On August 6th 2017 Sitting Front Row had the distinct honour of sitting down one on one with WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley. The legend behind the famous wrestling persona’s of Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack is in Belfast’s Mandela Hall on his second night as Commissioner of Ireland’s premier wrestling promotion, Over The Top Wrestling. Sitting in a quiet corner in a busy locker room back stage we chat about a number of topics from his storied career. Mick is quiet spoken and comes across as an honest down to earth guy, happy to discuss match finishes and ideas with the OTT talent. Nothing seems a problem at all and he is even happy to address the controversy from OTT’s previous night’s action in Dublin’s National Stadium that involved an angle with Joey Ryan. The internet is a buzz with talk from Jim Cornette saying that wrestling is too much of a comedy act these days. Mick disagrees and is happy to compare his career and the part comedy played in it. We discuss his favourite matches from his career, what he makes of OTT, what talent he was impressed by on the tour and his favourite wrestlers of all time which he even narrows down to who he believes is the greatest wrestler of all time.
Sitting Front Row would also like to mention that this interview wouldn’t have been possible without the great assistance of OTT Wrestling who went above and beyond to make sure this face to face interview took place. To OTT we say thank you for the interview and thank you for two back to back nights of excellent in ring action in Dublin and Belfast. This promotion is flying right now and it is down to each and every member of the roster from the talent to the people behind the scenes. You can see every one of them has a passion for pro wrestling and wants to see to it that the crowd are entertained and get their money’s worth.
And now the interview…
Sitting Front Row: Thanks for doing this interview first of all and welcome to Ireland, yet again, you’ve been here before of course.
Mick: This is Northern Ireland though, not the South.
SFR: Yeah I’m from the South, I was there last night in the National Stadium in Dublin and travelled up to do this interview tonight. What did you think of the show last night?
Mick: I loved the show last night! I’m not saying anything I didn’t document you know. I thought Over The Top Wrestling did a great job in mixing up the matches so that they took people on a ride where they saw brawling, flying mat work, moves with a healthy dusting of the strange, surreal and downright bizarre. And I think fans went home after 4 and a half hours happy and satisfied and I’ve been on some cards where you’d see great matches but people are exhausted and not particularly in a hurry to return and I think OTT put on a show that will make new fans and have people talking for a long time.
SFR: Was there anyone in particular who stood out?
Mick: It’s really hard to say ‘this guy stood out’ because there were so many people that stood out. I had to like think back to all the great things I’d seen, where there’s Jimmy Havoc in his cool bizarre brawling character or the Kings of the North, you know or Jeff Cobb finding a way to take his Olympic background and mix in some fun, then War Machine, these aren’t characters that seem to have fun written all over them and they had a brawling match that was plenty of fun and I’d never seen Marty (Scurll) before (live), or I’d never seen (Mark) Haskins before (either).
SFR: You’d never seen Marty before live?
Mick: No I’d never seen him and I was really, really impressed! So if I haven’t mentioned anyone it’s not a slight, it’s just there was a lot to take in.
SFR: Is there any current talent in WWE, OTT or elsewhere that you’d liken yourself to?
Mick: Oh that I’d ‘liken myself to’? Oh man, let me see – Joey Ryan is working his gimmick, it’s not unlike… like people are offended because I participated in those shenanigans and I just pointed out like I’ve been using a sweat sock! You know? Like for 18 years, it’s not exactly a Greco Roman move, so I think in that sense, Joey reminds me of some of the great characters we’ve seen over the years. Any number of these guys (in OTT) would fit in well, I think that the success that Seamus has had and Fergal Devitt, I’ve gone ‘old school’ with the Finn Balor’s real name there, and that Becky (Lynch) has had has encouraged the ‘lads and lasses’ so people don’t look at WWE or American wrestling as a far off impossible dream, they look at it as more reachable.
(At this point during our chat Mick’s hand is being wrapped by a medic due to an ‘injury’ he sustained the previous evening in Dublin’s National Stadium during his altercation with Joey Ryan. A pro down to the smallest detail, Mick has his hand wrapped to sell the injury– ‘Aw I’ll need to be wrapped for the multiple broken bones, I’m getting my hand wrapped here, it was just shattered by the force of Joey Ryan’s private parts, almost every bone’ – SFR: Every bone? I saw that last night, it looked sore, really sore – Mick: yeah it was locked in that grip position!!!)
SFR: For me one of my favourite matches of yours was at ‘In Hour House – Mind Games’ on September 22nd 1996 against Shawn Michaels. I remember reading your book and you mentioned that it was probably your favourite match at that point, would it still be your favourite match now?
Mick: It comes in at number 2 for me, behind the match I had with Randy Orton. But yeah, ‘Mind Games’ was probably the number 2 match, but it’s probably the best personal performance I ever gave. The Randy Orton match was a real kind of a statement, you know coming back after 4 years away, I thought underperforming a little bit at Wrestlemania 2004, so yeah I loved the match with Shawn Michaels and I loved the fact that I got the chance to talk in depth about it on Edge and Christians podcast.
SFW: Speaking of Randy Orton, you helped to elevate and put both Randy Orton and Triple H over and in the process moved them up to the main event from those wins. Is there anybody who you would do that for now, if you had the chance?
Mick: Well I’m not physically able to do that now. I like to think the things I’ve done, even promo wise, helped push personal issues that guys have and I think that Mr McMahon knows that I’m a phone call away when they need a little something extra for a match. I couldn’t physically go out there and work with anybody right now but I could probably come in and help out with a big match many months down the road.
SFR: I suppose I have to ask you, in relation to ‘Hell in a Cell’, do you think people define your career on that match? Or would other matches stand out and mean more, like the Shawn Michaels or Randy Orton matches?
Mick: For most people, that Cell match is the very first thing they think about and that’s great. We’re coming up on 20 years (in 2018) since that match took place and to still get asked about it every day you’re in public, it clearly made an impression and you know making impressions is what the business is all about.
SFR: I watched that match live on pay per view and I actually jumped off my seat and thought something had gone wrong. I thought “has he really done this?”(fell off the top of the Cell”). I didn’t know whether you were ok. I’m not going to ask if it hurt as it obviously did, but do you think it may have shortened your career in the long run?
Mick: Well you know what it did, it forced me to look beyond the physical and try to find ways to connect with audiences. Not that I hadn’t used humour before but if you look at the Mankind character pre Cell and post Cell, they’re almost completely different characters. One was dark and the other one was considerably lighter and that was specifically because I knew I needed to find new ways to connect with audiences, so in a way it may have added to my career. I don’t think pre Cell Mankind would have even thought to bring a sock puppet or a birthday party clown to visit Mr McMahon in the hospital.
SFR: Other than yourself, who do you think is the best wrestler of all time?
Mick: (Laughs) Well I’m not even in the equation!
SFR: Well who did you have look up to as a kid?
Mick: You know I mean I’ve had my favourites, before I got into the business and we have something in South Dakota they call Mount Rushmore with 4 of the US presidents on it so there’s always this thing like ‘Who would be on your Mount Rushmore?’ And it’s always interesting to see who would people put on theirs and I think I came up with Ric Flair, Terry Funk , Tommy Billington (Dynamite Kid) that I might give, and Harley Race or maybe I’d throw in a couple of guys from the current era, you know there’s no shortage of great wrestlers. But if I had to pick one I would say Terry Funk, with an n just so guys you know I’m not throwing around ‘F’ bombs (laughs). He made the suspense and disbelief really, really easy. Even in this day and age when he makes the occasional public appearance he strikes fear into the hearts of fans and ring announcers find out in a hurry that they better get out of the way because you don’t know what’s gonna happen when Terry’s around.
SFR: And then the last question I’m going to ask is about an angle from back just a few years ago. It involved Dean Ambrose and you and an angle that never went further. I don’t know whether you can talk about it, can you tell me a little bit about why it never came through?
Mick: Yeah well the short answer is I failed my impact test. And that’s the test that measures the damage from concussions so there’s was an issue with my impact test and that was when I found out that I could never wrestle again. I think it actually worked out to Dean’s benefit because had we done that angle, he would have been in a process where he would have needed continual, you know it’s never one thing that ‘makes’ somebody, it’s a continual cycle of events and I think he did much better in the long run by being part of The Shield than had he been in an angle with me. So not working with me was the best thing that could happen to Dean and I think we’d both agree on that.
SFR: Listen, thanks very much for taking the time, I really appreciate that.
Mick: Hey thank you, thanks man, have a nice day!
Sitting Front Row