Source: Kevin Eck of The Baltimore Sun
Hardcore legend Mick Foley makes his first appearance on a TNA pay-per-view this Sunday at Bound for Glory. Foley, who signed with TNA after his WWE contract expired last month, will serve as the special enforcer referee for the Kurt Angle-Jeff Jarrett match.
I conducted a phone interview with Foley yesterday.
What went into your decision to leave WWE?
I just had a real feeling that I had done everything that I possibly could in WWE. I was just dead weight, showing up once in a while doing things like being a judge on “Raw Idol” and for an occasional backstage vignette. I was given a chance to try announcing, and it was a job that in the end I did not care for very much. And so I was really just looking for an opportunity to do something meaningful in wrestling.
Was Vince McMahon yelling in your ear while you were commentating a big part of the reason why you didn’t care for it?
Yeah. It’s funny, because it’s a very small circle of people who’ve actually had experience commentating for WWE, and for those people there is actually no explanation necessary. It’s something that the guys all kind of laugh about. But in my opinion, his style of producing makes things a lot more difficult than they need to be. I think in most cases Vince’s judgments are right, but when it comes to producing announcers, I know in my case it wasn’t the most effective way.
How has your relationship with Vince evolved over the years? Did it change in 2005 when you almost when to TNA?
To answer your second question, it definitely did. There was a definite evolution in that for the first two years I was with WWE, I was somebody who worked there but who was not necessarily someone who was close at all with Mr. McMahon. That changed in ’98, ’99 and 2000. It became strained in 2001 when I felt like I had done everything that I could and was feeling a little bit like dead weight. I’d say the relationship was definitely strained when I almost when to TNA – strained to the point where I no longer felt comfortable going into Vince’s office and pilfering food. So that’s a telltale sign when you no longer feel comfortable taking free food from your boss; you know there’s been a strain.
What is it about TNA that made you want to work there?
I always felt like the wrestling business was better off with two viable mainstream promotions. I was extremely dedicated to WWE during the wrestling wars, but I came to feel that there should be more than one place, and I really had a lot of empathy for guys who were really good and worked really hard but didn’t seem to fit into what it was that WWE was looking for in wrestlers. Probably better than anybody, I realized that I could have easily been one of those guys who was not seen as being a WWE-type guy. I thought I was in a position to change things a little bit in 2005, and did live with a little bit of guilt about not making the move. Therefore, when I had a chance to go in 2008, it seemed like a natural move to make.
Your deal with TNA has been labeled a “short-term deal.” I don’t know how specific you can be, but how short is short term?
TNA understood that I was getting out of a serious relationship, so to speak, and that I wasn’t quite sure whether I was ready to jump back in again. So they kind of gave me the legal leeway to dip my toes in the water before taking a big plunge. But I’m really enjoying it, and the more I see of it the more confident I am that it’s a place I’ll want to stay for a while.
What will your role be in TNA? How often will you wrestle?
I think what limited my role when I was WWE commissioner in 2000 was my reluctance to get back in the ring every now and then. As a matter of fact, if I had to go back in time and change one thing in my career, it would be my reluctance to get back in and wrestle Vince at WrestleMania 17 in 2001. If I do end up in a regular non-wrestling role with TNA, I feel like I would need to step in there every once in a while to make the role as productive as it could be.
Besides former WWE guys that you’re familiar with such as Kurt Angle, Booker and Christian, who on the TNA roster impresses you and who are some of the guys you would like to work with?
Samoa Joe is a perfect example of why there needs to be a second promotion. He’s a guy I pushed for hard to get a shot at WWE, but he just was, for whatever reason, not seen as a WWE guy. And so in some way, shape or form I’d like to get involved with Joe. Sting is a guy who in my mind really put me on the mainstream map in 1991, so it might be fun to revisit that history. And there are a lot of younger guys that I was able to see in 2005 when I was refereeing independent shows who have since gone on to be a big part of TNA, like Homicide, Jay Lethal, Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin. The one thing I can say in all good conscience is that, top to bottom, I think TNA has a better actual wrestling lineup than WWE.
How realistic is it for TNA to ever become legitimate competition for WWE?
You know, I’m not sure that’s the goal any more than it was [TNA majority shareholder] Panda Energy’s goal to be competition for Exxon Mobil. [TNA president] Dixie Carter’s father kind of saw the future in alternate fuel services, and has proven that you don’t have to out-drill Exxon Mobil to be very successful in the energy business. So I don’t think that we need to out-produce WWE in order to be very successful. I think that’s the goal – to be very successful, not to try to claim some bogus bragging right to being No. 1.
I don’t want to put you on the spot, but Kurt Angle has said in a number of interviews that he feels TNA eventually will be on par with WWE.
To me, it is viable that we could be beating them in the ratings, because I look at the Monday Night Wars when there was about 70 percent more people watching wrestling on a given night than there is now, and I do think it’s possible to get a lot of those fans back, or at least some of them, and tilt the favor to TNA’s side. As far as trying to compete on every level, that would kind of be like the Tampa Bay Rays trying to out-Yankee the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean that Tampa Bay didn’t have a better team this year.
You led me right into my next question when you mentioned the Monday Night Wars. If Impact went head-to-head with Raw or Smackdown, could the Monday Night Wars be recreated?
Could I be like one of those politicians who claim that they don’t answer hypotheticals? [laughs] I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t know if it will ever come to that. If it does, I’ll do my best to make it an interesting competition.
I want to get your opinion of one of the most polarizing figures in the business: Vince Russo, who is on the TNA creative team. You worked with him closely in WWE during a very successful period, and then he went to WCW and things were not so successful there. There are two schools of thought regarding Russo: He’s either a genius or a goof. What is your take?
You know, I always thought highly of him. And people who doubt my word can go back and see what I put in writing. I think I said that it turned out that he needed some direction for his ideas and that Vince [McMahon] was the guy who provided the direction. But I always have confidence in his ideas, and I think he was a big part of the reason why the Mankind character became so successful. Part of his talent was in letting the guys have the freedom to come up with their own ideas. It was just such a relief for me these past few weeks to go out there and hear my music in the Impact Zone and realize, wow, I can say what I want and it’ll feel fresh because I haven’t been asked to explain myself to 10 different people.
Another polarizing figure is Triple H. I don’t think anyone can deny that you played a big role in helping him become a legitimate headliner. Yet I read in The Wrestling Observer recently that he might have been one of your detractors backstage. What are your thoughts?
I don’t know whether or not he was one of my detractors. If he was, I’d like to think it was based purely on business He wouldn’t be alone in thinking that I’m not able to contribute at the level I once did. But I think there were other people who’d hear the reaction that I would get when I’d go out there, and say, “You can’t tell me that you can’t do something productive with this guy.” But as far as looking back and feeling like you owe somebody a debt because they worked well with you in the ring, that might be overstated. I am grateful to a guy like Sting for providing me the opportunity to move up in my career, but I haven’t walked around feeling like I owe him a debt for the last 17 years. I’ve had a bunch of people who’ve been very beneficial to my career, and believe me I was more than happy to do what I could to help [Triple H]. Let’s face it: It was my job.
I know that you don’t want to put yourself over too much, but you really did play a significant role in helping other guys like Edge and Randy Orton get to where they are. How satisfying is that for you?
It’s always nice to be acknowledged. I feel like my contributions are acknowledged often enough. Believe me, I do not feel like I’ve slipped though the cracks of public perception.
Who do you think is the most underutilized guy in WWE?
For years it probably would have been Edge, and then he finally got his chance. If you ask my 16-year-old, he’ll tell you it’s Shelton Benjamin. There are a handful of guys that probably have been hit with the label of being a mid-card guy who, if given the chance, could probably burst through that glass ceiling.
A lot of people compare the Abyss character to the Mankind character that you created. What are your thoughts?
I think it’s pretty flattering. I guess I might find it threatening if I was still the 1997 Mankind, but I find it more of a tribute than a threat. I guess I was one of his favorites and I think it shows.
I know you always have things going on outside of wrestling. Any acting opportunities coming up or perhaps another book in the works? I’ve also heard there might be a Foley family reality show.
[Laughs]. We did a pilot for A&E where A&E moved into our house for 16 hours a day over the course of eight days.
I heard it wasn’t picked up because your family was just too normal.
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily use the word normal. There just wasn’t enough conflict in the family. So if they’d just waited until my wife brought home my Pomeranian that I strongly attempted to persuade her not to get, there would have been plenty of conflict [laughs]. But you never know. We’ve got hundreds of hours of footage and it wouldn’t be hard for another company to film a new scene or so and put it on somewhere. But the truth is, although I was disappointed, I was mostly relieved, because a reality show is not without its drawbacks.
It certainly didn’t turn out too well for the Hogans.
No. Probably all things considered, they may not have made the same decision if they had the same opportunity again.
What about any acting opportunities for you? Every now and then I read that you’re up for certain roles.
Yeah, every now and then something comes up. I’m flattered that people want to build shows around me, but I really think if someone wants me in a show, a producer from a successful show could call me up and make me like the third or fourth banana. I really have no aspirations to carry the weight of a show on my shoulders. Although I may give it a try again in the next year or so. I’ve got a couple of investment opportunities, and the more the economy struggles, the more likely it is that I may actually try something a little different.
And what about your writing career?
I want to see how the next couple years develop and see if I have stories worth telling. I’m always batting around ideas for fiction and I would like to give a children’s book another try. I might talk to Give Kids the World and see if I could donate the royalties to their great organization.
When I spoke to you a few years ago you mentioned that you were thinking about writing a book in which the narrator was an African-American woman.
Yeah, but you know, I think that’s setting myself up for harsh judgment. So I’m thinking of a way to tell the same story through the voice of a white male.
What is the story about?
I’d rather not say because I’m not sure if I’m going to use my name on it. I might throw it out there and see if it can gain attention without a wrestler’s name attributed to it.
I have a couple outside-the-box questions for you. To use wrestling vernacular, who do you think is going over in the presidential election?
[Laughs]. Oh man. I have to tell you, I think every wrestler should study this heel turn that McCain has undergone. A couple of the right promos and all of a sudden people who really looked up to the guy are now saying, “What in the world has happened to John McCain?” I always liked him and respected him but, man, it’s kind of hard for me to feel good about him these days. You know, in both my novels, the father characters become what they fear the most, and I think, unfortunately, McCain is kind of becoming what it is he loathes.
What did you think of the candidates’ appearance on Raw?
I’m not sure that anyone told Senator Obama that he would later be parodied. I think it’s a case where less is more. Senator McCain threw every wrestling cliche at the wall and tried to see what would stick, and Senator Obama went with, “Do you smell what Barack is cooking?” and that one line meant more than all the muddling of cliches that John McCain threw together. And speaking of babyface and heel turns, I think Senator Clinton did a very subtle heel turn followed by a couple of tremendous babyface speeches [laughs]. Life imitates wrestling to such an incredible degree.
Final question. What is your biggest claim to fame: Being a former WWE champion, being a best-selling author or being a close, personal friend of Christy Canyon?
[Laughs]. Well, one of the three means a lot more at parties, believe me. It’s a definite icebreaker.
Mick, do you have any final thoughts or is there anything else you wanted to discuss?
I’m going to Sierra Leone at the end of the month. It’s a trip that’s been postponed twice, but it looks like I might actually be going there. So maybe in a month or so I’ll have something from the real world to talk about.
Click here to access the original article.
Visit The All New TBLWrestling.com with 1000’s of Pages of Wrestling Information! ›››
Source: Kevin Eck of The Baltimore Sun