Here is another classic pulled from the web by the evil Artvoice.com: my first cover story as a writer in Buffalo back in 2011. I was able to catch up with Mick again this year before his 20 Years of Hell tour came to town.
It’s possible that Mick Foley would be known only as the most brutalized pro wrestler ever had he not let his personality pop through somewhere along the way.
Foley, who grew up in Long Island and attended college at Cortland, spent the early part of his career portraying “Cactus Jack,” a large, hairy, South Western lunatic. As “Cactus Jack,” Foley would raise the bar for barbed-wire bloodshed and mayhem during his various stops throughout the US and Japan. Along the way, he had part of an ear ripped off, his teeth knocked out, and dozens of other painful injuries.
By the time Foley became a huge star in the WWE in the mid-90s, he had already transcended his label as pro wrestling’s “Hardcore Legend,” one who specialized in enduring the brunt of the violence. Promoters realized that Foley was just as good at being dramatic and funny as he was at falling 20 feet off of a cage through an announcer’s table.
With the discovery of Foley’s depth as performer came several more characters. The disturbing, mutilated “Mankind,” the cheesy party guy “Dude Love,” and finally “Mick Foley,” the man behind the wrestler that the fans had learned to connect with through the years. Foley earned their respect by putting his body on the line but gained their empathy with the depth of his character.
That connection was built in no small part by Foley’s broad comedic range and willingness to be absurd. Fans will recall his sock puppet “Mr. Socko” and his briefly-used finishing move, the kick to the shin. He even coined phrases like “Testicular Fortitude.”
In the midst of a recent return to the WWE, Foley has debuted his stand-up comedy act. He will perform at the Wasteland Game Room in Buffalo on Dec. 4.
Foley, an admittedly non-athletic man, said he was initially attracted to pro wrestling’s drama rather than its physicality.
“I was always more drawn to pro wrestling for the reactions than out of the sense of competition,” Foley said. “There are some, and I use Kurt Angle as and example, who strive to be the very best in not only the world, but ever.
My goal is to really make people feel something inside. Sometimes that involves cringing, sometimes that involves laughing and sometimes that involves making a serious point,” he said.
Foley, who has written several best-selling autobiographies, said his experience writing interviews and promos for wrestling have helped him developed his comedy act more than his literary work.
“It’s the same way that I’d be driving down the highway at 2 a.m., and have an idea that comes to fruition on RAW. The next day, I’d think of something either ridiculous or sublime, and write it for the (comedy) stage at the closest opportunity.”
Foley’s stand-up shows have been well-attended so far, mostly by pro wrestling fans. This comes with challenges and rewards, he said.
“There is sometimes a boisterousness (among pro wrestling fans) that can get in the way of the timing, but all things considered I’d rather have a large boisterous crowd than a tiny attentive one,” he said. “They aren’t heckling. In some cases they are trying to imagine themselves in an ECW crowd, and they will occasionally throw out a name at an inappropriate time.”
Foley may be the only man in pro wrestling history to have a major project promoted by WWE while working for a rival promotion.
Last Fall, Foley was shocked to see his “Countdown to Lockdown” book, which is about working for the TNA Wrestling company, promoted during an episode of WWE Smackdown after a nasty falling out with Vince McMahon’s company.
“That was the moment at which any grudges I had disappeared. A very surreal moment and I think it was indicative of Mr. McMahon not only respecting me, but deep down liking me despite the way we parted years earlier,” Foley said.
Foley sees his new relationship with WWE involving a larger behind-the-scenes presence, one that won’t allow for much time to perform stand-up in the near future. In the meantime, he hopes to win over new fans and develop his comedy act.
“I try to make it really inclusive, it’s nice when the small minority of people come out who are not wrestling fans and they seek me out to tell me that they enjoyed themselves. Most people don’t know what to expect and they have a better time than they had expected.”
Mick Foley performs at the Wasteland Game Room. 700 Main St., on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For more information, visit www.buffalocomedy.com