Posted in: LOP Hall Of Fame
2016 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: Mick Foley
By Maverick and Samuel 'Plan
Apr 2, 2016 - 8:41:45 AM

Mick Foley
Class of 2016

Mick Foley is a genius. I can put it no more succinctly than that. When you talk about the greatest wrestling minds ever to grace the industry, Foley has to be placed at the very top of that list. His creativity, his energy, his adaptability and his skill at building a character are all testament to what he brought to the table. In fact, it’s impossible to imagine the 1990s without him.

I first became aware of Foley somewhere around 1991. At that time, WCW Saturday Night was shown on free to air television very late on Saturday nights over here on the right side of the pond. As this was the period of the initial WWF powered wrestling boom in the United Kingdom that made me a passionate fan, I experimented with the other major American wrestling promotion too, and it was that way that I came to encounter Cactus Jack. As I was only eleven or so, my memories are hazy, but it was a programme with Sting and he was bursting out of boxes with Abdullah the Butcher, and it was terrifying and utterly compelling. Later, I remember him wandering the desert in surreal vignettes. Already, my young mind understood that this was a uniquely gifted character actor. By 1992 or so, ITV had stopped showing WCW, and so that was the last I saw of him until ‘96, when he would appear in WWF under a very different gimmick.

We’ve all see the original designs and naming ideas for what would become the Mankind character, and we’ve all heard the stories about how Mick re-shaped them into something that could be much, much more than another monster of the month to feed to The Undertaker. The initial impact he made was incredible, and in a series of incredible matches, Foley and Callaway redefined, even rescued, both of their careers. By the time that Attitude was dawning, with a growing reality thread to the product, a sit down interview with Jim Ross brought up his teenage home videos of the womanising hippy character Dude Love, and soon enough, Mick was wrestling under the Dude gimmick and under the Mankind gimmick, which was becoming increasingly fan friendly as the backstory developed. The creation of the D-Generation X stable brought the Cactus Jack persona to the WWF for the first time, and so the Three Faces of Foley were born.

It was really The Attitude Era that came to define Foley’s career. I think it’s deeply unfair that he’s remembered for the risks and bumps he took rather than for the quality of his work. Between 1997 and 2000, nobody in the company could match his sheer consistency in the squared circle. From five minute TV matches to pay-per-view main events, he meshed with literally anybody he worked with, and put together mat classics in his sleep. To me, that his legacy, the tremendous bouts he had with The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H. Those four might get all the credit, but none of them could have been what they were without Foley, and each of them arguably had better matches with Mick than they did against anyone else. Quite simply, Foley showed himself to be the most versatile performer in the company throughout his WWF run. He got three gimmicks over when most wrestlers struggle to get over one. He changed the face of wrestling bumps forever. His promo game was stronger than 99.9% of the roster, he features in some of the most iconic moments in WWF/E history and he owns perhaps the most emotive title win of all time amidst his three WWF Championship reigns. What a brilliant professional wrestler he was, one of the greatest wrestling minds ever to grace the business. He has to be included in any GOAT conversation for my money.

Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love, MICK FOLEY….we salute you sir.

Is the man who makes the star a star himself?

So goes the question that begs asking when considering Mick Foley’s career in the ring.

Absolutely, goes the answer.

Mick Foley is a man known for his humility and good humour. A friendly chap, whose passion for the industry still burns with clear flame. I have never met him. I do not know him. But I know I would like him if I did; just like I know I respect his work in the ring more than most others’.

That might mean little coming from a fan who really only knows of Mick Foley’s WWE work. I am neither qualified nor willing to pass comment on his career both before and after his stint with WWE; I will leave that to those of you with stories to tell. I can pass comment on what I think of as his greatest achievement though, and that came when working with the world’s foremost wrestling promotion.

Stone Cold Steve Austin; The Rock; Triple H; The Undertaker; Kane; even Shawn Michaels; all names marketed as synonymous with the Attitude Era - that age when the world would have you believe WWE was a utopia of talent, entertainment and creativity. All of those names owe something to Mick Foley. The matches in the playlist below will show you why.

It was on Mick Foley’s torn ear, broken bones, dripping blood, dislodged teeth, aches and pains upon which the Attitude Era was forged, with sacrificial star-making turns that have to be seen to be believed. Mick Foley gave himself, quite literally, for the good of professional wrestling, laying the foundation for Attitude almost single-handed, and never did he seem to expect anything much in return.

Except, perhaps, a little respect.

Well, Mick, you’ve earned more than a little. I cannot, would not, talk for those I do not know, but there are few this fan respects more. Not only were you one of the best of your time, you were one of the best ever. You cared about what you committed to canvas, and so did we. From Austin right through to Edge; from Hardcore to Hell in a Cell; from Attitude to the Brand Extension; without Mick Foley, WWE, and with it professional wrestling, would look mighty different, and most certainly not for the better.

If The Undertaker is the Phenom, then Mick, you’re The Phenomenon. One that will never again be matched.

It is an absolute honour for us both to induct Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy into the Lords of Pain Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

Few deserve it more.

Absolutely ‘Plan, absolutely. It is one of the greatest honours the pair of us have had in our Lords of Pain careers, I dare say. And to mark the occasion, we’ve come up with one of our patented playlists for your viewing pleasure, with five choices each, that celebrate the man, the legend, Mick Foley. Please note that The Undertaker vs Mankind Hell in a Cell match from King of the Ring 1998 was inducted into the LOP HOF last year, so we chose not to include that here. You can read yours truly’s induction of that match by going to the index page! So without further ado, here’s our playlist.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1996

During Undertaker Appreciation Week on the WWE Network, it was said that, at a time when the roster was doing more in the ring (i.e. the New Generation), The Undertaker was doing less. It’s true. The Undertaker was a slow moving, methodical zombie of a monster. Unstoppable; like a Terminator. Then Mankind came along, and through the borderline anarchic confrontations Mankind and Undertaker had, beginning with this riotously fun, classic King of the Ring clash, the Phenom was gifted new life; growth like never before, that offered the character an opportunity to flex athletic muscle that had previously been denied him.

Mankind vs. Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship, In Your House 10: Mind Games

If fans required proof Mankind was more than a one-trick pony - that he could wrestle with the best of them - this match provided it. If fans required proof Shawn Michaels was more than a one-tricky pony - that he could throw down with the toughest of them - this match provided it. Both men wrestle in the style of their opposite for long stretches of this back-and-forth opus. It’s brutal, exhausting and athletic. It’s both at their best. It’s a great not just of its Era, not just of both men’s careers, but of all-time.

Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede

In an outrageously awesome brawl, the polar opposite characters of Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley showed their hatred for each other in a sneak preview of an in ring pairing which would continually deliver some of the best matches in history. Fighting with such intensity that the ring could not hold them, they were both counted out while brawling into the crowd. Even better, they proceeded to continue the brawl throughout the rest of the undercard! In a bizarre and prescient touch, Hunter even hits Mankind with a shovel. Yes, really! Definitely one to check out if you’ve never seen it.

The Royal Rumble Match, Royal Rumble 1998

A star making turn of a different kind, one of the highlights of this otherwise largely homogenous Royal Rumble Match is Mick Foley’s generous share of the spotlight, emerging first as Cactus Jack; transforming into Mankind after elimination; then returning once more for a climactic run as Dude Love, who makes it to the final four no less. Three wildly different, equally characterful performances inside a span of sixty minutes is no small feat, and you could be forgiven for thinking each character was a different man. One of the more bizarre, but no less impressive, Rumble feats ever, exhibiting clearly Foley’s claim for being named the ultimate Pro Wrestling Renaissance Man.

Dude Love vs Stone Cold Steve Austin in a No Disqualification Falls Count Anywhere Match for the WWF Championship, Over The Edge: In Your House

With Shawn Michaels’ back injury robbing the world of a long term series of matches between he and Austin over the title, a plan B was desperately required to get the new champ up and running, and it was no surprise that Vince McMahon turned to Foley. The “corporate” version of Dude Love (a criminally forgotten piece of character building genius) gave Stone Cold all he could handle, culminating in this wonderful hardcore match. If any one match is representative of all that Attitude was, it is this one. With interference from McMahon, Brisco, Patterson and The Undertaker and smashmouth brawling all over the arena, including on the rusty old cars that were part of the stage set. As the opening chapter in the Austin vs McMahon saga, it’s essential historical viewing too.

Mankind vs The Rock for the WWF Championship, Monday Night Raw, January 4th 1999

For my money, this is the greatest story moment in WWF/E history, and the most emotive title victory too. While the match itself may be short, the intensity is absolutely amazing, with DX counteracting The Corporation at ringside while Mankind and Rocky go at it inside the ring. The very special type of chaos created that night reaches its peak with a perfectly timed Austin run in with a chair, and I’m not sure a crowd has ever chanted “1...2...3!” with such volume. The ultimate feelgood wrestling match, and as Michael Cole said on commentary at the time, a title win for anyone who’s ever been told “you can’t do it”.

Mankind vs. The Rock in an “I Quit!” Match for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 1999

A match I once named must see for any fan to witness in their lifetime, there’s no doubt this brutal affair catapulted The Rock into the realms of vicious viability. Morally debatable finish aside, the effect of this arduous, longer than you may remember title confrontation is exhausting. Your body aches after having sat through it, and you wince with every insane bump and hardcore trope thrown out. As characterful as any other Foley performance. Mankind here shone new light on a vital aspect of The Rock previously hidden under his charismatic veneer. Bravura chaos of the utmost.

Cactus Jack vs. Triple H in a Street Fight for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 2000

Not just one of the best Mick Foley matches ever, this is, in fact, one of the best matches ever full stop. A luminously brilliant piece of state of the art violence authored by two of the Attitude Era’s four pillars is an object lesson in how to get a main event heel over. Triple H comes of age in this intense slice of wrestling noir, doing all he can to match the ferocity of his unhinged veteran opponent and finally managing to outlast him and retain his title...just. Meanwhile, Foley went out of his way to ensure that The Game’s ascent to the summit would stick. A five star match all day long. The rewatch factor on this one is through the roof, too. It just never gets old.

Cactus Jack vs Triple H in a Hell in a Cell Match for the WWF Championship, No Way Out 2000

Mick’s second appearance inside the Cell is a more cerebral take on the death defying antics with The Undertaker from 1998 and the second half of the greatest put over job in wrestling history. This match completed the work begun in the previous match in the Rumble by adding a retirement stipulation and using Foley’s history as the ultimate risk taker to emphasise how Triple H was stepping out of his comfort zone. It takes the violence to even more rarefied heights. The finish, where Foley repeated the through the cage roof bump, this time intentionally, was a fantastic way to finish a brilliant career.

Cactus Jack vs. Randy Orton in a Hardcore Match for the Intercontinental Championship, Backlash 2004

This post-retirement Cactus Jack outing didn’t just help transform Randy Orton from diamond in the rough to a certified future prospect polished with blood, so too did it excuse the very existence of “Hardcore” as a match stipulation unto itself, utilising themes of ruination to tonally segregate it from the myriad other euphemistic terms for similar such matches. The greatest irony of all is this was a composition that, in real terms, ruined nothing and perfected much; Orton’s character and Foley’s legacy both. Even well past his prime, Cactus still had “it.”