WWE Legend Mick Foley Talks '20 Years of Hell' Tour & Receiving 'Westworld' Love
On June 28, it will be 20 years since Mick Foley, as Mankind, put life and limb on the line against The Undertaker in the now-legendary Hell in a Cell match at the 1998 King of the Ring event. The two WWE legends took brutality to a new level in a history-making confrontation for the ages in Pittsburgh, and the image of The Undertaker hurling Mankind off the cell has become iconic.
Two decades later, Foley marked the anniversary with a one-man show tour leading into a return to the “Steel City” for an already sold-out event on June 28. For the Hardcore Hall of Famer, the match is more than unmitigated violence, as the bitter rivals added another bloody chapter in their storied rivalry.
“Some of the surreal incidents that surrounded the match are little known, and [so is] my struggle to accept the match,” Foley told us, hours before a successful stop in Arizona featuring Dolph Ziggler and former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts. “To understand that there are worse things in the world to be remembered for than a match millions of people have gone out of their way to show friends and family and doubters.”
There are many other moments and matches is defined by, as well as his philanthropic and literary work. However, this is up there when it comes to what fans want to talk to him about.
How did he continue after the first big bump from atop the cage and even later when he was choke slammed through it? How did he survive? There was enough intriguing content that people wanted to know to fill a show.
“I wanted it to be a nice combination of stories that got people caught up in the emotion behind the match while also providing some laughs,” Foley said. “I don’t consider it to be a comedy show, but I definitely can’t just hammer people relentlessly with tales of graphic injuries.
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"I’d say from the first night, the balance worked out well. I worked every night to make sure every show was as good as it could be. I’m very happy with how the reception has turned out and how the show turned out.”
Friends have stopped by along the way, including wrestler Becky Lynch and famed guitarist Nita Strauss, who added a little “showbiz” for Foley by playing his intro. He ranks that as one of the highlights of his life and was honored that Strauss — who not long ago played before more than 75,000 fans at WrestleMania — would take time out to perform in a more intimate setting.
Those not lucky enough to snag a ticket to a show might be in luck, as Foley is confident that footage will find its way to air.
“WWE will attend one of the events,” he said. “I do joke about Mr. McMahon, but he is a very good sport. Always has been when it comes to me needling him a little bit.
"There is one curse word in the 90-minute show, so I don’t think [WWE] will take exception to the material. I think it’s highly unlikely that it won’t show up on the network at some point. Nothing is guaranteed. I feel like it’s head-and-shoulders above anything I’ve brought to the stage before.”
Much like his years in the ring, Foley gives his all every time he takes the stage. Often, he goes on virtually no sleep during some particularly grueling travel days and battled sickness. The performer did make health a priority, dropping weight in recent years thanks in large part to DDP Yoga.
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“Many people remarked that the last time they saw me a couple of years ago I basically sat because it hurt to sit even for a few moments at a time,” Foley said.
"I’m feeling better, and I think it’s a better show. I took a chance and a page out of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘River’ tour and decided to bring the cell back to life.
“… One young lady was asking about the show at a comic convention in Miami and hoping she could attend one. She asked a very simple question. She said, ‘I don’t want to offend you or anything, but if you’re going to do a show that is designed to bring people back 20 years, shouldn’t you maybe try to look how you did 20 years ago? I don’t think you should have short hair.’
"She asked if I was growing the beard back. I really thought about it and realized I owe it to fans to make the effort. Now I’m proud to say my beard is back to its natural jet-black color. I look vaguely like I do 20 years ago instead of an entirely new human being.”
The Hell in a Cell has impacted fans from all walks of life, including Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy.
In mid-May of this year, Joy mentioned during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" Q&A with fans of the HBO hit that, “the ultimate meaning of this story, the destination our path has always been leading started back in nineteen ninety-eight when the Undertaker threw Mankind off hell in a cell and plummeted sixteen feet through an announcer’s table."
Even if it was not a plot spoiler, Foley appreciated the mention. He loved the old '70s movie with Yul Brynner and has started binging on the first season of Westworld.
“I got a message that I was all over the internet,” Foley remembered. “When you see something like that and think, ‘Yeah, I think I’m still pretty relevant if the creator of Westworld is referencing my career as far as one of the story arcs of one of the hottest shows on TV.'”
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Foley believes this is a perfect time to be a fan and be in the business. Proof of this is seen not only from the sellouts on his tour but the fact Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks' self-financed All In event in Chicago sold out a 10,000 venue in less than 30 minutes.
“It’s a time where guys have viable, other options,” he said.
The former multi-time WWE champ is also happy to see Daniel Bryan returning to active competition and what he loves. He is confident that the company didn’t take their decision to medically clear him lightly.
“WWE is very safe as far as letting go of one of the biggest acts in the company for the sake of his own safety. They have people looking out for his best interest,” he said.
Who will the leader of the Yes Movement face as part of his Cinderella comeback story?
“I’d been on the road and been so busy, I haven’t seen Daniel since he returned with the exception of the WrestleMania match. There are certain things he can do on house shows to make life easier on himself and nobody would think less of him if he worked a slightly less physical style. That’s something that I did toward the end of my career, and a lot of guys have done.”
With the tour reaching the end, Foley is looking forward to getting some rest and taking it easy. He is thankful to those who have taken a chance and bought a ticket to a show about which they didn’t know what to expect.
“I’ve been hitting the road pretty hard,” he said. “I went on the road with pneumonia. I told Edge and Christian when I did their show last week in Stamford that if people can forget me on the gurney after me coming off the Hell in a Cell, I wanted to be remembered as the guy who showed up and did their show while using a nebulizer.”
As for the future, the 52-year-old visualizes another tour in late 2019 surrounding the 20th anniversary of his best-selling memoir Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. He’d alternate between four different shows to keep it fresh for audiences.
“I’d love to tell some stories that people enjoyed from that book,” he said. “When I’m on stage, I don’t feel like I’m rehashing my greatest hits. I feel like I’m bringing stories to life.”
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Catch the Hell in a Cell and other classic matches from Mick Foley on WWE Network. To stay up to date on where Foley is appearing next during his 20 Years of Hell tour, which ends in Pittsburgh on June 28, visit www.RealMickFoley.com.