Mick Foley has multiple personalities. No, he’s not a schizophrenic, but as the vast majority of the wrestling world has borne witness, Foley has been known to be an entertainer, insane person, hardcore icon, clown, father, administrator (his run as WWE commissioner), author, and pretty much everything else in between.
If anything, although his career has spanned the better part of 20 years, it has been within the last five years in the WWE that most people have seen Foley show all these facets to his personality. The nihilistic and neurotic Mankind, the clown-like Dude Love, hardcore “fossil” Cactus Jack, a loving father in the recent film Beyond The Mat, and as an author with his best selling books Have A Nice Day… and his most recent page-turner Foley Is Good; And The Real World Is Faker Than Wrestling.
At a recent Toronto stop to promote his latest literary effort, and WWE related products, Foley sat down and chatted with several journalists, and displayed all of his personality facets, and also found time to talk about wrestling.
At the point in time when this interview took place, Foley’s book had already been on the market for the better part of a month, yet, through various WWE TV programming, as well as print, radio, and television interviews through other media outlets, the promotional aspects of marketing his tome seemed heavy handed. On almost every RAW or Smackdown! broadcast Foley Is Good seemed to be mentioned at an incessant pace. It came to the point that many internet dirt sheet writers had gone to the point of calling Foley a caricature of himself, something the ring legend does not agree with.
“I’ve only talked about it for a couple of weeks,” defends Foley the book promoter. “They’re free to think what they want. I don’t take myself nearly as seriously as some people take me. I think the time to shove the book down people’s throats is over, but I think it was important because a lot of them really didn’t know it was out there.”
As for the book itself, Foley is very pleased with it. “That’s why I decided to write another book. I loved writing, and I think that was apparent to people who read it, the way that the writing came through.”
According to Foley, he had plans to make Foley Is Good different from his previous non-fiction effort (he does have a children’s book out, and is working on a slew of others), however, his change in focus still presented problems. He couldn’t think of anything else to write about but himself, so he continued on that tack, but decided to take a decidedly less historical path. So Foley said he decided to write about the last 16 months of his in-ring career, as according to the author, they were “the most successful and stressful time” throughout any other point in his 17-year career.
Most of the book lends a little more insight this time around into Foley’s personality. It’s a funny coincidence as well, because SLAM! went into the interview with Foley with the intentions of not focusing solely on his latest literary efforts. Yet, Foley Is Good does as good a job of mirroring the many sides to Foley as the man does himself. For instance, Foley puts on the hat of critic, to a large degree, throughout the book, giving his thoughts on certain wrestling angles, politics, and a whole host of other topics.
Take his opinion on Vince Russo, for example. In the book, Foley details the former WWE writer as a seemingly nice guy, who attempted to push Foley to the hilt before he left the company. But that doesn’t leave the former WCW writer unscathed, as Foley levies some heavy criticisms Russo’s way for the job he did at the then WWE’s biggest rival.
“It was definitely deserved,” said critic Foley of his comments in the book. “He deserves full criticism for his WCW faults. I think you have to look at Russo as a very, very talented writer who needed to be reigned in to be effective. I think it’s safe to say that if Vince Russo stayed in the WWE he never would have won the WWE title. He just went a little nuts there.”
Foley, although perhaps not purposely, also takes on the role of educator somewhat. It’s safe to say that after nearly two decades in the wrestling business, and a career that spanned from the 1980s to the new millennium, that he knows a thing or two about the game. Chatting about the business in general, he gave his thoughts on wrestlers need to inject some humour into their characters, but the truly great sports entertainers must know when to get serious also.
“It’s a difficult blend,” says Professor Foley. “You have to be able to cut off the laughter at the appropriate point. I think it’s a talent, and not everyone has it. Time will tell if Edge and Christian have that, because I know they can make us laugh, and I know they can have wonderful matches, it’s just a matter of cutting off the laughter at the right time. I think the simplest formula for success is to establish likable characters and put them in peril, and it’s all a matter of timing and how it’s done.”
“It’s a simple formula, but very difficult to execute properly.”
Covering some aspects of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that occur in pro wrestling, Foley actually had quite a bit of advice to give in his book, including to several members of the WWE roster. But as the former three time (three time, three time) WWE champion admits, not all of his points were accepted as constructive criticism.
“I tell you what; the comments I wrote about Billy Gunn seemed a little funnier when I was writing them than when I was alone in the dressing room with him,” admits Foley the sage. “A lot of those comments are meant as jokes about Al Snow and Test, and some of the comments are meant as serious criticisms, like a guy like X-Pac , who I criticized and said he appreciated it. There’s some guys who, I’m sure, my criticisms stung a little bit, but I didn’t do anything maliciously. By and large I think the guys have enjoyed the book.”
And your boss, Vincent K. McMahon?
“Vince has not read it. He’s finishing a book on Richard Nixon before he reads my book. One problem I never had was criticism about Vince; he allows me the freedom to criticize, and he laughs about it.”
During the course of the conversation, Foley comes off as a pleasant individual. Depending on the topic, and the question, his various beliefs and personality traits come to the forefront even more. This observation is interesting, as not many wrestlers break-off from their public personas. Indeed, Foley has gone on record in the past as saying some of the most successful characters base their ring alter egos on their true-to-life personalities.
At one point, the topic of Beyond The Mat comes up. In it, Foley is portrayed several ways — caring father, ring legend, class clown. Just talking about the movie also brings out all of these aspects in the shaggy man. He talks about how people felt that the film was a “downer,” perhaps too real for the audience. He also admits that he thought the film focused too much on Foley’s infamous match with The Rock, where he took quite a few chair shots to head with his family watching at ringside. However, knowing the conversation is taking a serious turn, the prankster in Foley comes out in spades.
“I didn’t know I was so sensitive; I didn’t know I cried that much. How many times did I talk about my eyes welling up with tears? I want to make a distinction: Unless the tears actually come down, you’re not officially crying. So I may well up a lot … ”
The topic sticks to Beyond The Mat however, where it appears Foley now takes on the role of the diplomat. A source close to Foley once told Slam Wrestling that his involvement with the film almost cost him his job. For a little background, apparently McMahon had two problems with the film; a) the producers of the film would not pay the WWE for promotion, so he frowned upon its stars in the film talking about it publicly, and b) he thought it may have portrayed the WWE in too negative of a light. Foley does admit relations between he and McMahon became heated, but he never had to worry about his career.
“I talk about my relationship with Vince being a rocky one at that time, but there was never a sense of teaching me a lesson or terminating me. If you look at it, that’s when I was pushed the hardest actually. If you look at January/February of 2000 that was when I was pushed the hardest. So Vince, I’m not saying he didn’t yell at me a couple of times, but I think he has a good knack for separating personal and business.”
Now it’s time for Foley to don the cap of prognosticator. The question on many minds is when, if ever, will Foley return to the ring? He may have retired, but even he admits nothing lasts forever.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately, the nature of the show is that all altercations end up in the ring. … I don’t think we can end all of our involvements with gentlemanly discussions, it wouldn’t be much of a show, so I would imagine I would probably get in the ring sometime. It may not be tremendous, but hopefully it will be enjoyable enough.”
Yeah Mick, but when?
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a secret that at one point I was scheduled to be involved in WrestleMania, and my feeling was a) I was woefully out of shape and couldn’t get into shape in time, and b) it was like ‘why do it if it’s going to do big business anyway?’ Looking back I kind of wished I had because I would have taken full credit for the extra 300,000 buys — it’d be like ‘hey; without Foley, and with Foley.’ I could have taken credit for the difference.”
A feud that many are hoping to see would be one that pits the former WWE commissioner against the most recent in William (Steven) Regal. Funnily enough, it seems that many newer fans haven’t been exposed to the old WCW, as Foley and Regal already had a few matches in the early to mid-’90s. Making a pseudo-prediction, Foley says he thinks it may happen.
“I think the chemistry is real good in the ring. We’re such polar opposites, not just in personality, but in ring style, that I think it would make a pretty good match. Probably not one that would end up on the Best Of Foley archives, but hopefully one that wouldn’t be embarrassing.”
One thing that Foley says does interest him is taking part in the current WCW-ECW vs. WWE angle. Could he be showing us a new side to his personality — that of a turncoat?
“There’s that part of wanting to be a pioneer, which is the same feeling I had when I went to the IWA in Japan; to take a little group and to try and make it successful,” states Foley matter-of-factly. “WCW obviously had their share of problems, and I think maybe if I went there I could put my handprint on it instead of just being another cog in a successful machine like the WWE.”
Donning the hat of author more, along with carnival barker salesmen, Foley leaves off with information on a future book project that he’s currently working on.
“I’ve got a children’s book coming out for Halloween. It’s a very cute book, maybe not for the hardcore fans. If the hardcore fans don’t like my very sanitized version of the world that’s fine, but I know I’m more comfortable with creating fun little characters than I am with being busted wide open every night.”