An article by Mike Mooneyham
Published July 7, 1998
It was the defining moment in the career of a performer who’s made a living out of putting life and limb on the line every time he steps into a wrestling ring.
If he hadn’t already, Mick Foley most assuredly clinched a spot in pro wrestling’s hall of fame with his over-the-top performance at last Sunday’s King of the Ring pay-per-view.
Foley, in his Mankind persona, and The Undertaker (Mark Calaway) put on an unforgettable match highlighted by a simply amazing and death-defying performance by a man who deserves definite consideration when balloting rolls around for wrestler of the year.
Foley took what many longtime followers of the sport are calling the “bump of the century” when he was thrown off the top of a 16-foot steel cage and through the Spanish-language announcers table.The incredible spot came only a minute into the match, but Foley wasn’t finished quite yet. After being attended to by WWF officials and medical personnel, Foley got off a stretcher and returned to do battle on top of the cage. Shortly thereafter he took his second big bump when he was choke-slammed through the wire mesh and was sent backward to the mat many feet below.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]To his credit The Undertaker worked the match despite being in tremendous pain after having suffered a cracked bone in his ankle at the June 22 Raw. Although Foley was the undisputed star of this show, The Taker put on a gutsy performance, gashing his forehead on the cage after missing a tope.
And, just to make sure no one who saw this match will ever forget it, Foley poured out a bag containing hundreds of thumbtacks around the ring, only to be back-dropped and choke-slammed on the tacks.
Surprisingly, Foley suffered no serious injuries, although he did receive a dislocated jaw, lost several teeth, (he had one tooth sticking through his lip and another stuck near his nose), had to have several stitches placed on the inside of his mouth, some badly bruised ribs, and was briefly hospitalized in Pittsburgh.
Foley, of course, is no stranger to sacrificing his body for the business. He has earned a well-deserved reputation as being one of the wildest performers in the sport, and he has a missing left ear to prove it.
Foley, who has appeared as three different characters during the past year (Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack), had his left ear ripped off in a match against Vader (Leon White) in 1994 in Germany. His suicidal ring actions have resulted in a number of broken bones, concussions and even temporary amnesia.
The 34-year-old Foley says the injuries have taken a toll on his body but he’s glad to pay the price. What makes him take the risks?
“Two reasons,” Foley explained in a 1994 interview. “I like it when I think about wrestling – when I daydream and nightdream – that’s what I think about. Risky moves. Taking people’s breath away. I visualize everything that’s happened in my career, and that visualization always involves some type of wild moves.
“The other reason is purely business in that when I broke into wrestling in the mid-’80s, if you weren’t a bodybuilder or didn’t weigh 400 pounds, you didn’t have much of a chance of making any money. So I kind of came up with my own style. I don’t think that the risks I take would be taken by someone solely in it for the money because the pain and fear would be too great.”
Foley is a graduate of Cortland State University and majored in radio and TV production. He decided to give wrestling a shot, however, and was trained by former mat star Dominic DeNucci.
“He took a lot of extra time and attention training me,” recalled Foley, who broke into the business with a youngster named Troy Martin (Shane Douglas). “I was not what you would call a real natural. If you asked him (DeNucci) who was the worst natural wrestler he ever saw, he would probably say it was me. He’d go down there and arrange for times when it would be just me and him wrestling for a couple of hours. And he gave me the confidence to do moves I just assumed I could never do. I’m not talking about the wild moves, I’m taking about real basic moves. So underneath it all, people should know that I can actually wrestle.
“I think most people really doubted that I could do it. All that was on the air at the time was bodybuilders, and I’m about the furtherest thing from that. It was just something that I knew if I didn’t try, I would always regret. I was miserable and I hated it. I was sore all the time. I traveled 400 miles each way every weekend when I was in college. I really gave up my social life for something that I hated and was bad at. And then all the pieces started fitting together and it gave me a new outlook on life.”