With WrestleMania quickly approaching, the WWE has been announcing its 2013 Hall of Fame inductees. The first name was released a couple weeks ago in the form of the Hardcore Legend, Mick Foley. With the Hall of Fame ceremony taking place at Madison Square Garden in New York, Foley was obviously the perfect choice to headline the class.
Foley was never the most technically-sound wrestler and very few of his matches would be classified as masterpieces, but he still managed to entertain the fans in an undeniable way. Whether he wrestled as Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love or under his own name, Foley always gave it his all in between the ropes and that is why he will soon be immortalized by the WWE.
Although he isn't often mentioned along with the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Triple H in terms of being one of the Attitude Era's biggest stars, he is as much responsible for the WWE's success during that time period as the rest of them. Not surprisingly, he had some extremely memorable matches against all of his contemporaries as well.
Here are the top seven matches over the course of Foley's WWE career that best exemplify his eventual and well-deserved status as a WWE Hall of Famer.
By 2004, there is no doubt that Mick Foley was past his prime in terms of his in-ring work. Foley was always more about entertaining fans with a hardcore style rather than a technical style, however, so his match with Randy Orton at Backlash still stands as one of his best. At the time, Orton had a legend killer gimmick where he would routinely embarrass veterans. Foley wanted to put an end to that, so he challenged Orton to a hardcore match.
Orton was the Intercontinental Champion and he put his title on the line against the former WWE Champion. Foley wrestled under his most vicious persona, Cactus Jack, in the match as he usually did in a hardcore setting. Despite Foley's declining skills and the beating that his body had taken over the years, he managed to turn in an incredible performance and didn't shy away from any of the spots that fans grew to expect from him.
Jack broke out his signature barbed wire baseball bat and both men took the brunt of that particular weapon. Foley also had an ace up his sleeve in the form of a bag of thumbtacks. Foley became famous for his use of thumbtacks even though he was often the one on the wrong end of things. Orton took a thumbtack bump as he missed an RKO, but he ultimately hit Jack with an RKO on the barbed wire bat for the win. Foley may have come up short, but he gave it his all and put Orton over in a major way.
Mick Foley in-ring appearances had grown sporadic by 2006, but he developed a feud with Edge after officiating a match between him and John Cena. Edge attacked Foley following the bout, which led to a hardcore match at WrestleMania 22. Edge had an obvious advantage as the younger man and he also had plenty of experience in hardcore matches, but it was Foley's specialty, so he had a fighting chance against a superstar in his prime.
The match itself was extremely entertaining and Foley was actually in control for much of it. Not surprisingly, Lita got involved on Edge's behalf and that is when the tables turned. Foley attempted to set up a table outside the ring, but Lita hit him between the legs with a barbed wire bat and then lit the table on fire. Edge proceeded to spear Foley off the apron and through the flaming table in one of the craziest spots in wrestling history.
It was old hat for Foley, though, as he had wrestled many brutal death matches in Japan. Even so, something like that had never been seen before in the WWE, and it was a reminder that Foley was willing to push the envelope no matter how old he got and no matter how much of a beating he took. This was truly his last big singles match in the WWE and it was a great one to go out on.
Mick Foley had a lot of great opponents over the course of his career, but perhaps none of them suited him as well as Triple H. The Game is often ridiculed for "burying" his opponents and caring only about himself, but the fact of the matter is that he put his body on the line as much as anyone except maybe Foley himself. Because of that, Foley and Triple H had a number of incredible bouts with their Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out in 2000 being one of the best.
The McMahon-Helmsley era had officially begun with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon running roughshod over the WWE. Foley wasn't a fan of their tyrannical ways, so he rebelled, but he was often on the receiving end of attacks from Triple H and the rest of D-Generation X. Foley abandoned his Mankind gimmick in favor of Cactus Jack and lost a match to Triple H at the Royal Rumble, but he was given a rematch at No Way Out with Triple H's WWE Championship and his own career on the line.
There were plenty of big spots in the match, but the best came when they broke through the side of the cell and scaled to the top. Foley hit Triple H with a flaming barbed wire bat and then attempted to piledrive him through the roof, but Triple H reversed it into a back body drop. Jack went through the roof and buckled the mat upon impact. Triple H then performed a Pedigree for the victory. Although it was a career match, Foley was eventually reinstated and he gave us several more great matches over the remaining course of his career.
As you've probably noticed by now, the hallmark of any great Mick Foley match is Foley taking the brunt of the punishment and usually losing. His WWE Championship "I Quit" match against The Rock at the Royal Rumble in 1999 certainly fit that criteria. Mankind had been working with Vince McMahon to screw over The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in late 1998, but Vince ultimately turned on Mankind in favor of The Rock and that set up their match at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock beat Mankind in the Deadly Games tournament at Survivor Series to win the WWE Championship, but Mankind eventually got revenge and won it for the first time on Raw. The Rock demanded a rematch at the Royal Rumble, but Foley would only accept on the condition of an "I Quit" match. The Rock obliged and it led to one of the most brutal battles in WWE history. The Rock and Mankind went back and forth, but The Rock eventually gained control and did everything possible to make Mankind give up.
He refused even after a People's Elbow with a chair laid across his chest. The Rock eventually handcuffed Mankind and began to have his way with him. The Rock hit him with a steel chair repeatedly in the head to the point where fans were actually concerned about Mankind's well-being. The Rock hit him so many times that Mankind laid face down on the ramp and seemingly screamed, "I quit!" It turns out that The Rock had played a recording of Mankind saying it and he didn't really give up at all, but The Rock was the new champion nonetheless.
Since Mick Foley is viewed by many as a one-trick pony who excelled in hardcore matches and nothing else, his match with Shawn Michaels at In Your House: Mind Games in 1996 is almost always overlooked in terms of his best performances. This match took place fairly early in his WWE tenure, so his Mankind gimmick was as psychotic and deranged as ever. He immediately garnered heel heat, however, so he was given a WWE Championship match against The Heartbreak Kid.
Although there was some action outside the ring, it was essentially a normal wrestling match, which is something Foley has never been known for. To make things even more difficult, he had to keep up with Michaels in his prime, which was no easy task as many consider HBK to be the greatest in-ring worker of all time. Despite that, Mankind was able to hang in there with Michaels and acquitted himself extremely well. On top of that, he made Michaels look like a million bucks and put him over as a great champion.
Foley called his match with Michaels at Mind Games one of his favorites in an interview with ESPN.com, and that is very telling considering some of the classics he has been involved in. The only thing that prevents this contest from being a little higher is the ending. Michaels was obviously going to win regardless as Mankind wasn't yet world title material, but having Michaels win via disqualification due to interference from Vader was a bit unsatisfying. Aside from that, this was Foley's best pure wrestling match in the WWE.
In a match that I consider to be the best non-Rumble bout in Royal Rumble history, Cactus Jack challenged Triple H for the WWE Championship in a street fight at the Royal Rumble in 2000. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were making Mankind's life a living hell at the time, so he transitioned back to his Cactus Jack character in order to gain an advantage. Foley didn't ultimately come out on top, but he certainly gave the champion a run for his money.
The bout itself was fantastic, but the fact that it happened at Madison Square Garden made it even better. The crowd was red hot for the match and it was easy to tell that Cactus Jack and Triple H fed off that. They spilled into the crowd and beat the heck out of each other before Cactus Jack broke out the barbed wire two-by-four. Triple H used it on Jack before Cactus Jack turned the tables and hit Triple H in the crotch with it. Triple H eventually resorted to dirty tricks by handcuffing Cactus Jack.
The Rock had done the same thing to Foley one year earlier, but he made the save this time by attacking Triple H while a police officer freed Jack. Cactus Jack then spilled a bag of thumbtacks on the canvas and attempted to use them, but Triple H back body dropped him onto them and hit two Pedigrees for the victory. Foley and Triple H left everything in the ring and it was truly an amazing encounter.
Mankind had already been in the WWE for two years by 1998, but he hadn't yet become a surefire main-eventer and it was uncertain if he would ever be one. It was clear that Mick Foley was gifted in terms of developing a character, but he hadn't yet truly captivated the WWE audience. All of that changed at the King of the Ring in 1998, though, when Mankind took on his longtime rival, The Undertaker, in one of the WWE's first Hell in a Cell matches.
It was obvious that this was going to be a hard-hitting affair, but things were wild from the very start. Rather than entering the cell, Mankind decided to scale to the top and await The Undertaker on the roof. Taker followed suit and tossed Mankind off the top of the cell and through the announcers' table in one of the most incredible spots of all time. Mankind was being carted to the back, but he got up and went back after The Undertaker atop the cell. Mankind then took another huge bump as The Undertaker chokeslammed him through the roof of the cell and to the canvas.
The match could have been over at that point, but Mankind miraculously fought back and actually gained the upper hand in the bout. Mankind then decided to pour a bag of thumbtacks on the canvas, but The Undertaker chokeslammed him onto them and then hit a Tombstone to finally put the sadistic Mankind away. From that point forward, the WWE fans had a new-found respect for Mankind and it was a truly a springboard to a Hall of Fame career.
Because of the bumps that he took in the match against The Undertaker, some pigeonholed him as a guy who was willing to abuse his body, but couldn't really wrestle. Foley proved that he could get the job done in a variety of ways, however. It just so happened that this Hell in a Cell match was the one that put him on the map and it's the one match that every fan will remember.