So before I start this shindig, just a quick couple of asides. First, for as many people viewed and liked my review of “The Hardcore Diaries”, I have read it a few times and hated it. The worst thing I have written, in my opinion. Just to clarify those new to the site, or for the uninformed: these book reviews are, for all intents and purposes, done totally off of recall. I have made it a mission of sorts to read just about every wrestling biography available to me over the last year and a half, and, trust me, there are quite a few. I don’t always have the book right in front of me to give exact quotes, exact lines. It all comes from the top of the dome, and I feel I failed at the last one. “Hardcore Diaries” is due to arrive in my hands in about a week, and when it does I will give it a proper review.
With that said, here is the other, and more important, aside. I mentioned in that review that Foley was perhaps the most influential wrestler not named Rock or Austin to emerge from that era. I heard cries of foul. MICHAELS! HART! TRIPLE H (okay maybe not)! GOLDBERG! Listen, I appreciate the contributions of all of those guys. Bret is my favorite of all time. Michaels, for as much as I dislike him for his out of ring shenanigans, is one of the top three in ring guys of all time. Point blank. Period. Goldberg drew a shitload of money. Of those guys, only Michaels was close to truly revolutionizing the business. DX was groundbreaking, make no mistake. However, in addition to his piss poor attitude backstage that held people down (he would have tried with Austin if healthy, I am convinced) and with his unceremonious retirement after WM XIV, can you truly say he was a HUGE factor in turning the WWF’s fortunes? To a degree, yes, you could. But, the show in which WWF reversed WCW’s ratings hold on Monday nights? Who were the principals on that fateful show? Vince McMahon, Steve Austin…and Mick Foley. Why is Foley so influential? Well, I thought you would never ask. Onto his first book we go.
Many people still regard Foley’s first book as the best wrestling biography ever written. That is testament to its greatness. The book was published in 1999, so with the glut of wrestling related books that have infected the market since then, it says quite a bit that many still hold this particular volume near and dear to the heart. I myself considered it the best book of its kind by a landslide until Chris Jericho’s first book and Bret Hart’s volume released for mass consumption. Those three are considered by most knowledgeable fans the three best works of their kind, and the fact that Foley’s book, now almost 15 years old, is still there, speaks to its timelessness.
Mick Foley is a different sort of cat. He was a huge wrestling fan growing up in Long Island, New York in the seventies. What was so unusual about the youngster was his dedication to the intriguing world of the pseudo sport. The book initially corresponds his youth, but it really picks up when he and a bunch of friends decide to make a wrestling video that, as amateurish as it was (and is), has since gone down in wrestling lore. “The Loved One” was a horribly written, horribly edited, horribly acted, horribly wrestled tape of Foley and his friends attempting to live out their dreams of being pro wrestlers. Comically so. For those who were not around during the 1990’s heyday of wrestling, this tape actually circulated among tape traders. For those unfamiliar with that phrase, back then we did not have DVD’s. We had VHS videotapes. Recorded or disseminated from devices called VCR’s. The technology, established in the early 1980’s, eventually allowed us to record stuff tape to tape. A precursor to DVD’s of sort, but with no pesky copyrighting codes to shut them down. Wrestling fans in particular were notorious in their tape trades, each wanting to see matches or angles previously unattainable to them before. And with the dawn of the internet, my god, that trade exploded. And, as a fan who grew up in that most excellent era (call me nostalgic), the Holy Grail, the 1909 T-206 White Border Honus Wagner Card version of tapes was the Beulah porn. No, no, no, sorry. It was the Chastity porn. Shit, off again. No, the biggest find among tape traders at that point was Mick Foley’s “The Loved One.” Its nothing spectacular, simple backyard wrestling to today’s youth. But back then, it was exceptional, something that stood out. The book chronicles Mick’s college years (the Legend of Frank Foley) but the real meat and potatoes of the thing starts when Mick’s tape reaches a legend. A man who tagged with Bruno Sammartino. The man was Domenic DeNucci.
(BTW, I am not sure DeNucci is in the WWE Hall of Fame, but if not, what with Foley and Bruno being inducted in the same year? Seems like a slam dunk to me. I digress…)
Foley was attending college at Cortland State in upstate New York. DeNucci trained in Pittsburgh. Something had to give. That something was Foley’s college life. Foley traveled 6 hours a trip to train with DeNucci, and the gruff guniea (relax fanboys I am Italian myself) took a liking to the boy. Thus began one of wrestling’s greatest careers.
Foley trained with a kid named Troy Martin, and they were invited to a taping of WWF Superstars in 1986. Martin escaped rather easily, probably due to his look. Foley was paired with Les Thornton, a really good British undercard guy, against the British Bulldogs. This was Foley’s initiation into the wonderful wooly world of pro wrestling: a match involving the goddamn fucking Dynamite Kid. For the uninitiated, Dynamite was Benoit before Benoit, except with far more malicious intent. Dynamite packed 230 pounds of muscle on a 5’8″ frame never meant to hold more than 170. In other words, tons of steroids kids. And with that, plenty of bad intent behind it. The match is available on almost all Foley DVD’s and I am sure it is on YouTube somewhere. The Kid crushes Foley, breaking his jaw. It was a rude awakening for young Mickey Foley, but it introduced him to his calling card: his ability to absorb pain.
Foley wandered through the Tennessee and Texas territories through the remainder of the 1980’s. His experiences with Eric Embry are particularly enjoyable. Embry was a nudist, and in this book, Foley, while not necessarily a pecker checker, does not shy away from the menacing members he encountes. Ask Ron Fuller. Better yet, ask 2 Cold Scorpio.
Peter jokes aside, Foley found a way to make himself stand out from most on the then dying territorial scene: BUMP. BUMP like no one had seen before. And he did. None were more spectacular than his “Nestea Plunge” where he fell off the ring apron back and hip first to the concrete floor. Suicidal for sure, but it caught him the attention of WCW.
Cactus Jack was the man I grew up knowing Foley as, in WCW. And he was a monster. Even if he was kind of a goof. aged 9 to 10, the man was absolutely frightful. A menace. So Foley’s chapter on that period, for lack of a better word, arouses me. Kevin Sullivan said to Foley that he would come up with as much weird shit as possible for the man. He asked Cactus to find a book, a big thick one. Foley may be many things, but he is not stupid or illiterate. He picked a thick book called “I Am In Desperate Need Of Advice.” Classic. However, Foley’s WCW stint was far from that, and he meandered back to the independents. Where he met Eddie Gilbert.
Eddie Gilbert is perhaps the most unappreciated, unknown wrestling great of all time. A brilliant mind and a great performer, he and Foley engaged in an unforgettable series of gimmick matches for Giblert’s TWA promotion out of Philadelphia. Steel Cage, Barbed Wire, et al. Gilbert was on the outs with the management in that small Philly promotion, and left. Unfortunately, he died a short time later. But that Philly promotion soon became Eastern Championship Wrestling, under the guidance of Paul Heyman. More on that later.
Foley caught the eye of Jim Ross and became a member of WCW. While his initial run there was nothing to write home about, his second run was: as foil to WCW’s top face Sting. As a huge, huge fan at the time, that feud is instantly memorable to an old fart like myself. Trust me, it was a lot better than the Black Scorpion angle. Sting needed someone to bump for him, and I cannot think of a better bumper than Foley, and that chapter alone is worth the purchase price.
Foley’s book realizes something: They don’t give a fuck about Foley. No biggie, right. He just took an UNPROTECTED POWERBOMB ON CONCRETE for them. No biggie. WCW at that point was the Hogan show. Better for Mick to go WWF.
Mankind and Undertaker. Undertaker and Mankind. A perfect pairing. The dudes both got eachother over more than any one man would of. The less said the better. JUST like the feud.
Foley’s book is reflective of this. He relates wrestlers, ahem, sizes. Ask Scorpio. He relates monetary concerns. Ask Marc Mero. The Rock? Don’t ask. He relates to Austin. The biggest draw ever? Wants business with Foley.
So people seem to think my opinion on Foley is unfounded, that behind Austin and Rock, that he does not deserve the props I give him. Rock and Austin are trans formative figures. And so is Foley. Foley’s style WAS the hardcore division. Foley’s style WAS WWF MAIN EVENT STYLE.
Mick Foley is, was, and, probably, will forever will be the most influential wrestler that ever lived. Hardcore style? Check. An interview style second to none? Check. THAT is the main point I have to make. Mick Foley is a total anomaly. A figure who does not fit in with any set figure that pro wrestling has ever provided.