Recently on E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness, sports entertainment legends Edge and Christian spoke with WWE Hall Of Famers Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley regarding their underrated In Your House: Mind Games match, which saw Michaels defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Mankind.
Apparently, Michaels and Foley never worked a match together prior to their encounter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Mind Games. 'The Heartbreak Kid' said that understanding an opponent's timing is of paramount importance, so the fact that they had not wrestled before made the match even more impressive.
"For me, the most important thing about being in the ring with a guy is getting his timing or knowing if his timing is the same as yours. Do you know what I mean? And sometimes, if it isn't, you've got to find that, and adjust to that, and work around that. All of that stuff in the ring in a match for the first time, to find that with somebody the very first time when you get in there, you know, the sooner you can cross that off your list or do that first whatever, then you go, 'okay.' And to know that, because that's one issue you no longer have to worry about. You know he's going to be there. You know he's going to do this. You know you're going to turn, your timing, and all of that. You're going to be there. The next thing is going to be going on. And that can't be overstated because if it isn't, it stands out."
According to Michaels, the bout was huge for the development of the HBK character, as it showed the WWE Universe that the world champ could get down and dirty.
"Coming off of the 'boyhood dream' [storyline] and the sort of sterilization that they did with me, and again, nobody's fault, but it wasn't the rough attitude guy that sort of got me there and this was a huge kick in the pants for the HBK character at that time with that kind of gritty, tough type of match."
Notably, Foley claimed that the table bump from that match was the only time he practiced a move beforehand.
"Preparation for that match was the only time I ever practiced a move. I'll tell you, if I were coming into the company now, out of necessity, you have to know how to do a lot of cool things with your opponent. But, at that time, most of the cool stuff I did was, people trusting that I wouldn't hurt them too badly when I came off of things. As far as, like, doing complex things, twisting, turning, really comprehensive lifting moves, I just didn't have any. And Shawn, do you know what move I'm talking about? Do you remember going out with me and I'm like, 'I want to do this one thing backwards with the table'? I had to know in my heart that we could do this thing without killing the champion. And so, we went out there, and I stood out on that second turnbuckle, and I said, 'all I need to know is,' and I'm going to lift like I'm going for a back suplex, and Shawn turned it into a cross-body [block]. So what we did out there, I lifted, he turned, and I said, 'okay, we've got this thing.' And so I had all the confidence in the world that we were going to be able to do that spot at the right time and that Shawn was going to make it out of there okay. But that was the only time I ever worked on a move before a match."
In Foley's estimation, the table spot worked partly because people did not foresee it happening.
"To go backwards on the second turnbuckle, the champion turns it into a cross-body, covering pretty good distance, we didn't show our hand with that. I had moved the table a little bit over the course of the match, so it would be where we needed it to be to go through at a later time. I still think it was pretty, it was as spectacular as things could be when you hit somebody with a big move or go flying through the air onto somebody. I don't think people saw that one coming and I think that's part of what makes that spot work."
When Edge pointed out that leaving the monitors on the table for the bump added to its realism, Michaels admitted that they did not know any better than at that point.
"Truth be told, much like the Ladder Match and everything else, like, the Ladder Match was done with one ladder at WrestleMania, no backups, no nothing, this is where people learned, 'hey, someone's going to get hurt, clear that stuff [off the table before breaking it].' Like the ladder, this was sort of the beginning of all of that kind of stuff. And, me, personally, I've been a guinea pig for a lot of them. I mean, so that's how you sort of find out. Thankfully, none of us got hurt."
Following the match, Michaels and Foley worked the house show loop while the former's back was worse for wear. Foley said he would tell Michaels that he would not have to bump at all to protect his back.
"I would say, 'you're not going to take a bump tonight.' Do you remember these matches? And I would say, 'here's my offense: I had two fingers.' And I would jab two fingers into Shawn's neck. He'd be selling on his hands and knees and I'd kowtow around the ring. I'd hold those two fingers out there prominently, like, 'here come the two fingers' and bam! They'd go to the neck and Shawn would sell across the ring and he'd drape his upper body over the ropes and I'd go to those ropes and that was it. I'd focus on just the neck, so he'd never be in a position to take a bump."
Also, during the podcast, Michaels mentioned that he was still evolving as a character even as world champion. This is a stark contrast from WWE's current developmental system, which typically attempts to churn out finished products.
"You were still evolving. And, heck, I know I was. You're still evolving as who you are. You're still trying to figure it out. I was champion for whatever [period of time], I was still trying to [figure it out]. I mean, I think my match with [Vader] was the first time I can recall stomping for the superkick and you're the champion, so you're still figuring out new ways to develop and grow and evolve. It's not a knock, but I don't know how many people are doing that. People are sort of set in their sequence, their distinguished moveset of whatever and, heck, we were still trying to grow in a main event of a pay-per-view. Do you know what I mean? It was a constant effort for character development so to speak, as opposed to being set in that and just moving forward."
Michaels continued, "and again, it's not to be critical of anybody, it's just sometimes when I watch [WWE programming], it's just people are pretty set on who it is they are and I don't know if that's the most positive way of going about doing it. You want to continue to grow as a character, to stretch and have more range and have more emotion and have more everything because once you do sort of get settled in it, then it becomes repetitive, right?"
Click here to check out the podcast. If you use any of the quotes that appear in this article, please credit E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.
Source: E&C Pod Of Awesomeness