Some people refer to him as 'The Hardcore Legend', a nickname he has earned for his bloody wars in the squared circle over his nearly 24-year career. But many people also know him as the lovable Mick Foley with his knack for getting a cheap pop out of the crowd and his sock puppet Mr. Socko. There's even another side to him as he is a multiple New York Times best-selling author and has kept active with various charity work.
Most of his wrestling career has been spent with the WWE where he was a three-time world champion. In 2000, Foley retired, something that doesn't typically stick in wrestling, with him returning to the squared circle four years later. At one point, he even tried his hand as the color commentator for WWE Smackdown but he grew tired of Vince McMahon barking in the headset and decided that job wasn't for him. In fact, he decided to leave the WWE altogether.
But Foley wasn't done with wrestling. Instead, he decided to start a new chapter in his career and in September 2008 he jumped to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Once there, Foley got the itch to get back in the ring -- which he still does, but on a much more limited basis.
While he moves a bit slower and has a little gray in his shaggy beard, Foley is once again having fun with what he calls his first true love -- wrestling. This Sunday, Feb. 14, Foley will be a part of the TNA "Against All Odds" pay-per-view. (You can find out more information about TNA Wrestling at their Web site).
Recently, FanHouse caught up with Foley to talk with him about still wrestling at the age of 44, the recent changes in the company with Hulk Hogan, (former President of World Championship Wrestling) Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair joining the promotion and much more. Here is part one of that conversation.
(laughs) Well, I was surprised that I wrestled as actively as I did last year. I knew going in that I'd do a few matches a year. I think last year was something like 16 or 17. Granted, some of the television matches weren't that lengthy. But I'm hoping to get back to a lesser wrestling schedule this year. There were some unique circumstances that kind of put me in the ring more often than I had planned on being there.
Did you like being in the ring that much?
You know, I stopped being comfortable in the ring a long time ago. And as odd as it sounds, it was actually wrestling with Kurt Angle three times over a four day period that kind of restored my confidence. So now when I go out there, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to stink up the building.
I know at the time you were really concerned about the match with Kurt last year on pay-per-view. You were really worried about making sure that it was up to a certain standard. Do you feel like you met that standard and everything went fine?
You know, I really liked the match. I know it's probably not going to make a best of Kurt Angle DVD unless it's a really comprehensive one. But I think it did things and accomplished goals that other matches, that other supposedly better matches, haven't. Does that make sense?
I think so.
I think some fans have certain things they want to see in a match in order to declare it a good one and for those fans it will not ... my match with Kurt was not going to live up to that standard. But I think it was different. I tried things I hadn't done in 15 years or so and I think given that Kurt was injured and I have a litany of limitations, we did a pretty good job.
Considering what you call a litany of limitations, is your standard for what in your mind is a good match -- is that different from what it used to be?
Yeah, it's a lot different. And a lot of that had to do with a really bad back injury I suffered two years ago and I had to accept that I can't live up to my old expectations. It's unrealistic and ultimately really unhealthy. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to be every bit as good as used to be and I have come to understand that's not physically possible any more.
So what was your initial thought when you heard that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were coming to TNA?
You know, I was actually pretty excited about it. It's funny, I wrote this story on my TNA web blog (The Foley Files) that I had dropped off a book for Hulk Hogan to sign for a friend and had just picked up the book -- it was at a local bookstore -- I just picked up the book and had been in my house for no more then ten seconds when I received a call from Dixie Carter telling me that Hulk Hogan had just signed. So I don't know if that's fate or just a large coincidence but I certainly saw the upside of a guy of Hogan's magnitude coming in and a guy with Bischoff's background. I honestly didn't know what it held in store for me personally but I did think that overall it would be, it was a good move for the company.
I know that a lot of people talked about initially what their role was going to be with the company. Were you surprised when you heard that Hulk Hogan was not only coming in, but he was going to be a guy that was going to be a figurehead as part of the show and be behind the scenes helping run the show and be active creatively in a role which is something he hasn't really done before?
Yeah and I think it's probably something he wished he had done. I think it's difficult to fully capitalize on all of the tools available to someone if they are a current wrestler. It's just human nature that person is going to think of themselves usually to the detriment of other wrestlers in the company. So I think it's great that Hulk's on the sidelines looking in. I'd always heard he had a great mind for the business and I have been very impressed in the little bit of time I've known him.
What was the bigger surprise for you -- Hulk Hogan in TNA or Ric Flair?
(laughs) I had actually talked with Ric a little bit about coming in and there's so many guys that have such a deep respect for Vince McMahon and feel in a way they're being disloyal by coming to TNA. My message is to always reassure them that Vince is going to be just fine. I always throw a baseball metaphor in. If someone is sitting on the Yankees bench getting two or three at bats a month and the Minnesota Twins are willing to start that guy in center field, it's really not being disloyal to the Yankees to go elsewhere.
Years ago, you had done a retirement in WWE and it wasn't too long after that you decided to come back and a lot of people gave you grief about that. Now, there are a lot of people doing the same thing when it comes to Ric after he got the big retirement ceremony and left. He hasn't wrestled in TNA but people think he will. He's already returned to the ring with the Hulkamania group in Australia. From your standpoint, which I think is a lot different from others being an active wrestler, do you think it in any way hurts a legacy for Ric to come back in the ring considering the sendoff he got?
Well, first let me say that when I came back after six weeks, that really wasn't my decision and after that it was another four years which is officially a lifetime in pro wrestling. Even with that being said, I thought it hurt my legacy but ten years later I think the truth is I'd be very much irrelevant to today's wrestling fans including portions of society that I'm trying to reach out and help. And the truth is life sometimes gets in the way of our great ambitions. I think anyone who wants to criticize Ric Flair should probably be required to walk around in his shoes for a while.
What has this transition period been like for yourself and for TNA coming from the old guard to Hogan and Bischoff coming in there?
Well, the major transition was a year and a half ago for me -- well, a year and four months -- changing companies, working for someone who is just about (laughing) Vince's polar opposite in every way and getting used to a different schedule and a different atmosphere at the television tapings. I haven't sensed the transition that much. I've seen some of the things are a little better organized. I believe there's going to be less emphasis on talking and a little more emphasis on wrestling which is what I think our fans like. I think with that being done the talking that does go on will be more important.
So are you saying (TNA President) Dixie Carter doesn't yell at people?
(laughs) You know, I've seen Dixie put a couple of people in their places and I'm talking about pretty intimidating people. Dixie is not afraid to asset herself but I have not heard her raise her voice to what I would call a yell. I heard she's terrible on those announcers on the headsets though!
Probably not as terrible as someone else you've worked with. It wasn't too long ago -- Monday, January 4 -- when TNA decided to go head-to-head with WWE Raw. You had the three hour edition of Impact which did the best numbers that TNA has ever done for the show. What were your thoughts on that show and how everything went?
I thought it was risky going in so I was relieved to see we had put up good numbers. Clearly it meant that we attracted new fans who may not have seen the product any more. And I've always felt that if you have a product that you're proud of, that you think people will like, that you would want to lead them there to sample it with the hope that they choose to stay a while. So it was an exciting night. My only real regret is there were so many things going on that I'm not sure that our fans could fully digest and appreciate them all.
That's been one the criticisms that TNA has faced -- not just now but for a while -- that sometimes the show can be a bit too confusing and there's too much going on.
And I agree. That's the product of working too hard sometimes. Apollo Creed may have been on the verge of overtraining for that big rematch with Rocky and it may have (laughs), it may have hurt him. I think you'd rather have the work ethic and do too much than believe you can go into coast mode and give the fans too little. I've always maintained that the success of the show is finding the right balance. Some weeks we do a better job than others but I think overall we're doing a lot better than we were a few years ago and I believe that formula is going to be tweaked and hopefully improved and perfected.
Vince Russo (the creative director in TNA Wrestling) obviously has his share of critics that are out there. When a situation like this happens or anything when it comes to creative decisions. Do you ever talk to him and say maybe it would be better to do it a different way, or we need to slow something down with you explaining why, or is that something you try not to get too involved in?
No, I think Vince Russo is always open to suggestions and I can say this because I didn't criticize him in my book after he was gone. So I'm not being hypocritical when I say I always thought he was a great idea man. I think for a few years he probably missed the restraint that Vince -- the other Vince -- put on him. I think even Vince Russo would probably agree that him being world champion was possibly not the best idea in the world. But he's a very creative guy. He loves to write. He loves to make characters and I think people who, you know the people who chant "fire Russo" really have no idea how large of a contribution he made to the wrestling product that they sometimes seem to like. I'm talking about the wrestling product overall as in this generation of wrestling. I think he was one of the key guys right up there with the top on-air talents.
Do you think Vince can continue to co-exist with Hulk and Eric considering their past?
Yeah I do think they can co-exist because I think there have been worse relationships (laughs) that have healed. I'm thinking of a couple of them off the top of my head. Sometimes as people interact backstage and I'm like wasn't that guy suing someone you know. Weren't they involved in a lawsuit? Wasn't there some type of a fist fight a few years ago? It's a volatile business and there's a lot of egos involved. Everybody has to believe in their own vision or they would have never gotten this far. But it seems like it's going pretty well and I think Vince Russo will actually benefit from having that one extra filter.
Part two of my conversation with Mick Foley will be posted Friday here on FanHouse.