#WWF255 – Mick Foley – Madman Unmasked
Arnold Furious: When I first started to explore wrestling outside of the WWF I homed in on guys I knew and understood from the WWF who’d worked elsewhere. One of my first forays into the world of tape trading came in 1997 when I picked up some tapes from a guy in the States. Having seen footage of Mick Foley working in the famous IWA: King of the Deathmatches, that was one of the first tapes I picked up, along with another detailing the best of Mick Foley in Japan. By the end of the tape trading era I had more “Best of” Mick Foley tapes than of anyone else knocking around my house. Largely because the WWF had also been releasing Foley tapes and his crossover appeal allowed me to explore the various different areas of his wrestling history such as WCW, ECW and the brutal matches in Japan. Like anyone who watched wrestling in 1997, I felt a connection with Mick. He was a fan, an everyday shlub who didn’t look great and didn’t have a wrestler’s physique but he was a big star anyway. The WWF capitalised on the connection with the fans and released quite a few Foley tapes and DVDs over the years. Not as many as they did for Steve Austin and the Rock, but you could at a push call Foley the third biggest shifter of merchandise during the same era. Mainly because he also wrote books that everyone bought, thus dispelling the myth that wrestling fans didn’t read.
Like a few other profile tapes this one comes from the Biography Channel. I had it taped off TV for years along with the Andre the Giant and Steve Austin bios that also got WWF tape releases. You can tell it’s not a straight up WWF production because The Undertaker is billed as “Mark Calaway”. We start off with a few talking heads and clips of Mick getting bashed with stuff and taking sick bumps. The voiceover guy confirms my earlier statement by telling us Foley is a “money making machine”.
We move on to an outside the ring interview with Barry Blaustein, director of Beyond the Mat, so you know for sure it’s not a WWF production. As a kid Mick liked cartoons, sports and the Chicago Bears. Mick’s Dad, Jack Foley, talks about Mick getting kids from the neighbourhood and having a baseball league. Mick’s brother John, rarely seen on TV, talks about how competitive Mick was. Mick tried a few sports but became obsessed with professional wrestling because of the showmanship and the ladies. He wasn’t sure how to go about a career in wrestling though and joined the amateur team in school. Mick talks about losing an amateur match and how humiliating it was. We get clips of The Loved One where Mick eats dog food while doing push ups. Childhood friend Danny Zucker points out Mick was nuts and didn’t wear protective clothing when he played lacrosse. Mick found himself getting frustrated with the ladies in high school so he’d try harder and harder to do crazy stuff to get himself over with girls. That ended up driving them further away.
The origin of Dude Love came from a date Mick had with a girl, that he thought was going well until the goodnight kiss when she called him by the wrong name: “Frank”. Mick wrote his own film based on the events called The Legend of Frank Foley before doing a sequel about a wrestling champion, the aforementioned The Loved One where Mick first played the character “Dude Love”. The finale of this movie enterprise was Mick jumping off Danny Zucker’s roof in an attempt to emulate Jimmy Snuka. This was on the back of Mick hitchhiking to Madison Square Garden to see Snuka wrestle Don Muraco, which was also the point where Mick decided to become a wrestler. Amazingly the take of Mick’s stunt now available on video was the second take, as the cameraman missed the first one. The lack of linear storytelling is somewhat jarring here as they mention the Snuka love and then go back in time to Mick travelling to MSG.
Supportive brother John says he never thought Mick would make it and constantly told him to give it up, but promoter Tommy D saw The Loved One and asked Dominic DeNucci to train him. DeNucci told Foley he’d train him if he stayed in college, sensing his enthusiasm was great but his body was not. Mick was working on a communications degree in upstate New York but DeNucci’s wrestling school was in Pennsylvania. I think everyone thought Foley would just give up when he realised how much travelling would be involved in pursuing his dream, but instead he would drive for five or six hours and sleep in his car. DeNucci points out Mick never complained even when it was below freezing. “He realised I was terrible” says Mick of DeNucci, but Dominic really appreciated his commitment. We get a little footage of Mick training at DeNucci’s school. He really is terrible. Mick puts DeNucci over by saying he never hurt him but made sure he understood the business and respected what the guys went through to become wrestlers. We get clips of Foley being used as enhancement in the WWF and hitting an awful back elbow on Davey Boy Smith, who ignores it. Mick talks about Dynamite Kid beating the hell out of him and says he couldn’t chew food for a month afterwards. His mom hasn’t enjoyed wrestling ever since.
We move on to Mick working the indy circuit with Shane Douglas. The footage is quite rare and it’s all trainee indy stuff. Mick needed a better character and changed his name to Cactus Jack, which was his Dad’s nickname. Mick points out his life improved a lot when he met his wife Collette. She wasn’t a wrestling fan and didn’t know who Mick was. Collette drove him to improve his matches and work on his offensive moves. Mick talks about changing Cactus Jack to make him scary and intimidating. We skip over his WCW career as Mick says he felt “trapped” and left without telling Collette. Foley went into the indies and we get clips from ECW where he felt he built a better reputation for himself than he did in WCW. We move on again to Japan where Mick worked against Terry Funk in a barbed wire match. The clips include the legendary fire chair. That’s it for the pre-WWF stuff and we skip ahead again to 1996.
His year on the indies in 1995 got the attention of the WWF. Vince McMahon talks about seeing the footage and Vince figured Mick was insane so he was doubtful whether he’d work out in the WWF. We get the famous Vince speech where he told Mick he wanted to call him ‘Mason the Mutilator’. Mick came up with Mankind instead because he didn’t want to be called Mason and Vince went with it after Mick talked about the double meaning and how good the promos could be. We skip ahead again to the sit down interviews with Jim Ross, but hardly see any of that either. Foley puts over wrestling as a circus and that he’s the guy that gets shot out of a cannon. This leads into the Mandible Claw, which in turn leads into Mr. Socko and his debut as “the worst ventriloquist act of all time” with Vince McMahon in his hospital bed. Mick says the whole thing was an accident. Taker suggests the sock was because Mick lost his leather hand covering.
We switch gears and go to 1998 and the triple Foley characters, but that doesn’t go anywhere. Voiceover man tells us Mick wanted to do something no one would never forget. Vince tells us Mick had told him he wanted to “try something different”, which made him nervous. They’re talking about King of the Ring ’98 and the Hell in a Cell. Voiceover man points out the bump was planned but still stunned everyone. Taker says he thought the match was over and Mick’s career was probably over too. We get the footage of Mick getting back up and charging back down to the Cell. Taker puts over the second bump as being even more violent than the first one and suggests the panel wasn’t supposed to break. Jerry Lawler reiterates that and says it’s a worse bump because it was so unprotected. Vince says he was worried about Mick being dead but he just went ahead and got back up. Mick couldn’t remember the rest of the match and asked Taker if he had used the thumbtacks and Taker told him to look at his arm, which was full of tacks. Vince went up to Mick afterwards and told him “never again”. Foley calls it his defining moment.
Mick took two months to heal after Hell in a Cell and his kids were worried. Voiceover man talks about injuries and how his body wasn’t as good as it used to be. Vince says Mick could do whatever he wanted, if that was acting or game show hosting or being an agent in the WWF. Whatever he did, he’d be the best at it. Taker points out he never liked Dude Love and thinks Mick didn’t like it much either, which is weirdly out of place. Mick waxes lyrical about his career and is happy with what he’s achieved. Vince puts him over and says not many people get to live their dream like Mick has. “The dreams don’t stop”. Mick describes himself as having a thimbleful of talent but a truckload of intestinal fortitude. The tape then abruptly ends.
Summary: It’s not easy to fit an entire career into 45-minutes and this doesn’t do Mick justice at all. It skims over so many great moments and barely touches upon most of his big achievements in the business. They do linger on a few things, like Hell in a Cell, but his family is only mentioned in passing and we don’t even see his kids. ECW is reduced to a few seconds of footage against the Sandman and WCW less than that, which is the issue with a 45-minute run time. It’s not a bad watch, because Mick is so likeable as a person, but if you’re any kind of wrestling fan you know everything that’s said here. Also if you followed wrestling at the time you probably saw it for free on TV when it first aired. Frustrations over brevity aside, it’s an easy watch. There is some rare footage included of Mick growing up, DeNucci training him and indy stuff that you don’t normally see, along with the oft seen footage of Mick diving off a roof and the Hell in a Cell. It’s an interesting mixture and it won’t take up a lot of your time, so is probably worth seeing once.