Mick Foley cemented himself over the past 30 years as an incredible in-ring performer who took risks that led to his becoming one of the most beloved wrestlers of all time. Now, Foley is taking bigger chances – and his “risk/reward ratio analysis” is paying off in big ways.
Anyone lucky enough to catch Foley’s show – “Tales From Wrestling Past” is in for a treat – wrestling fan or not. “It is so much like being in the ring,” Foley explained. “It reminds so much of everything I liked about being in the ring – and on nights when things don’t go so well, it reminds me of nights things didn’t go well in the ring. When wrestling fans come and take a chance on the show they walk away thinking, ‘Wow, that was really an extension of what we love about wrestling.'”
While Foley is used to performing live in front of thousands of fans, he feels connected to the audiences in the comedy clubs, no matter the size. “There’s not a big difference between this or the arena,” he said. “I remember in my book (1999’s #1 New York Times Bestseller, Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks) that I told the story of how during a match in front of 64,000 people in Tokyo that I was thinking about a match the following week at the ECW arena in front of 800-1,000 people. The numbers should never dictate how important an event is – the Hall of Fame being an exception to that – but I am not on stage now saying ‘God, I long to be out in front of 78,000 people.’ You’re looking at faces, people are enjoying themselves and you are solely responsible for their enjoyment when you have the microphone.”
Foley knows what it takes to be successful in his comedic venture, another by-product of his time in wrestling. “You can’t excel in a performing art – I’ll call wrestling a performing art because it is as much that as it is a sport – you don’t reach the big peaks without some of the valleys,” he explained. “I know the feeling both ways and I really enjoy it – it’s like being in a big match without getting hurt.”
In May, Foley took his “big match” mentality with him when he performed at the famed Carolines on Broadway – bringing Foley back to the city where he received his WWE Hall of Fame honor. “Carolines was like my WrestleMania,” Foley exclaimed. “Joey Styles, Brian Gewirtz and Ed Koskey were all there and perhaps most importantly, the entire show was being shot by WWE, so that the people who make the decisions – Vince, Stephanie, Hunter and Kevin Dunn – can get a look at what I do.”
Foley believes his immersion into comedy will not be the last for the men and women of the squared circle. “This is not a large leap away into something different, it’s more a sidestep,” Foley explained. “It’s a natural extension of what people love about wrestling and I say within a few years there will be 50 guys out there telling their stories and I’m glad I beat them to the punch.”
Alongside Foley for his most recent shows is former WWE writer Jenifer Bloodsworth – a young comedienne who holds her own while sharing the stage. “Joey Styles brought to my attention that Jenifer was doing comedy and he looks at Jenifer, friendship wise, the same way he looks at me,” Foley said. “Once I saw her videos I said, ‘Okay, she’s good and she’s funny.’ She has a very complimentary style to mine and obviously, when Jen gets up there and participates as Diamond Dallas Page, it’s really the high point and she’s bringing that character to the show – so I am more than happy to have her with me whenever. She saved something like 500,000 miles while working with WWE, and instead of some exotic vacation she is flying herself around the country to do shows and that’s how you get the big breaks. I like Jenifer, I respect her work ethic and I really enjoy working with her.”
Another familiar face in the crowd for his ‘Carolines’ performance was Foley’s friend, Santa Claus – which surprised and delighted the Hardcore Legend. “It was a huge moment,” Foley said. “Anytime Santa Claus shows up to one of my events it’s always very special.” For a man who’s career is defined by big moments and iconic characters such as Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack – Foley is taking on the iconic Claus for his newest project – “I Am Santa Claus.”
“I was initially a subject,” Foley explained. “The filmmaker, Tommy Avallone, saw a Santa Claus in the mall and wondered, ‘What does that guy do the rest of the year?’ You are dealing with guys who know what it’s like to be the most popular person in the world for a six-week period and then go back to whatever it is they do the rest of the time. It’s not always happy. Santas talk about returning home on Christmas Eve and weeping because they realize it’s going to be another 10.5 months. Tommy told me, ‘It’s not all jolly.’ My part is – because I get to become Santa. That’s the way Santas feel about what they do – when they put on that red suit is when they’re at their best. I can associate with this. I was not my best every night in the ring – there were nights when I didn’t want to be there; but when things are going really well you are that guy. Santas feel the same way – when things are going well they don’t feel they are portraying Santa – they are Santa.”
Foley has found that the world of Santas has similarities to the world of wrestling. “I compare everything to wrestling and when I got fully immersed in the world of Santa Claus world it was like WWE,” he described. “You actually have feuding real bearded Santa Claus organizations. You have the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas against The Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas – and both look down on the Mystic Order of Traditional Santas – Santas without the traditional beards. They are all being brought together by one of the Santas, who has created a Santa Claus oath – so they are seeing they have more in common. Everyone in wrestling has a take on his or her own unique character; in the Santa Claus world, everybody has their own unique take on a single iconic character – and there’s a lot of camaraderie and also a lot of rivalry.”
Foley is prepared for some backlash from the Santas for his involvement in the project, but is hopeful they will all get along in the end. “I can see why there might be some resentment, because I get to be on the movie poster and the movie is ‘starring Mick Foley,’ he said. “I believe, however, the six Santas will break out the Santa Claus oath and feel honored to be part of the movie.”
Foley feels that the unique content of the movie may also make for an interesting award season in the next year. “Don’t be surprised if you see the six of us up on stage accepting awards,” he predicted. “I believe it’s going to be an award-quality documentary or I wouldn’t have jumped in as a producer.”
He hopes fans will share his passion for “I Am Santa Claus”, and help fund the project. “We are actively trying to fund it with a ‘Kick Finish’ on Kickstarter,” Foley said. “If people happen to be wrestling fans, the incentives are cool – from autographed material to phone calls from me and much more. It will take a while to break through and convince people it’s something they should be part of, but I am confident we will hit our goal.”
Foley’s confidence has served him well for the past 30 years, and he applies that knowledge to his recent projects to make people happy. “The key is that it’s not a guy up there going, ‘Hey, how about living and shopping!’, he explained. “The emphasis is really on storytelling; not every story has to be funny – as long as people leave with a big smile on their face.”
After seeing Mick Foley perform “Tales From Wrestling Past” – and watching him sign autographs and take pictures for the sold out crowd for 2.5 hours after his performance, it’s clear that nobody went home unhappy – Foley included.