Mick Foley, the somewhat Muppet-esque face behind iconic characters such as Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love, officially broke the half-century mark this week.
It’s appropriate that the man has so many successful characters to his name, because Mick Foley is not a guy you can confine to any one box. He’s about as far from your prototypical sports entertainer than you can get, and yet he’s achieved everything a person can in this business. He’s participated in some of the most violent, unconventional matches in wrestling history, and yet he’s done more than almost anybody to bring respectability to our often sketchy form of entertainment. He’s a guy who spent a career intentionally leaning into skull-cracking chair shots, before becoming an eloquent advocate and best-selling author. Mick Foley is a funny little plaid-coated muddle, and we all love him for it.
Here’s a few things you may not know about one of pro wrestling’s true originals, Mick Foley…
1. Kevin James and Mick Foley were on the same high school wrestling team. Michael “Mick” Foley was born in 1965 in Bloomington, Ind. He was a weird kid, and not terribly athletic, but Mick’s dad Jack was the athletic director at his high school, so Mick ended up involved in a wide variety of sports, whether he was particularly adept at them or not. This, of course, included the high school wrestling team.
Mr. Bang Bang at least briefly knew directions to the gun show.
It was on the wrestling team that Foley formed his first big time tag team, becoming workout partners with none other than Paul Blart himself, Kevin James. Surprisingly, the guy who now makes a living laughing at Adam Sandler’s jokes was a better wrestler than the guy who would one day become the WWF Champion. Kevin had a secure hold on the team’s top heavyweight spot, with Foley being a rather distant second. Foley was only able to take over as No. 1 when Kevin went down with an injury. Foley and James have remained close ever since high school, and yet we’ve never been blessed with Paul Blart Arena Security Guy. Missed opportunity.
The King of Queens and The King of the friggin’ Deathmatch.
2. Foley’s first wrestling character was created as a response to a bad date. Mick Foley wasn’t a bad looking dude in his salad days, but the ladies weren’t exactly being driven into an erotic frenzy by this guy who spent his free time hitting Superfly Splashes off his bed onto his friends. He didn’t have much luck at all with the ladies until his first year at college, when he met a girl named Cathy in a bar. Mick escorted her home, got a kiss and everything seemed to be going swimmingly until a single word changed Foley’s life forever. After the kiss, Cathy would bid Foley adieu with a “Goodnight, Frank.” Frank.
Mick would make sure this face didn’t stay pretty for long.
Foley probably shouldn’t have taken a girl he’d just met misremembering his name so hard, but dammit, he did. He remained obsessed with the event for months, even producing a homemade movie with his friends entitled The Legend of Frank Foley. For this home video classic, Foley created a character that was his ideal of what a manly, master of love should be. That character was Dude Love, a character Foley would revive 15 years later during the height of his WWF success. The first face of Foley was born.
3. His backyard wrestling videos were intended as total comedy. Mick Foley’s homemade wrestling tapes have become the stuff of legend. They were often mentioned during Foley’s WWF heyday, with the company including carefully selected clips of Foley leaping from roofs and crashing through piles of boxes in various video hype packages. WWF building up Foley as a guy who got his start jumping off his own suburban roof pretty much single-handedly spawned the entire backyard wrestling scene of the 1990s.
WWF tried, very successfully, to make Foley’s backyard wrestling seem like a dangerous, gritty, underground thing, but the reality was it was anything but. Well, okay, it was dangerous, but it definitely wasn’t gritty or particularly badass. Foley’s home wrestling videos weren’t intended to be a serious showcase of his skills, and he certainly wasn’t running a backyard wrestling fed at his parent’s house. Foley’s wrestling videos were intended as a total goof. Pure parody.
Wait, this guy wasn’t an entirely serious character?
After producing The Legend of Frank Foley, Mick and his friends starting working on a new Dude Love adventure called The Loved One. This one was a bit more polished the first (although still hilariously awful) and a lot longer due to the addition of wacky comedy wrestling matches. The Loved One features a bout in which Dude Love is anally violated and sent running into the woods by a guy named Big Dick Zuck, and culminates in Foley wrestling a stuffed toy Yoshihiko-style, which he puts away with a big splash off a basketball hoop. Hey, I’m just reporting the facts.
Despite the rather intense dorkiness of The Loved One, it was what ultimately broke Foley into the wrestling business. At a small high school gym indie show, Foley asked around about being trained. He was referred to former WWWF Tag Team Champion Dominic DeNucci, who asked if Foley had any tapes, and The Loved One was all he had to offer. DeNucci apparently had a sense of humor, or at least a keen sense of irony, because he agreed to take Foley on as a student based on the tape. If you’re prepared to do a bit of cringing, you can watch all of The Loved One below…
4. Foley’s first stint with the WWF came way back in 1986. When you mention Mick Foley, most people’s minds flash to his legendary late ’90s run with WWF, but he actually debuted in company a decade earlier in 1986. During his first run, he went by either Jack or Nick Foley and was used exclusively as an enhancement guy. You can check out Mick’s WWF debut, a tag match against the British Bulldogs during which Dynamite Kid intentionally breaks his jaw with a stiff clothesline, below…
5. Foley lost his first big wrestling payday due to a presidential assassination. With the WWF jobber gigs drying up in the mid-’80s, Foley’s mentor Dominic DeNucci set him up with a motley crew who were touring the west African country of Burkina Faso. The wrestling tour had been personally arranged by the country’s revolutionary president, Thomas Sankara, as part of an effort to change his nation’s image (Muhammad Ali and Kool & The Gang were also brought to the country).
Kool & The Gang and Mick Foley? Celebrate good times, Burkina Faso.
The tour was not a roaring success. The guys on it mostly sucked, Burkina Faso’s citizens weren’t particularly familiar with pro wrestling, and the shows were promoted by driving the wrestlers around in the back of a flatbed truck for hours in the blazing heat, but at least Foley had a juicy $3,000 paycheck coming at the end of the ordeal. Hey, when you’re young and dumb and don’t really know what the hell you’re doing, $3,000 for two weeks of work sounds pretty amazing.
The tour ended without Foley receiving his money, but he was assured the cash would be coming, so he returned home to America to play the waiting game. Unfortunately, around a week later, a story on the news dealt Foley’s bank account a deadly blow. President Sankara had been assassinated, a new regime had taken over Burkina Faso, and that check unsurprisingly never showed up in the mail.
6. WCW’s bad booking prevented Foley from getting his ear reconstructed. At a 1994 WCW house show in Munich, Germany, Vader threw Mick Foley over the top rope, and he became dangerously tangled, his neck trapped between the top two ropes in a precarious position. A panicked Foley pulled himself free from the overly-tight ropes, saving his life, but he managed to tear his own ear off in the process.
Initially, Eric Bischoff was going to give Foley six months off so he could get his ear reconstructed, using a piece of one of his ribs and some of the remaining cartilage around his new ear stump. Two days before the surgery was scheduled, Bischoff would call Foley and beg him to return to TV, promising they were going to go “all the way” with the Foley/Vader feud. Foley returned against his better judgment, and he and Vader had another brutal bout on WCW WorldWide, which Foley was expecting the company to sell as a major grudge match. Unfortunately, when Foley watched the match later, the commentators didn’t even mention Vader costing him his ear and barely seemed interested in the match. A fed-up Foley saw this as an indication of how much the company really cared about him, and he would quit WCW soon after. He never quite got around to getting that reconstructive surgery on his ear.
7. Mick earned a can of soda as a bonus for his insane exploding ring deathmatch. After leaving WCW in disgust, Foley kicked around the indies, did some memorable heel work in ECW and wrestled for hardcore Japanese indie promotion IWA. It was in IWA that Foley competed in the infamous King of the Death Match tournament, which culminated in a No Ropes, Barbed Wire, Time Bomb Deathmatch with Terry Funk. Foley was torn up by the barbed wire and scorched the hell out of his arm when dumped on one of the match’s many exploding, C4-rigged barbed wire boards. It was an incredibly punishing match, one Foley won when Funk legitimately could no longer get to his feet, and for all his suffering, Foley was paid $300.
But Foley figured he was at least in line for a pretty decent bonus! He tracked IWA money man Tatsukuni Asano, and asked about a bonus. Smiling, Asano popped a 100 yen coin in a nearby soda machine, and handed Foley a beverage. That was his bonus for winning one of the most grueling matches of all-time.
8. Foley almost debuted in WWF as “Mason the Mutilator.” After a couple years on the indies and in Japan, Jim Ross, who was a big backer of Foley’s in WCW, and was now working for WWF, arranged for Foley to have a meeting with Vince McMahon. Surprisingly, Mick and Vince hit it off immediately, and plans were made to bring him in to feud with The Undertaker.
Vince wanted Foley to play a new character in WWF, and showed him sketches of a character in metal mask that was part Doctor Doom, part Hannibal Lecter. Foley wasn’t thrilled with the idea of wearing a mask, but he went along. Then things got worse, as Vince announced they were going to rename Foley “Mason the Mutilator.” Thinking quick, an understandably panicked Foley came up with another “M” name on the spot – Mankind – and desperately tried to sell Vince on it. Thankfully, Foley was successful because Mason the Mutilator was a sub-Kassius Ohno career killer.
I want to see the elaborate art that went into the creation of The Funkasaurus.
9. An errant falling chair caused most of Foley’s injuries in his infamous Hell in a Cell match. No moment in Mick Foley’s career, or really anybody’s career, is more iconic than his 1998 Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker. Foley took a couple truly terrifying bumps in the match, one from the top of the cage through the announce table, and a 25-foot plunge to the ring when the top of the Cell structure unexpectedly gave way during a chokeslam.
The unplanned chokeslam spot knocked Foley out cold, and almost certainly gave him a severe concussion, but most of his injuries came as a result of a moment you may not have even noticed. As Foley was chokeslammed through the cage, a stray chair that Foley and Taker had been using came down with him, and whacked him in the face. It happens so fast, you barely see it. The chair knocked out several of Foley’s teeth, broke and dislocated his jaw, and tore a hole through his bottom lip, significantly more injuries than Foley suffered on his iconic trip through the announce table. It’s always the little things that hurt the most.
10. Mr. Socko was Al Snow’s idea. Mick Foley and Al Snow have a, let’s say, unique relationship. While they’re obviously good friends, Foley devotes a good chunk of his autobiographies to running down the matches and personal character of the hapless Mr. Snow. That said, despite all the ribbing, Foley owes Al Snow a big debt of gratitude, as he came up with came up with one of the most popular (and lucrative) parts of Foley’s act.
By 1998, a beat up Foley had decided to go in a lighter, more comedic direction, a transformation that culminated in an all-time classic segment on the October 5 episode of Raw. In the skit, our new goofy version of Mankind tries to cheer up his hospital-bound “friend” Vince McMahon with a series of terrible surprises. Foley had a couple ideas – an annoying clown named Yurple, a box of half eaten chocolates – but the all-important Rule of Three demanded one more thing. At the very last minute, Al Snow suggested Mick take off his sock and entertain Vince with puppet show, and just like that, Foley’s eternal buddy Mr. Socko was born.
Mr. Socko and his sadly necessary sidekick, Mick Foley.
11. Mick Foley was responsible for WWE hiring CM Punk. While he may have been known as a Paul Heyman Guy on TV, it was actually Mick Foley who first opened to the door for CM Punk in WWE. In 2004, during one of his many breaks from WWE, Foley made a number of appearances for Ring of Honor, feuding with Ricky Steamboat and Samoa Joe and getting involved in the original Summer of Punk storyline. Mick was particularly impressed with Punk and Samoa Joe, and personally recommended them to Vince. CM Punk was hired shortly thereafter. It took just a bit longer for them to get around to hiring that Samoa Joe guy.
CM Punk’s hilarious blonde hair… let us never forget.
12. Foley has funded numerous schools for poor children around the world. Mick Foley is one of the most infamously che—er, frugal guys in wrestling history, saving almost all his money by continuing to share rooms in flea-bitten hotels even at the height of his career. Since his retirement, Foley has used his considerable nest egg to give back to the less fortunate in a big way.
Mick is a big supporter of ChildFund International, and he’s funded the construction of at least five schools in the poverty-stricken country of Sierra Leone. He’s also a major backer of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and has personally spent hundreds of hours counseling abuse victims online and on the phone. Hell, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy he even donated his dining room set to a family that lost their furniture in the storm.
Foley is indeed good.
13. Mick’s an official ambassador of friggin’ Santa Claus. Still not convinced Mick Foley is a pretty cool guy? Well, what if I told you he personally knows Santa Claus? Here’s got an official scroll to prove and everything.
So, watch your Ps and Qs around the Mickster, kids.
There you are, a few things you might not have known about the nicest, craziest, most giving, most brutal guys in the wrestling history. Got any Mick Foley stories or facts I missed? Just want to share your favorite Mick Foley moments? Let’s get this comments section (cheap) poppin’.