If you go down to the boiler room today, you’re sure of a very big surprise. Perhaps even two, for not only will you stumble into the lair of Mankind, but, if particularly unfortunate, you just might get acquainted with one Mr. Socko.
Behind the dishevelled get-up of this deranged derelict is Mick Foley, surely one of the most badass, fearless competitors of all time. In a fifteen-year career characterised by painful plummets, catastrophic chair shots and tumbles onto thumbtacks, Foley always took that extra step – one too far, oftentimes – to enthrall the audience and steal the show with these death-defying stunts. He certainly succeeded.
Taking ‘split personality’ to whole new levels, Foley was also unique in that he wrestled as three overarching characters, each packed with their own distinctive brand of madness, and liable to shift from one to another at any moment. Cactus Jack was the first to appear, bringing the air of hardcore and unpredictability that was to follow. Indeed, notable ordeals Cactus clawed through saw him suffer third-degree burns and tear off two-thirds of an ear. Later on came Dude Love, a bizarre, fun-loving hippie who would dance his way down to the ring and indulge in his own twisted jollifications.
The boiler room-dwelling Mankind surfaced in the WWF in 1996, where his shocking performances were to become emblematic of the promotion’s change to more extreme, hard-hitting action. He looked slightly different to begin with; this was his attempt to nail the ‘corporate’ look after siding with boss, Vince McMahon. Mankind seemed to enjoy pain, always getting up for more. Mankind was instantly embroiled in a war with The Undertaker and over the next couple of years the two would have some devastating and downright scary fights. It’s a wonder Mick survived their hideous Hell in a Cell Match.
Following this, and noting the growing respect for Foley’s performances, Mankind became a fan favourite and played to this by adopting a goofier, sweeter personality. Mr. Socko – which incidentally he would jam down the opponent’s throat in his ‘Manidble Claw’ finishing manoeuvre – soon followed, and the two were certainly a unique combination. The fun Mankind is certainly the persona I find preferable. Despite the lighter edge, he was still not one to be underestimated; continuing to partake in matches of similar bent, he went on to be WWF Champion three times before his retirement in 2000, going out with another uneasy Hell in a Cell against Triple H. He would continue to appear as ‘commissioner’ for the rest of the year, after that reducing his workload to special guest appearances.
This man is insane! There’s nothing more to be said when looking back at all he put himself through. That said, for providing so many terrifying and later hilarious moments, he is today one of the most respected and well-liked personalities in the industry. If you don’t like Mick, well, have a nice day!