Sports Illustrated recently conducted an exclusive interview with Mick Foley on their "Extra Mustard" blog. In it, Foley talked about how Vince McMahon pushing him may have opened doors for stars such as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Kevin Owens to have success in WWE.
"Mr. McMahon, you see, was not a Cactus Jack fan," Foley recalled. "But, following a notable first year in a leather mask as Mankind, Mr. McMahon had a change of heart, and not only gave Cactus Jack the occasional opportunity in WWE, but built up the Cactus character to be my toughest and wildest incarnation of all. It was if he was admitting to me, and whoever out there was watching, that he just might have missed the boat on that Cactus Jack guy after all!"
Foley played Cactus Jack in World Championship Wrestling from 1991 to 1994, before heading to Extreme Championship Wrestling, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and working in Japan. It wasn't until 1997 when Cactus Jack debuted in WWE (then WWF), as part of the three faces of Mick Foley (which also included Mankind and Dude Love). The character debuted in a street fight against Hunter Hearst Helmsley on the September 22, 1997 episode of Monday Night RAW.
"In so doing–in allowing a guy who (in his opinion) didn't look like a star, Mr. McMahon just may have opened up the possibility that other unlikely prospects might find a home, and stardom inside the WWE," Foley told Sports Illustrated. "Maybe, just maybe, the lesson learned from the Cactus Jack experiment helped open the door for future WWE Superstars such as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Kevin Owens–all of whom flourished in what would have been seen as a very unlikely environment a generation earlier."
Foley explained how WWE portrayed his gimmick along with his connection with the audience, "So, yes, WWE deserves much of the credit for how they chose to portray a colorful journeyman like Cactus Jack. But there was something real there too–something fans could truly believe in."
"Even as the world learned new truths about me–I was from New York not New Mexico, the only thing truly deranged about me was my fashion sense–the legitimacy of Cactus Jack was only heightened, never questioned," Foley elaborated. "I think it's because there was an understanding that even given the entertainment aspect of pro wrestling, the struggle to the top had been hard-earned and well deserved, and that the legendary tales of suffering had all turned out to be very true."
Foley went on to win the WWE Championship three times under the Mankind persona, which of course resulted in him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
You can watch Foley's complete interview with Sports Illustrated on their "Extra Mustard" blog, along with more quotes, by clicking here.