Chicago history sticks with Mick Foley
By Mike Pankow
September 12, 2018
Legendary wrestler Mick Foley returns to the middle of the ring at Sunday night’s WWE pay-per-view event as special referee for the Roman Reigns-Braun Strowman Hell in a Cell match for the WWE Universal Championship in San Antonio, Texas.
For Foley, it will invoke memories of his own history in the Hell in a Cell where the Undertaker threw him off the top of the steel cage onto the ringside announce table during King of the Ring 1998.
In addition to that frightening tumble, Foley later fell through the cage onto the ring below when the combatants again scaled to the top of the cell.
Foley also endured his share of violent moments in the Chicago area over the years where two of his most brutal matches occurred – the Chicago Street Fight with him and Maxx Payne against the Nasty Boys at WCW Spring Stampede 1994 and his WrestleMania 22 hardcore match with Edge in 2006.
The tag match was a brawl that spread throughout the arena with weapons and shovels involved and also ravaged a souvenir stand. Foley (then known as Cactus Jack) and Payne’s all-encompassing fight with Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags was runner-up for Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Match of the Year behind Marty Jannetty’s shocking upset of Shawn Michaels.
“That ’94 Spring Stampede was wild,” Foley said during his appearance at last month’s Wizard World Chicago at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill. “We like to say it was hardcore before there was a hardcore. It was a great match. It holds up. I remember Jesse Ventura apologizing to us after the show for laughing. He said he’d never seen anything like it in all of his years. It was a wild, crazy brawl. It was supposed to be my last match for a while, because I was supposed to have some surgery on my ear. We had such great chemistry with the Nasty Boys that Kevin Sullivan called me up the next day and asked if I’d consider teaming up with him since his tag team partner (Dave Sullivan aka The Equalizer) had been injured and took on the Nastys the next month and had another classic brawl (at Slamboree in Philadelphia).”
The hardcore fight between Foley and Edge at the Allstate Arena was barbaric, featuring a barbed-wire baseball bat, thumbtacks and plenty of blood. It concluded after Edge speared Foley through a burning table and secured that elusive “WrestleMania moment” for the veteran grappler. The bout was third runner-up in PWI’s Match of the Year balloting in 2006.
“The match with Edge was my favorite WrestleMania moment,” Foley said. “I had not had a classic WrestleMania moment although I had a couple of good WrestleMania matches. That night took a big weight off my shoulders.”
The three-time WWE Champion wrestled for over two decades, literally shedding blood, sweat, tears and body parts around the world. He lost part of his right ear in a WCW match against the late Big Van Vader in Munich, Germany in March 1994. His two falls off Hell in a Cell are stuff of legend. However, the repeated blows to his body and his head took a toll.
Foley recently pledged his brain to former WWE superstar Chris Nowinski and the Concussion Legacy Foundation for study following his death.
“I think anytime somebody can learn from the people who’ve come before them, it’s a good thing,” Foley said. “I take that very seriously. I hope that people do learn. I did take a lot of hits, probably a few too many.”
He took way too many in just one night when he endured about a dozen unprotected chair shots to his head in an “I Quit” match against the Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble.
Foley sounded like he would’ve had a different philosophy if he was starting over today as a 20-year-old rookie in the wrestling business.
“I probably would have brought my hand up if I saw a steel object traveling at me at high speeds,” Foley said. “I may not have dropped as many elbows in front of small crowds in towns along the way. I may have approached things a little bit differently.”
As his career progressed, Foley started to show a bit more of a lighter side. He unearthed his teenage backyard wrestling character Dude Love in WWE in 1997. He also wrestled as the “Three Faces of Foley” in a single Royal Rumble in 1998, performing as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love and becoming the only man to be eliminated three times in one Rumble match. He also created Mr. Socko, which basically was a sock puppet that Foley used to apply the Mandible Claw to defeat his opponents.
Then there’s Foley’s affinity for Santa Claus and Christmas.
“I was on the road a lot,” said Foley, husband to Collette and father of four children. “I was away from my family most of the time. We found that talking about Santa was kind of like extending Christmas season. I just decided to celebrate all year round.”
Foley annually dresses up at Santa for charity functions and even has a Christmas room in his home, which is decorated for the season at all times.
Since his retirement from the ring, Foley has traveled the country with a one-man show to talk about his career, including the 20-year anniversary of his titanic bumps in the Hell in a Cell. He also starred in a WWE Network reality show, “Holy Foley,” with his family. Foley also is the author of several New York Times best-selling books. He also served as Raw General Manager for a brief time last year.
Foley said he keeps up a bit with WWE and lauded young WWE and NXT superstars like Ricochet, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Alexa Bliss and Ember Moon.
I watched SummerSlam,” Foley said. “I thought it was a really good show. I’m always wishing (WWE) and everyone in the business the very best.”