Mick Foley is a hardcore legend.
No one will ever forget Mankind being thrown off the cell and through the announcers table at King Of The Ring 1998. Nor will they forget Undertaker choke-slamming Mankind through the cell in the same match. The Hell in a Cell match gained its legendary status through the suffering of Mick Foley that night.
Foley's first incarnation, Cactus Jack, turned the hardcore match into an art form. His ability to utilise weapons that were not traditionally found under the ring as much as conventional weapons made Foley stand out from the crowd.
Not forgetting Dude Love, the third incarnation of Foley, who brought Sweet Shin Music to the world of wrestling when everyone was taking themselves too seriously.
However, a very different side of Mick Foley emerged in the spring of 1995. Foley, in the guise of Cactus Jack, was part of ECW. It was Foley's second run with the company but he had legitimate concerns about the blood thirsty nature of the ECW fans. This trait was characterised by fan favourite Tommy Dreamer.
Despite his athleticism, Dreamer could not get over with the ECW faithful. That changed in a long-running feud against The Sandman. The two men faced off in a Singapore Cane match in which the loser would be caned 10 times.
Dreamer lost the match and started receiving vicious cane shots from The Sandman. Dreamer took each shot and refused to give up. His back contorted with terrible welts as the cane left its mark, yet Dreamer defied logic and continued to receive the punishment. The Sandman delivered the 10 shots only for Dreamer to ask for some more.
Fans started to cry and beg Dreamer to relent and allow the punishment to stop. However, it would be Sandman who would walk away first. Dreamer became the embodiment of hardcore from that moment on.
This made Dreamer the perfect target for Foley. Directly attacking the man who represented the crowd's mindset was the best way to convey his problem with the ECW faithful.
Foley initially tagged with Dreamer. At first, the two men received a strong face reaction. Things began to change when Foley chose not to use weapons and simply finish matches with wrestling moves. The change was subtle. Most fans didn't really notice.
The first widespread indication that something was not right was when the fans realised that Foley was not brawling outside the ring. This created a stark contrast between Foley and Dreamer.
Then the promos began.
Without a doubt this was the turning point in Mick Foley's career. Foley openly stated that the blood he split and the body parts that he had lost meant nothing to the majority of fans. These fans wanted their pound of flesh each night and would not be satisfied with anything else.
Foley's aim in returning to ECW was to save Tommy Dreamer from the hell that Foley had put himself through. Foley eulogised over the benefits of working for the one of the big wrestling brands. All Dreamer had to do was put on a comedy gimmick and be willing to bow to internal politics. No longer would he have to risk himself to appease the ECW fans.
This was a slap in the face to all ECW supporters. ECW made its name from rejecting gimmicks. The organisation had created an atmosphere in which the audience had some influence over how a performer was perceived. ECW was the democracy to the big boys' oligarchy.
What made Foley's promo so potent was the truth behind the heel persona. ECW fans were blood-hungry and would be unsatisfied if they did not get their share of hardcore action. Fans would even vilify some wrestlers if they did not show hardcore ambitions.
Ironically, the ECW audience also appreciated pure wrestling. The likes of Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero got their start in ECW. These technical wrestlers would put on thirty-minute exhibitions on a regular basis. The next time most of these wrestlers had that opportunity again would be 10 years later in the WWE.
This clash was never satisfactorily resolved. Few wrestlers such as Rob Van Dam and Taz came close to marrying the two sides together but the need to see blood remained.
Foley would try and influence Dreamer to turn away from the hardcore style for several weeks. Eventually, Foley would leave this quest and side with Raven as part of the Raven's Nest. Dreamer did not give up on the hardcore lifestyle and went on to have a successful career in ECW and beyond.
Foley showed that he was more than a one-note character. His oratory was skilled and his passion for the business ran deeper than the glorified stuntman stereotype that surrounded him. It was these promos that finally caught the eye of the WWE and would be the launching pad for Foley's soon-to-be Hall of Fame career career.
This leads to the conclusion that the hardcore legend made his name by denouncing hardcore wrestling. Funny how things work out sometimes.
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