Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Mankind
[WWF In Your House: Mind Games – 09.22.96]
Although certainly not his most famous bout (that distinction would fall to his 1998 Hell in a Cell encounter with The Undertaker, as covered later on this DVD), there’s an argument to be made that this might be Foley’s best match ever. True, he had stunning brawls with Sting, Vader, Terry Funk, Steve Austin, Triple H, Randy Orton and Edge throughout his career, all of which are worthy of such high praise, but if nothing else, this may still be the best one under his Mankind persona at least.
The action is just absolutely top notch, as is the creepily awesome character work from Foley as he stabs himself in the leg with a pencil to try and regain feeling in his knee, like some mentally deranged monster straight out of a horror movie. It’s just a shame the bout has to be topped off by a disqualification ending (since it isn’t the right time for Michaels to lose the title, nor is it the right time for Mankind to be doing clean jobs with a “Buried Alive” grudge match against Undertaker already scheduled for the following month’s pay-per-view), but even the finish is chaotically entertaining, with run-ins from Vader and Sid, plus Undertaker magically teleporting into a previously unoccupied coffin at ringside for an intense brawl with Mankind.
It’s a shame the match gets so criminally underrated on account of its relative obscurity, headlining as it did a “B-level” pay-per-view during a rough “down period” in WWF history, leaving the match to flounder as something of a forgotten classic. Had it headlined a larger event such as that year’s SummerSlam and been given the requisite promotional push to build it up, it would surely be more widely lauded as the stunning piece of work it is. As it is, it simply speaks loudly and clearly for the passion and performance of the two guys who bothered to put this kind of effort into busting their balls and having the best match they possibly could, for what was essentially a throwaway holdover main event on a secondary show that didn’t really matter in the grander scheme of things. Sterling work, lads.
Final Rating: ****¾
– After years of being turned down for employment by the World Wrestling Federation because Vince McMahon thought Cactus Jack was too “sleazy”, Foley went to the WWF for a run as Mankind, only to be asked eighteen months later how he’d feel about resurrecting the Cactus Jack persona. He admits to being apprehensive about returning to gimmick, fearing that few WWF fans would remember or even know the character, but he credits Triple H with helping sell what a threat Cactus was, resulting in a monster reaction when he strolled out to the ring for their street fight at Madison Square Garden.
Cactus Jack vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
[WWF RAW – 09.22.97]
Arnold Furious: The crowd erupt into an “ECW” chant as Cactus brings the weapons with him. Jack’s opening move is a swinging neckbreaker on the concrete. Cactus Clothesline and Jack turns to the crowd; “BANG, BANG!” Chyna is still the x-factor and she lays out Jack at ringside, turning this into a 2-on-1. They brawl into the back, which is just a set up for Cactus to use a fire extinguisher. Hunter takes a mean bump into the guardrail, knocking over the entire of one side. That provokes another meaty “ECW” chant as Hunter starts to take big bumps to sell everything. Hunter’s selling is hugely underrated. I’ve always felt it was his leading attribute. Cactus misses his elbow, hitting a trashcan, which provides little protection. Foley, like a lunatic, hits a sunset flip off the apron. I like him inserting an actual wrestling spot into a hardcore match. Chyna interferes again, but Hunter shoves Cactus into her and she gets knocked out on the ring steps. Hunter, compassionate as ever, ignores her and carries on. Another excellent spot though. Cactus tries to lead Hunter up the ramp only to get countered into a back suplex. The vicious bumps continue as Foley seems to enjoy throwing himself back-first onto steel. Hunter pulls out a table and tries for the Pedigree but a low blow sets up a piledriver through it and Cactus gets the pin. You know what I love about this match? The way it set up Royal Rumble 2000 years later. Because Cactus could beat Hunter when Dude Love and Mankind couldn’t, it made logical sense for Mick to bring Cactus Jack back in 2000 when he needed a win against him. And that match was in the Garden too. Because of the lack of (good) hardcore matches in 1997, this gets remembered with great fondness. It’s a bit brief and not as creative as it could have been, but it’s still one of the best TV matches of 1997. In the WWF, anyway.
Final Rating: ***¾
– Foley was thrilled in 1998 to be able to finally get a chance to show a national U.S. television audience what he and Terry Funk were capable of achieving together, and in a neat little trivia note, their match on RAW was actually the first match Foley ever had under his real name.
No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere Match
Mick Foley vs. Terry Funk
[WWF RAW – 04.28.98 (aired 05.04.98)]
Arnold Furious: Steve Austin comes out to pop the crowd and join commentary for this main event. He brings a tray of chilled “Steveweisers”. Foley wrestles under his real name for the first time in his career, including being introduced from “East Pawtucket, Long Island”. The referee is Pat Patterson. “What in the hell is this crap?” says Austin, “Please tell me this is one hell of a rib?” They start slow with Funk throwing realistic punches before resorting to chair shots after about a minute. It is garbage, but fortunately both men are storytellers first and foremost, and hardcore guys secondarily. Meanwhile Austin has mic problems, blames Lawler, and knocks the King on his ass. “Jesus H. Cricket on a popsicle stick,” says Austin in one of his rarest instances of controlled bad language. Funk’s windmill punches and randomly crazy attacks eventually put Mick down. They brawl out into the crowd and Austin calls this “quality entertainment” when Mick wipes out the hot-dog vendor. Funk, absolutely insane, heads up into the cheap seats to hit a MOONSAULT. It’s a terrible looking moonsault but it just about connects and pops the crowd big time. “Mah neck, mah neck,” screams Funk as he gets the worst of it. That’s now a bull’s-eye and Foley hits a piledriver through a table to another massive reaction.
They crawl under the bleachers to set up a backstage fight, which feels suitably organic. Funk takes a thrashing after the moonsault spot and Foley becomes increasingly vicious and determined. Austin points out that Foley wants the title shot so badly that he’ll do this to his best friend. Cactus Elbow with a chair! Austin gets a little pissy with Foley shouting “Bang, bang” in his face. “I must apologise for my language, it’s usually a lot worse than this” – Austin. Funk survives the double-arm DDT, which was Cactus Jack’s finish. Piledriver. No dice. Foley, getting increasingly desperate for the pin, hits a piledriver on a chair for the win. Mick continues the assault, as if to prove a point, but that brings Steve Austin in and Foley accidentally Mandible Claws Patterson. It’s a hard life being a Stooge. Stunner for Pat! Mick just leaves, unsure of what he’s done, only for Vince McMahon to arrive to Dude Love’s music with two strippers and the Dude gear. Mick hugs Vince, completing his turn to the dark side as a sell out. One of the best matches on RAW all year and it’s a pity that many of the WWF’s angles during the annum didn’t require this “overcome something to get somewhere” kind of match.
Final Rating: ***½
– Next up is one of just a handful of moments Foley considers a favourite that involves the Dude Love character. He also stops to ponder if the referee shirt Vince McMahon wears during the bout could possibly be any tighter.
No Disqualification, Falls Count Anywhere Match
Steve Austin (c) vs. Dude Love
[WWF Over the Edge ‘98 – 05.31.98]
Arnold Furious: Howard Finkel introduces Pat Patterson with a long-winded ass-kissing cue-card ceremony. I enjoy a reference to the gruelling tournament in Rio de Janeiro that Pat won to first win the IC Title getting a “wink, wink” from JR. “A role model to children and friend to us all,” continues Finkel. If you think Fink laid it on thick, it’s nothing compared to Patterson’s buttering up of Gerald Brisco, tonight’s timekeeper, who he refers to as “a gladiator” that the industry was built upon before reading out the address and phone number of Brisco Brothers Body Shop in Tampa, and finally comparing him to Jim Thorpe. Pat’s brown-nosed assessment of Vince McMahon is even more extreme, claiming Vince “made our lives worth living”. Corporate Dude Love is yet another Mick Foley creation skirting the line between comedy face and company suck-up. Mick looks cleaner than I’ve ever seen him prior to this match. His hair looks positively HHH-esque. Patterson calls Austin a disgrace, a punk, and a bum, and refuse to introduce him. I don’t think Austin cares and the pop is enormous when his music starts. When he walks out the volume doubles. Circus master Vince just loves being out there. You can sense his excitement at having created all this and now being in the centre of it. As Vince is about to ring the bell, The Undertaker strolls out to watch Austin’s back as per an earlier agreement that if Steve could find anyone willing to watch his back, it was permitted.
Vince initially tries to adhere to the rules, only for Austin to flip him the double bird. Vince then plays loose with the rules and an early Dude pin is met with a fast count and a second pin occurs with Austin’s shoulder clear off the mat. Vince doesn’t make it as obvious as he could, but the crowd hate him anyway and loudly chant, “Vince is gay”. Austin and Foley had several major matches prior to this so they have a good understanding, and Mick is up for taking big bumps to get Austin’s style of match over. If anything though, Austin’s title matches were modelled on Cactus Jack matches minus the crazy bumping. Vince’s counts slow down a bit after Taker eyeballs him, but he still lets everything go. Austin survives a Mandible Claw and the match hits the floor as Vince gets a word with Pat Patterson. “This is a reminder, this match is no disqualification”. I remembered, Mr. McMahon, it’s these other idiots who forgot. Austin’s campaign to even the odds begins by throwing Dude Love into Gerry Brisco and knocking him out. Foley, to his credit, continues to take silly bumps around the ring including a header over the rail. The thud noise was his head. Foley’s comeback includes a neckbreaker on the floor, which Austin is very cautious about taking. Vince orders Patterson to remind us that this match is Falls Count Anywhere, leading to Dude doing some roll ups in the aisle. Technical wrestling works anywhere, folks. Pat O’Connor could still do the O’Connor roll on the floor. He’d have won Falls Count Anywhere matches through technical excellence. Austin takes a backdrop onto one of the Briscos’ cars around the entrance. Austin’s title matches would often involve using the environment, which once again was a staple of Cactus Jack matches down the years.
Austin goes for a Stunner on a car, which wouldn’t hurt anymore than a Stunner on the floor but visually would have been cool. Dude shoves him off and follows with a sunset flip to the floor for two. I love that Dude is using technical pins in a Falls Count Anywhere match. You just don’t see that and it suits his corporate character perfectly, showing Foley had taken care to adjust this particular Dude Love to suit the match. Austin’s bump off the car busts him open, but Dude can’t take advantage and misses with the Cactus Elbow off a car. Austin’s retort is a sick chair shot, but Vince won’t count it. Mick Foley took some brutal chair shots during his career. Vince gets one here too as Dude accidentally waffles Vince, who goes deadweight and falls on Austin. Great sell. Vince often flubbed his selling, but this time he nailed it. Stunner! Mike Chioda runs down, but Patterson pulls him and takes over for a Mandible Claw. Taker clearly thinks this is unfair and chokeslams Pat through the announce table. Brisco tries his hand at refereeing and that gets him chokeslammed through the Spanish table. Stunner! Austin drags Vince across and counts three with his unconscious hand. Innovative work from Austin. The match is considered a template for all of Austin’s matches during his title run, but it’s actually a bit better than that. Foley took his usual good bumps and Austin had a few up his sleeve too. The blood was an accidental bonus, and the carnage was well orchestrated. The continual need for the WWF to overbook their main events rather killed the formula eventually, but here the booking enhanced the match as Vince stacked the odds against Austin in a match he would normally win with ease.
Final Rating: ****
– To Foley’s getting tossed off the top of the Hell in a Cell at the 1998 King of the Ring next, a spot which he actually thinks made everything he’d done over the previous thirteen years seem obsolete, for better or for worse. Despite the match being the only time in his career that he’d ever been legitimately knocked out, he’s still proud of it, before revealing that his second bump off the top (in which the roof of the cage unexpectedly gave way and he fell backwards into the ring with a steel chair striking him in the face for good measure) was actually much worse than being hoyed off the side and sent through a ringside table.
Scarier than either bump however was his failure to understand why a pair of sneakers were suddenly in the ring (the result of Terry Funk coming into the cage and taking a chokeslam from Undertaker in order to try and buy his unconscious pal some recovery time), and his general lack of comprehension for anything that was going on around him. Clearly heavily concussed at this point, Foley’s statements are illustrated with a clip of him sinking in the saddest fashion imaginable instead of taking a flat back bump after taking a punch from Undertaker, along with the famously gruesome shot of one of his teeth being embedded into his nostril.
Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker vs. Mankind
[WWF King of the Ring ‘98 – 06.28.98]
James Dixon: Yes, this is that Hell in a Cell match. No doubt even if you haven’t seen this show, you have seen this bout, or at least the bumps that Foley takes in it. Mick Foley has had superb success in his career by any standards, though even more so when you factor in how he is essentially the antithesis of what modern mainstream wrestling looks for in its “superstars”. He has had great matches with everyone from Shawn Michaels to Sting to Triple H to Randy Orton and countless more, but he will always be remembered for this match above all of that. In truth both guys were in semi-lulls coming into this show and didn’t really have anything to do. Foley had just worked a program with Steve Austin under his Dude Love persona, which followed a run alongside Terry Funk as Cactus Jack. Undertaker had been at war with storyline brother Kane since the last time Hell in a Cell was presented on PPV, some eight-months prior to this. Having decisively beat him, he was about to move on to his next feud with Steve Austin, but it was too early yet. The decision was made to just throw these two in there together and inside Hell in a Cell no less, out of necessity rather than anything else. The rivalry between Taker and Mankind goes back two years, with their first match together coming at King of the Ring 1996. There is history here, but not recent history. Mankind makes the insane decision to start the match on the top of the cage in an effort to try and keep the bout different enough from the 5* classic between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels the last time the Cell was used. There was a lot to live up to and Foley realised it was going to be a tall order. He actually credits Terry Funk with the start, saying Funk told him to start on the cage during a car ride. For the benefit of those who might not have seen this (though I can’t image there are any), this is what happens:
They brawl on top of the Cell to start, which is very impressive visually and also physically when you consider that Taker was working the match with a broken foot. Climbing that cage must have been agony. Mankind uses a chair and as they are walking across the cage it buckles and nearly goes through. Then, in the most replayed spot in the history of pro wrestling before or since, Taker hurls Mankind OFF THE TOP OF THE CAGE AND THROUGH A TABLE! Sorry to go all Vic Venom with capitalisation, but if anything deserves it then it is this. The position of the camera makes the bump look even more impressive; it is like Foley took the tumble right into viewers’ living rooms. The commentary really defines it too, with the call of “Good God! Good God almighty! They killed him! As God as my witness, they have broken him in half!” from JR probably the greatest in wrestling history. Taker was actually really reluctant to do this spot and didn’t understand why Mick wanted to kill himself in such a way, but Foley was adamant that he do it and wore Taker down until he agreed. The next few minutes are spent with medics and officials, as well as Terry Funk, attending to Foley at ringside and in the aisle. The subsequent rousing reaction the crowd gives Foley when he returns to not only the ring, but the top of the cage, is superb. Taker is clearly uncomfortable doing this to another human being, but he gives Foley a chokeslam on the cage anyway, which of course gives way and sends Mick careening towards the mat. The commentary here is again superb and really adds to the incredible visual scenes we have just witnessed. As Foley has said himself, this bump is actually the more painful of the two, because as crazy as it seems the table broke his fall on the first one, but the second one was just like dropping a slab of meat onto a concrete floor. The worst part for Foley was the chair that was on the roof following him down and hitting him squarely in the face, knocking his tooth through his lip and sending him loopy.
Taker earns tough guy points for dropping into the ring from a height on his broken foot, where he visibly winces and then shrugs it off because he is a hard motherfucker and is 100% committed to his craft. Respect, sir. Terry Funk buys his friend a bit of time to recover by taking a chokeslam out of his sneakers and it does the trick because the match continues. Foley is insane. As he wrote in Have A Nice Day, he worked the rest of the match in a concussed daze, wrestling on instinct alone and being led through every spot like a baby being spoon fed. It is actually quite uncomfortable to watch when you know the injuries Foley suffered. Each bump he takes or even move he does, makes me cringe a little. I have no idea how he managed to continue, but he deserves a truckload of credit for it. I don’t think he would have been able to against anyone other than the consummate professional that is the Undertaker. Mankind manages to get a couple of offensive moves in and Taker bleeds for him and even trusts him enough, despite the haze he is obviously in, to give him a piledriver and a chair assisted legdrop. To cap off the insanity, Foley takes two more equally painfully bumps that are often forgotten about, both into a massive pile of thumbtacks. Hell, he was probably so numb from the other two bumps that he didn’t even notice them. The first one actually misses the tacks so Foley rolls around in them, but clearly not satisfied with that he audibly tells the referee to ask Taker to do the chokeslam into them, which he does. Following that meaty bump, Taker hits the Tombstone for the win to end one of the most breathless and eternally unforgettable spectacles in wrestling history. Well I say wrestling, but it doesn’t even slightly resemble a wrestling match in the traditional sense at all. It is not great if judged as a wrestling contest, it’s terrible, but the bumps are two of the most enduring images in WWF history and will be replayed decades from now. Fifteen-years later, neither has lost any impact and if anything they look even worse. Without the bumps the match is horrible, but with them the match is probably the defining moment of the Attitude era and everything it represents. With that in mind it is definitely required viewing for any fan or wrestling, but utterly impossible to rate as a contest.
Final Rating: ***** / -***** (depending on your persuasion)
– Foley admits that he never expected to ever become WWF champion, and that he didn’t realise how much it would mean once he finally achieved it. He also admits that the bout in which he won the gold wasn’t actually much of a match, and wishes that Jim Ross could have been the one to call it rather than Michael Cole.
No DQ Match
The Rock (c) vs. Mankind
[WWF RAW – 12.29.98 (aired 01.04.99)]
Arnold Furious: The one positive to come from what had been a trying show was the focus on Mankind’s title pursuit. Which, oddly enough, is the one part of the show that Vince Russo had no say in, with the main events being booked almost exclusively by Vince McMahon. Coincidence? The Corporation come out here with The Rock so Mankind is cornered by DX to offset that. The match is mostly a brawl around on the floor, which suits Foley as he can take silly bumps to get it over. The no DQ rule ends up playing in Rock’s favour as he’s able to use plunder. Rock even has time to stop off to do commentary on his own match, which gets him pounded on the announce table. “Mankind’s looking real good, he’s showing a lot of a testicular fortitude,” says Mick taking over, but he turns right into a shot with the ring bell. Rock Bottom through the announce table! It’s carnage out there. Shane, still selling a shoulder injury given to him by Mick earlier, gets some interference in, which has otherwise been minimal with the two groups at ringside offsetting each other. Corporate Elbow… gets two. The Big Bossman interferes leading to a Rock belt shot… for two. Foley’s determination to not stay down this time is the crux of the match. Double-arm DDT on the belt… for two. Considering this is a sub ten-minute match they get tons of drama into it. Mr. Socko is applied, but Ken Shamrock runs in to chair shot Foley and this leads to a massive ruckus between the Corporation and DX. Steve Austin is here! He gives a chair shot to The Rock, and Foley gets the cover. 1-2-3. New champion! The crowd goes insane; it’s one of the biggest pops I’ve ever heard. Austin looks thrilled at his part in all this, and the moment is a wonderful one. Mick Foley deserved this. It’s also one of Michael Cole’s best calls, ever, as he reminds people of Foley’s past personas, but that now he’ll forever be known as WWF Champion. “Hey Vince, I gotta tell you, this feels pretty damn good” – Foley. One of the all-time great feel-good moments in wrestling.
Final Rating: ***
– Having gone from one of the wildest characters in the business to one of the goofiest, and well aware that retirement was knocking on the door, Foley saw the Royal Rumble street fight with Triple H as a way to take things full circle and remind people of the way he’d come into the business.
Triple H (c) vs. Cactus Jack
[WWF Royal Rumble 2000 – 01.23.00]
Arnold Furious: They start out on the floor brawling and Cactus takes a shot with the ring bell, which was enough to put Mankind down. But Cactus Jack isn’t Mankind. Not anymore. He’s gained a mythical power that lifts him above that. Hunter grabs a chair so Jack demands a shot with it and Hunter delivers. Cactus goes down like a sack of spuds, but he gets back up! They don’t do much wrestling, they don’t need to, but Cactus inserts swinging neckbreakers and backdrops on the floor, as if to pay homage to wrestling in an unusual setting. They insert a much maligned crowd brawl (in that I hate all crowd brawls) but it’s merely to get to a New York style alleyway part of the entrance. This leads to Hunter taking a suplex on a pallet. Much to Hunter’s horror, he discovers a piece of wood stabbed him in the leg during that spot. Not for the last time, Hunter just carries on. Lots of blood from that and it’s right in the calf. That would hinder the mobility of a normal man. For all the flak we’ve given Hunter, he sure knew how to man-up and work with pain. In order to push the envelope Cactus grabs his 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire, which gets a massive pop. As per usual Cactus bringing a weapon in backfires, as Hunter nut shots him and uses the 2×4 on Jack. It’s vicious. The WWF has seen nothing this violent beforehand. Double Arm DDT, but in a rare moment of weird selling, Cactus stays down for too long before pinning. Hunter rolls his shoulder while the ref is hiding the 2×4. “Where’s the bat?” screams Cactus at Earl Hebner. Mick lays out Hugo Savinovich for not giving him the bat from under the Spanish announce table. Hunter then takes a 2×4 shot right in the noggin. It’s a beauty. Hunter kicks out and the fans are already biting on the near falls. Also Hunter is bleeding like a stuck pig from the head and the leg. He’s having to earn this title in blood, sweat and tears. Like his hero Ric Flair, Hunter’s blond hair is turning a shade of red as Cactus beats at his bloody head. It’s a crimson mask! Cactus remembers his last match with Hunter and goes for a piledriver on the announce table to replicate that famous MSG win from RAW in 1997. Hunter feels it coming and backdrops out, breaking the table before the main event.
It’s at this point that JR spots the puncture wound in Hunter’s calf and sells the hell out of it. He’s been working with that for ten-minutes! Hunter sets for the Pedigree and unfortunately does it in line with the buckles, rather telegraphing the reversal. Hunter then face bumps onto the barbed wire… for two. Hunter has juiced so much that the fans buy everything as a near fall now. Cactus Clothesline sets up Cactus to take a hip toss onto the ring steps. Cactus follows that with yet another knees-first bump into the ring steps, which makes you wonder if he was planning on walking after this match, let alone wrestling a main event the following month. Hunter, always the cerebral assassin, takes out Cactus’ leg. This allows him to grab handcuffs and cuff up Foley. People get depressed at the sight of Cactus getting cuffed as it brings back memories of the Rock’s brutalisation of him at the Rumble in 1999. It also ends the fans’ hope that Cactus can win the title. Hunter goes after the ring steps but Jack manages to drop toehold him, in a superb piece of defensive wrestling. Hunter then wears him out with a chair, which creates a great visual as part of the chair breaks off and flies towards the crowd. Sometimes props can magically help you create a better visual. Hunter is far safer with his chair shots than Rock was a year earlier. As Cactus starts begging Hunter to hit him properly, the Rock runs out and chair shots Hunter so the cops can unlock Jack’s cuffs.
Now it’s a fair fight again and Cactus’s first call of business is to hit that piledriver on the table. The Spanish table does not oblige and stays in one piece. Because it’s not falls count anywhere Cactus has to take it back into the ring, and on the way picks up a massive bag of thumbtacks. Stephanie McMahon can’t take it anymore and runs out to appeal to Cactus’s sense of fair play. Hunter takes the opening and backdrops Jack into the tacks. Great sell from Stephanie on that. PEDIGREE! ONE-TWO-THR…NOOO! KICKOUT! This was outstanding business as the Pedigree was death and nobody ever kicked out of it. Hunter’s one-legged complaint to the ref is brilliant, but as soon as Cactus is up a second Pedigree on the thumbtacks gets the job done. A brutal ballet that had a ridiculous escalation of violence for the WWF. It was a massive breakthrough for hardcore wrestling to see the WWF Title defended in such a manner. I know some purists aren’t keen on this, but I love Mick Foley as a talent and this was his moment to shine in a way that no one else could. This is a demonstration of what was possible when the rulebook gets thrown out of the window. Hunter’s selling and bleeding made the match, and the match made him.
Final Rating: *****
[continued on next page]