I don’t remember Mankind, or Cactus Jack, or Dude Love even – way before my time. Well I say well, what I mean is that I caught onto wrestling the week after Cactus Jack lost his match with HHH and got ‘fired’ from the WWF. But Mick Foley was a character whom I immediately took a liking to, as he took on the post of commissioner within the WWF and thus was allowed to create whichever matches he wanted, whenever he wanted. And he wrecked havoc with his responsibilities. It was great fun. A beardy bloke with flopped hair and a penchant for checked jackets was taking over wrestling for no reason I could understand, and the crowd always went mental whenever they saw him. This merited further investigation.
It turned out that Mick Foley has had a long, distinguished career as a wrestler. He started out doing hardcore, anything-goes bouts (seriously: anything) with the ECW before transferring to WWF and bringing his unique kind of crazy to their shores. Mankind was his first character, a weird masked freak who lived in the basement who started out sinister but slowly became more a figure of fun than anything else. Then he vanished. Next came Dude Love, a hipster in bright blue lycra and sunglasses who saw himself as a love guru. Finally we got Cactus Jack, who carried a piece of wood wrapped round with barbed wire and fought… well, hardcore. Mick Foley was all of them. And each one of them had their own style, moves… it’s amazing what he did with these three characters. He also knew how to completely misdirect the crowds. With the HHH match above, the audience had been lead for some time to believe that this was going to be Foley’s time to win the WWF title. He’d been losing matches to HHH left, right, and centre, much of the time unfairly or because HHH cheated him, so it only seemed right that in this match, which stipulated that a loss would see him fired from the company, would result ina win for him.
It didn’t. And he became a viciously funny, charming guy who was barely rivalled on the mike. Still is, actually. He has a habit of waiting till an odd point during one of his speeches before giving the crowd a cheap thrill by saying he loved the town they were in and giving a thumbs up, and his finishing move involves suffocating someone with his sock. What’s not to like? He’s such an odd guy, but you can see how genuine he is – there’s barely much of a character there anymore. He’s playing himself. And the crowd love him for it. He’s made comebacks, which he’s invariably lost, but his style of fighting, the falls he’s taken, are amazing. This guy has fallen off steel cages, through the ring, been hit with barbed wire and just generally been beaten up in so many other ways that nobody can think of anything new to do anymore. He basically invented the hardcore genre for the WWF, and although he did do a lot of stunts, he also proved himself to be an extremely capable fighter. He throws punches honestly, gets injured realistically, and is a lot quicker than you’d expect for a guy like him. Even now, he’s in as good a shape as he’s ever been (even if he may have lost an ear and some teeth on the way).
He’s almost certainly the most likeable wrestler ever, I’d suggest. And nobody – nobody – has ever been thrown through the announcers’ table more times.