#WWF277 – Mick Foley – Hard Knocks And Cheap Pops

James Dixon: With Mick Foley having retired from active full-time competition in favour of a position as an onscreen authority figure, one much kinder to his battered body, this tapes covers the fun he had in that role as well as revisiting some of the tremendous performances he put in at the back end of his career. I have always been a big fan of Mick Foley, in terms of both his work and personality, as well as his books too. The last tape of his that I reviewed, Three Faces of Foley, scored a perfect 100 in The Complete WWF Video Guide Volume #4, so I am looking forward to this.

 

Host is Mick Foley himself, obviously. He starts out by talking about his favourite subject for ridicule; Al Snow. He discusses their relationship and brings up a match with Hardcore Holly where Al took a bunch of chair shots and decided to smile instead of sell them. The poor guy was just trying to play his unhinged character, but it garnered him some heat from the boys. At Mr. Socko’s birthday party on Sunday Night Heat, Mick mocked Al by saying: “I’d first like to send congratulations to Al Snow for landing that lucrative endorsement deal with La-Z-Boy, which is surprising because Al doesn’t usually sell chairs”. Great line. Mick claims their relationship became strained because of his constant ribbing, and that his countless Al Snow jokes in his book Have a Nice Day were his backhanded way of apologising. People latched onto Mick in a big way after that book came out, and art imitated life on television as Al and Mick become onscreen best friends, and even tag champions. We see footage of the pair in Vegas, which leads to some fun segments with a planted fan pretending to be the Rock, who pesters them mercilessly. During a poker game, Foley states: “I’ve been dreaming about a hand like this all my life”, to which Al quips: “You dream about your hand all the time.” “Shut up, Al” barks Foley in response. The two had great chemistry.

 

Foley says that in 1999 his body told him to retire, but the money told him otherwise. At least he is honest. He says that’s why he ended up teaming with the Rock, basically so he could coast by and do far less of a physically demanding style, instead relying on comedy, which he happened to be great at. The tandem had immense chemistry, they were perfect foil and a wonderful opposites attract partnership. They weren’t together long, but had a host of fondly remembered moments together, and they delivered big time in the ratings. The segment with Mick throwing a “This is Your Life” celebration for his surly partner remains the highest rated in the history of RAW. Foley was on fire during the entire union, with his self-deprecating act winning him a lot of new fans, and producing some classic lines, such as a backstage interview where he says: “It doesn’t matter what my name is, Michael Cole”. Nobody was willing to “show ass” like Foley was. Unfortunately the duo didn’t last, coming to an end when Mick found a signed copy of his book that he had given to Rock in the trash, and Mick cuts a vicious promo on his partner, getting angrier than he had been in years. Stupid airhead Divas idiotically gurning into the camera and delivering fake sounding scripted lines, this ain’t. It turns out it was all a big misunderstanding though, and it was a jealous Al who had put the book in the bin. This results in a brief TV feud, with the match shown (in brief highlight form) ending when Rock belts Al with a couple of chair shots off camera, in what turns out to be his locker room.

 

We go to Mick’s final program as a regular performer, his feud with Triple H, which is the meat of this tape. The rivalry is covered in detail, from Mick losing a Pink Slip on a Pole match to his big return a few weeks later. Trips batters and bloodies Mankind, resulting in him demasking in a subtle act of symbolism. Foley’s full transformation from Mankind to Cactus Jack in a truly brilliant segment on SmackDown! (shown here set to the harrowing tones of ‘O Fortuna’) is not so subtle, but then it was never supposed to be, and the crowd react to the metamorphosis brilliantly. Equally superb is the reaction from Triple H, who sells this better than he did anything else in his career. He puts the Cactus Jack character over as a main event title threat more with one look than he did with everyone he ever worked with, as he became a burial specialist down the years. I guess he knew Foley was retiring and thus wasn’t a threat to his position. Not that his position could ever possibly be under threat what with him NAILING THE BOSSES DAUGHTER! To his credit here, Trips downplays his role in making Cactus, saying that he was already a mythological being, and he just reacted to him. Mick rightly points out that if Trips had laughed him off when he in reality did little more than just take his shirt and mask off, it would have killed it. Taking angles like this seriously in wrestling makes a great deal of difference in generating interest in a contest. That is why long time fans got frustrated in the WWE PG-era, when everything was tongue in cheek, done with a wink and a nod or just downplayed as “part of the story”. Wrestling was cool in 2000 because everyone was a badass, rather than everyone being a pretty boy with a tan and perfect hair. Can you imagine someone like The Miz or any of the stream of cookie-cutter generic sports entertainers working a feud like this?

 

We get footage from the epic and supremely violent Royal Rumble 2000 match, which Trips says was brutal, but that they had already apologised to each other in the back so it was all okay. Goodbye, kayfabe. We see brutal chair shots to the face from Hunter, the sickening sight of a piece of wood from a broken pallet stabbing Hunter in the leg and the introduction of barbed wire into the WWF. Now, a note on that: when they first brought out Barbie, the wire was very real, and when Hunter used it on Cactus you could see it sticking in his shirt. As the match progressed, the old switcheroo was implemented by the Fink and the Spanish announce team, and the barbed wire bat replaced with a replica that featured rubber wire. The problem was that this bat looked new and fresh, whereas the old one has already began to unravel from getting stuck in Cactus’ shirt. The change was made because Hunter was taking a bunch of shots to the face and understandably didn’t want to risk losing an eye or ripping his skin open. I guess the question becomes: why didn’t they just use that from the start? Mick didn’t need to take any more brutal weapon shots to prove his toughness in this environment or to get another hardcore badge of honour. He already had plenty of those, and frankly no one would have known any different anyway if it had been gimmicked from the start. One thing they could not fake was the thousands of thumbtacks that Cactus introduced, and of course he was the one who took the bump into the pins. Hell, it was his specialty. We get around 15-minutes of the tape devoted to this remarkable match, which is probably the greatest hardcore outing in history, coming it at around ****¾ in this writer’s view.

 

I want to briefly stop off to mention the music that has been used on this tape. On a lot of other releases that I have covered in this book, the choice of music has been pretty crappy and generic, with everything from incessant techno noise to soulless throwaway half-assed nu metal dirge delivering an aural assault over the top of the footage. On this, it has been brilliant. Whoever was in charge of picking the accompanying music obviously knew what they were doing, because everything fits perfectly, and there is not a hint of P.O.D. in sight.

 

Even though Hunter went over at the Rumble, the feud between the two continues. What strikes me is that a lot of the angles and storyline progression came on SmackDown!, which is remarkable to me having gotten used to so many years where literally nothing at all happens on the show to move things along. Trips on RAW then challenges Cactus to his last shot at him or the title at No Way Out 2000, with the bout in question being Hell in a Cell with Foley’s career on the line. This was the second match that made Triple H into a bona fide star, with Mick Foley once again putting his body on the line for the sake of his art and in an effort to help the career of his opponent. There are few as selfless in an industry full of bastards as Mick Foley. Mick talks about the tough legacy that he and Hunter had to live up to following their bout the previous month, and of course his own past shenanigans in the cell. “I didn’t fancy my chances of winning, if you know what I mean” he offers with a winking glance as this tape continues to let the world in on the big (but really, not so big) secret. Foley mentions how he broke his own nose in the bout delivering a chair assisted elbow drop, and points out that it’s a good job it wasn’t Hunter’s nose that got broken, or “we both would have drowned”. Because it’s enormous, you see. We see a spot where Cactus fell from halfway up the cage and through a table, which was a good bump and all but nothing compared to the one against Undertaker, and if you can’t at least match something you have done already then why bother doing an inferior version? We see footage from the forgotten Hell in a Cell on RAW (why would you ever put the Cell on RAW!? Oh, right, Vince Russo was booking…) against Kane, where he took the same bump and missed the table by a mile, which looked hellacious. That begs another question: why would you take a bump like that again when it went so wrong the first time!? We don’t get full highlights of this, but rather just the big bumps, with a flaming barbed wire bat brought into play, and then Cactus getting backdropped through the cage and indeed through the ring. The difference between this cage bump and the King of the Ring ’98 one is that this time, the cage was supposed to give way, and the ring had been played around with by the crew so that the bump was far more delicate. Again though, why try and recapture magic and run the same thing twice? That never works. Cactus was still alive so Hunter followed up with a Pedigree and that was it for Mick’s fairly brief in real terms (four years), but still legendary WWF career…

 

…Only it wasn’t, because he took the first step towards the complete and total bastardisation of his legacy by returning to the ring the following month at WrestleMania 2000. I don’t blame the guy, because the promise of a WrestleMania payoff should always trump a kayfabed promise to the fans for anyone with any business sense, but at the same time it did retroactively cheapen the No Way Out battle. The pop that Mick got for his return on RAW was something else, but the shape he showed up in was embarrassing. He was way heavier in just a month, which Foley claims was 20lbs,  but it looks more like 30lbs at least. I have never seen anyone change shape so much in such a short space of time. In the ‘Mania match, Foley shows that he has no sense again, repeating a spot from Survivor Series: Deadly Game where he made a mess of a flying elbow off the top through the announce table, severely and permanently damaging his knee in the process. It was one of the reasons he ended up having to retire early. In his infinite wisdom, Mick decided to repeat the spot again at WrestleMania, only with an extra tyre of tubbiness around his waist and the aforementioned jiggered knee. He came up short, VERY short, and smashed his chest into the table then bounced off in a heap, not even coming close to hitting the Rock. The silly bastard.

 

Now to a fun time in Mick’s career, when he served as WWF commissioner. He was introduced by Shawn Michaels on RAW, complete with freshly shaven head and with a seriously crappy dress sense. Seriously, you think he looked scruffy in Mankind’s later years? Just check him out in this role, with his baggy sweatpants, occasional charm necklace, t-shirt and sleeveless flannel shirt. He wouldn’t have even got on WWE TV in the John Cena era, because the company was so cute about its own image. On the brief occasions he was involved on camera during that time, there was a strict directive to film him from the waist up. Hell the poor guy had been retired from full-time competition for over a decade, just let him eat his junk food and enjoy his life. He deserved any comforts he could get for what he had put his body through over the years. Annoyingly, one of the chief orchestrators of said directive was none other than one Triple H. I don’t know if it was for the good of the company or Mick Foley’s legacy, but whatever his rationale, he should show more respect to the man that made him into the top tier star he became. Back to the tape anyway, and we see the birth of the cheap pop during a promo with Triple H (with Stephanie nodding furiously in the background, completely out of synch with what is being said, making her look like a clueless imbecile), and then a collection of some of the better ones.

 

Foley continues his tradition of putting up and coming guys in his video tapes (he did the same thing for the Hardys on Three Faces of Foley) by featuring Edge & Christian. The two were at their absolute best as a doubles act around this time, and one of the segments shown that doesn’t even involve Foley is the Kurt Angle birthday party, where they rile up the moody Triple H by wearing Teletubbies party hats, blowing streamers and playing theme songs on a kazoo. It’s one of my favourite comedic segments in wrestling ever, and for me the peak of both Edge and Christian as entertainers. More so even than ‘the Rated R Superstar’ and more so than ‘Captain Charisma’ and his “peeps”, I absolutely adored Edge & Christian as a team, because they left you wanting more each week. One segment of theirs also involving the kazoo that still cracks me up to this day is when they played Chris Benoit’s  theme while singing in monotone “Chris Benoit is here and he’s really mad”. It’s utter genius.

 

We see more from Edge & Christian, who sit and talk with Foley about some of their finer moments onscreen together. Some of the wonderfully fun skits are shown, including an exchange backstage when the duo want their own locker room like the Rock, and Foley says how he never had his own locker room, and he was WWF Champion. Edge points out that: “You never change your clothes!” while Christian adds: “You just wrestle in what you are wearing!”. The delivery from all three is perfect. They continue to shoot the shit, laughing about Foleys toy dog “Sarge” (named as a tribute to previous commissioner Sgt. Slaughter), Christian pretending to be sick to get out of a match, Christian trying to shed weight for a Light Heavyweight Title match by wearing a chicken suit, and Edge saying Mick is “full of poo” when he notices his Winnie the Pooh shirt. These interactions between the trio are one of the reasons that I enjoyed Foley in this role so much.

 

We stop off briefly to see Mick building Stephanie up with kindness before cruelly breaking her spirit, and then get some more amusing segments from his run in the role, including a doozey where he accidentally smashes Pat Patterson’s hand with his gavel. Next a remarkably serious promo from atop a truck on Triple H, then onto the investigation into who ran over Steve Austin back at Survivor Series 1999. ‘Stone Cold’s’ method of interrogation involved running through everyone with Stunners, which is probably the worst technique for gleaming information ever. I mean, they are all knocked out! Foley told Austin to stop interfering in matches, which he didn’t, so Foley suspended him. That resulted in Stunners, obviously, and Mick in real life worrying about being a heel. We then take a brief look at Mick’s children’s Christmas book, as he sits down with the book’s artist Jerry Lawler to discuss the kid that inspired the story, and to talk about some of the quirky art.

 

To the end of Foley’s Commissioner run now, with Vince McMahon demanding that Foley resign from the role. William Regal speaking on behalf of the locker room requests the same, but Steve Austin comes to his defence and decks Vince, as Foley tears up the letter of resignation. But that was only a brief respite, because he was fired by Vince soon afterwards and beaten up by Edge, Christian and Kurt Angle. It was a shame. Foley leaving the screens was soon followed by Steve Austin turning heel, The Rock disappearing to make movies and Triple H getting injured. The glory days were over, and the WWF was a very different and much worse place in 2001 because of it.

 

Summary: Well, Mick opened up the businesses secrets in his first book, and now he spreads its legs on this video tape, delving deeper behind the curtain than anyone ever has previously. It’s one thing to talk about things from the distant past in terms that make clear they were not so real, but to do it about feuds from a year prior seems a little strange. Kayfabe issues aside, the tape is constantly entertaining and has a very different feel to most other releases. You get the impression that this is exactly the tape that Mick wanted, and it does him justice both as a hardcore icon and as a happy-go-lucky, loveable entertainer. I don’t think it quite reaches the heady heights of Three Faces of Foley, but there is plenty good on here to make it well worth your while. It brings back fond memories of a time when wrestling was still fun and not a corporate shell of its former glory. For that I can’t do anything other than recommend it.
Verdict: 84

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