on 19 April 2013
This is the latest and most definitive WWE release on Mick Foley. There was a brief release in 2000, Hard Knocks & Cheap Pops, which was focused on the Commissioner portion of Foley's career. This was expanded on in 2004 with the release of Mick Foley's Greatest Hits & Misses, which added matches from the rest of his career. There has never been a proper documentary release on Foley until now, however, with this release neatly coinciding with his recent WWE Hall of Fame induction. So, let's check it out...
Disc One - Biography Portion
1. A Happy Story
We start with Mick sitting at a giant table of photos, news clippings and other memorabilia of his career, putting over his career as a happy tale of overcoming the odds. The Jim Ross sound-bites certainly help sell it. If only WWE could use more Jim Ross sound-bits in their programming.
2. Idyllic Childhood
Mick discusses his childhood in Bloomington, Indiana, as we get a lot of old home footage. Jim Gray, a friend of Mick's ever since they were 12, discusses Mick's early prowess in Little League. We also run through Mick's short-lived lacrosse career, although it is evident that Mick wanted to be in a solo entertainer instead. Hence, he acted out by doing things like dangling worms off his lacrosse stick and eating them in front of his opponents.
Amateur wrestling stole Mick's heart from lacrosse and a brief interest in track. He discusses his friendly rivalry with the other heavyweight on the high school team, Kevin James, whose injury led to Mick being picked for meets with other schools and Foley even getting some wins.
Academically, Mick describes himself as "a great underachiever", but had faith in the quality of his writing. Tracy Gray, another high school friend, noted that Mick was shy as a teenager but was creative and enjoyed a few pranks, like dressing up as a Homecoming Queen for a high school parade downtown. What a worker!
3. Huge Fan
Mick and his brother were huge wrestling fans as children, watching the Madison Square Garden Network back in the day. He taped matches to watch with his friends and was mesmerised by Jimmy Snuka. We get the infamous story of Mick buying a ticket to see Snuka leap off the steel cage onto Don Muraco at the Garden, which set Mick off on his determined path to make it as a professional wrestler. "I want to make people feel the way I feel right now", he thought as he sat in the MSG "community" watching Snuka.
He studied the wrestling tapes he had, becoming captivated by things he could not figure out from watching alone. This led to Mick thinking that his own style would be to basically do things that hurt him in the ring, since then nobody would be able to figure out how he did them. In the long-term, this approach would unsurprisingly lead to some serious health issues. In the short-term, it led to the creation of Dude Love. This character was intended to be everything that Mick did not think himself to be - cool, handsome, popular with the ladies. He made a load of Dude Love gear, catchphrases and even taped interviews in character with his friends. Even from an early age, Foley was a creative initiator.
4. Training School
His high school hosted an independent wrestling show in Mick's sophomore year, with Mick setting up a meeting with the promoter via his father. Mick showed the promoter his homemade Dude Love video, of which we get numerous clips. This includes the shot of Foley jumping off his house to a pile of mattresses - and the aftermath of a bloodied Dude Love yelling at the camera.
The promoter was convinced Foley had something, which led to him being added to Dominic DeNucci's ring crew. For $25 and a tough wrestling lesson, Mick had to spend around 20 hours each show collecting, assembling and returning the ring to storage. Four months later, DeNucci invited Foley to Pittsburgh for a new camp he was setting up.
Despite the distance from his home in up-state New York, Foley agreed to go. Mainly because of his lack of geographical awareness, which is rather amusing. There are numerous clips of Foley, in early Cactus Jack gear, training with Shane Douglas. We even get comments from modern-day Shane, looking surprisingly like Michael Hayes, admitting that he doubted Foley based on initial appearances but was quickly convinced by the efforts Foley put forth.
5. Working the Road
WWE called DeNucci and asked him for some extra enhancement talent. This led to an appearance by a skinny looking "Jack" Foley on WWF Superstars in September 1986. Unfortunately for Foley, he wound up in the ring with the British Bulldogs and received a dislocated jaw courtesy of a Dynamite Kid clothesline. He couldn't chew solid food for several weeks.
Future job matches against the likes of the Killer Bees, Hercules and Kamala followed. DeNucci also managed to land some additional gigs for him in the AWA and World Class. Terry Funk first saw Foley on Dallas television and was won over by his unusual style.
All the while, Mick was perfecting his manic look and wild moves. The Cactus Jack character started to take shape, as a crazy man who relished each and every moment of his fights.
Meanwhile, Shane Douglas was working as a Dynamic Dude in WCW. He and Mick had stayed in contact and Shane invited him to come down to Atlanta, in an attempt to get him onto the card. Foley's reputation from World Class had already spread, with Jim Cornette (at this point on the WCW booking committee) already a big fan of his. They invited Mick to come back to the next tapings in a couple of weeks.
Mick returned and wound up working with the Steiner Brothers. Foley remembers telling Kevin Sullivan that his finisher was not just an elbow drop but a leaping elbow drop off the ring apron onto the concrete floor. Foley does a great Cornette impression as he remembers Cornette justifying the move to Sullivan, who told him that no matter how badly the Steiners might hurt him, Foley has to do the elbow onto his own tag partner. Seeing the move helped win over Arn Anderson backstage and the deranged Cactus Jack became a regular.
There is a montage of crazy WCW bumps taken by Foley, which Michael Hayes comments made him think Foley would not be able to work by the age of 30. Foley was striving to be as unique as possible to circumvent any concerns about his appearance. William Regal simply comments, "I thought he was insane".
Ole Anderson becoming booker meant that Foley's style was no longer welcome. Foley left WCW, which at the time was a financial risk but in the long-run he feels made him more rounded and permitted his character to be taken more seriously. He got the chance to work in Japan, which also enhanced his international credibility in the wrestling press and led to extra bookings.
Fifteen months later, the more confident and scarier Cactus Jack returned to WCW. The booking team wanted to keep Sting as their #1 guy but needed someone to work with him. There were some concerns about Sting working with a relatively unknown person but Jim Ross was a strong advocate of Foley's potential and things went from there.
Cactus Jack returned at Clash of the Champions in September 1991, pummelling Sting and finishing off the assault with an elbow onto the concrete from the ropes. As JR says, "Mick did things no other villains could do." Sting had become stale and needed a jolt; Foley needed main event exposure to make it. Both guys benefited. Despite Foley losing, he still gained credibility from JR putting him over on commentary.
Foley's stand-out performances led to the crowd starting to support him. The fans picked up on his efforts and appreciated them. Foley also points to his kind eyes as a reason for the fans starting to root for him. Paul Heyman turns up to downplay any comparisons between Cactus Jack and Bruiser Brody, putting Foley over as someone truly unique.
As a babyface, Foley needed his own truly unique heel to face - hence Vader. Foley stresses just how hard-hitting Vader truly was. We get an unmasked, modern-day Vader reminiscing fondly about this feud and everything they were able to pull off in it.
Foley remembers one time he found a shovel backstage. Harley Race threatened that if he didn't hit Vader with the shovel, he'd come backstage and hit Foley with it instead. So, Foley went out and whacked Vader, Race and Paul Orndorff with it. There were meant to be additional heels come out to take shovel-shots. They refused!
The two psychotic characters embarked on what Vader calls "the hottest feud in wrestling, period". Regal remembers being concerned about just how much punishment Foley was taking in this series. Foley admits that at one point he was on the verge of retiring to enjoy his Lloyds of London insurance policy, having tired of backstage politics. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, he was unable to cash in on the policy and had to keep going.
There is blurry handheld fan-cam footage of the Vader match in Germany that cost Foley his ear. The ring ropes were too loose, having been put up by a rock music crew instead of an experienced ring crew. Foley got caught in the ring ropes, which tore the ear cartilage off his head, yet got back in the ring. He and Vader traded blows and we actually see Foley's ear fly off his head. The French referee picked it up and got it backstage, although he spoke no English and could not tell Mick during the match.
Foley went to the hospital after the match, using his moderate German skills to remind the crew to pack his ear up for him. By this point, only part of it could be reattached. Looking back, Foley remembers being happy that there was so much potential for them to take the feud forward to a huge pay-off match from this incident.
WCW did not pursue the Cactus/Vader program further. This has got to go down as one of the dumbest booking strategies ever made. At the end of his patience with the WCW management and creative approach, Foley gave his notice.
9. ECW & Japan
Foley had a bigger picture to strive towards, regardless of the security a guaranteed contract with WCW afforded him as a married man with two children. Heyman brought Foley into ECW straight away, feeling he could raise the bar in terms of sacrifice in the locker room. Joey Styles notes that Foley brought credibility to ECW as a star with serious TV time, with a style suited perfectly to the early days of the promotion.
ECW also allowed Foley to vent his frustration at both WCW and the goofy gimmicks the WWF was using back then instead of calling him. He notes it was lucky there was no Twitter back then. Instead of immediately venting, Foley was able to think things through in his mind and sculpt them into genuinely emotional wrestling interviews. It's that attention to his craft that enabled the fans to connect with Foley. No doubt about it, his ECW promos are up there with the best of all time and we get some footage of them here.
Heyman remembers shooting the first promo, knowing they had struck gold five seconds after the camera went on. At this point Cactus was putting down the hardcore style as a result of his sacrifices getting him nothing in return. This made for fantastic viewing and was the first genuine sign that Foley was as strong on the mic as he was in the ring.
Foley also got to return to Japan at this time. Terry Funk had gone to IWA-Japan, home of the most extreme and dangerous matches in the world. Funk appears regretful about them in his comments here. Foley notes that there was no humanity in what they did. He even did the same move that cost him his ear again, this time in barbed wire.
Foley and Funk did put the promotion on the map, which was the intention, albeit at a great cost to their health. This culminated in the King of the Death Match tournament involving barbed wire and an exploding ring. Funk notes that it was his intention to pass the torch to Foley here.
Eventually, Vince McMahon listened to JR's continued pitches about bringing in Foley. At the first meeting, Foley was put off by the initial iron mask costume for what would become Mankind. Foley pitched his own ideas but Vince took some convincing. Shawn Michaels remembers that he was just expecting Cactus Jack to arrive, yet Foley wanted something fresher.
Mick made his debut against Bob Holly on Raw. Amid the confusion of trying to finalise the details of the character, he still did not know until he got out there what the character would be called. He didn't even know that his post-victory music would be a different song, although that had been an initial pitch he made to the company.
Immediately, Mankind was booked as the nemesis of the Undertaker and even went over him. Initially expecting just a short lived program, the two instead got a long series with one another. Michaels notes that Taker was very appreciative of the lengths to which Foley would go to help get a match over.
Foley points to his In Your House: Mind Games match with Michaels as a turning point in his WWF career. Michaels remembers the creativity Foley brought to the match. CM Punk turns up to describe it as "wrestling, turned up to 11", a definitive Foley match. Michaels notes that the WWF audience at that point had not seen anything like this before, putting Foley over for helping make HBK look edgier than before.
11. Dude Love
A year later, Vince McMahon determined that Foley's real-life story was too interesting to not incorporate into the show. Foley agreed to a series of legitimate interviews with JR on Raw but was reluctant to let go of the Mankind character he worked so hard to create. This led to the audience getting to see the early Dude Love footage from Foley's teenage years.
Foley rode with Steve Austin after the first interview aired, with Austin telling him he would be a babyface in two weeks due to the interviews. Indeed, every week, more people started cheering Foley, which he points to as the most organic turn ever.
Vince also discovered the Dude Love character and decided it had to be made a part of the show because "Dude Love makes people feel good". This led to Dude Love trying to become the tag team partner of Stone Cold. Foley even transformed from Mankind to Dude Love in the middle of a cage match with Triple H. Finally, Cactus Jack turned up in MSG after a special introduction from Dude Love and Mankind, to a hell of a pop. The current WWE creative team could never have come up with anything even 1% as special as this run.
12. Hell in a Cell
The post-WrestleMania episode of Raw in 1998 led to the next phase of DX, finishing with the gang destroying Foley and Funk inside a cage - including, much to Foley's chagrin, a bronco buster from X-Pac. Foley's genuine resentment at the fans chanting Austin during this moment was funnelled into Dude Love becoming Mr. McMahon's would-be corporate champion.
Foley doubts that the swift transformations between his three characters had been welcomed by fans. Too many changes in too short a time had led to the audience losing touch of what he was supposed to be, which meant he did not connect with them as strongly as before. The Cell match with Undertaker loomed on the horizon but Foley was uncertain the fans would buy him in this spot on the card at this point.
Wanting to do something special, Funk and Foley decided that Foley should start the match on top of the Cell. Nobody backstage was aware that the match was going to be as extreme as it turned out to be. The Miz reminisces about watching the match with his high school friends, gasping at the screen in silence when Taker threw Foley off the Cell.
Foley got back into the match, of course, crawling back on top of the Cell to deliver for the audience. This led to the second bump as Foley took a chokeslam through the Cell onto the mat and was knocked out. Funk said he was scared to death. The next day there were 'Foley is God' signs at Raw.
Afterwards, with a tooth in his nose, a dislocated shoulder, numerous stitches, a bruised kidney and more, Vince told him that he was appreciative of everything Foley had done for the company but never wanted to see anything like that again.
Foley is thankful that nowadays, when a guy gets knocked out, the match ends. He is also, however, nostalgic of the emotional roller coaster of that match.
13. Mr. Socko
The extent of Foley's injuries after the Cell led to a change in lifestyle, with retirement looming on the horizon. Foley wanted to incorporate more comedy into the Mankind character, which allowed him to still get reactions without sacrificing his body.
Vince provided the obvious straight guy for Mankind to play off of, which ultimately led to Foley inventing a sock puppet (well, Al Snow came up with the idea) to try and cheer up an injured Vince in the hospital. And balloons. And a clown. It was the sock puppet that stuck. At the next show, there were already Socko signs and copies in the crowd.
14. The Rock
The Foley/Rock feud of course began at Survivor Series '98 in Vince Russo's ultimate swerve booking. It doesn't make a great deal of sense if you think about it but at the time it was effective. For some reason, we get more Miz. He talks about how heartbroken he was by Rock's heel turn. Anyway, this allowed Mankind to be a genuine babyface, whilst also setting up Rock to work with Austin at WrestleMania 15.
In the meantime, Foley and Rock embarked on a heated and hard-hitting feud. This also led to Foley winning the championship in probably the greatest reaction to a title change in Raw history. It should be pointed out, however, that the title change was actually beaten in the ratings by the Fingerpoke of Doom on Nitro that night. Enough of that myth being perpetuated. Still, a truly great moment.
This led to an epically brutal I Quit match between Rock and Foley at the Royal Rumble 1999. Foley was keen to let people see a ruthless side to The Rock, although by his own admission they went too far. This is the notorious match with too many unprotected chairshots as shown in the Beyond the Mat documentary. Foley's wife and children were at ringside watching, which adds to Foley's regrets.
There was also some genuine frustration at Rock not apologising for the excessive chairshots to Foley's unprotected head during the match. Evidently, Foley got over it and this allowed for the creation of the Rock 'n' Sock Connection. They had undeniable chemistry and tremendous comedic timing with one another, which led to some mighty fine television. None of which involved their tag team matches but, hey, people were entertained.
With genuine concerns about his physical condition and a general malaise about his future in wrestling, Foley turned his creativity back towards his writing. WWE had signed a deal with Regan Books to bring out a series of autobiographies. The publishers made arrangements for a ghost writer only for Foley to decide he wanted to write it himself. Regan were very reluctant at first but convinced by a sample Foley submitted to them.
Foley even ran his initial writing (on pen and paper) past the locker room and managed to pass that test. Empowered, Foley wrote his 700 page autobiography by hand as the WWE tour continued around the country. He even turned down pain medication from his knee surgery in order to remain lucid enough to meet his deadline.
The publishers were wary about the length of the book but yielded to Foley's passion. The result? A #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. This was at the peak of WWE's pop culture importance, of course, but the quality of the book should not be overlooked. There have been very few others in wrestling capable of producing a great autobiography, with only Bret Hart and Chris Jericho springing to mind.
16. Triple H
The success of his book, which sold millions of copies, coupled with his bad knees and concerns about memory issues, led to Foley winding down his full-time wrestling career. The final stretch was working with Triple H in the build to WrestleMania 16, filling in for an injured Austin.
The Street Fight the pair had at Royal Rumble 2000 essentially solidified Triple H as a genuine main event champion. This was followed by another Hell in the Cell match with Foley's career on the line - a perfect ending to his career. "I ruined it", Foley admits.
A couple of weeks later, JR called up Foley to discuss WrestleMania. Much to Foley's surprise, he had been added to the main event despite only just retiring. It seems Vince was determined to let Foley have a WrestleMania main event spot before everything ended. Foley still has regrets about the comeback.
In June 2000, Foley shaved his head, with the idea that it would allow him to escape doing things in public ever again. His curious son Dewey even shaved his head in support. Foley did not consider the lack of an ear would tip people off that he was in fact the famous wrestler Mick Foley.
A few weeks later, Vince called again to bring Foley back as the Commissioner. This was a hugely enjoyable run, for Foley as much as the fans. Edge and Christian got great exposure from their comedic interaction with Foley, which was instrumental in the crowd caring about them. Who cannot love the chicken suit scene? Only reekazoids. Foley even puts over Kurt Angle for his comedy talents, which is a rarity for WWE DVDs nowadays.
We even get a backstage technician discussing how they enjoyed going around arenas finding inventive places to put Commissioner Foley's office - the ladies bathroom, a crane, a deli counter, a laundry room, even a hockey penalty box. Sarge, the stuffed orange dog, was donated to Foley by a Make-a-Wish Foundation girl he had met and became a mainstay of the offices.
Foley enjoyed showing up late, leaving early, not getting hurt, not even having to change clothes. Michaels notes it was the smartest gig ever. Foley notes he is the Bret Hart of Commissioners - the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.
18. Going Away
The Commissioner Foley stretch lasted for six months. Foley now feels he should have stuck with it longer. The character was ousted by William Regal and Foley went off to write his novel. WWE's deal with Regan had expired and the publishers contact Foley about continuing their relationship. Foley wanted to pursue the deal and do something independently, which led to tensions with the company and Foley's departure. A lot of the detail is missing here, yet I guess you can turn to Foley's books for that if you wish.
19. Randy Orton
That said, Foley's relationship with WWE was not totally ruined. He returned to be the referee for the Kevin Nash v Triple H Hell in the Cell match at Bad Blood 2003. WWE even afforded him an in-ring celebration at MSG.
In 2004, they also brought him back to team with Rock against Evolution at WrestleMania 20. Foley remembers losing a lot of weight for the match but still doubting his abilities. Even now, he feels he underperformed. That match is remembered solely for the greatest comedic performance of Ric Flair's career, so Foley should not be too harsh on himself for this one.
Seeking another shot at a successful comeback match, Foley worked with Randy Orton at Backlash the following month. They beat the crap out of one another in a violent encounter. Orton remembers the match had crescendos every minute, getting bigger and bigger as it progressed. Foley notes it even bettered the Mind Games match with Michaels as his favourite. Foley even succeeded at putting over Orton, which all but guaranteed Orton would be a top guy for years to come.
20. Making a Difference
After that, Foley turned his attentions elsewhere. He missed the opportunities WWE afforded him to do the Make-a-Wish Foundation and meet with charitable organisations. Foley and his wife turned their attention to other foundations, such as ChildFund International and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
DEE SNIDER turns up to note that Foley inspired him to be a charitable person. Snider never did much charity work before meeting Foley and was embarrassed by the level of Mick's commitments. He puts Foley over as one of the kindest people he ever met.
Foley also makes vague comments about being able to get out there and see some younger guys, referring to his time spent at Ring of Honour in this period. He references CM Punk and even Samoa Joe as the two guys he wanted to refer to Vince. Punk discusses the interaction he had with Foley on-screen in ROH but no clips here, sadly.
Seeking a great WrestleMania moment, Foley returned to work with Edge. They had an insane brawl at WrestleMania 22, with fire and everything, as Foley finally got his moment. This is a very brief segment, with no mention made of the rest of his run in 2006. Again, Foley points to this as an end point for his career.
We skip over the feud with Ric Flair, Foley's pretty random determination to put over Melina, and of course his TNA stint, for some general thoughts about his retirements. Foley admits that each comeback since the Orton match was partly motivated more by money than by inspiration, which has diminished his genuine passion. That's about as honest a statement as you can hope for on a release such as this. Triple H notes that people are damned if they do, damned if they don't, if they retire and do or do not wrestle again.
Foley discusses two different medical specialists advising him that he should never wrestle again. It was a tough pill to swallow but his working relationship with WWE is now in a good place. Punk notes that he does not need to see Foley jump off a cell again, but having him appear with Socko now and then to put a smile on people's faces is fine. That seems fair.
23. Stand Up Comic
In early 2000, on his book tour, Foley did a speech at a college and told the students stories that made them laugh. Foley noted that the reactions reminded him of how he felt during wrestling matches. The college tours wound up by 2007 as his writing career tailed off, yet a couple of years later he turned to actual stand-up comedy instead.
Fearing regrets, Foley went for it. There are some amusing clips from his Comedy Store appearances and his daughter, Noelle, puts him over. Can't argue with that, really. If that's not enough for you, even Regal endorses the shows. I'll be seeing him on his UK comedy tour next month. Looking forward to it.
24. A Complete One-Off
As is the case, the documentary ends with a succession of talking heads putting over the guy whose DVD they are appearing on. Since this is Mick Foley, however, none of them feel forced and all of them feel genuine. Heyman notes Foley likely lives in constant daily pain, yet he has his wife, his children and they love him, with many other people in this business not being able to say that. Foley wraps it all up with, "I'm doing pretty good... pretty, pretty good."
The issue with releasing a DVD chronicling the career of Mick Foley is that the majority of people who would care enough to watch it have likely already read at least some of his autobiographies. Those books are able to delve into greater detail than a DVD. They are also generally freer to discuss anything and everything on Foley's mind, including topics that WWE would not wish to include on one of their official home video releases. This means that what we are left with is a brief overview of events that the target audience already knows a considerable amount about.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the documentary. It covers the vast majority of the talking points in Foley's career. This is a perfectly acceptable release, although I could live without generic talking head comments from The Miz. So far as official WWE documentaries on Mick Foley go, this is the best there will ever be. If you are interested in Mick Foley's story, this is indeed a fine purchase... but if you want to scratch a little bit deeper, well, head for the bookstore instead.
Call it a solid 3 stars for the documentary, bumped up to 4 for the matches...