Mick Foley is one of the people i’m a bit guilty I didn’t put in to the ‘Core 50’ of the Hall of Fame. Ordinarily, he would one of the first people I would think about as a Hall-of-Famer. The difference was that in TNA, he was still wrestling, and it’s only now he’s returned to WWE that it seems legitimate to refer to him as pretty much retired. He did, of course, enter the Royal Rumble, and has been involved in some physicality, but that is the want of retired legends from time to time. I’m also feel kinda guilty that he’s not a #1 entrant, again because of his profile and legacy is so great that he has earned such a spot; but in a year when Edge retired, he is the most emotional and topical retiree. A final note: I chose a picture of his Cactus Jack persona, not because that’s necessarily his greatest one, but because it’s one that transcends the WWE.
To my mind, there is no more dedicated, unique, and beloved figure in the history of wrestling. Foley has found and filled a lot of niches in the world of wrestling. After wrestling for a while under a more basic character in promotions like World Class Championship Wrestling and other smaller territories. It was only in Tri-State Wrestling, a fore-runner of ECW in terms of it’s high impact, high violent style, that he found the style that would define at least part of his career, including wrestling a Falls Count Anywhere match, a Stretcher match, and a Steel Cage match in the same night; a performance which gained the attention of WCW and kick-started his successful and legendary career. Though WCW, for the most part, allowed Foley to wrestle this hardcore style, including his infamous match in Munich with Vader in which he lost half of his ear, he is one of the best examples of the inate problems with WCW in that they refused to sell his brutalist angles as serious, opting either to ignore it, or to treat it comically. This pushed Foley away from WCW forever, but in to the arms of ECW, where Cactus Jack became the “Hardcore Legend”, a monicker that still applies to this day, putting his body on the line on a nightly basis, sacrificing himself to kendo sticks as well as wrestling great matches, between wrestling even more brutal matches in Japan including nail-boards, barbed wire, and even C4. Foley offered so much more than just that sacrifice though, and in a feud with Tommy Dreamer, Foley cut some of the greatest promos of all time, begging Dreamer not to sacrifice his body to the rabid ECW fans, and becoming seriously, and even frighteningly hated. When he left ECW, however, he regained his spot as Hardcore Legend, with the passionate fans chanting “Please don’t go!” He was going to the WWF. Repackaged as Mankind, Foley immediately entered in to a high profile feud with the Undertaker, including the eponymous Boiler Room Brawl. His style was tweaked from Hardcore to brutal brawling, but this didn’t make him any less of a sacrificial figure, most notably in arguably the most infamous match of all time: Hell in a Cell – “Good God almighty, they killed him … as God is my witness he is broken in half!” Having gotten up from that planned insane bump, Foley took another, unplanned one which saw him crash through the cell to the floor. Even then he continued the match, and even then he completed a later run in. Add this to the memory of matches like his ‘I Quit’ match with The Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble, or his Street Fight with HHH at the 2000 event, and there is a legacy of great, emotional matches, which is part of the reason for the emotional connection he now has with the fans. Slowing down, he remained a colourful and at times comic figure in the business, making warmer memories for the fans, especially with The Rock as part of the Rock n’ Sock Connection, and as Commisioner Foley. Later in his career he had memorable hardcore-style matches with the likes of Edge and Randy Orton, helping to build the next generation. Now back in the WWE, he is cemented as a legend and continues to warm the hearts of wrestling fans while being one of it’s best ambassadors, be it with his New York Times Best Selling books, and his appeal to mainstream media, including his involvement in Jon Stewart’s ‘March for Sanity’ as well as his work for the anti-sexual abuse charity, RAINN. Foley truly is God, at least to us.