(A warning: This week’s Listless will be exclusively about professional wrestling. You know that going in. Any further insults I humbly direct to our comment board below.)
For a time a few years back, I wrote freelance about WWE. Now, this is kind of like telling people you’re still prone to nocturnal emissions (I’m totally not) or that you were once really into Grey’s Anatomy (I totally was), but looks of shame aside, I know far too much about professional wrestling and it was a good outlet. Though a regular viewer, I also read the so-called “dirt sheets,” sites that spoil major plot developments and do critical analyses of each week’s shows.
The dirt sheets this week broke the news that Mick Foley (remembered best as Mankind, Cactus Jack or a children’s writer, depending) was let go by WWE rival TNA. Now, I must say, even if they’re asking for it: Not Tits and Ass, okay? Okay. Rather, Total Nonstop Action has been around for many years and, since gaining a TV deal with Spike a couple years ago, has tried to pose itself as the first real threat to the WWE dynasty since WCW folded a decade ago.
The problem is, TNA makes many of the same mistakes as WCW, such as featuring over-the-hill wrestlers incapable of a main event match in said main event matches, or firing those who question the questionable writing policies; evidently, this is what happened to Foley. So, with this news fresh, I want to take a trip down memory lane and look at some of Foley’s classic matches, or at least my favorites, and why. Ready to learn something, kids?
(Note: I’ve only included WWF/E matches. Digging into the full archive is a much larger endeavor, and this was his pinnacle of popularity anyway.)
1. Mankind v. Shawn Michaels (1996)
Back when WWE was WWF and not every pay-per-view had to have some kind of terrible gimmick, the In Your House series held court. Foley has attested that this is one of his favorite matches, as far as being in peak physical condition, and watching him square off with Shawn Michaels in his first prime (right before he retired was a glorious second) is quite the treat:
2. Mankind v. Undertaker – Hell In A Cell (1998)
Arguably the most famous match that Foley ever had. I struggled with including this, because as you’ll see, it’s really not very good. The legend of Foley’s heroic efforts to a) finish the match and b) not die on national television has superceded what’s essentially a bloodbath. Still a remarkable thing to behold, though. (So NSFW)
3. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H (2000)
The clock was ticking down on Foley’s ability to be a human crash test dummy, and the Attitude Era (1997-2001ish) was reaching its autumn period. So, the next two matches come from Foley’s reinvention as the crazed gunslinger that he started his career playing, and ended the most significant run of it on. (Less NSFW than the above, but still pretty NSFW.)
4. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H – Hell In A Cell (2000)
Just a month after #3, Foley and that guy who gave Vince McMahon grandchildren put on an emotional rollercoaster that involves barbed wire, fire and a human crater. So, again, NSFW.
5. Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton (2004)
In the later run of Foley’s WWE career, he wrestled under his own name and met head on with the early gimmick of Randy Orton, the “Legend Killer.” For all the accusations that Foley has always been a stuntman and nothing more, this is a fantastic mixture of stunts and genuine in-ring talent.
(Final note: Most of these are only the first part of the match due to YouTube constraints. If you’re intrigued, I highly recommend watching them through.)