Today, he goes by the name on his birth certificate, but Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy became one of WWE’s most unlikely success stories under the guise of three distinct personas — the unpredictable Cactus Jack, the demented hippy known as Dude Love and everyone’s favorite mental patient, Mankind. These “three faces of Foley” were dangerously unique, but all shared a common trait — a willingness to always go one step too far.
Inspired to become a Superstar after watching Jimmy Snuka leap from the top of a steel cage in Madison Square Garden, Mick Foley adopted Superfly’s fearlessness when he entered the ring himself. As Cactus Jack, he earned a fan following not for winning matches, but for surviving them. In a bout against the punishing Big Van Vader in Germany, Foley’s ear was torn off. In Japan, he suffered third-degree burns in an exploding ring. Still, no matter what he suffered through, Foley kept fighting back.
When he came to WWE in 1996, he turned into Mankind, a deranged miscreant who lurked in boiler rooms and shoved his fingers down opponents’ throats. Under the leather mask of this maniac, Foley lived through sports-entertainment’s most shocking moment when he was thrown off the top of the Hell in a Cell by The Undertaker. The unforgettable image of Foley’s body artlessly plummeting to the ground below defined not only his career, but WWE’s “Attitude Era” as a whole.
A funny thing happened after Foley’s fall, though. Battered and bruised after years of punishment, he began to depend less on his threshold for pain and more on his sense of humor, intelligence and surprisingly vulnerable nature. His toothless sneer became a cheesy smile. His trusty 2-by-4 wrapped in barbwire was replaced by a sock puppet named Mr. Socko. Now a fan favorite, Foley thrilled audiences by beating The Rock for the WWE Title in 1999 and surprised them even more when he published his insightful, New York Times-bestselling autobiography “Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks.” Later teaming with The Great One as The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, Foley brought Raw some of its highest television ratings ever during his inspired interactions with The People’s Champion.
In 2000, Foley was sent into retirement after losing a Hell in a Cell Match to Triple H, but he has since returned to WWE as a commissioner, a color commentator and even a competitor, most notably against Edge at WrestleMania 22. Now known as The Hardcore Legend, Foley was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 6, 2013 in Madison Square Garden, proving he'd achieved more than he'd ever dreamed on that night he watched Snuka take the leap.
Foley returned to WWE TV the night before the 2016 WWE Brand Extension Draft as Stephanie McMahon’s choice for Raw General Manager, but he was unfortunately fired from the position just two weeks before WrestleMania 33. No matter what his next move might be, Foley (and his many personas) will surely continue to bring smiles to the faces of WWE fans around the globe.
Foley in 2008
|Born||Michael Francis Foley|
(1965-06-07) June 7, 1965 (age 52)
Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.
|Residence||Garden City, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||State University of New York at Cortland|
|Occupation||Professional wrestler, writer, color commentator, actor|
|Years active||1983–2012 (wrestler)|
|Spouse(s)||Colette Christie (m. 1992)|
Professional wrestling career
|Ring name(s)||Cactus Jack|
Cactus Jack Manson
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||287 lb (130 kg)|
|Billed from||Bloomington, Indiana|
The Boiler Room
Setauket, Long Island, New York
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
|Trained by||Dominic DeNucci|
Michael Francis "Mick" Foley Sr. (born June 7, 1965) is a former American professional wrestler and color commentator currently signed to WWE.
Foley has worked for many wrestling promotions, including the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), as well as numerous promotions in Japan. Foley is widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of WWE, where he participated in the main event of WrestleManiasXV and 2000 – as a special guest referee in the former. Foley was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
Foley has wrestled under his real name and various personas, including Dude Love, Cactus Jack and Mankind, also known as the "Three Faces of Foley". He is a four-time world champion (three WWF Championships and one TNA World Heavyweight Championship), an eleven-time world tag team champion (eight WWF Tag Team Championships, two ECW World Tag Team Championships and one WCW World Tag Team Championship), a one-time TNA Legends Champion and the inaugural WWF Hardcore Champion.
Foley was born in Bloomington, Indiana. He had an older brother named John. Shortly after his birth, Foley's family moved to East Setauket, New York, where Foley attended Ward Melville High School, played lacrosse, and wrestled. Foley is of Irish descent. Foley was a high school classmate of comic actor Kevin James. The two were on the wrestling team together and attended the same college. While a student at State University of New York at Cortland, he hitchhiked to Madison Square Garden to see his favorite wrestler, Jimmy Snuka, in a steel cage match against Don Muraco. Foley has said that Snuka's flying body splash from the top of the cage inspired him to pursue a career in pro wrestling. Foley had a front row seat and is visible on the video of the event.
Professional wrestling career
Training and early career (1983–1991)
Mick Foley formally trained at Dominic DeNucci's wrestling school in Freedom, Pennsylvania, driving several hours weekly from his college campus in Cortland, New York, and debuted in 1983. In addition to appearing on DeNucci's cards, Foley and several other students also took part in some squash matches as jobbers for WWF TV tapings of Prime Time Wrestling and Superstars of Wrestling, where Foley wrestled under the names, Jack Foley and Nick Foley. In one of these matches (the very first episode of Superstars), Foley and Les Thornton (another jobber) faced the British Bulldogs, during which the Dynamite Kid (who had a long earned reputation as a stiff worker in the ring) clotheslined Foley with such force that he was unable to eat solid food for several weeks. During these squash matches, Foley also faced other top level talent at the time, such as Hercules Hernandez. His run would not last long, as he had not signed a contract with the promotion at the time. During this run, he was also billed from different hometowns and at different weights.
After several years of wrestling in the independent circuit, Foley began receiving offers from various regional promotions, including Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF). He joined the Memphis-based Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) as Cactus Jack, where he teamed with Gary Young as part of the Stud Stable. Cactus and Young briefly held the CWA tag titles in late 1988. On November 20, Foley left CWA for Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling.
In World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), Cactus Jack, billed as Cactus Jack Manson, was a major part of Skandor Akbar's stable. (The addition of "Manson" to Foley's name came as the result of a woman who began to stalk him at WCCW shows who went by the name Mary Ann Manson; Foley later said that the connection of that stalker's name to his, as well as its connection to Charles Manson, made him uncomfortable.) Foley also won several titles, including the company's light heavyweight and tag team titles before leaving the company, losing his last match to Eric Embry in nine seconds. He then briefly competed in Alabama's Continental Wrestling Federation before completing a brief stint with World Championship Wrestling. For much of his time there, he would team with jobbers. When the jobber would lose the match for the team, Cactus Jack would attack his partner, throw them out of the ring, and deliver his infamous ring apron flying elbow drop onto the concrete floor. His biggest match at the time was against Mil Máscaras at Clash of the Champions X: Texas Shootout. It was during this period that Foley was involved in a car accident that resulted in the loss of his two front teeth, adding to the distinctive look for which he is famous. Following the short stint with WCW, Foley then signed with Herb Abrams's Universal Wrestling Federation. In UWF, Foley teamed with Bob Orton to feud with Don Muraco, Sunny Beach, and Brian Blair.
He soon left UWF for Tri-State Wrestling (a forerunner to Extreme Championship Wrestling), whose high-impact and violent wrestling style fit Foley well. On one night, known as Tri-State's Summer Sizzler 1991, Cactus Jack and Eddie Gilbert had three matches in one night: Cactus won a Falls Count Anywhere match, lost a Stretcher match, and then fought to a double disqualification in a Steel Cage match. These matches caught the attention of World Championship Wrestling promoters, in large part due to widespread photo circulation. In 1991, after a brief stint working in the Global Wrestling Federation, Foley joined WCW full-time.
World Championship Wrestling (1991-1994)
Early years (1991–1993)
On September 5, 1991, Cactus Jack debuted as a heel and attacked Sting. After feuds with Van Hammer and Abdullah the Butcher, Cactus Jack faced Sting, then WCW World Heavyweight Champion, in a non-title Falls Count Anywhere match at Beach Blast in 1992, which Sting won. For a long time, Foley considered this the best match he ever worked. Unlike Jack's first stint in WCW, where his personality was quieter, he was now outwardly maniacal; laughing hysterically, shrieking into the air while choking his opponents and yelling his signature catch phrase "Bang-Bang!".
After spending a year and a half with WCW as a heel, Cactus Jack transitioned into a fan favorite after engaging in a feud with Paul Orndorff, Harley Race and Big Van Vader. Jack and Orndorff wrestled each other in a match for a spot on WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vader's team at a Clash of the Champions event. After the match, Race and Orndorff beat up Jack. At the following Clash of Champions event, Cactus Jack helped Sting's team win the match. He engaged in a feud with Orndorff, winning a falls-count-anywhere match against Orndorff at Superbrawl III. He then moved on to face Big Van Vader.
Cactus Jack wrestled Big Van Vader on April 6, 1993, winning by count-out, but being severely beaten in the process. As a result, in the rematch with Vader on April 24, the two executed a dangerous spot to sell a storyline injury. Vader removed the protective mats at ringside and powerbombed Cactus onto the exposed concrete floor, causing a legitimate concussion and causing Foley to temporarily lose sensation in his left foot. While Foley was away, WCW ran an angle where Cactus Jack's absence was explained with a farcical comedy storyline in which he went crazy, was institutionalized, escaped, and developed amnesia. Foley had wanted the injury storyline to be very serious and generate genuine sympathy for him before his return. The comedy vignettes that WCW produced instead were so bad that Foley jokes in Have a Nice Day that they were the brainchild of WCW executives who regarded a surefire moneymaking feud as a problem that needed to be solved.
Feud with Vader (1993–1994)
In one of WCW's most brutal matches of all time, Cactus faced Vader in a Texas Death match at Halloween Havoc. Race won the match for Vader by using a cattle prod on Cactus, knocking him out. The level of violence involved in this feud caused WCW to refuse to book Cactus Jack against Vader on a pay-per-view again. On March 16, 1994, during a CW European tour, Foley and Big Van Vader had one of the most infamous matches in wrestling history in Munich, Germany. Foley began a hangman—a planned move where a wrestler's head is tangled between the top two ring ropes. Neither wrestler was aware that the ring ropes had been drawn extra tight before the event, and Foley was barely able to move. When Foley finally freed himself from the ropes and fell out of the ring, his ears were badly split at the back. When Foley re-entered the ring the two wrestlers began trading blows. During this time, Vader reached up and grabbed Foley's ear, and ripped it off. The two men continued wrestling as the referee picked up the ear and gave it to the ring announcer. Vader claimed for years after that the ear had come off during the botched Hangman maneuver, however in a WWE Network video, Vader admits that after seeing footage that he had indeed removed Foley's ear. Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan were scheduled to win the tag team titles at Slamboree in 1994. Foley had to choose between reattaching his ear or wrestling in the pay-per-view and winning the titles. Foley chose to wrestle and won his only championship in WCW. Later on, Foley was frustrated by WCW's reluctance to work a storyline around losing his ear.
WCW also shared a brief co-promotion with ECW during this time in which Foley represented WCW on ECW television as the WCW Tag Team champion, facing Sabu at Hostile City Showdown on June 24, 1994. During a promo, Foley spat on his Tag Team title belt and threw it to the ground to appeal to the hardcore fans who frowned upon the mainstream promotions.
NWA Eastern/Extreme Championship Wrestling (1994–1996)
Cactus Jack's first appearance for the NWA-affiliated Eastern Championship Wrestling came on the May 31, 1994 episode, with Cactus revealed as Sabu's opponent on June 24 at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia. After leaving WCW, Foley went to the newly formed Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and began a feud with Sabu. Jack then began working the ECW tag team division on teams with Terry Funk, Mikey Whipwreck, and Kevin Sullivan. He had two ECW World Tag Team Championship reigns with Whipwreck while in ECW.
After the stints in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and Japan noted below, Foley then returned to ECW to team with Tommy Dreamer. According to Heyman, Hardcore style differentiated Foley from other traditional wrestlers, so in ECW, Foley wasn't unique. Cactus began a gimmick where he criticized hardcore wrestling and sought to renounce his status as a hardcore wrestling icon and used a very technical, slow wrestling to make people upset. He said that he was on a mission to save his partner from making the mistake of trying to please bloodthirsty fans. The mismatched partnership lasted until August 5, 1995, when Cactus turned on Dreamer when they were teaming with The Pitbulls against Raven, Stevie Richards and The Dudley Brothers (Dudley Dudley and Big Dick Dudley). Cactus Jack DDT'ed his partner and joined Raven's Nest, as he wished to serve Raven's "higher purpose". He remained one of Raven's top henchmen for the remainder of his time in ECW. On August 28, Cactus beat the previously undefeated 911. As part of Foley's heel gimmick, he began praising WWF and WCW on ECW television, which angered ECW fans. Their anger intensified once word began to spread that Foley was leaving to join the WWF (In Have a Nice Day, Foley recounted an incident where he asked an ECW roadie to sell T-shirts for him at an event held in a Queens, New York venue where he had been popular even as a heel; the man came back after being spat upon numerous times by angry fans, who made him fear for his life). Even when he tried to give sincere good-byes to the fans, Cactus Jack was met with chants of "You sold out" by the ECW fanbase everywhere he went. Cactus was booked to face WWF hater Shane Douglas, who won when he put Jack into a figure four leglock that allowed Mikey Whipwreck to hit him repeatedly with a steel chair. Foley's last ECW match was against Whipwreck on March 9, 1996, and he recounts that he was not looking forward to it due to the increasingly hostile reactions he got even when he wasn't in character. The ECW fans, who knew that this was Foley's last match, finally returned his affection. They cheered him throughout the match and chanted, "Please don't go!". After the match, Foley told the audience that their reaction made everything worthwhile and made his exit by dancing with Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie to Frank Sinatra's song "New York, New York". Foley has said that this exit was his favorite moment in wrestling.
Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Japan (1994–1996)
At the tail end of 1994, Foley joined Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) as Cactus Jack, causing Boo Bradley to lose the SMW Beat the Champ Television Championship. He often teamed with Brian Lee to feud with Bradley and Chris Candido. Cactus Jack then began a crusade to rid Bradley of his valet Tamara Fytch. He ignited a feud between Candido and Bradley when he accused Candido of having sexual relations with Fytch. (Ironically, Candido and Fytch were a couple in real life). Cactus Jack left SMW before the feud was resolved.
In 1995, Foley went to Japan and wrestled in International Wrestling Association of Japan (IWA Japan), where he engaged in feuds with Terry Funk and Shoji Nakamaki. During his brief stint in Japan Foley had the nickname "Tsunami Stopper." Foley, however, soon returned to ECW to feud with The Sandman. Funk returned to team up with Sandman, and during a particularly violent spot, the pair hit Cactus with a Singapore cane forty-six times. Cactus Jack then defeated Funk at Hostile City Showdown 1995. Later, he fought Sandman for the ECW championship. During the match, Cactus Jack knocked Sandman unconscious and was declared the winner. Referee Bill Alfonso, however, reversed his decision on the grounds that the title cannot change hands by knockout.
Returning to the IWA, Cactus Jack began a feud with Leatherface, whom he had betrayed during a tag team match. Foley also continued to wrestle in independent circuits, winning championships on the Ozark Mountain and Steel City circuits. On August 20, 1995, IWA organized a "King of the Death Match" tournament. Each level of the tournament featured a new and deadly gimmick: Cactus Jack's first round was a barbed-wire baseball bat, thumbtack death match, in which he defeated Terry Gordy; the second round was a barbed-wire board, bed of nails match where Cactus Jack defeated Shoji Nakamaki. The final, against Terry Funk, was a barbed-wire rope, barbed-wire and C4 board, time-bomb death match, which Cactus Jack won with help from Tiger Jeet Singh. After the match, both men were ravaged by the wire, and burned by the C4 explosions. Foley later said that he only received $300 for the entire night but in 2010 he wrote that, "looking back that match in Honjo is probably the performance I'm proudest of." After the tournament, he teamed with Tracy Smothers for a quick run with the IWA tag team titles.
World Wrestling Federation (1996-2001)
Three faces of Foley (1996–1998)
In 1996, Foley signed a contract with WWF and, this time, the WWF did not use Foley as "enhancement talent". He was shown several designs for a new character—a man with a leather mask and chains. However, WWF said that it was too dark and only left the mask. Foley arrived in the WWF in 1996 with a new gimmick and perhaps his most famous personality: Mankind, a mentally deranged schizophrenic who constantly squealed (even throughout his matches), shrieked "Mommy!", spoke to a rat named George, enjoyed pain, physically abused himself (such as by pulling out his hair), wore a mask and lived in boiler rooms; hence, his specialty match, the Boiler Room Brawl. Mankind's finishing move was the mandible claw nerve hold, which involved sticking his fingers in his opponent's mouth. Later in his career, Mankind began covering his hand with a dirty, smelly sock before applying the maneuver. His catch phrase was "Have a nice day". The original name that Vince McMahon had for Foley was "Mason the Mutilator", but Foley thought that Mankind would be a better name and McMahon changed it. On the April 1, 1996 edition of Raw is War, the day after WrestleMania XII, Mankind debuted and defeated Bob Holly, quickly moving into a feud with The Undertaker. The two then began interfering in the other's matches until they were booked in the first ever Boiler Room brawl, in which the goal was to escape the arena's boiler room and reach the ring to take the urn from Paul Bearer. The Undertaker appeared to have won, but Paul Bearer refused to hand him the urn, allowing Mankind to win, thus (for the time being) ending the relationship between Paul and The Undertaker. While Mankind was managed by Paul Bearer, he referred to him as "Uncle Paul". Mankind then earned the number one contendership to face the then WWF Champion Shawn Michaels at In Your House: Mind Games. Michaels won by disqualification via interference by Vader and The Undertaker. For several years, Foley considered this match his best ever, saying: "Sure, at 280 pounds I still looked like hell, but after a brutal cardiovascular training regimen, I was able to go full-tilt for twenty-seven minutes with a smaller, quicker, better athlete than me". Foley would later state he preferred his match with Randy Orton at Backlash 2004.
The Mankind-Undertaker feud continued with the first ever Buried Alive match at In Your House: Buried Alive. Undertaker won the match, but Paul Bearer, the Executioner, Mankind and other heels attacked The Undertaker and buried him alive. Afterward, The Undertaker challenged Mankind to a match at Survivor Series, which the Undertaker won. The feud continued after another match at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, which Undertaker had won at WrestleMania 13. Undertaker won the match and Bearer took a leave of absence, continuing the feud. Jim Ross then began conducting a series of interviews with Mankind. During the interviews, Ross brought up the topic of Foley's home videos and the hippie-inspired character he played in them, Dude Love, as well as his tormented journey in wrestling. The interviews also had an effect on the fans, who began cheering Mankind, turning him into a face. Mankind then competed in the 1997 King of the Ring tournament, losing in the finals to Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
Around this time, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels won the WWF Tag Team Championships from Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, but Michaels was injured and could no longer compete. Mankind tried to replace him, but Austin said he wanted "nothing to do with a freak" and resigned himself to facing Hart and the Bulldog alone the next week. Halfway into the match, however, Foley debuted a new persona known as Dude Love who suddenly appeared and helped Austin take the victory, becoming the new Tag Team Champions. The following week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dude teamed with Austin, and Mankind's longtime nemesis, The Undertaker, to face Bret Hart, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith, members of villainous anti-American stable, the Hart Foundation, in a United States vs. Canada Flag Match—the first match of its kind broadcast on Raw. The Hart Foundation ultimately won the match due to assistance from another Foundation member, Brian Pillman. Austin and Dude vacated their tag team titles when Austin suffered a (legitimate) serious neck injury at the hands of Owen Hart at SummerSlam. Dude Love feuded with Hunter Hearst Helmsley, as the two competed in a Falls Count Anywhere match. One of Foley's most memorable vignettes aired before the match began, in which Dude Love and Mankind discussed who should wrestle the upcoming match. Eventually, "they" decided that it should be Cactus Jack, and Foley's old character made his WWF debut. The crowd's response to Cactus Jack was positive with many fans chanting "E-C-W" throughout the match. Cactus Jack won the match with a piledriver through a table. Shortly thereafter, ECW's Terry Funk joined the WWF as Chainsaw Charlie. At the 1998 Royal Rumble, he participated under three personas, Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love. Charlie and Jack defeated the New Age Outlaws at WrestleMania XIV in a Dumpster match to win the tag team titles. The next night, however, Vince McMahon stripped them of the belts and scheduled a rematch in a steel cage, which the Outlaws won with help from their new allies, D-Generation X. On April 6, 1998, Foley turned heel when Cactus Jack explained the fans would not see him anymore because they did not appreciate him and only cared about Stone Cold Steve Austin. Vince McMahon explained to Austin the next week that he would face a "mystery" opponent at Unforgiven. That opponent turned out to be Dude Love, who won the match by disqualification, meaning that Austin retained the title. McMahon, displeased with the outcome, required Foley to prove he deserved another shot at Austin's title with a number one contendership match against his former partner, Terry Funk. The match was both the WWF's first ever "Hardcore match" and the first time that Foley wrestled under his own name. Foley won, and after the match, a proud McMahon came out to Dude Love's music and presented Foley with the Dude Love costume. At Over the Edge, Dude Love took on Austin for the title. McMahon designated his subordinates Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson as the timekeeper and ring announcer, and made himself the special referee. The Undertaker, however, came to ringside to ensure McMahon called the match fairly, and with his presence, Dude Love lost the match and was "fired" by McMahon on the June 1st edition of Raw.
1998 Hell in a Cell match
Main article: The Undertaker vs. Mankind
On that same episode of Raw Is War, Foley then reverted to his Mankind character, who began wearing an untucked shirt with a loose necktie and resumed his feud with The Undertaker. At King of the Ring, the two competed in the second-ever Hell in a Cell match in June 1998 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. Before this match, Foley and Terry Funk were discussing the previous year's Hell in a Cell (which took place at Badd Blood in October) that featured the Undertaker backdropping and slamming Shawn Michaels onto the chain-link ceiling of the cage. Foley and Funk were brainstorming ideas about how to top that match when Funk said, laughing, "Maybe you should let him throw you off the top of the cage", Foley replied: "Yeah," I shot back, "then I could climb back up – and he could throw me off again." Man, that was a good one, and we were having a good time thinking completely ludicrous things to do inside, outside, and on top of the cage. After a while I got serious and said quietly to Terry, "I think I can do it."
In one of the most famous matches in professional wrestling history, Foley received numerous injuries and took two dangerous and highly influential bumps. The first one came as both wrestlers were brawling on top of the cell, and The Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of the cage from a height of 16 feet (4.9 m); (22 ft including angle of the fall) and sent him crashing through the Spanish announcers' table, prompting announcer Jim Ross to famously shout, "Good God Almighty! Good God Almighty! That killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!". Foley remained motionless underneath debris, while The Undertaker remained on top of the cell staring down. Terry Funk was the first person on the scene, followed by WWE's resident doctor, François Petit, and various others, including a concerned-looking Vince McMahon. Foley was placed on a stretcher and began to be wheeled out to the arena. While The Undertaker was still atop the cage, the cage actually had to be raised in order to make room for the stretcher to reach Foley as he was lying on the opposite side of the ring to the entrance aisle. Moments later, there was commotion on the entrance ramp as Foley got up from the stretcher and proceeded to make his way back to the cage, climbing to the top of the cell, with The Undertaker doing likewise (this time they both climbed the cage surprisingly quickly despite Foley having suffered a dislocated shoulder due to the fall, and The Undertaker wrestling with a broken foot that night). With both men back on the top of the cell the match resumed.
Earlier as both were walking on the chain-link mesh which comprised the cell's ceiling, the metal fasteners were popping off, causing the roof to sag and partially give way under their combined weight. According to Terry Funk, the prop guy had purposely designed it that way, but he claimed what happened next was unintentional and nearly resulted in a tragedy. In the second huge bump of the night, The Undertaker chokeslammed Mankind atop the chain-link mesh cage. As he landed, the roof panel he hit gave way underneath him and Foley fell into the ring hard. In response, announcer Jim Ross shouted, "Good God, Good God! Will somebody stop the damn match? Enough's enough!" Color commentator Jerry Lawler then famously retorted, "That's it. He's dead."
According to Foley and The Undertaker, the cage giving way was a complete surprise. The Undertaker later said that he thought Foley was dead following the second fall. Foley claims he was genuinely knocked unconscious for a few moments from the impact, but was able to come around. Terry Funk wrote in his autobiography, "Watching from the back, I thought he was dead. I ran out here and looked down at him, still lying in the ring where he'd landed. His eyes weren't rolled back in his head, but they looked totally glazed over, like a dead fish's eyes." Foley later said that the only reason he survived the fall was because he did not take the chokeslam properly. In his memoir Have a Nice Day, Foley called it both the best and worst chokeslam he ever took, saying that despite its looks, he would have likely died if he had landed properly. He also cited the fact that the ring he landed in had a harder surface than the modern rings do, which stopped his momentum once he landed. Foley would later explain that the roof of the cell was supposed to sag sufficiently so that Undertaker could kick him through, allowing him to dangle by his feet and eventually fall in a rotation to land on his front. Some people, however, maintain that the entire incident was a work,[clarification needed] because the section of the cage that Foley fell through was hinged and designed to swing open on contact, something Foley admits himself. They question why The Undertaker would have chokeslammed Foley on that section of the cage, if, as Foley claims, it was designed to open on contact.
Some time after getting up and being attended to again by the aforementioned personnel, TV cameras showed a lingering shot of Foley smiling through his profusely bleeding mouth and lips, with a loose tooth hanging beneath his nose; the tooth having been knocked out due to being struck by the chair which had fallen through the cage and landed on his face, dislocating his jaw. Foley was actually trying to show a hole in his bottom lip by sticking his tongue through it, but it could not be seen clearly through his beard. The match continued for a while longer, ending with Foley receiving the Tombstone Piledriver after being slammed by The Undertaker onto hundreds of thumbtacks, which Foley himself had strewn onto the ring canvas. Although Foley lost, both wrestlers received a standing ovation for the match, and the event is often said to have jump-started Foley's main event career (Foley has said that although this match grew in legend, the reality was that his career remained "somewhat sluggish" for sometime afterwards until Foley further developed the Mankind character, and fans began to catch on). Many future matches attempted to replicate some of the spots from this match. In his autobiography Have a Nice Day! A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, Foley wrote that he could not remember much of what happened, and he had to watch a tape of the match to write about it. The match was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year for 1998. Although many fans regard the match as a classic, it has generated controversy as well. Critics charge that the falls in the match were so extreme and they set the bar for further bumps so high that the inevitable attempts to equal or surpass them would be very dangerous for any wrestlers involved.
Foley said in his first book that his wife cried during a post-match phone conversation between the two, and this made Foley strongly consider retiring from wrestling. He also said that after the match, Vince McMahon thanked him for all he had done for the company, but made Foley promise to "never do anything like that again." He also made mention in the book of a rather humorous exchange he and Undertaker had while being checked out more thoroughly by Petit in the backstage area. Foley, still somewhat dazed from the concussion he sustained, turned to The Undertaker and asked, "Did I use the thumbtacks?", which was a staple of a number of Foley's early matches. The Undertaker looked at him and rather sternly replied, "Look at your arm, Mick!", at which point Foley discovered a significant number of thumbtacks still lodged in his arm. On the 2011 DVD release OMG! - The Top 50 Incidents in WWE History, the match was ranked at number one.
WWF Champion (1998–2000)
Main article: The Rock 'n' Sock Connection
Although conventional wisdom holds that the Hell in a Cell match was responsible for Foley's rise to main event status, live television crowds did not initially get behind Mankind because of the match. Following a summer where he teamed with Kane to win the WWF Tag Team Championship on two separate occasions, Foley decided that crowds might respond better if Mankind were more of a comedy character, and so he abandoned the tortured soul characteristics and became more of a goofy, broken down oaf. He began the transition into this character following SummerSlam in 1998, after Kane turned on him and the two lost the tag team championships.
The following month, Foley began an angle with Vince McMahon, with Mankind trying to be a friend to the hated Mr. McMahon. On the October 5 episode of Raw, while McMahon was in a hospital nursing wounds suffered at the hands of The Undertaker and Kane, Mankind arrived to cheer him up. Having succeeded only in irritating McMahon, Mankind then took a sock off his foot to create a sock puppet named "Mr. Socko". Intended to be a one-time joke, Socko became an overnight sensation. Mankind began putting the sock on his hand before applying his finisher, the mandible claw, stuffing a smelly sock in the mouths of opposing wrestlers. The sweatsock became massively popular with the fans, mainly because it was marketed (mostly by Jerry "The King" Lawler during the events) as being a dirty, smelly, sweaty, repulsive, and vile sock. McMahon manipulated Mankind, who saw the WWF owner as a father figure, into doing his bidding. McMahon created the Hardcore Championship and awarded it to Mankind, making him the first-ever champion of the hardcore division. Mankind was then pushed as the favorite to win the WWF Championship at Survivor Series, as McMahon appeared to be manipulating the tournament so that Mankind would win. He and The Rock both reached the finals, where McMahon turned on Mankind. As The Rock placed Mankind in the Sharpshooter, McMahon ordered the timekeeper to ring the bell even though Mankind did not submit, a reference to the Montreal Screwjob from the year before. As a result of Survivor Series, Mankind officially turned face, while The Rock turned heel and the crown jewel in McMahon's new Corporation faction.
After weeks of trying to get his hands on McMahon's new faction, the Corporation, Mankind received a title shot against The Rock at Rock Bottom: In Your House. Mankind won the match by shoving a stench-ridden sock down The Rock's gullet, but McMahon ruled that the title would not change hands because Mankind did not win by pinfall or submission. After several weeks of going after the Corporation, Mankind had his big night on December 29, where Mankind defeated The Rock and won his first WWF Championship. The taped show was broadcast on January 4, 1999, so that is the date WWE recognizes as beginning the title run. Having title changes on broadcast television rather than pay-per-view was uncommon in professional wrestling, but because of the Monday Night Wars, TV ratings became more important. The rival WCW, attempting to take advantage of the fact that their show Monday Nitro aired live while Mankind's title victory was taped the week before, had announcer Tony Schiavone reveal the ending of the Mankind-Rock match before it aired. He then added sarcastically, "That'll put a lot of butts in the seats." The move backfired for WCW, as Nielsen ratings showed that Raw won the ratings battle that night, despite the Hogan vs. Nash main event which led to the reformation of the New World Order. Foley said that the ratings indicate that large numbers of viewers switched from Nitro to Raw to see him win the title and took great personal pride from this, and "Mick Foley put my butt in this seat" signs began showing up at WWF events.
Mankind first lost the WWF Championship to The Rock in an "I Quit" match at Royal Rumble, in what is regarded as one of the company's most violent matches. During the match, Foley took several bumps, including eleven unprotected chair shots to the head. This match is featured in Barry Blaustein's documentary Beyond the Mat, which shows the impact the match had on Foley and his family at ringside. The match ended after Mankind lost consciousness, and The Rock's allies played a recording of Mankind saying "I Quit" from an earlier interview. The match was also voted 1999's Match of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Mankind won the title back at a rematch on Halftime Heat, which aired during halftime at Super Bowl XXXIII, in the WWF's first ever Empty Arena match on January 31. The two then competed in a Last Man Standing match at St. Valentine's Day Massacre, which ended without a winner, meaning that Mankind retained the title. Mankind was said to have thrown out his left shoulder early in the match, but showed no signs of it and refused to stop the match. It had to be popped back into place afterward. The next night, Mr. McMahon booked a ladder match for the championship, which The Rock won with help from The Big Show. Later in the year, Foley and The Rock patched up their friendship and teamed up to form a comedy team called the Rock 'n' Sock Connection, becoming one of the most popular teams during that time. The pair won the tag team titles on three occasions. Foley helped WWF Raw achieve its highest ratings ever with a segment featuring himself (as Mankind) and The Rock. The "This is Your Life" segment aired on September 27, 1999 and received an 8.4 rating.
In August 1999, Foley returned after a three-month absence recovering from knee surgery to resume his feud with Triple H. On an episode of Raw, Mankind drew with Triple H in a match for the number one contender for the WWF Championship, which resulted in a Triple Threat match between Steve Austin, Triple H and Mankind at SummerSlam for the title. Foley won the WWF Championship for the third time at SummerSlam, pinning the reigning champion Austin after a double arm DDT. It has been stated by Stone Cold, Triple H, and Foley himself that Triple H was originally scheduled to win the championship. Foley stated the reason he was booked into the match was because Austin had torn a ligament in his knee and a triple threat match would add enough intangibles to make an acceptable match without aggravating Austin's knee. Mankind's win also led to an enraged Triple H to assault Austin, justifying Austin's absence while his knee healed. The next night on Raw, Triple H defeated Mankind to win his first WWF championship. A major feud then developed between Mankind and the McMahon-Helmsley regime, led by Triple H. Mankind received a title shot against Triple H on an episode of RAW on October 25, 1999. Mankind appeared to have the title won after he forced Triple H to pass out by ramming a smelly sock down Triple H's gullet, but Val Venis interfered and cost Foley his fourth WWF championship.
Foley then reverted to his Cactus Jack persona in January 2000 and faced Triple H for the WWF Championship at Royal Rumble in a Street Fight. Cactus used barbed wire 2x4 and thumbtacks, trademark weapons from his pre-WWF days, but Triple H won the match after delivering two pedigrees, the second onto a pile of tacks. This feud culminated with a rematch at No Way Out in a Hell in a Cell match, where stipulations held that if Cactus Jack did not win the title, Foley would retire from wrestling. During the match, they had made their way onto the top of the cell and Foley was preparing to piledrive Triple H onto a barbed wire 2x4 on fire, but Triple H reversed it into a backdrop, causing the cage to give way, Foley fell through the canvas. One pedigree later, Triple H had won the match and Mick's career was over. Foley left for a few weeks, but returned at the request of Linda McMahon to wrestle for the title at WrestleMania 2000 against Triple H, The Rock and Big Show. Triple H won and Foley did not wrestle again for four years.
Commissioner and departure (2000–2001)
After retiring from active competition, Foley served as storyline WWF Commissioner under his real name rather than one of his personas. Foley has said that he intended for his Commissioner Foley character to be a "role model for nerds," cracking lame jokes and making no attempt to appear tough or scary. He also had a knack during this time to have no one spot for his office; rather, Mick would have an office in all sorts of odd places (for example, closets). Foley turned getting cheap pops into something of a catchphrase, as he shamelessly declared at each WWF show that he was thrilled to be "right here in (whatever city in which he was performing (e.g., New York))!" punctuated with an intentionally cheesy thumbs-up gesture. During this time, Commissioner Foley engaged in rivalries with Kurt Angle, Edge and Christian, and Vince McMahon without actually wrestling them. He left the position in December 2000 after being "fired" onscreen by McMahon during which he received a brutal beat down.
Foley made a surprise return on the Raw just prior to WrestleMania X-Seven and announced that he would be the special guest referee in the match between Mr. McMahon and his son Shane at WrestleMania. After WrestleMania, Foley made sporadic WWF TV appearances throughout the spring and summer, at one point introducing Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura during a taping of Raw in the state as a foil to Mr. McMahon, as well as serving as the guest referee for the Earl Hebner versus Nick Patrick Referee match at the WWF Invasion pay-per-view.
Foley returned as commissioner in October 2001, near the end of The Invasion angle. During this brief tenure, Foley had the opportunity to shoot on the WWF's direction and how dissatisfied he was with it. Saying that there were far too many championships in the company, he booked unification matches prior to the final pay-per-view of the storyline, Survivor Series. After Survivor Series, he ended his commissionership at Vince McMahon's request and left the company.
Independent circuit (2003–2005)
During his absences from WWE, Foley made frequent appearances on the independent circuit from 2003 to 2005, primarily in non-wrestling roles, either as a referee, manager, or special guest.
His first independent circuit appearance was on December 12, 2003 for International Wrestling Cartel, where he was the special guest referee for a match between Dusty Rhodes and Jerry Lawler.
Foley did not appear on the independent circuit again until May 2004, when he appeared for the Japanese promotion HUSTLE and returned to the ring to face Toshiaki Kawada for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, but ended up losing.
On September 11, Foley made his debut for Ring of Honor and cut a promo, praising ROH and referring to it as "Ring of Hardcore", thus establishing himself as a babyface. On October 3, Foley refereed a match between Jerry Lawler and Slyck Wagner Brown for the New England Wrestling promotion. On October 15, Foley returned to ROH where he confronted Ricky Steamboat, who claimed that traditional wrestling was better than hardcore wrestling. The next day, both Foley and Steamboat cut promos on each other, leading to a match between two teams of wrestlers handpicked by both men, with Nigel McGuiness and Chad Collyer representing Steamboat and Dan Maff and B.J. Whitmer representing Foley, which was won by McGuiness and Collyer. On November 6, Foley teased a heel turn when he called ROH ChampionSamoa Joe "softcore". On November 20, Foley made a surprise appearance for New York Wrestling Connection, making a run-in during Mikey Whipwreck and Ken Scampi's match against Mayhem and Tony Burma, where he helped Whipwreck and Scampi win.
Foley made an appearance on the Night of Appreciation for Sabu, where he refereed the match between Shane Douglas and Raven, where Sabu himself interfered in the match and helped Douglas win.
Foley returned to ROH on December 26 at ROH's Final Battle event and had his final confrontation with Ricky Steamboat (who had been rehired with WWE as a road agent), and the two made peace. On January 15, 2005, Foley turned heel after he was confronted by Samoa Joe and hit Joe over the head with a steel chair. One week later, Foley appeared with Border City Wrestling to referee the match between Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin for the BCW Television Championship, which Sabin won.
Foley refereed the main event of the first WrestleReunion show, which saw Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and Mike Graham battle Abdullah the Butcher, Kevin Sullivan, and CM Punk.
On February 19, Foley resumed his feud with Samoa Joe in ROH, teasing a return to the ring but instead choosing Vordell Walker to fight Joe. After Joe defeated Walker, Foley introduced his "backup plan" New Cactus Jack to fight Joe in a second match, which Joe won as well.
On February 26, Foley appeared with Frank Goodman's USA Xtreme promotion, cutting a promo saying that there was no need to wait until June for an ECW reunion (referring to the upcoming Hardcore Homecoming show being put together by Shane Douglas), and brought out Axl Rotten, Shane Douglas, Chris Candido, Tammy Sytch, Balls Mahoney, Al Snow, Justin Credible, The Sandman, Terry Funk and Sabu, much to the excitement of the crowd, who began an "E-C-Dub!" chant. But then Raven came out and cut a promo saying that he had only ever been the one true star of ECW and everyone else had just been a jobber, leading to a match between Raven and Balls Mahoney later in the night, which Raven won by DQ when he threw fire in Mahoney's eyes. After this, Foley and several of the other ECW alumni came to the ring and attacked Raven.
On April 2, Foley appeared with Harley Race's World League Wrestling to referee a match between Trevor Rhodes and Brandon Bishop, which was ruled a No-Contest. After the match, Rhodes, Bishop, and Johnny Gold all attacked Foley until Terry Funk and Harley Race ran in and fought the three wrestlers off. Afterwards, Foley left the arena with Funk and Race.
On April 30, Foley refereed a match at a Northeast Wrestling show between Jerry Lawler and King Kong Bundy, which Lawler won.
On May 7, Foley made a return to the ring at the Mark Curtis Memorial Show, where he was victorious in a tag team match with Shane Douglas against Al Snow and D'Lo Brown, which also featured Dominic DeNucci (Foley and Douglas' trainer) in his and Douglas' corner.
The main event of the ECW reunion show Hardcore Homecoming was Terry Funk against Sabu and Shane Douglas in a Triple Threat Elimination No Ropes Barbed Wire Match. During the middle of the match, Bill Alfonso, who was in Sabu's corner, began pulling Shane Douglas into the wire, which led to Francine, who was in Douglas' corner, attacking Alfonso. Using this as a distraction, Douglas brought a ladder into the ring when suddenly the lights in the arena went out. When they came back on, Foley was in the ring, as Cactus Jack, wearing a referee shirt. Foley pulled out a barbed-wire wrapped Mr. Socko and applied the Mandible Claw on Douglas, then DDT'd Douglas onto a steel chair. Terry Funk then crawled onto Douglas and eliminated him when Foley made the 3-count. After that, Funk targeted Sabu, throwing him into the barbed wire, then setting up a table and putting Sabu on it. Funk then climbed up the ladder, but before he got far, it collapsed from under his weight, sending him crashing through the table. Sabu then recovered, gave Funk an Arabian Facebuster off a chair, and pinned Funk to win the match. After the match ended, all four of them were greeted with chants of "Terry!" and "Sabu!" and "Foley!" and "Thank You Shane!" and of course "E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub!". The entire locker room emptied moments later and celebrated with Funk, Sabu, Foley, and Douglas in the ring to continued "E-C-Dub" chants.
On July 8, Foley returned to ROH as a face, confronting ROH Champion CM Punk, who had turned heel and mocked ROH and the championship after he had signed with WWE and threatened to take the title with him to WWE. Foley acted as a direct line to Vince McMahon, attempting to convince Punk to defend his title one last time on McMahon's orders before he departed from ROH.
On August 13, Foley made an appearance with Ballpark Brawl to make fun of Matt Striker, who had been doing an impersonation of The Rock. Later in the event, Foley refereed the Canes, Tables, and Chairs match between Sandman and Sabu, which Sandman won. After the match, Foley celebrated with Sandman by drinking beer with him in the middle of the ring.
On August 20, Foley returned to ROH again, as a face, to rescue Jade Chung from Prince Nana. Foley was then attacked from behind by Alex Shelley and The Embassy until Austin Aries and Roderick Strong chased them off. One week later, Foley returned to the ring for the second WrestleReunion show to team with Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr. in a losing effort against the Midnight Express (Stan Lane, Bobby Eaton, and Dennis Condrey.)
Foley made his final regular appearance with ROH on September 17, when he was in A.J. Styles' corner in a match against Embassy member Jimmy Rave, which Styles won. Afterwards, Foley put over ROH huge saying he enjoyed being on ROH shows and would speak highly of it.
Foley made his final major independent circuit appearance on the Tribute to Starrcade show on November 19 as the referee for the match between Dustin Rhodes and Terry Funk, which ended in a No-Contest.
Return to WWE (2003–2008)
Foley returned in June 2003 to referee the Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and Kevin Nash at Bad Blood. On June 23, during a Raw broadcast in Madison Square Garden, he was honored for his achievements in the ring and presented with the retired WWE Hardcore Championship belt. The evening ended with Foley taking a beating and kicked down stairs by Randy Orton and Ric Flair. In December 2003, Foley returned to replace Steve Austin as co-general manager of Raw. He soon grew tired of the day-to-day travel and left his full-time duties to write and spend time with his family. In the storyline, Foley was afraid to wrestle a match with Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton on the December 15 episode of Raw and walked out of the match rather than face him, the result of the match was ruled a draw. After Foley walked backstage, Orton confronted him asking why he walked out of the match, calling him a coward in the process, before spitting in his face. Foley walked out of the arena afterwards.
In 2004, Foley returned briefly to wrestling, competing in the Royal Rumble and eliminating both Orton and himself with his trademark Cactus Jack clothesline. He and The Rock reunited as the Rock 'n' Sock Connection and lost a handicap match to Evolution at WrestleMania XX when Orton pinned Foley with an RKO as Foley pulled out Mr. Socko. On the April 12th edition of Monday Night RAW Foley teamed with Shelton Benjamin, Shawn Michaels & Chris Benoit in an 8-man tag contest against Evolution, in which Foley's team was successful in scoring victory which furthered his feud with Randy Orton. The two continued to feud, culminating in a hardcore match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Backlash, where Orton barely defeated Foley as his Cactus Jack persona to retain the title with an RKO onto a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, which Foley now regards as possibly the best match of his career.
Foley appeared as a color commentator at WWE's ECW One Night Stand, which aired on June 12, 2005, and subsequently renewed his contract with WWE. Foley returned in 2005 in a match where fans were able to vote on which persona he would appear as—Mankind, Dude Love, or Cactus Jack—against Carlito at Taboo Tuesday. Foley cut promos for each character and an online vote was held. The fans voted for Mankind, who went on to win the match. On the February 16, 2006 Raw, Foley returned to referee the WWE Championship match between Edge and John Cena. After Cena won, Edge attacked Foley, and the following week, Edge challenged Foley to a match at WrestleMania 22. Edge defeated Foley after spearing him through a flaming table. In the weeks after the match, Foley turned heel and allied himself with Edge against the newly rejuvenated ECW. This was the first WWE heel turn (and his final heel turn) of Foley since his feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin as Dude Love in 1998. This was also his first heel run under his real name. Also during that time he changed his "thrilled to be here" catch phrase into a more heelish type way. For example, on a RAW episode in Las Vegas Foley would say, "I'm thrilled to be right here in Las Vegas!" Then right after that he would say, "Well actually, Las Vegas isn't all that great." Then he would continue to make more negative comments while fans start booing at him. At ECW One Night Stand, Foley, Edge and Lita defeated Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty.
Foley then engaged in a storyline rivalry with Ric Flair, inspired by real-life animosity between the two. In Have a Nice Day!