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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, March 3, 2000

Embarrassed to be a Foley fan

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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So it's the end of The Mick. Following his devastating loss to Triple H at last Sunday's No Way Out pay-per-view, Mick Foley must now retire. Not Mankind, not Cactus Jack, not Dude Love, or in fact, all three and more. The debate about whether this retirement is legit seems to have settled, but many still believe that we'll see him wrestle again sometime in the not-so-distant future, and no one's complaining.

Everyone is, however, eulogizing, so I guess I'd better get my nostalgia book out so I can chip in.

It's been a long road for one Michael Foley, from that ever-present backyard elbow drop to the backdrop through the cage this weekend, and I'd be lying if I said I envied the man.

I don't have to list the injuries for you -- odds are you've read of them in his book or heard of them from someone who has. Among them, a partially-severed ear, a lot of broken things, a lot of stitches, a lot of scares, a few concussions, and a body that will never be the same again.

I probably don't have to tell you what it's like, trying to become a wrestler, or even being one. You know what you need to. The long days and nights on the road, the political mind games and power games, the punishment, the allure of pain-killers, whatever. It's not your average nine-to-five job.

What I can't tell you, at all, is what it's like to be standing in the middle of a ring, delivering a promo or fighting for your life, in front of thousands upon thousands of hollering fans. Only Mick Foley and his wrestling cohorts know how that feels.

So I can't say whether I think it was all worth it, not that I would. It's Foley's life, and I hope he regrets nothing.

Because there are times, I fear, when I regret to call myself a wrestling fan. And this is one of them.

Take a look back on Mr. Foley's career. Now, here's a guy who gave his blood, his sweat, a good chunk of his ear, and a lot of his time to wrestling. To entertaining others.

But why? Why the heck did he do that?

Simply, because we made him.

Argue with me that Mick Foley isn't one of the best, most entertaining interviews in the game. Argue with me that he can't go toe-to-toe with any main eventer in the country for half an hour and put on a heck of a show. I dare you to dispute that, because this man's career speaks for itself.

Now why don't you tell me why Mick Foley couldn't just do that, couldn't just wrestle and cut promos and live his dream. That wasn't possible. Mick Foley had no choice. He had to go hardcore.

Hardcore.

It sounds so 'cool', so 'hip', so 'modern'. It sounds like pornography, too, but that's not really relevant. What is relevant is that in order to endear himself to us, Mick Foley had to go hardcore, over and over again.

It's not like he wanted to. If you don't believe me, I'm sure you can find an archive somewhere of his famous ECW departing speech, in which he ragged on the fans for cheering not for him, not for his talent, but for his blood and his injury, or his injury of others. People, he claimed, only wanted to see him get hurt, they didn't want to see him.

Oh, but that wasn't you, right?

They may not have all been as shoot-stylized as they were recently, but Mick Foley, ever since the introduction of his Mankind character in the WWF, has been cutting the same intense promos as always. So why don't you tell me when you started cheering for him.

I know when it was, at least for most people. It was Hell in the Cell II, wasn't it? The first time Mick Foley became a bona fide face, and someone people actually gave two figs about, was after he went hardcore in the WWF, same as in ECW.

He couldn't do it on the strength of his character, his promos, or his ring psychology. He did it on the strength of his gruesome injuries and horrific high spots. It was the moment that he was thrown off the top of the cage, or chokeslammed through it, or perhaps backdropped onto tacks. That was it, wasn't it. It must have been, since that's really about the first time ever that WWF fans were on their feet for this performer, cheering him as he deserved to be cheered.

I won't lie, that was me, too. I was a little disgusted by the match itself, but that was the first time I was really concerned for this Mankind guy. The character had always turned me off a little bit. Only after Hell in the Cell, though, did I really take time to appreciate his promos, and call myself a Mick Foley fan.

So I'm as guilty as you probably are.

We made Mick Foley go hardcore. He didn't have the physique of a Hulk Hogan, or the obvious charisma of a Ric Flair, or the talent of a Bret Hart. He had a little bit of everything, and now it's clear that he's one of the greatest wrestling performers ever. But we never gave him a chance. Not without a sacrifice. Not without the sacrifice.

I don't mean to sound all over-dramatic, but I'm really embarrassed right now. I'm embarrassed to call myself a fan of Mick Foley's, because I made him do it, too.

If there were any justice, this guy would have gotten over from the beginning on the strength of character, but he didn't, because we didn't let him.

And now, now that he's calling it quits, we're all wishing him well and being glad that he's not going to further wreck his body. Well, he wouldn't have wrecked it at all if not for us.

I saw that tabloid news special, and the interview with Foley's wife. I can understand, now, why Vince McMahon lashed out at her, too. He probably felt as guilty as I did - really, probably much guiltier - about allowing this great performer to do this to himself, and so he lashed out at this woman who brought that truth to light.

The man couldn't find his way home, and for what? Why couldn't Mick Foley find his way home?

Because we wanted more blood, more guts, bigger falls, harder chair shots, more bumps, more injuries, more realism, and a better view from which to watch it all go down. If we'd wanted Mick Foley in the first place, we'd have taken him.

We didn't, this is the consequence.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your life, Mr. Foley, and I hope that your sacrifice doesn't cost you too much, in the long run. More than any of that, though, I'm sorry for putting you through it, for being one fan of many who wouldn't see you or your talent until you proved it to me, by showing me your insides.

Mailbag!

A.D. Castro, from tres@sv.cciglobal.net, writes:
"Hello, what's up? I'm a wrestling fan all the way from El Salvador (no, your site is not only visited by Canadians and yes, I know: Where the hell is El Salvador?) I've been watching wrestling for 7 years now, from the WWF and WCW to Mexico's AAA, CMLL and IWRG. I would like you to answer some questions: What happened to Bryan "I have a Crush on drugs" Adams? (Not that I miss him) Where's Brutus Beefcake? (I don't miss him either) I remember Bret Hart bleeding in his WrestleMania 8 match against Piperand against the Bulldog during their last feud in late 96 or 97, was the blood real? (I know it sounds dumb, but I still want to know!) Anyways, good luck in whatever you do and keep up the good work! (Even though I tend to disagree with your column once in a while)"

I pride myself on SLAM!'s international readership. Trust me, we don't just think Canadians read us.

Anyway, Bryan Adams signed about two years or so ago with WCW, and he immediately joined the nWo under his real name. He sort of faded into obscurity with the rest of the B-team, and I believe is still under contract. Apparently, he may be tagged up with Brian "Wrath/Adam Bomb" Clark as a Demolition-type tag team in the near future, but those plans were leaked awhile ago so who knows.

Brutus Beefcake, also known as Ed Leslie, or more recently as The Disciple, isn't really a hot commodity in wrestling today and found himself employed with WCW, under no less than three different personas, over the past few years only because of his association with Hulk Hogan. I can only assume he's not doing much and no one's paying him not to do it.

A.D., I couldn't tell you about a specific match, at least not that one, but I can tell you a thing or two about blood in wrestling. Typically, at least nowadays, they use the real stuff. It just looks more natural. Aside from cases where it's an accident because you ran into a guard rail or something, usually, it's done through blading. Blading is the act of making oneself bleed using a small, concealed razor. The way it's usually done is a wrestler hides his face and his hands for a moment - perhaps by acting hurt - and cuts his forehead, which bleeds pretty easily without danger or scarring. Then, he gets up to meet some move from his opponent which might cause the bleeding - a chairshot, for example. So by the time you see his face, it looks like the chairshot busted him up.

It may be the stuff of stuntmen of yore, but the blood is still real. If it comes from the forehead and is all over the face, that's usually how it's done.


Anyway, that's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and I'd thank you some more if you went and read what your fellow readers are writing by sending an email to canuckleheads-subscribe@listbot.com to subscribe. Have a great week!

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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