I really do need to be careful. Certainly I don't want other WWE superstars taking the shots I did. That makes me feel very uncomfortable when I see somebody get hit with an unprotected chair shot.
IGN Sports: Does WWE look at tapes of some of the stuff you did, and because of the danger, because of the risks, they're crossing moves or certain violent acts off their list of acceptable ring behavior?
Mick Foley: I do remember right after Hell in a Cell, Vince McMahon came up to me and said "Mick, you have no idea how much I appreciate what you just did, but I never want to see that again." So the guys are not taking the extreme risks, and when the fairly risky moves are performed, they're being done in situations that take maximum advantage of it. You don't see guys doing wasteful things like diving on concrete floors at house shows that will so soon be forgotten. In other words, if you're going to get hurt, get it on video.
IGN Sports: Wrestlemania 23 is approaching fast and last year, I thought you and Edge really stole the show. What was it about your chemistry that helped make the match so memorable?
Mick Foley: It was a situation where both guys really felt that they had something to prove. Edge goes out every night, and not just on pay per views, every night Edge goes out there with the intention of stealing the show. I know that he felt like his title run had not been given the respect from the company that it deserved and he was really hell bent on proving that he belonged as a main event guy. In my situation, I had never really had a great Wrestlemania match. I thought, here's a guy I know well, a guy I know who has the same goal in mind, and I think we can do this thing together.
IGN Sports: Where does that match rank to you among your all-time favorites? I know in the book you say that your match with Randy Orton at Backlash is your favorite match.
Mick Foley: The one with Randy was about ten minutes longer and I was in better shape. Unfortunately when I see the match with Edge, the only thing that goes through my mind is "man, my underwear is really showing". If I could do that all over again I would not have had the wardrobe malfunctions. [laughs] The Randy Orton match is still my favorite followed by my match against Shawn Michaels at Mind Games in '96, not because it was my second best match, but it might have been my personal best performance. Third, I'd take one of my matches I had against Stone Cold in '98. Hold on, did I just list three matches that I lost? I'm the only guy with a greatest hits DVD where I lose almost every match…I think I only won a quarter of the matches. Then again, I'm the only guy whose highlight reel had nothing but me being destroyed.
IGN Sports: The book follows a proposed storyline you wrote for WWE programming involving Terry Funk. What is it about Funk where, even at his age, he's still such a compelling presence on TV?
Mick Foley: In my opinion, WWE didn't take advantage of what Terry Funk had to offer, and that was the most frustrating thing to me. I think Vince McMahon made the decision that he wasn't a guy who should be highlighted and that really was the downfall of the story, Vince's lack of faith in Terry Funk. He proved me right, he proved Vince wrong, and that's because he does things in a unique way that connects with people. He just really could've used a little more TV time so we could've introduced him to our audience.
IGN Sports: That really goes back to all of the backstage politics described in the book. I read where you were one of the guys who recommended CM Punk to WWE.
Mick Foley: Yeah, I think the fact that both Ricky Steamboat and I recommended Punk had a little something to do with him being hired. Obviously you have two completely different guys representing two completely different styles recommending the same guy, and I can anticipate your next question, so yeah, I do think they have dropped the ball with CM Punk.
IGN Sports: When he came out for Survivor Series, the crowd was chanting "Punk" when he was out there with some of the biggest names in the sport, and what's funny is how often you hear that storylines are dictated by what the fans want.
Mick Foley: Well, in this case, I guess the fans were overridden. I do think it's backstage politics, and I'm not there so I don't have a real answer for you, but I know that it stinks and I don't like it.
IGN Sports: You also recommended Samoa Joe to WWE but you say he didn't have the "look" they were after. How much of that did you face throughout your career, people telling you that you didn't have the look to be a star?
Mick Foley: I actually don't think the carpet being constantly pulled out on me in WCW had anything to do with my look. It had more to do with people there trying to maintain the status quo. It was a real difficult situation in WCW because you couldn't be a top guy unless you were making a lot of money but you couldn't make a lot of money unless you were a top guy. So you were kind of on a mid-card treadmill where every once in a while they let me do a main event, but it was really frustrating. Fortunately, Vince McMahon was able to look past the way I looked at the time, and I think I had a couple of key supporters, but I think if I had shown up at a slightly different time and had a couple of guys bad mouthing me instead of showing support, my days in WWE would've been a lot less memorable.
IGN Sports: You would've been a novelist a lot sooner, that's for sure.
Mick Foley: I would've explored other options sooner. [laughs] I'm really fortunate things turned out as well as they did because there aren't a lot of guys who look like me who have made a good living in WWE.
IGN Sports: One of the most surprising things in the book is the fact that you volunteered to kiss Mr. McMahon's ass. That has to be a first in history, right (or at least I hope so)?
Mick Foley: [laughs] I don't want to get too much into the story in the book, but the whole idea of the comeback came to mind when I woke up one morning and thought "What if I was the first voluntary member of the Kiss My Ass Club?" That's the idea I pitched to WWE, that's the idea they really fell in love with, but unfortunately, that's not the idea that they went with.
IGN Sports: And it was all done with the ultimate goal of getting Melina over?
Mick Foley: Yeah, but obviously that one didn't quite work out the way I hoped either. You sit back months later and it's hard to second guess yourself. I say at the end, would I have done it all over again knowing then what I know now, and the answer is definitely not. I never would've dared show up and pitch this idea. But at the same time, I'm happy things worked out like they did and I'm pretty confident we can revisit and take advantage of some of the seeds that were planted when I was there six months ago.
IGN Sports: Are you going to be a part of Wrestlemania? I assumed all along that you'd come back and fight Johnny Nitro over what happened with Melina.
Mick Foley: It's not in the plans, but you never know. I have a few ideas, but I understand that they probably won't have a place at Wrestlemania. But WWE needs good ideas to keep rolling and I think they'll take advantage of at least one of the ideas that I have for them. I will say this: Johnny Nitro has really come a long way since I've been there last summer and if they wanted to take advantage of the things I did with Melina back in August, he's certainly in a much better position to take advantage of that than he would've been previously.
IGN Sports: I thought it was interesting in the book how nobody from WWE warned you about the controversial comments Flair made about you in his own biography. When did you first learn about the quotes?
Mick Foley: WWE called me when I was visiting injured service members at Walter Reed and told me they wanted me to respond to some things Ric had put in his book. At that point, the book was only coming out a week or two later and I feel like someone over there should've given me a heads up. I think in their minds, they really wanted to go with the controversy and they really wanted to get my feelings at their most wounded, but I felt like I shouldn't cooperate with that. It didn't seem right. Ric certainly has the freedom to write whatever he wants about me, but someone at the company should've given me the heads up. Obviously a lot of people knew it was coming out, they knew it was really not flattering towards me, and someone should've given me a phone call.
IGN Sports: Eventually you do get to feud with Flair. Do rivalries pop on screen better when there is a real rivalry working backstage?
Mick Foley: Not necessarily, because I would not have wrestled Ric had I still hated him. I know that doesn't make much sense, but I'm at an age where I'm really enjoying my kids. I like being able to do different things that I want to do, whether it's visiting amusement parks or helping people in need, and I really don't need a lot of hatred occupying my life. I didn't really even start thinking about wrestling Ric Flair until I stopped hating him.
IGN Sports: You already said how you don't think you're going to be involved in Wrestlemania this year, so as a fan, what match are you looking forward to the most?
Mick Foley: The stuff that Umaga and Lashley have done the last week has really made me pick up interest in their feud. And I know the sleeper is always the Money in the Bank match because you generally have a bunch of good wrestlers who have just missed out on main events who are trying to steal the show. That would be my odds on favorite to steal it.
IGN Sports: Umaga vs. Mick Foley in a hardcore match. That's all I want when you come back.
Mick Foley: You never know. I kept hearing rumors that I was going to face Umaga, then I heard other rumors that I was going to be Trump's guy, but obviously I'm neither. It's always interesting to hear what people think would make for an interesting match-up. I think we would have a good match. I think you're right.
IGN Sports: I think it might add to your highlight reel of seeing your body fly through tables and knocking some more teeth in your nose.
Mick Foley: [laughs] I think I've won one match this decade and I don't see any reason to change that.