During a recent interview with Talking Tough, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley disclosed new details about his run as Mankind when World Wrestling Entertainment was still known as the WWF. Foley recalled how he first got hired, saying that Vince McMahon covered his face with the Mankind mask because he thought he “didn’t look like a star”.
“I hated that character because the mask was so… It really constricted my breathing, you know? With the leather underneath the nose. I needed as much oxygen as I could suck in anyway. But it came about because Jim Ross was a big advocate of mine, and Mr. McMahon was never interested in me. He thought I didn’t look like a star. And finally, my name came up in 1995, in the fall, he slammed it on the table, and he said, ‘Alright, I’ll bring him in, but I’m covering up his face.’ And that’s how I got my foot in the door, and luckily, as time went by, he kind of found out I had an interesting real-life story to tell.
“So, I was able to inject a lot more realism into that character and it really was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The stuff that Mankind did with Dwayne Johnson, when he was my opponent and when he was my partner, was really fun and memorable stuff. Luckily, we were taking peoples’ minds off their problems and they still remember some of the stuff 22 years after the fact.”
Mick notes how he pushed himself to give the best performances possible on camera, which would sometimes transcend into feeling like the character itself.
“Most of the time, you’re doing your best at portraying a character and you’re waiting for those few golden moments where you are that character. So, you’re not even thinking about what you’re going to do. I didn’t know, for example, that I was very verbal in the ring, I would know by watching it. Verbal as in, I made a lot of noise and I had no game plan to do that, I didn’t realize I was doing it while I was in there. Especially with Mankind, I made a lot of noise. Especially female tennis players, you know, they can be kind of verbal when they’re playing and they don’t necessarily realize it, it’s just what they do. So yeah, I did do my best trying to give an authentic performance, and there were times where I felt like I was that guy.”
As became standard for Mankind, a brutal, bloody match between he and The Rock took place at WWE Royal Rumble 1999. In it, Mankind was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and took several, unprotected chair shots to his head.
“Unfortunately, one of the times where I felt like The Rock was really The Rock and I was really Mankind was that I Quit match from January 1999, which way past the point it should have. So, we were trying to do something special that night and we went a little overboard. We don’t have a lot of people who ask about that match because it’s really uncomfortable, it’s not fun to watch.”
With the I Quit match from ’99 and other bouts like his Hell in a Cell matches with Undertaker and Triple H, his hardcore matches with Randy Orton and Edge, and countless others, it’s an understatement to say Foley sacrificed his body for the art of pro wrestling. The hardcore legend admits that he has concerns regarding his health, in particular, possible long-term effects to his brain.
“Yeah, I do. I do worry, a lot. I think we’re all in the same boat… It’s hard to make that decision, it’s hard to realize you’ve lost that step before other people realize you’ve lost it. It’s also tougher, still, for a wrestler because, unlike baseball, basketball, or anything to deal with MMA, and boxing, like, once you’ve lost that something, you’re never the same person again. But in wrestling, guys go on to sometimes come back a little better at controlling the crowd, and working a match in ways that they could not do. I mean, in more positive ways than when they did have 100% of their physical attributes. And so, it becomes really difficult to convince a wrestler that their best days are behind them because we all feel like we have one more great match left in us, if that makes sense.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talking Tough with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.