FRONT Magazine

“THE REFEREE WAS UNABLE TO TELL ME HE HAD MY EAR IN HIS HAND” – A CHAT WITH MICK FOLEY

RAW Studio, Sacramento, CA. October 17, 2005 Photo: John Giamundo

Mick Foley (aka Mankind, aka Dude Love, aka Cactus Jack) has done it all in wrestling. He’s won pretty much every championship, he won the King Of The Deathmatch, he’s broken a load of bones and lived to tell the tale. Well, a lot of tales. And they’re all condensed into his new one man show that’s coming your way soon. Check the tour dates HERE.

Your most famous moment is arguably being thrown off the top of the cell by the Undertaker. How did you psych yourself up for it?
It was my mentor Terry Funk who suggested I start the Hell In A Cell match against the Undertaker on top of the cell, which was actually a joke but after we stopped laughing I thought I could do that. I was essentially terrified. Once I got up on top of the cell and realised what a terrible idea it was I realised I’d made my bed and had to lie in it, so had to get thrown off this structure. Who would have known in 1998 I was getting laughs out of that during my show 15 years later.

Would you say you have no fear?
I did have fear. Courage is conquering your fear so I did have courage, but I was not fearless by any means.

Are there any stunts you wish you hadn’t done?
I thought I was a pretty safe wrestler, I took a pounding but I didn’t take extreme risks all that often. I knew what the consequences of certain moves would be and I knew they would be painful. I tried to avoid things that could compress my spine or result in ligament damage.

How easy was the transition from wrestling to comedy?
The show is based around wrestling stories. You take an event like Hell In A Cell which was positively hideous at the time but you find a way to make the stories surrounding the event funny. It’s challenging but I’ve been doing it a while, so I know what will and won’t work.

We guess it’s a much calmer lifestyle?
It’s a similar lifestyle but without the late night emergency room visits, unless the set goes very very poorly. But it’s the same idea that you go out there with an empty canvas, moreso than wrestling, and you’re solely responsible for people enjoying themselves. There’s a lot of pressure to be good.

Does Mr Socko make an appearance?
I brought Mr Socko out a couple of times on my first UK tour and it didn’t feel like the right avenue so he won’t be making an appearance on the Tales From Wrestling Past tour.

Where did the idea for Mr Socko come from?
It was just one of those things you threw at the wall, which is one way in which wrestling and comedy are similar. The worst thing in the world is to settle in a routine. Those who did that in wrestling found themselves swept by the wayside eventually, guys who relied on catchphrases, so you try different things. Sometimes they’re instantly forgotten and sometimes they take on a mind of their own. Mr Socko was something I thought would be forgotten instantly.

Did you always try to inject humour into your characters?
There were elements of comedy in my early character Cactus Jack but I look at the Hell In A Cell match as my transition into comedy. It’s when I started I needed to start connecting with fans on a different level, not just the physical side. Almost immediately after the match I started injecting humour an levity into the character, and that’s when the Mankind character really took off. He was doing well enough to be in a semi-main event that night, but it wasn’t until the humour came in that people started to get a feel for the character.

Do you think wrestling has gotten too serious?
Every guy who has a long career needs to find a way to connect with audiences outside of their physical matches. A lot of the guys who’ve been most successful have had some sort of humour in their characters, whether it’s The Rock or Stone Cold or DX, it’s almost impossible to base your entire career around being a great in-ring performer. And as you get older you realise that laughs are easier on the body than winces are.

Is that where the idea for the Commissioner came from?
I loved being the Commissioner and I wish I’d done things differently so I could have done that role for years. Wrestling goes in cycles and at that time the lead characters were kind of dark so I made it my mission to lighten up the atmosphere as much as I could. In wrestling there’s a saying “Make them laugh, cut them off”, and that’s how you get people’s attention.

Are there any stories from your past that are off limits from your live show?
You find humour in just about everything. I often tell the story about losing my ear in Germany. Only in wrestling could you have two referees sent home from a tour in Germany – one for a death in the family, one for a knee injury – and be replaced by a French referee who speaks no English and is therefore unable to tell me he has my ear in his hand. The situation surrounding the loss of the ear are humorous, nothing is off limits.

Did you ever do anything you thought was too extreme?
The Royal Rumble in 1999 got a little extreme but it’s now on WWE 13 so people can relive that moment that I would not do again.

Is the crowd at your shows primarily wrestling fans?
It’s usually wrestling fans and people that love them enough to accompany them into our strange world. But these people will usually go out of their way to tell them how much they enjoyed themselves.

Do you think wrestling is still seen as ‘weird’ by outsiders?
It always will be, which works in my favour. When I write a book people are like ‘Wow! A wrestler wrote a book!’, the media focuses on the fact that I’m wrestler and that it’s actually quite warm. The most surprising thing people say is that it’s good. I don’t just get hit by chairs, I tell stories about getting hit by chairs!

Will we ever see you wrestling again?
You never say never.  Who knows if when Wrestlemania 40 rolls round there’s an old-timers battle royal. I remember having a Santa vs Santa match in Afghanistan for the troops which did not take a physical toll on either combatants. You won’t see me in a physically demanding match again, put it that way. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see me doing something with someone in the ring in the future – as long as there’s no threat of injury.

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