To most people -- well, pro wrestling fans at least -- the name Mick Foley is synonymous with brutal, blood-soaked matches involving the renowned grappler giving and receiving plenty of pain. This is, indeed, true of Foley, who spent close to two decades in the ring with World Wrestling Entertainment and other feds before hanging up his boots, but he's much more than just another 'rassler.
Besides his claim to fame as a three-time WWE Champion, the 55-year-old also is a gifted wordsmith and natural storyteller (hence his many legendary wrestling promos) who's penned several New York Times best-sellers and has been a frequent appearances on The Daily Show as the program's "Senior Asskicker."
A few other ways in which Foley defies the conventions of a musclebound grappler? He's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charity RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and is besties with singer Tori Amos. Plus, he's a pretty funny guy to boot (no pun intended) who's been touring comedy clubs and other venues the country the past few years performing his Mick Foley: Tales From Wrestling Past spoken-word show, in which he spins hilarious career-spanning yarns in his goofy, good-natured style.
The one-man show slams into Stand-Up Live on Thursday night, and Jackalope Ranch recently got a chance to speak with Foley via telephone about his new onstage career, as well as his recent induction into the Hall of Fame and other topics.
Being a stand-up comic or spoken-word artist is not unlike the life a professional wrestler, correct? You're on the road, hitting different cities, working the mic . . . I agree completely. I don't really consider myself to be a stand-up comic. I probably should've not put that label on what I [do] because I think it brings to mind a guy kind of embarrassing himself with weak one-liners as opposed to a guy telling stories about 28 years on the road. But you're absolutely right. You're travelling, you're on the microphone, you're getting reactions from people -- although they're different reactions than you'd get from a wrestling crowd. But the stage becomes your ring and it's honestly the most fun I've had since, really, the [WWE's] glory days of the late '90s.
You're famous for your excellent mic work and cutting intense promos. Do you go through the same sort of creative process that you would for some of your more memorable interviews and promos? No. [Laughs.] I don't need to get that deep into the zone -- 'cause the emphasis is on fun. I'll get intense every once in a while, but only as a way to create some tension that will be released with laughter. Some people say that's the art of comedy, create tension and then release it. I can do that pretty well.
In your autobiographies, you described how you'd spend hours envisioning matches and promos. Do you do the same for your performances? This doesn't mean I take it any less seriously, but the process is a little bit different. This is more like when I'm on stage I can think of ways of making it better the next time. I can immediately realize where I made a mistake and then after the show is where I'm thinking of the ways to make the show better. But I'm not living in that zone 24/7. I'm not shaking in a gym 'cause I'm thinking of promos that I can cut a week later. Do you get into stories that aren't in your books? It's a combination. I've obviously got four volumes of memoirs and a lot of material to work on. So, for example, I just told the cookie story for the first time. I rewrote it. I told it for the first time last summer only because Diamond Dallas Page was going to be in the audience. And so I spent six hours on the flight rewriting that story for the stage. And I was just thrilled when I saw it take on a whole new light. So I don't look at these things like I'm reciting old stories. It's kind of like a band that can rediscover and old tune and make it better in a live setting.
So in some cases I will be telling stories that have known endings but I ask the viewer to trust that I will take them there in an entertaining way. And in some cases there are stories that I did not think to write in the book or that come about because I get a question at a show and it turns into a story that I can then work on and make part of the show.
Like what? So in Arizona, Flagstaff's [performance] will be all ages so I probably won't do this one in Flagstaff, but I have a grand conclusion, a grand concluding story that's become one of my favorite things I've ever done. And it only came about because a few weeks earlier someone asked about the strangest thing I'd ever seen. They asked if it was losing my ear in Germany. And I just thought about it and I said, "You know, that's not even the strangest thing I've seen in Germany." And I went off on a story that I never intended to tell that has become my favorite story of all time.
How does it feel to be part of the WWE Hall of Fame? You know, up until a couple of years ago I would say, "Hey, the recognition I get on a daily basis from fans is my Hall of Fame," because I didn't think I'd get the invite. And then once you get invited, you realize that it is a huge honor, especially at Madison Square Garden, which is the building that I grew up hitchhiking to and taking trains to, where I saw so many amazing moments take place. And without slighting any other class of inductees, I have to feel that this the one that's going to be the benchmark for all the classes that follow.
Do you like how your career has come full circle? Going from hitchhiking to MSG to see Muraco versus Snuka to being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the same building? Yeah, 30 years later. Yeah, it has occurred to me and I'm really excited about it. I have some the same friends who used to accompany me to those same Garden trips, not on the hitchhiking one, but some of the same guys who used to go to the shows with me will be in attendance. So I'm excited. I have a couple of surprise guests coming by to show their support.
I also got the coolest Hall of Fame tribute video from Arizonan Nils Lofgren yesterday. He's one of my favorite musicians and he sent a little musical tribute, played a little jam and sang a couple of lines about me entering the Hall of Fame. And it was really stunning for me to have one of my favorite musicians send me a personal tribute.
You and WWE owner Vince McMahon have had your differences over the years. Is getting into the Hall of Fame a sign of his ultimate respect of you? You know what, Vince always liked and respected me. Well, he didn't always like me but he respected me. This is not so much the definite sign of that as much as him mentioning my book [Countdown to Lockdown] on my show when I wasn't with the company. And it was really at that moment that I decided that if I was ever asked to be a part of the Hall of Fame then I would do it without a second thought.
Who else do you think should be in the Hall of Fame? Paul Bearer, who recently passed away? Yeah, I think Paul will be there the next few years. There's so many great candidates, but whenever I was asked who should be there and is not, the top two guys were Bruno [Sammartino] and Bob Backlund. The WWE gets some heat from time to time for not having certain guys in [the Hall of Fame] for not having certain guys in, but one of the ground rules is that that person has to want to be in, or their family has to want them to be in. Bruno and Bob have both been asked many times and we're just lucky that they agreed in the same year.
So you're back in a commissioner role on WWE's Saturday Morning Slam. Is it going to be as goofy as your original run as "The Commish" in 2000? I don't know if anything will be that goofy and fun, and this is a show that's geared to a much younger audience, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm already finding I have good chemistry with several of the guys. Love doing stuff with Brodus Clay and Sweet T. and Damien Sandow and Cody [Rhodes] . . . there's no shortage of guys that I will enjoy interacting with. And I think, unlike my time as the commissioner, I'm more able to appreciate how cool it is to have a job that entails limited hours and no physical pain.
Which WWE Superstars to you think have the potential to become the next Stone Cold or The Rock? Yeah, yeah. I should have a piece of paper with me at all times in case this question arises, but I enjoy the show. I see a lot of guys hitting their stride at the same time in the same way that guys of the Attitude Era all hit their strides simultaneously. Like, I think with as much flak as the Zeb Colter angle has gotten, I believe that this is the angle that's propelling [Albert] Del Rio to the next level. You see guys like [C.M.] Punk who is already there, and Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, and Dolph Ziggler, who's so good, so regularly that it sometimes gets taken for granted. There's no shortage of guys who could carry the torch into the next generation.
You and Dean Ambrose were reportedly going to work a program last year before it got nixed. Were you disappointed that it never happened? I was really disappointed for him, because I don't want to be the guy responsible for ruining a guy's big break. So believe me, I breathe a sigh of relief every time I see him on the air as a part of The Shield, because it's a great role. I'm sorry I wasn't physically able to do that, but I feel pretty good about where his career is headed.
It's been rumored that Triple-H is changing the way he wants WWE superstars cutting their promos, where things aren't entirely scripted and bullet points are used. Does that result in better promos, in your opinion? Yeah, I do. Bullet points were always the key for me and I was fortunate that I was seldom given verbiage to recite. What happens is that scripted promos relieve the need for wrestlers to be thinking about their character. And while that might not hurt any given promo on any given night, I think it does hurt the character overall. So I'm all for the bullet points and feeling the promo as opposed to just reciting it.
So was there any truth to the rumors awhile back about Triple-H wanting to keep you off TV? Look, Triple-H is the guy who hired me. I've never been happier. So if there is heat, I'm not aware of it, and I'm on TV every week so I'm an ambassador for the company, which is a role that only like three or four people have. So I think that any animosity is probably greatly exaggerated.
Do you have any desire down the road to be an agent for the WWE? No desire to be an agent. That's a long, difficult, thankless job. I help people out on a case-by-case basis, whenever they come by and ask for advice, I'm more than happy to give it to them.
Mick Foley is scheduled to perform his Tales From Wrestling Past one-man show at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, at Stand Up Live. Admission is $25.