News Column

Warrior in the ring, in life

August 7, 2014

By Lori Gilbert, The Record, Stockton, Calif.



Aug. 07--Before he put on the persona of Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love, Mick Foley was a communications major at State University of New York at Cortland, eyeing a job in television production.

"I was always trying to get reactions," said Foley, who grew up on New York'sLong Island. "I was always an entertainer at heart, whether I was waking up in the middle of the night writing lyrics to songs or thinking of ways to shock people. Or, I'd think of food I could eat before the days of reality TV made that mundane. In 1981, I was the guy who ate weird stuff, which yielded results but not many dates."

Foley will sprinkle those kinds of humorous observations into his stories about his time as a World Wrestling Entertainment champion, his philanthropy, writing New York Times best sellers and his love of Christmas when he brings "Hardcore Legend: An Evening with Mick Foley" to the Bob Hope Theatre on Sunday.

The one-time wrestling villain absorbed punishing blows in the name of sports entertainment from losing part of his ear in a match in Germany to suffering a concussion, a dislocated jaw, a dislocated shoulder, a bruised kidney, a gash in his lip, and having one tooth knocked out and another broken in a match in which he was tossed off a 20-foot cage.

It was all part of the story line for Mankind or Cactus Jack or Dude Love, but Foley has found another way to communicate.

"I tell stories; connect with people on a different level," Foley said. "Maybe I accidently touch some sensitive emotions. I do what I used to do in the ring. I take them on an emotional roller coaster."

Sans the body blows and trunks.

The warrior in the ring known for pushing his body to extremes is quite the humanitarian and soft touch out of it.

He's devoted to causes that help children, victims of rape and violence, veterans and others.

He's making a documentary about Santa Claus, following several mall Santas during the course of a year.

That other side of Foley was always there, during his 17 years as a wrestler, beginning in 1983 on cards arranged by his teacher, Dominic DeNucci.

Married to his wife, Collette, since 1992, and the father of four, the 49-year-old Foley never lost sight of who he really was.

"I came home after being honored at Madison Square Garden in 2003, and because of it, one of my friends attacked me and threw me down a flight of stairs. He was trying to do the right thing for the show," Foley said. "I was used to deep bruises but in less than an hour, I was in agonizing pain, and I knew I'd be in trouble for a while. I get home and go upstairs, and my wife said, 'The dog needs walking.' I walked the dog and she said, 'The garbage needs to be taken out.' Then it was 'the guinea pig pen smells.'

"I said, 'You know, two hours ago 20,000 people were chanting my name.' That's life outside the bubble. It was brought to reality every time I came home."

Making the transition wasn't tough, because the characters in the ring were just characters. Most fans understood that.

"I'm lucky I came in the era when guys did not have to fight their way out of buildings after shows," Foley said. "Guys were fighting for their lives to get out to the car. There were casualties before the era of the lawsuit. How you got to your car was up to you. There were hostilities involved. I'm glad I wasn't involved in that."

American fans understood the show by the time he came along.

"In other countries, that wasn't the case. You could not hit the Nigerian champion with a foreign object in Nigeria and come out unscathed," he said.

That Foley would actually go to Nigeria and perform despite every warning about the dangers of Nigeria and the airport in Lagos, that he would hand his passport over to a stranger upon arrival is a testament to the length he'd go in 1987 to pursuit his wrestling career.

He wrestled for World Class Wrestling and joined the WWE in 1996, enjoying the phenomenal success the sport enjoyed.

"I don't want to give too much credit to Mr. (Vince) McMahon, but he reshaped the way people thought about pro wrestling. He made it acceptable and cool to be a wrestling fan. He labeled it as entertainment and wrestlers played a role. He was ahead of his time. I dread to think what would have happened to pro wrestling if we tried to portray ourselves as legitimate competition. Mixed martial arts would have swallowed us whole."

Instead, the wrestlers were happy to perform. It was an act that took Foley to 37 countries and 49 states. It also left him with plenty of stories to share.

"I get so much of what I loved about being in wrestling doing my shows," Foley said. "It's a very friendly, warm atmosphere, and I'm still getting reaction."

___

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or lgilbert@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.

___

(c)2014 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

Visit The Record (Stockton, Calif.) at www.recordnet.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Record (Stockton, CA)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters