WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley was the guest on this week’s edition of Ring Rust Radio, which you can listen to in full at this link or in the video player below. The following are some interview highlights:
Ring Rust Radio: You recently released your new book, Saint Mick: My Journey From Hardcore Legend to Santa’s Jolly Elf. Why did you feel now was the right time to write this book and what are you hoping to accomplish with its release?
Mick Foley: “You guys are officially the first interview I am doing. As of this talk its release date is not there yet it’s October 17. I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s not like it’s a book that lends itself to people that like me as a wrestler or have been chomping at the bit for my Santa memoir. It felt like it was a really good story and a great experience I had in the course of five years. I knew from reading largely wrestling memoirs, the stories that have an arc like a five, six, or seven arcs tend to be more interesting rather than someone looking back at a 30- or 40-year career and trying to cherry pick moments. You never really feel like you’re in the moment there. When someone had a storied career and trying to look back to capture everything, I think there is a minimal emotional investment in the book. I felt like I had a pretty good story to tell with lessons that I’ve learned and with a nice balance of the surreal, touching and the foolishness. I felt like if I didn’t get down to it this year, I probably never would have.”
Ring Rust Radio: You’ve run the gamut as an author in terms of the types of books you’ve written, but how was the writing process different for this book compared to your earlier autobiographical work, and how did the enjoyment you felt while writing this book compare to those previous ones?
Mick Foley: “It was a great experience and in the introduction, I write about the fact that, I don’t want to sound all artsy, but it’s the purest writing experience. The first one was amazing, but I wrote it largely because the guy that was supposed to be writing it, the ghostwriter, did a mediocre job and I felt like I could do it better or I would be stuck for eternity with a mediocre book and nobody wants that. It worked out great and opened up a lot of doors for me. From that point on, the second book was like a way to take advantage of the success of the first book. Even Hardcore Diaries and Countdown to Lockdown were six week periods where I was writing them as the events were unfolding. So, story wise it was a roll of the dice and I didn’t know if there were going to be good stories or not. In this case, it’s something I really wanted to do. I didn’t think there was an audience and at certain point I was just really intent on self-publishing like 100 copies for family and friends and then a couple of key people, Stephanie McMahon being one of them, convinced me it might deserve a wider audience.”
Ring Rust Radio: The foreword for your latest book was written by Stephanie McMahon. What went into your decision to ask her and how did she react when asked?
Mick Foley: “Oh man, I wrote something about that and you guys are kind of getting the sneak preview of that. She had just decimated me verbally in a backstage interview. It was one of the cruelest, verbal tirades even by wrestling standards. It was the one where I think at the end of February that ended with the man that used to be able to stand up to everyone and everything, but can now barely stand at all. When it was done, I said I would like to talk in private if I could. She knows I’m professional and I’m not going to yell at her over a promo, It was hard because it is a tough thing to ask, but I asked her if she would wonder consider writing the introduction to my book and it caught her completely flat footed. She was kind of speechless for a second like she wasn’t expecting that. Then she told me she would be honored to. When we were GM and Commissioner, I was working on this book and she would ask me about it. One day she came to catering and started asking me a couple of questions and I thought she came to talk to me about a promo we were doing, but after about 40 minutes, I asked her if she wanted to talk about the promo and she said, “No, I just think this is really interesting.” I asked her if she thought this was a story people would enjoy and she really helped me believe in my own project. I hope I don’t kill her on-air persona, but I really respect her not only as a performer and a person, but also as a writer. Every writer has a few key people they depend on to give them feedback and in this case, she was a key person. She was my sounding board on a weekly basis and the main reason I decided to publish it instead of self-publishing for family and friends.”
Ring Rust Radio: It’s often been said that WWE’s motto is “putting smiles on people’s faces,” and the same can be said for playing the role of Santa Claus. How do you feel being a WWE Superstar helped prepare you for being Santa and spreading Christmas cheer all year round?
Mick Foley: “Did you say playing the role? I’m not playing, pal! There were times when I was playing the role of characters where I really felt like I was living that role. Those were the best appearances where you get caught up in that character to the point where you feel like you are that character and it’s the same thing. I really feel like the experience I had and I don’t want to give this away, but Stephanie’s got this great line in her introduction and forward and it was something I actually tried to write about getting to the main point of what I learned from doing this, but I didn’t feel comfortable. It was almost too heavy and I didn’t want to phrase it without sounding all ideological or crazy, but she remembered it almost word for word from a conversation we had. Basically, all these experiences I had from being in the ring, portraying characters, visiting children and service members, really put me in a unique position so that I could kind of step in and really inhabit this role which I believe is closer to who I really am. I just have to be nicer and kinder and wiser than I am in real life. Whereas when you’re Cactus Jack and Mankind, you have to be crazier, braver and far more aggressive. I wasn’t the classic alpha male in the dressing room, but I had to go in there with guys that were six inches taller and 80 pounds heavier who were those alpha males and I do find a way to hold my own. The business is what it is, but if you can’t stand your ground, you get devoured in there. That was really difficult for me and it took me a long time to get the grasp of that. Whereas this character, the Santa character, is a little closer to home I think.”
Ring Rust Radio: Throughout your WWE career, you were used as the catalyst to help launch the careers of Superstars such as Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Randy Orton and Edge. Does this hold a special value to you when you think back on your career or do you ever think you were slighted or overlooked at all during your time in WWE?
Mick Foley: “No, I do not think I was slighted or overlooked. There’s a really great quote from JR’s book Slobber Knocker and I read an expert from it today where he talked about how little faith Mr. McMahon had in me when I arrived. He was basically agreeing to the hire just so JR could find out what it’s like to have his heart broken by a character you believed in that won’t turn out to be anything. For a guy who wasn’t as it turned out to be, brought in to be a big deal and who was in sense brought in to fail, I not only thought I exceeded everyone’s expectations, but I thought I got plenty of credit, I really do. When I see a segment like that one in 2000 and I remember just watching it for the first time in 10 years several months ago, I watched it when a guy a by the name Matt Ricardo, an illusionist from the UK had me on his podcast and he played that as his favorite all-time career memory. It’s hard not to get goosebumps and just look at the expressions on Triple H and Stephanie’s face and it just helped make that character work. If we of just shrugged his shoulders and said it’s the same guy with a different shirt it would have been dead. He sold it and she sold it like their seeing a ghost from the past. That to me is when the business is at its best when everybody is helping out each other and everyone comes out better in the end.”
Ring Rust Radio: As a longtime proponent of women’s wrestling, what were your thoughts on the Mae Young Classic and who are some of the superstars from the tournament that you think can make it on the main roster?
Mick Foley: “Oh man, you are going to put me on the spot here and think I can memorize names. I’m just going to have to point out characters. Like you know that the young lady from Scotland, I thought she did a very good job, but she lost in her first match I think. She did a lot of things and everything she did was with a purpose. I’ve been a big fan of Mia Yim going back to when she was Jade. She had a great match with the young lady in NXT that doesn’t do the Kentucky gimmick, but she’s from Kentucky and I thought they had a heck of a match. Shayna Baszler showed a lot of potential and the young lady who won it she has a special it factor. I’ll be honest I didn’t see every matchup, I’m trying to catch up on 205 Live as well. That’s one of the benefits of having a complete knee replacement, you have plenty of downtime.”
Ring Rust Radio: Looking back on your recent run as Raw general manager, did you get everything you wanted out of it, and is there anything you wish you could go back and do differently or an angle you would’ve liked to have been a part of?
Mick Foley: “It’s easy to look back and think I could of, would of, should of. I wish it would’ve lasted longer, but it just got to the point where traveling was just agonizing. Going in, the goal is to really help create interest in some of the characters and to be fired in spectacular fashion. I look back and there was a pre-tape written for me where Cesaro and Sheamus would come into the office and I was going to kind of dismiss them like they were garbage. I said I really want to approach this differently. I had come up to Cesaro and Kevin Owens and told them, “Look, I have to have a reason why you guys were taken so deep in the draft. Even if it never comes up, if I don’t have a reason to my mind, it’s mind-boggling why the draft would’ve worked out the way it did’. For Kevin Owens, he was the biggest jerk in the locker room and Shane had told me in conversations that he wouldn’t draft him if he was the last person on the roster. Which isn’t true but in my mind, it was. For Cesaro, his shoulder made him a question mark. So, instead of dismissing those guys like they were garbage, I kind of challenge both of them to be as good as I knew they could be. When it was done, I remember Scott Armstrong asked if I wrote that. I said I didn’t write it, but I did it from the heart and he said it was really good. Both of those guys got a sense that they had somebody there who cared about their characters. One of my finest moments as GM was when I was with my son who is on the creative team, and I was with Michael Hayes and Arn Anderson and we were watching that seventh match, the finale of the best-of-seven. People didn’t want any part of that when we announced it. We were in Indianapolis for the Clash of Champions and they went to a time limit draw which normally would disgust everybody, but the place was chanting for more time, they tore down the house, and I had this brand-new sports coat because I finally realized people caught on that I only owned one sports coat and I was just accessorizing with a different shirt every week. I see Sheamus coming, and he’s just pouring sweat and I am thinking to myself, “Oh no, he’s going to hug me, he’s going to hug me, he is going to hug me,” and I took one for the team and he wrapped his arms around me and embraced me. He and Cesaro both felt like the faith I showed in them meant a lot to them. They never let me forget it. They’re always very quick to point that out that even though that GM position is largely an on-air authority figure, you do get to go to bat for people and you get to pick your fights when you believe in them enough. Those were two of the guys that I really fought for and two of the fights that I picked. I am probably proudest of the stuff I did with them. As well as the episode where I got to put the sock on Triple H, that was a great Raw for me.”
Ring Rust Radio: Your comedic work is widely regarded as some the best, if not the best, in WWE history. Was there a friendly competition in the locker room for who could deliver the best lines or segments or was it just the usual unspoken competition to always top the other performers?
Mick Foley: “You know speaking of the GM roles, when I was Commissioner in 2000, it was like my own candy store and I could do whatever I wanted with it. When the role in 2016 came, it came with a lot more restrictions. I also felt like the role in 2016 wasn’t the time for lighthearted comedy. It bothered me when people would get themselves over at the expense of wrestlers, not naming names, but it always bothered me and I didn’t want to be one of those guys. While the timing was right for it 2000 and for the character in 1999 with the Rock and Sock Connection, it wasn’t time for it in 2016. There was a friendly competition between me and Al Snow. Fortunately for me, I had a lot more time on-air than Al did. The one time he tried to get his digs on me, Mr. McMahon told him to stop. Vince said, “I don’t mind when you do it Mick because it’s funny, but Al just completely destroyed that segment.” So, I kind of had carte blanch to do whatever I wanted. There was no competition, it was just a way of lightning up a show which had been in a dark period and those shows kind of come in waves and when I came in it was coming off of a period that was pretty heel heavy and being dark. I felt like it was my job to lighten it up a little bit and I look back fondly at guys like Edge and Christian being like my protégés when it came to some of the sillier stuff. Even Kurt Angle was a great comedic foil. Briscoe and Patterson as well. I had no shortage of great people to work with and that role just lent itself to that comedic touch.”