Mick Foley nearly killed himself for our approval.
Body slams onto tacks. Body slams onto metal steps. Body slams off of
(and through) a 20-foot steel cage. But it wasn’t until he became a New
York Times best-selling author that the ‘Hardcore Legend’ got
mainstream respect outside the wrestling ring.
The book, 1999’s Have a Nice Day, was a shock to anyone with preconceived notions of wrestlers. “Wait a minute,” was the general reaction, “this guy can write?”
And act. And perform. And enthrall a crowd without getting a single chair shot to the head.
The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin were the undisputed stars of
World Wresting Entertainment’s ‘Attitude Era,’ but Mick Foley was its
spokesman – an engaging, funny and unconventional personality who tapped
into the new generation of wrestling fans’ hunger for what went on
behind the scenes. The book stunned everyone, including Foley, when it
topped the Times’ nonfiction bestseller list.
“In 1999 i was looking at the end of my career, having no idea what I
might do after that, and the book opened a lot of doors,” says Foley,
who appears Saturday (noon to 4 p.m.) at this weekend’s Niagara Falls
Comic Con. “It brought a sense of closure to my career … and it was a
towering achievement just to sit down and do it by hand, and do it in a
way people found enjoyable.”
Foley’s book wasn’t just a personal milestone, it was a turning point
for the wrestling industry. With precise, often hilarious detail, Foley
took fans into the stories behind the stories – the backstage drama,
the real-life issues between wrestlers, the things that happened when
the cameras turned off. Its huge success inspired other wrestlers to
crank out their own books, though few could compare.
“And I apologize for that,” cracks Foley. “Actually it’s a good
thing, because so many other wrestlers had stories to tell, and I’m sure
all of them feel good just having it on the shelf, whether or not they
Foley’s bestseller days weren’t over. The follow-ups Foley is Good and The Hardcore Diaries also did well, prompting Foley to write fiction (Tietam Brown, Scooter) and even children’s books.
The books led to public speaking (not standup, Foley wants to
clarify), where he discusses his life on the college circuit. Then, of
course, there are fan conventions, where Foley signs everything from
action figures to books to pictures of his bloody mug after any number
of gruesome matches.
One match stands out, however. The one fans can’t get enough of.
Foley has talked plenty about that night in Pittsburgh in 1998 … at
least what he remembers. They don’t call it the night that changed
everything for nothing.
During a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker, Foley was
determined to make history. With the match barely underway, and the two
rivals fighting on top of the cage, Foley was tossed 22 feet onto the
announcer’s table below. The crowd was stunned, the announcers
terrified. “As God is my witness, he is broken in half,” yelped Jim
What happened next secured Foley’s place in the hearts of wrestling
fans forever. As he was being stretchered up the ramp, Foley – with a
dislocated shoulder – broke free and climbed the cage again to resume
the match. Minutes later, in a spot he wasn’t prepared for, Foley was
chokeslammed through the steel cage onto the mat below, capped by a
steel chair falling on his face. He blacked out for a moment, shook it
off, then continued the match in a daze. Now with a dislocated jaw and
loose tooth hanging beneath his nose, Foley’s night ended when the
Undertaker slammed him onto thousands of thumbtacks.
He lost, but it didn’t matter. Foley became a legend overnight.
“I don’t know what it was that got me to my feet,” he says. “The
logical conclusion would have been to call it a night, especially after
that second time. No one would have thought less of me, but at the same
time no one would be asking me about the match.”
"WWE’s changed (now), and the match would have been called
immediately. But in that case I was the beneficiary of the circumstances
that surrounded me.”
Perhaps trying to top it, Foley had another infamously brutal match
against The Rock the next year. Refusing to say the words ‘I quit’ which
would end the match, Rock blasted Foley with 11 unprotected chair
shots, opening up a gruesome gash on his head. The match was included in
the wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, which shows Foley’s family in the audience in tears.
Even Foley thought it went too far.
“It’s really not a fun match,” he says. “It’s not something you
gather your friends around (to watch). If the Hell in a Cell match turns
people into fans, the I Quit match kinda turns people off from it. It’s
“It didn’t seem that excessive at the time. But geez, watching my family, it certainly was.”
These type of matches are forbidden in today’s more safety-conscious
WWE, which has many fans clamouring for the Attitude Era (roughly 1997
to 2002) to return. But Foley says there’s plenty to like about the new
generation of wrestlers.
“The new era forces people to be more creative,” he says. The
Attitude era’s biggest problem, he adds, were wrestlers trying to be
shocking because everyone else was doing it.
“I’m glad I was part ot it, and it was a very creative time because
you had so many guys hitting their stride at the same time. But memory
is selective, and there was a lot of stuff that was unnecessary as
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