Mick Foley on the power of Santa Claus and celebrating infamous Hell in a Cell milestone
Posted: Dec 1st 2017 By: Brian Fritz
Even the “Hardcore Legend” knows the power of Santa Claus and the importance of portraying St. Nick during the holiday season.
“It gives me an idea of what it's like to be John Cena for the other 11 months out of the year,” quipped WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley.
It’s no secret that while wrestling fans were watching Foley destroy his body in a multitude of vicious ways over his 30-year career, he’s always had a much softer side outside the ring that includes an affinity for Christmas.
It should come as no surprise that Foley dons the red and white suit every year that, for him, begins with the now-annual bleaching of his beard.
“That has really become the new tradition,” Foley told Sporting News. “I have a couple of great charities I work with on Long Island and we try to bring some joy to children who are not always so joyful.”
While Foley is celebrating Christmas and the holiday season, he is about to celebrate a milestone moment in his career: the 20-year anniversary of his infamous Hell in a Cell match.
It was back on June 28, 1998, at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh when The Undertaker threw Foley — at the time as Mankind — off the top of the 16-foot-high cell that sent him crashing down through a ringside announcer table.
Foley would not only continue the match but take an incredible amount of punishment, showing a level of — as he would say — testicular fortitude and determination that would help define his legendary career.
With the anniversary of the match approaching, Foley is set to take an in-depth look at the famous match during his upcoming “Mick Foley: 20 Years of Hell” tour.
“The first time I watched the infamous Hell in a Cell match in its entirety in many years is because my children wanted to see it,” Foley said. “I realized upon watching that match in its entirety that, all these years later, it really packs an emotional wallop. And for years, I kind of tried to distance myself from that match and instead, almost 20 years after the fact, I'm embracing it and looking forward to reliving it on stage at 20 North American stops in the spring of 2018.”
Tickets for all 20 shows go on sale Friday, Dec. 1, and are available on Foley's official website, www.RealMickFoley.com.
It’s a familiar forum for Foley, who spent six years showcasing his witty and humorous storytelling ability in one-man shows discussing his life in and out of the ring.
“At many of the shows, I would talk about the Cell and I found that it was really meaningful and really popular,” said Foley. “So, instead of taking the tack that I'll never talk about that again, I thought, 'Why not really celebrate it and make it the centerpiece of a new show?' I'm looking forward to that.”
The match started in an usual manner with Foley immediately climbing to the top of the cell and The Undertaker following suit. Little did anyone know the spectacle they were about to witness, to where the match is now one of the most talked about in wrestling history.
“The word 'iconic' gets thrown around quite a bit but I think it's safe to say it's a really iconic match and it holds a lot of great memories for people,” said Foley. “So I think it's something people want to relive and hear it in my words and see it through my eyes. I think it's going to be fascinating for me and for ticket buyers as well.”
It would take months before Foley recovered from the multiple injuries that included a lacerated kidney, a separated shoulder and a tooth that ended up lodged in his nose. He also was knocked unconscious twice. It took years before Foley truly understood the gravity of the match among fans.
“I'd say at the five-year mark when it was still a daily question, I realized that it had an impact,” Foley said. “At the 10-year mark, you started having children who weren't even born when it took place who were familiar with it. Especially now that the WWE Network reaches a whole new generation, it's not unusual to have 50 percent of the audience who were born after that match took place but who are, nonetheless, aware of it.
“There are kids out there who say it's their favorite match despite the fact that they can see really good matches on a weekly basis and great matches on a monthly basis.”
While Foley had his moment of infamy inside the cell, he admits that he’s always interested in watching the latest version of the match.
“It's really interesting to see people, how creative they get in trying to find new ways to utilize that structure and I think it's always a high point of the WWE calendar,” said Foley. “Even when people leave disappointed, which is almost inevitably going to be the case on some level, they're still looking forward to that next year. There's still a magic to the name.”
That match, along with the countless number of brutal bumps and violent shots, have taken a huge toll on Foley over the years. The 52-year-old admits he is feeling pretty good and is getting around better after getting a new hip earlier in the year and his recent knee replacement surgery.
Also helping matters was the dramatic weight loss he underwent last year when he achieved his goal of dropping 100 pounds, 77 of which he has kept off.
“I honestly think that when I got down to 236 that I didn't look like myself,” Foley said. “I don't think people want to see a ... It's like in 'Rudolph' where Mrs. Claus says, 'People don't want to see a skinny Santa; eat, Santa, eat.' So, I look at some photos when I was the 'Raw' GM and I was like, 'That's a little too gaunt.' People want to see me with a little girth.
“My son told me I was too skinny to be Santa Claus and then I was so relieved on Christmas Eve when I literally shattered an armchair. It just shattered with frightening force and, on my way tumbling to the ground, all I could think was I knew I wasn't too skinny to be Santa Claus.”
While Santa Claus has a special meaning for children around the world, it also does for Foley following his in-ring career. Five years ago, neurologists told him that not only could he never wrestle again, but his roller coaster-riding days were over, too. Adding to that were the severe headaches he would get from using a computer which he thought spelled an end to his writing career.
“I had all these things that I loved doing that were part of my life that came to an abrupt end and, at that time when I really needed something, the opportunity to portray Santa presented itself and really filled in that void that was missing,” Foley said.
The three-time New York Times best-selling author recently released his latest book, “Saint Mick: My Journey From Hardcore Legend to Santa’s Jolly Elf.” The book details Foley's learning about the responsibilities and power of becoming Santa Claus along with that particular period in his life.
“When I started the writing process, I realized that I was kind of going to some dark, really personal places,” Foley said. “I had to describe the need for this iconic figure in my life before you could realize how fulfilling it was. And I realized it was, by far, my most personal book and in some ways it was a love letter not only to my own childhood, but to my younger children in particular and the joy we had shared in celebrating Christmases together, traditions, and also the arrival of Santa Claus into our lives.
“I think people are enjoying it but there's still part of me that kind of wishes I'd just published 100 copies and handed them out to friends and family.”
Foley has always been very open and honest in his previous nonfiction works but is conflicted about whether he crossed a line with his latest book.
“I think that's what I'm struggling with right now because I talk about my son's autism and some of the difficulties the family faced,” said Foley. “And I think that's really important to understand why the ability to portray Santa was so important to me. But I don't know if I should have gone there. I really don't. Time will tell.”
Foley has been away from WWE television since March. His nine-month tenure as “Raw” general manager came to an end when Stephanie McMahon fired him.
“It was pretty agonizing just getting to and from the shows but once I was there, I felt like I made a contribution,” said Foley. “I really enjoyed working with Stephanie. I'm deeply indebted to her for a really beautiful foreword for my book and I hope I get the chance to interact with her some more when I eventually return in some shape because, eventually, we all return.”
Maybe that return could come on Jan. 22 when “Raw" celebrates its 25th anniversary. WWE is loading up the show with a special appearance from The Undertaker along with other legends. It only makes sense that the “Hardcore Legend," who had some of his biggest moments on the weekly Monday night show, be a part of it.
“I'm sure it will be a good show with or without me,” said Foley. “I thought a year away is probably proper when you've been fired in public but I think 10 months is probably plenty of time. If I get the call; I don't know what I'll do if I get the call. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
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Week of Sun 12-10 to Sat: 12-16
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- 12-10 1979 Mark Lewin def. David Von Erich for the WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion
- 12-10 1988 Kerry Von Erich became the WCCW World Champion
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- 12-10 2010 Robbie Awesome became the MERC Patriot Champion
- 12-10 2011 Jake O'Brien def. Bobby Burns for the SRPW Heavyweight Champion
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- 12-11 1971 The Spoiler def. Wahoo McDaniel for the WCCW American Heavyweight Champion
- 12-11 2010 Kareem Sadat def. Outlaw for the SWCW Heavyweight Champion
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- 12-12 1977 Fritz Von Erich def. Ox Baker for the WCCW American Heavyweight Champion
- 12-12 1980 Bugsy McGraw def. Bruiser Brody for the WCCW Texas Brass Knuckles Champion
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- 12-13 1988 Eric Embry def. Jeff Jarrett for the WCCW World Light Heavyweight Champion
- 12-13 1997 The Stud Factory (Chuck Singer & Dexter Hardaway) def. Generation X (Ian St. James & Zane Morris) for the OPW Oklahoma Tag Team Champion
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- 12-15 1970 Tim Woods & George Scott def. The Outlaws (Dusty Rhodes & Dick Murdoch) for the WCCW American Tag Team Champion
- 12-15 1984 Buddy Landel def. Bill Dundee for the MSW Television Champion
- 12-15 2007 Joe Herell def. Shane Rawls for the UWF06 Heavyweight Champion
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