Source: Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post
Hardcore legend Mick Foley survived some of the toughest and most grueling matches in WWE history. But it was a pair of “magic headsets” that did him in.
Foley left WWE in September after a 12-year relationship with the company. His last few months as an announcer on Smackdown, however, convinced him that it was time to move on. More precisely, says Foley, it was WWE owner Vince McMahon yelling in his headsets that led to his departure.
“It would be tough to overstate how much I disliked my last 3 1/2 months with WWE,” says Foley, who became one of the biggest acquisitions in the five-year existence of TNA when he signed with that company in September.
Colleagues had warned Foley of McMahon’s proclivity to over-produce his announcers when he accepted the job as color commentator for the Smackdown show earlier this year.
Foley decided to take pre-emptive action.
“Well, I’ve heard about you and those headsets,” Foley said to McMahon before accepting the job.
“He told me he was getting better,” recalls Foley. “I didn’t imagine it would affect me quite so viscerally. I guess I also was naive enough to think I would be immune to what the other guys accepted as part of the job.”
Foley, who grew tired of McMahon screaming in his ear, found himself disliking the job more and more. The final straw came when McMahon hammered away at him — more so than usual — from his backstage perch.
“It was a month before I got the first dose of Vince’s unique medicine,” says Foley. “I spoke to him the next day about it and told him I couldn’t remember the last time I had been belittled and treated so disrespectfully. I accepted his apology and accepted that it was just part of a bad night he was having. But within a few weeks I realized that it would be part of the job and that I had to make a decision as to whether I found that acceptable.”
Foley, one of the most beloved figures in WWE over the past decade, says it didn’t come as a surprise to McMahon when he told him he wanted to part ways with the company.
“In the end I told Vince that’s not why I slept in my car and slept on a cot in the Red Roof Inn even while I was WWE champion. There’s got to be a moral to every story, and I don’t think you save money and sacrifice to do something you really don’t want to do when you’re 43,” says the best-selling author.
“I told Vince had he treated me like that in ‘96 or at any time over the last 12 years, it wouldn’t have come as such a shock. But those were magic headsets … all the respect I had earned over the past 12 years just kind of disappeared.”
The experience, says Foley, may have been a blessing in disguise.
“At the same time I’m really thankful that I tried it. I hate to sit back and wonder ‘what if’ about anything. That whole experience gave me the permission to make this move to TNA without any guilt forever.”
Leaving WWE, he says, was much easier than the four major decisions he’s had to make during his 25-year mat career.
The first was when he left WCW for the first time in 1990. “I was just starting to make some decent money,” he says. The second was leaving WCW in 1994 when he was making “a comfortable low six figures and had two children to support.” The third was leaving WWE in 2001, and the fourth was staying with WWE two years ago after being courted by TNA.
“One thing I had going for me is something I wrote in my last book that WWE published. I did admit to having a certain amount of guilt, but I did feel that my decision to stay in WWE at that time was the right one. But I think I’ll look back on this decision as if it was absolutely the right one to make. I was able to do some important things with that last WWE contract. I had some good, memorable matches and some really good interviews.”
But, says Foley, he gradually discovered that his future with WWE was getting bleaker and bleaker.
“I really believe that I would not be given a chance to do anything really memorable in WWE again. I accepted that I might be an occasional comical distraction or enhancement. But when TNA called and convinced me that I would have a chance to really make a difference, and that if I was happy there I could be a big part of the future of the company, I became every enthusiastic about the possibilities.”
The three-time WWE champion says the move to TNA and Spike TV has re-energized him and given him a new cause to fight for. He sees TNA as a company that is close to turning a big corner, and he wants to be part of the construction effort.
“I always felt like wrestling in general would be better off with two strong national promotions. I know TNA is hoping that I can change the idea that they are a secret shared by one and a half million fans.”
Foley made his first televised appearance for TNA on the Sept. 18 edition of Impact when Jeff Jarrett introduced him to the audience on the arena’s video wall. He made his official debut two weeks after being introduced to TNA. He targeted Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle in his promo.
“I was happy with the way I was brought in because I know that if things work out that the long-term plan will be very complex and entertaining. I’ve been absolutely thrilled by how I’ve been received by the guys.”
Foley, who signed a flexible deal that would allow him “to avoid making a longtime commitment” if he wasn’t comfortable, is now looking forward to taking on a much larger role in the company.
“When I had my first meeting with Spike, I felt like a guy who was just getting out of a serious 12-year relationship and wasn’t quite ready to commit, but that I was really looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and date again. Now that I’ve been there a little while, I am ready to jump in and get serious.”
His “major” storyline announcement Thursday night during a live Impact show in Las Vegas — that’s he’s now a major investor in TNA — is a sign that’s he’s in for the long haul.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in wrestling since 2000 when I was the (WWE) commissioner,” says Foley. “It’s a relief to go out there and realize that I’m going to be able to say things I want to say and that my opinion will be valued and a lot of the ideas I have will actually see the light of day.”
While Foley is excited about his prospects in TNA, he’s also cautiously reserved about taking on any kind of major creative role.
“I don’t want a full-time, clearly defined role. That would be a lot more pressure than I really want at this stage. But I just love the idea that I can come up with an idea and have it heard and taken seriously, which was the case in WWE until a couple of years ago.”
Foley realizes there’s room for improvement, but says there’s a big upside to the company. TNA has been targeted by some critics for confusing storylines and characters whose roles haven’t been clearly defined. Foley says the blurring of the lines can be an advantage.
“It can actually be seen as a strength. In Sting’s character, for example, that’s part of what makes a compelling character — the different shades of grey involved. But I think there were a couple of compelling storylines going into Bound For Glory. And I appreciate how difficult it is to come up with storylines on a weekly basis.”
“One of the challenges,” says Foley, “is to come up with the right balance of humor and drama. Sometimes there’s too much emphasis on comedy, but I see things changing. Hopefully I’ll have a say in some of that. There was a time when I was watching Spike that I just didn’t see how it could work. My opinion began to change about a year ago.”
Foley, whose bizarre alter egos have included Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love, is protective of his legendary status in the business. He’s confident that his involvement in TNA will only enhance that standing.
“I’m well aware of how important a legacy is in wrestling,” says Foley, who is no longer on the WWE Alumni section of the company Web site and was taken out of the upcoming Legends of Wrestlemania video game. “Anytime you take a chance, there’s that possibility of affecting that legacy. But I feel very strongly that TNA’s heading in the right direction and that among the guys there is a sense that something is really happening.”
When asked if he thinks he might have a “few” special matches left in him, wrestling’s version of Evil Knievel just chuckles.
“I think a few would be a good way of putting it,” says Foley, who has broken nearly every bone in his body during his career and even had a chunk of his ear torn off during a match. “I know I was absolutely terrified when Kurt Angle started talking about the possibility of getting in the ring with me. I do understand that we could do a great job building it up, but Kurt is so intense. He’s so bothered that someone might consider my acquisition to be the biggest one in TNA. I think I might pay dearly for it in the ring.”
Foley does seem genuinely concerned that the former Olympic gold medalist may be a little too serious for his own good, and that the publicity about Foley being the company’s greatest acquisition may have rubbed Angle the wrong way.
“Don’t say that to Kurt Angle. He takes this stuff very seriously. But I guess that’s part of what makes him great.”
As for “Mr. Socko,” a sock puppet Foley made famous in WWE, it’s not likely that the original will be making an appearance in TNA anytime soon. Foley, however, used a facsimile of the sock on the Bound for Glory pay-per-view.
“That’s kind of a grey legal area,” he says. “I could envision the world’s most ridiculous trial as attorneys from both sides presenting their cases as to why the sock is theirs. But just to play it safe, when I brought forth a white sock (on a recent show), it was not colored, decorated or referred to as ‘Mr. Socco.’ This is the world’s most ridiculous legal argument just waiting to happen.”
While the multi-faceted Foley continues to pursue writing opportunities, a role in a proposed sitcom titled “Hey, Dude!” seems to be uncertain at this point.
“The sitcom in development was built around Foley’s true-life personality. He was to have played himself — a former pro wrestler and author who was pursuing an acting career. Producers had hoped to roll by next spring.
“You have to sell these concepts to the networks,” says Foley. “Best I can tell that hasn’t happened. I might be so tied up with TNA that I might not have time to make a decent attempt at network television.”
The Spike network, home of TNA, could be an option.
“There’s always a possibility,” says Foley. “I had a good relationship with Spike in the past. They would be open to working on outside projects. So it’s a possibility.”
The father of four also has continued to work on his philanthropic efforts. He has sponsored children throughout the world for the past 17 years through the Christian Children’s Fund, and is leaving next week for Sierra Leone where he sponsors a young boy.
He says he’s currently reading a book titled “The End of Poverty” because he wants to know as much as he possibly can about the subject.
“I believe in making informed choices, whether it’s a decision to leave a wrestling company, politics or trips to other countries. There’s a little guy (in Sierra Leone) that I’ve been sponsoring for two years, and I had a chance to contribute some money to some community schools there. This will give me the opportunity to get out there and see a different side of the world and probably come back better able to appreciate what I have.”
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Source: Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post