Sometimes the ring personas of our favorite pro wrestlers stray far from the real person. Just look at the freaky Mankind and the multitalented Mick Foley who played him. They couldn’t be more different.
Foley, as Mankind, pushed the limits of pro wrestling, which has always prided itself on pushing limits. Foley, as himself, comes across as soft soul with a creative mind and a warm heart. How do we reconcile the two, and do we even have to?
Here 16 things you didn’t know about Mick Foley.
1. Mick Foley, born Michael Foley, grew up in the town of East Setaucket, New York, on the north shore of Long Island. The town, which dates back to the 17th century, is featured in the television show Turn: Washington’s Spies, which traces a Revolutionary War-era spy ring.
2. Foley went to high school and competed on the wrestling team with actor Kevin James. The two were “spectacularly mediocre wrestlers back then,” as the wrestling great describes it, though also “pretty evenly matched.”
3. Foley attended the State University of New York College at Cortland in the early 1980s, where he received a degree in communications. He started training for the squared circle while still enrolled.
4. Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka was one of Mick Foley’s favorite all-time wrestlers. His leap from atop a steel cage during a match at Madison Square Garden inspired a young Foley, who was seated in the front row, to pursue a career in professional wrestling.
5. Foley made his wrestling debut in 1983 and soon began appearing as a jobber named Nick or Jack Foley in WWF television tapings. He lost to various topflight talent, including Hercules Hernandez and the British Bulldogs in a tag team match.
6. Foley, as the unpredictable Cactus Jack, toiled on the independent circuit and with regional promotions for much of the 1980s before before moving up to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1991. Cactus Jack was initially a heel in WCW, feuding with Abdullah the Butcher, Paul Orndorff and Big Van Vader.
7. Foley lost much of his ear to a move called the hangman. During a particularly violent match against Vader, Foley’s head became entangled in the top two ropes. This wouldn’t be big deal in a normal match, but the ropes in this match were actually elevator cables covered in rubber, and pulled extra tight. Foley found himself in danger of actually choking but squirmed free, ripping off his ear in the process. The cartilage was later reattached, and his ear reconstructed.
8. Foley’s deranged mask-wearing psychopath persona known as Mankind first appeared in in 1996, upon his return to the WWF as a featured wrestler. The character arose from his reading Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, about a mad scientist who experiments to create a human-like monster, and his listening to the tortured music of Tori Amos.
9. Dude Love — the identity he used in early home videos — debuted for a larger audience in the summer of 1997, after Cactus Jack and Mankind were well established. This free love-touting alter-ego showed up as Steve Austin’s tag team partner in a title match.
10. As one of his three characters, Foley has held many wrestling titles. They include three different reigns as WWF/WWE champion and eight as tag team champion. He was also the first Hardcore champion. Foley won a tag team championship as part of WCW and three more as part of World Class Wrestling Association.
11. Foley is a big fan of musician Tori Amos, so big that he can remember the first time he heard her music. In 1993, Foley and wrestler Maxx Payne were driving at night in the Deep South when Payne played Amos’s album Little Earthquakes. He describes the opening songs as “unlike anything I’d ever heard,” with “Winter” being particularly striking.
12. Foley has authored 10 books, including four memoirs. His first, Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, topped the New York Times bestsellers list in 1999. The followup, Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker than Wrestling, hit number one in 2001. He has also penned four children’s books and two novels.
13. Foley boasts an extensive list of TV credits, ranging from roles on 30 Rock, Squidbillies and Boy Meets World to appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Celebrity Wife Swap.
14. Foley has received plaudits for his entertaining one-man production entitled Tales from Wrestling Past. The show digs into the wrestler’s experiences in and around the squared circle, unearthing laughs in the unusual situations that only a professional wrestler might find himself in.
15. Mick Foley is one of the more giving celebrities, offering his name, time and resources in service of many worthy causes. He is active in the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), where he’s answered hotlines and served on their National Leadership Council. Foley participates in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visiting kids in hospitals and schools. For years, the former wrestler showed up regularly at military hospitals and bases to visit troops.
16. Foley loves Christmas, so much so that he has a year-round Christmas room in his house. He has visited Santa’s Village in New Hampshire countless times, both as a kid and with his own kids. He played Santa there himself two years ago. Foley also appears in a new documentary entitled I Am Santa Claus, about how the people who play Santa Claus balance the holiday season with the rest of the year.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.