WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley recently appeared as a guest on Lilian Garcia's Chasing Glory Podcast to talk about his legendary career in pro wrestling. As the anniversary of his incomparable Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring '98, which took place 21 years ago today, Foley looked back on the changes his character had gone through that lead up to that unforgettable night.
"I was scared [going in to the Hell in a Cell match]," Foley admitted. "Not of the physicality but because I didn't think I belonged in a dual main event as the way it was pitched. I didn't think my character merited it. Vince Russo has his fans and detractors, but I thought he had great ideas. I really did, and I think he really believed in my character.
"In April and May of that year, I was coming off really great matches with Steve Austin on pay-per-views as Dude Love. Undertaker was out there as an Enforcer where he chokeslammed Pat Patterson through a table. It was a really fun match with Steve Austin, but I was then segueing back to Mankind and it was flat. I had gone from being a dark Mankind, to Dude Love, to Cactus Jack, to all three simultaneously, to full-time Cactus, to corporate Dude Love, and then back to Mankind, so, I really didn't have my footing."
Foley then went on to reveal that initial plans for their bout in the Hell in a Cell structure included bungee cords that would've had weapons attached to them. This plan never came to fruition at the time, but there have been matches that followed later down the WWE timeline that are similar to the idea that was spawned then, such as the Extreme Elimination Chamber at December to Dismember '06 that saw stars wield weapons as they entered the structure.
"I was worried because, at that time, they were proposing it almost like a Thunderdome type thing. They were going to have some bungees to grab a type of weapon, which is still a cool idea, to be dangling on the top of the Cell," Foley explained. "And that got nixed, so, it's just me and Undertaker. Undertaker was my first feud which no good things had transpired from, but we hadn't had anything in 6-8 months, and all of a sudden we got this angle, and it's cold. We don't really have a feud that warrants being in a Cell.
"Plus, we are trying to follow Shawn Michaels and Undertaker 9 months earlier, which, for my money, it's still the best Cell match that has ever been. And I'm a fracture of the athlete that Shawn Michaels is. Terry Funk and I went to a house show in Hartford, CT, so we stopped by the office and we watched that match, and my eyes were wide open, and my jaw was hanging down, and I was like, 'I can't do any of these athletic things, especially on top of the Cell.' So I said, 'Terry, what are we going to do?' He looked at me saying that he has no idea, and then proceeded to start laughing. He said that we should start the match on the top of the Cell, and then he stopped laughing. He came up with the idea of being thrown from the top of the Cell. I said, 'I think that I can do that.' The struggle was to get The Undertaker on board with that idea."
Convinced that he couldn't put on as athletic of a Cell match as HBK and 'Taker had previously, Foley had to convince "The Deadman" to amp up the brutality to create memorable moments. 'Taker was eventually sold on the idea of tossing Foley from the roof of the cell, however, the moments that followed, where the roof of the cage collapsed under Foley's weight, were apparently unplanned.
"It was a two week process, and then he turned to me and said, 'Jack, why are you so intent on killing yourself?' I said that we have history together, and have a legacy, and I can't do what you and Shawn Michaels did," Foley said. "But if we can find a way to start a match in a way that no one started before, and create something that no one has seen before, we can make people believe they are seeing a great match even if they are not seeing a great match! This is going back to the idea where there is more than one way to have a great match.
"I felt that we can catch people off guard and do things where people haven't seen before. Then, something went terribly wrong - the cage collapsing. Someone came up with the idea of holding the Cell panels with twist ties, and I just saw Taker two months ago in England, and we were reminiscing on the sound of the twist ties. We went through the chokeslam, which wasn't something we thought would end up instant-giving in the Cell, but it did, and we picked up the pieces and did the best that we could with it. It was not talked about at all."
One of the persisting results of his HIAC bout, along with a career chock-full of hardcore, brutal moments, have left Foley with some injuries that needed extensive repair. He went into detail about the recent surgeries that have improved his health.
"I got the hip done in April of 2017 and my right knee done in September of 2017. It's been a big help; almost too big of help, because I put on some of the weight that I had lost," Foley joked. "The walking was so incredibly painful before I had it done that if I was carrying this weight around without the hip and the knee then it would be unbearable. I just have to get back into the swing of things. I had a lapse last night by having a bad meal, but I am trying to do better. I know what to do - I just need to get back into exercising. I spoke with Kevin Nash after he got his right knee replaced. He called me up after having his right knee replaced and was like, 'Man, I need to talk to you.' He's like, 'It's not improving. It's still hurting badly.' I told him to give it another 6 - 8 weeks and let me know whether or not you still don't see improvements, and so when I saw him at one of the indie shows, he told me how much better he felt."
Foley walks with a sort of pep in his step now, pleased that his injuries aren't holding him back like they once did. Nevertheless, he detailed the handful of ailments that will forever be a part of his day-to-day after the sacrifices he's made in the ring.
"We both sat there talking about this phenomenon of passing people [as you walk by] in the airport. Like, I haven't passed anyone in probably 15 years," Foley said. "I had no idea what that was like. I knew what it was like to have a 60% weight on and being asked if I needed assistance getting off a plane. Even before it was really hurting there was a tell-tale sign of almost walking differently, almost from side to side, to take the pressure off of your sciatic nerve. Unfortunately, it creates a waddle because of what your knee used to do to take the weight off. But almost more importantly, [your body] keeps your eyes focused. That is what I had learned, is like, your body will do whatever it needs to do in order to keep your eyes centered. But in my case, it also included my spine curving to the left, which caught me by surprise. I never saw that coming. At one point I went from 6'4 to 6'1; I lost almost three inches. It was a downer. I knew what I was signing up for; I knew that my kind of style would likely have a long-lasting, permanent effect, but I never saw that one coming."
Various other WWE Hall of Famers had given Foley plenty of advice on how to deal with the lingering pain that would come with his surgeries. He now looks back and can see just how much he has improved at doing something as basic as walking.
"Going back to the hip and knee replacement: the hip was really helpful, but they asked me about pain medicine. They asked how I was doing with the pain, and I said that it had taken the first couple of days to get used to," Foley stated. "And the guy in rehab said to me, 'Don't think you are going to get through that knee surgery without something.' He said that it is going to hurt way worse. Madusa had said the same thing to me because she had it done a few months earlier. This is why, going back to what Kevin Nash said, it just throbs and it makes it really difficult to sleep, and the progress seems so much slower. My right knee had locked to, like, 26 degrees. That leg was a good deal shorter than my other leg, so that is why you begin to put way more weight on your good leg. With my left leg, and with the sciatic nerve pain, I was putting so much weight on that left leg and really throwing off my walk. Not that my walk is great now, but it's so much better than it was."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory Podcast w/Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.