WWE: Where Does Mick Foley Rank Among the All-Time Greats?

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2012

photo by cagesideseats.com
photo by cagesideseats.com

Tell me that every time you hear the sound of a car crash, you don’t think of Mick Foley.

And, don’t say that you pull over to rubberneck, because that’s just morbid.

Mick Foley is the Hardcore Legend, so much so that I felt the need to capitalize those words out of respect.  Many vicious, bloodthirsty men have wreaked much havoc in the ring before and since, but no one deserves to wear that nickname more than Foley.

Thumbtacks.  Barbed wire.  Fire.  C4.  And, that’s just one match.

Try running that scenario by any talent in WWE today, and watch how fast that guy looks around for the nearest exit.

Mick Foley, on the other hand?  “Cool, I’m in!”

Mick is one of the most unselfish workers of all time.  Putting his body on the line, and enduring unquestionable amounts of pain, all for the sake of the match, and for giving fans something that they don’t always get: their monies’ worth.

Not through blood, though much was shed.  Not through stitches and broken bones, those come with the territory.  Mick Foley gave drama in his matches.  Real drama, the kind that separates a wrestler from a storyteller.

11.  That’s how many times the Rock bashed a steel chair against Foley’s head during their I Quit match at the 1999 Royal Rumble.  

Mick, with his hands cuffed behind him, helpless to stop the attack, trying to get back up as he took one shot after another.  His wife and kids at ringside, crying, as they leave because they cannot bear to watch Daddy be destroyed any longer.

Rocky perhaps went too far that night.  But, Mick could have stopped him.  He could have waved him off, or told the ref that he couldn’t take it anymore, that Rock had to ease up.

But, Foley knew what the moment meant, not only for the match, but for himself.  He added another layer to his legend, and gave fans all he had, once again.

And, who could forget the moment that preceded that match, the night in which Foley took the leap of faith?

King of the Ring, 1998.  Mick Foley as Mankind versus Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell match.  This was the bump to end all bumps, the night that Foley put himself on the map by convincing a large part of the viewing audience, yours truly included, that he was literally dead in the ring.

When Foley was “thrown” off the top of the Cell by Taker, crashing through the commentator’s table below, I firmly remember the moment seemingly happening in slow motion.  The room fell quiet for a few seconds, then suddenly erupted in screams, head shaking, and expressions of disbelief among my group of friends gathered around to watch the event.

“Dude, he’s dead!  He’s dead!”  That’s all I remember saying.

But, just as we thought we had seen it all, the next bump proved to be the one that solidified Mick Foley as the toughest man WWE has ever seen.

That’s right, he got up off the stretcher, climbed the Cell, and went straight through the top, down to the mat below.

In that moment, Foley went from being the unpredictable, reckless lunatic to being, well, an even more unpredictable, wildly reckless, bat s**t crazy lunatic.  But, he climbed the ladder, and he took the fans with him.

The crowd decided that Mick Foley was worth the price of admission.  They made him a star, and just as with Stone Cold Steve Austin, they gave him the pop, and gave him the support, that he needed to get to that next level.

Now comes the tough part.  We all know Foley as the disturbed Mankind, as the goofy Dude Love, as the hardcore Cactus Jack, and just plain old lovable Mick.  We recognize what he contributed not only to the Attitude Era of WWE, but to that company as a whole.

But, where is he in terms of the all time greats?

It’s a big question, to be sure, and one that perhaps not many fans have contemplated all that often. Why?

Because he’s hardcore, and hardcore wrestling is a niche.  It has its place, and can provide some really cool moments, and make for some timeless highlight reels.  But, does that make a Hardcore Legend a Legendary Superstar deserving of immortality?

The obvious answer to anyone who doubts what Foley meant to WWE, and to fans all over the world, is to look at the dedication he brought to his characters.

It takes a little talent, and a little luck, to get over in the business.  A gimmick takes work and commitment, and to make it happen is a thing of beauty.  

And Mick Foley did it four times.

Mick brought a level of intelligence, a higher degree of awareness about the psychology of pro wrestling, that few others have ever possessed.  His promo work is some of the best ever done, the way he could look into the camera and completely own the moment.

He was able to pull the fans in, to make them care about him, and make them want to see him not only perform, but win.  He made fans the old fashioned way: he earned them.

He was an unlikely actor, portraying four very different roles, yet he made fans believe in every one of them.  He was one of the best at putting the audience on the edge of their seats, and for that the man is a multiple time uncrowned Oscar winner.

Foley never had the physique, he never had Rocky’s body.  And, he was never a master ring technician, no one ever confused him with Ricky Steamboat in terms of ability.

But, Foley had the heart, the determination, and the mind, for the business.  He provided a unique alternative to other cookie cutter Superstars, and he made WWE more exciting, and more dramatic, with every storyline, and every crazy high impact bump that he took.

Mick was one of a kind.  In the same way that there will never be another Undertaker, there will definitely never be another Mick Foley.  No one could do what he did and do it as well.

Car crash and all.