Getting a chance to interview Mick Foley may be the last Almost Famous moment I’m going to be able to squeeze out of my early twenties. Except, instead of coaxing him away from jumping off a suburban roof into a pool, I was sitting in the Ran- dom at Best studio on Adelaide talking to him over the phone while he was sitting in a hotel room in Baltimore. Expectations scaled back, sure, but it was still great to talk to the guy who fell through the Hell in the Cell at the hands of Undertaker straight onto the mat while his tooth pro- truded through his fucking nose. Damn. Now, Mick Foley does some great work for a sex abuse charity called RAINN and is constantly developing his other craft: writing.
How did your charity work with RAINN first come about?
I started donating about three years ago after I met Tori Amos who co-founded RAINN in 1994, and the more I learned about the work they did the more confident I was that donating to them was a really good idea. About a year and a half ago I started thinking about becoming a volunteer after having seen first hand the work they did so I’m a donor, a volunteer, and I’ve actually tried to raise money as well.
What are the main features and benefits of RAINN that convinced you?
Well RAINN started as a national network of crisis centers so people call a central hot line and are automatically routed to their nearest crisis center, but with so many people more comfortable using the internet as opposed to talking to an individual there was really a need for volunteers to fill that demand so that’s what I was seeing, people volunteering just because they wanted to help. I was encouraged by their generosity and I wanted to be one of those people too.
You've done a good job at keeping the Mick Foley name strong, despite its various transitions. How was the shift from wrestler to writer?
I was lucky that I was in WWE when its popularity was just phenomenal. They were popular enough to merit the contract with Regan Books. Judith Regan had an imprint with Harper Collins and I was like the guinea pig, so I was the first book to go and nobody expected me to write the book myself but that is what ended up happening. That book succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.
So did Vince come up to you and say "you should do this"?
It wasn’t Vince who broke the news to me personally, but as is the case with everything in the organization, it was his doing.
What was the hardest part about finishing that book?
I think the hardest part was that I did all the writing by hand. Even my last book was written by hand with the exception of the last three chapters.
Why do you do that?
I didn’t know how to use a computer. I took typing in high school but I hadn’t used a typewriter in years. I just felt like there was a better connection by hand.
That could be why your work is so personal, maybe there's something to it.
There might be. Even now when I talk about writing I make a hand gesture. When I talk about writing I don’t pretend like I’m pushing buttons.
So shifting back a bit, when did you first realize you were the daredevil type?
I knew I liked to see those things inside and outside of the ring that took my breath away or made me cringe, and certainly the things that made me turn to my friend and say “that had to hurt”. Clearly there’s a problem with being the guy who does all the things that make people turn to their friends and say that. It seems like a good idea at nineteen but maybe not quite as good as you get older.
When you were eighteen or nineteen were there any amateur stunts you pulled off that kind of prepped you for the work that you would do later in life?
I don’t want to advocate anything I did as being the correct way of doing things but I guess leaps from a friends roof or a basketball rim. To this day I can’t jump really high and never really could so I always had to jump off of high places.
Okay, so how did you get into hardcore wrestling?
Hardcore wrestling was, to me, a frame of mind. It was just putting on a really good show beyond the call of duty and I liked that stuff. Things that made it easy to suspend disbelief. I enjoyed that style if it was done correctly. That style can either be looked at as garbage wrestling or an art form, depending on how its done.
What was your first major wrestling stunt that you looked at and thought "I did that right" or gave you the suspension of disbelief that made you think that your work was more of an art form than "garbage"?
I think when I first starting having really good matches in the 1990s, especially one with this guy Eddie Gilbert, we kind of took that style of wrestling and cemented it as my strong point.
Can you zero in on any particular match or moment that you remember from that period?
There was one match when I wrestled for the Tri State wrestling association where Eddie and I had a two out of three falls match, the second one was a stretcher match and the 3rd was a cage match. It kind of set new levels for stupidity or perseverance.
When you're in such a physically demanding situation like that, what are the kinds of things you're thinking about and how do you get yourself through a triathlon like that?
It really helps to get crowd reactions. That’s kind of like our fuel. If I was an automobile I would need those reactions to keep running.
So even though your face is cut open or you've been slammed against a metal fence, the crowd reaction kind of evens out the pain and fatigue?
Yeah. I was able to do things inside the ring in the wrestling world that I never would have attempted and things that I certainly wouldn’t have completed without the audience responding.
Yeah you wouldn't be doing that in an alley.
No definitely not.
Mick Foley vs. Terry Funk, 1995 "King of the Deathmatch" in Japan.
Can you talk a bit about the environment of your Terry Funk matches, the Japanese ones for someone who doesn't really know wrestling and that reference, how were those put on?
The matches with Terry required definite inspiration, maybe that’s my tie in with RAINN, because of the songs I used to listen to to get in the proper frame of mind. There was a beautiful tune by Tori Amos; a very unlikely place to find inspiration for wild wrestling matches. One of those moments was in preparation for a match with Terry Funk in January of 1995 that turned out to be a chapter I did for this book “Countdown to Lock Down”.
Can you elaborate on that chapter?
I mentioned that I had met her and I couldn’t figure out why that meeting had meant so much to me as it was very short and to the naked eye inconsequential. But, a month later, I thought I’m gonna write about this because it’s a really good way to get out feelings. When I finished three days later it was about twenty-four hours of hand writing in a hotel in Dublin, Ireland and I just thought that I had a book in me and I ended up donating all of it to victims and survivors of sexual violence.
What is the next place you want to go as Mick Foley?
I’m just really thrilled that this month long campaign was so great. We capped it off by having an auction of some of my best and favorite wrestling memorabilia so I’m not really looking for my next big adventure. There’s a movie in the works though.
Is there going to be a Hell in the Cell scene in it?
No, the movie will take place before that particular event.
Originally published in Spring 2011, Issue 5.2