From barbed wire baseball bats to thumbtacks to flaming tables, Mick Foley has made a living showing WWE fans things they have never seen before. His latest book, The Hardcore Diaries, also gives fans a glimpse of something they’ve never seen before – the inner workings of the WWE. Foley was nice enough to talk to us about the book, his problems with Vince McMahon and what it’s like being the WWE Divas gay friend.
Recently, a few prominent wrestlers have been tied to a mail-order steroid scandal. Obviously, with you physique, questions are going to surface. So, let me ask you for the record – Mick Foley, are you on the juice?
(Laughs.) No, I’ve safely avoided that scandal. I guess I’m lucky. Mother Nature didn’t deal me the best hand, but in an ironic twist, I may have gotten with WWE in 1996 after 11 years wrestling around the world because no one was ever going to accuse me of being on the juice.
I’m glad we got that cleared up – none of us wanted to put an asterisk next to the “Dude Love Era.” One more question along the same lines, what goes through your mind when you hear about a Sports Illustrated article naming several professional wrestlers and accusing them of using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs?
I don’t know if they’re proven and I know that the allegations came before WWE’s new wellness program, where guys are tested pretty regularly. I don’t look down on anybody who tries to help themselves and I think the media can kind of pile on certain subjects to a degree that it just becomes unfair – like Mark McGuire was mugged because he dared to take Andro which is a GNC supplement. And, generally speaking, if you can get something at a General Nutrition Center, you’re under the belief that it’s good for you while you’re buying it and taking it. So, I’m afraid if they start cracking down on all performance enhancing substances coffee drinkers better beware.
For those who may not be familiar, what was the idea behind The Hardcore Diaries and what did you hope to accomplish with this book?
I had agreed to write another book and didn’t really know what I would be writing about. I only knew that I wanted to make it different than the books I had written in the past. I was really concerned because I knew I had a wrestling comeback to pitch to WWE, then to train for and prepare for mentally and physically. And then I thought, “Hey, that sounds like a good idea for a book. I’ll just chronicle the events as they’re unfolding.” I thought at the time I pitched the idea that it would be the greatest six weeks of my life and it turned out to be the most frustrating. But, from a writer’s standpoint, it was actually far more interesting to write about a creative disaster than a creative gem.
That is one of the things that sticks out about the book – at the beginning, you are very excited about this idea and by the end, you almost sound defeated. Obviously, you had no idea what was going to happen when you wrote the book, so what was it like to write it and then to look back once it was done?
It was very frustrating and I wondered in print several times if it would even be published because it did so often question WWE’s decisions and creative direction. I guess I was fortunate that Vince McMahon really believed in my right to tell the story as I saw fit. But certainly I never envisioned the story not having a very happy ending. At the end, I measure it all out and I realize it may not have been as bad as I thought, but I certainly wouldn’t have done it over, that’s for sure.
Once you finished writing it, what was the reaction when you turned in the book to the people at the WWE? Was there a lot of resistance to it?
I guess there was a lot of concern. (Laughs.) None of the other books had been critical at all and here’s this one that was in a sense a flattering portrait of Mr. McMahon, but it was also a far more honest portrait than most of the guys had painted. Generally when it comes to Vince, the guys’ take is simply “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him, he’s a creative genius.” And, to tell you the truth, I think Vince gets sick of what he will readily call ass kissing. I think he found my viewpoint to be refreshing, although at this point I think he’s had about as much of me as he’s willing to stomach. But, until the moment I saw the commercials airing, I had kind of accepted that the book might not get publicized.
A lot of this book centers around your relationship with Vince McMahon. Like you said, Vince was supportive of the book and allowed it to be published, but what was Vince’s reaction to the book and how do you see your relationship with him now? Do you think writing the book changed your relationship with him?
I don’t think my relationship changed because I think it soured about a year and a half ago.
When you almost signed with TNA?
Yeah. I don’t know, we’d had several verbal run-ins over what my role in the company would be and I talk a little bit about how I was dying to get out of my contract early and the fact that they made things like publishing a novel that had nothing to do with wrestling difficult for me to write outside of their realm. I think when I left in 2001, it was out of necessity, because had I not left when I did, I would have probably been bitter and angry with WWE. As it is now, I love the company, I like and respect Mr. McMahon, but I can’t claim to be a real friend of his, which I thought I was back in the late 90s.
Another interesting point you touch upon is the dual nature of Vince McMahon – on the one hand, he is the genius who made the WWE the most dominant wrestling brand and destroyed all of his competition in the 90s, but on the other hand, he’s the same guy who devoted a segment to pulling things out of Jim Ross’ ass following JR’s colon surgery. How do you see Vince McMahon?
There’s a genuinely good side to Vince and I have seen that enough to know it’s real. But I imagine nobody gets to be a billionaire by being a nice guy all the time. And I think where Vince and I differ creatively is that he thinks anything that entertains the fans is fair game. He crosses the line that I would hold WWE up to.
If you were to take over as president and owner of a wrestling company, how would you run your company?
Well, I certainly wouldn’t be as successful as Vince is and I wouldn’t even pretend I would know what I was doing. I have enough trouble balancing my personal checkbook without being at the helm of a billion-dollar company. But, if I had a little say in the creative direction, I would maybe be more open to ideas that other wrestlers have and I would really try to get them to do a lot of thinking for themselves, so that the characters have a more of a legitimate flavor to them.
How often do wrestlers actually pitch ideas and how often are those ideas actually integrated into show?
I thought that the WWE has been very open to my ideas, but when I go back and look at my actual batting average, it’s not that good. Most of what I pitch is eventually shot down. The idea I detail in the book was the first time I was given the chance to explain the idea in front of the entire creative team. And I thought that would be great because there would be no creative game of telephone where the message would be heard from the maximum number of people. I still maintain that if it had been done the way I pitched it, it would have been a much more successful idea.
The book culminates with your match at the ECW Pay-Per-View One Night Stand, which was a huge financial success for the company. That pay-per-view helped paved the way for a new ECW, which hasn’t been received quite as enthusiastically by the fans. What is your opinion of the new ECW and why do you think fans haven’t responded to it as favorably as the two One Night Stand pay-per-views and The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD?
I guess you could compare the first One Night Stands to a Yankees “Old Timers Game,” in that people went out of their way to see the beloved attractions of their youth. But you certainly couldn’t have Old Timers Day every day. It would get old in a hurry. Not that these shows themselves weren’t great because they use a good eclectic blend of wrestlers who represented different styles. But I think that if they had just relied on guys who were the old ECW that essentially we’d be giving the fans nothing but a nostalgia show and doing it with guys who were now older and less formidable.
So I like the idea of using the old stalwarts, the proven WWE stars and the new characters. I just think that they kind of stumbled along the way. But I’m not writing them off yet. I like some of the characters and I’ll say it here because I said it once before and apparently the girl in question was kind of flattered – I kind of like that vampire Ariel girl in a weird type of non-plutonic way.
So, it’s actually a non-plutonic way that you like her? That’s good, since in your book you talk about your feelings for Melina being innocent, like a child on Christmas morning.
She’s the anti-Melina – the plutonic friendship and the non-plutonic friendship.
In your book, you mention that you end up becoming the safe male friend with a lot of the Divas.
(Laughs.) I think I said if it wasn’t for my super-de-duper heterosexual lifestyle and four – count them one, two, three, four children – I might be considered the gay friend. I’m flattered by that because it’s not such a bad thing to have the WWE Divas feeling comfortable around you because they are pretty sure they’re not going to be hit on.
How tempted are you to break out your Diva speed dial to impress?
(Laughs.) It’s funny because you can justify so many things in life, whether it be eating boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting because it goes to a good cause or whipping out the Divas on speed dial when I’m at a camp for kids who have faced some pretty serious challenges. So, if I can make kids smile and show off at the same time, then by God, I’m going to do it. And the girls understand that completely. I’ve only got two on the speed dial, but they understand that’s part of the deal, that they will be called on to make children smile.
Your book talks a lot about Promoland, the place in your mind where you go to compose promos. When you are away from wrestling, how much time do you spend in Promoland thinking about imaginary promos that you might never actually deliver?
Not that much. That’s where the novels have really come in handy. And granted, people chose not to read the novels, but they were a great way of putting a vision down on paper. I guess the frustrating thing with novels is that you basically have an idea, sit on it for a year, then spend hundreds of hours working on it, then two and a half years later, a limited number of people read that vision. Whereas, in WWE, I can have an idea barreling down the highway at 3 a.m. and it’s seen by millions the next day. So, given the choice, I’d rather do it the WWE way. But I do feel like I have other outlets for creativity.
You’ve previously mentioned plans to write a novel about a black woman in her 30s growing up in the segregated south in the mid-1950s. Are you still planning on writing that novel?
I am, but I’m going to be fairly low key about it because I may actually write that under an assumed name, thereby escape the harshest of the critics, who are just out to cut a wrestler down to size. And then, if by some lucky break the thing turns out to be a success, I’ll be taking credit for it the next day.
Who makes a better literary punching bag – Al Snow or Test?
I really enjoyed inflicting little bits of damage on Test in this one because, unlike Al, Test takes himself quite seriously. So these would be kind of like stinging jabs, but none of them would actually be literary knock-out blows. But you have to keep in mind that I wouldn’t waste my time making fun of somebody if I didn’t like the guy. I do like Test, but I just think it’s funny that he’s the butt of so many jokes in the book.
Where do you stand on bringing in celebrities like Donald Trump or Kevin Federline as a way to garner more attention? Is it a good thing to have people like that hanging around the WWE?
I’m all for it. I think at a certain point, WWE and WCW may have overdone it. But I think a couple of good celebrity storylines a year can be very beneficial. I think this thing with Trump is getting a lot of attention for the WWE. My feeling is that once people sample our wares, they’ll stay a while. And hey, if Donald Trump can bring people to the WWE plate, then it’s beneficial to everybody.
And Federline, shockingly enough, was apparently a pretty good guy. Everybody liked him and was impressed by his attitude.
Do you think he might appear again someday?
I think the door is open for him. He had a real natural bad guy vibe. It’s hard to get fans to genuinely hate a WWE character because if they’re entertaining enough, people will boo, but do it with a certain amount of respect. And I don’t think the fans had any respect for Federline, but apparently the wrestlers backstage did develop some respect for him because of the way he carried himself. Strange, but true.
Are there any plans for you to appear at Wrestlemania on Sunday?
If there are plans, it’s a well-kept secret being kept secret from me. I’m not counting on it. I count on very little these days and therefore I am not bound to be as disappointed as I used to get.
Are there any long-term plans for you at this point?
I think I’ve got a tremendous idea for the day after Wrestlemania that includes a shocking announcement but it’s not my show and I don’t make the rules, so I can’t guarantee that the world will see that idea come to fruition.
The WWE has made films starring John Cena, Kane and Stone Cold Steve Austin. If they offered to let you star in your own movie, what type of film would you want it to be?
Well, they have offered. They say they plan to make me their first WWE television movie star. So Austin and Cena and Kane get the big budgets and I get TV. But I have read the script and I think it’s good. I think it will be a fun project, as long as I can stay away from Vince for long periods of time, I think I’ll be happy.
Can you talk about the idea of the movie at all?
It involves international espionage and some good action scenes and, like everything I’m involved in, heaping doses of sexuality.
You and Kevin James from The King of Queens were both on the same high school wrestling team together. Who would win in a match between you two? And just for fun, which one of you looks better in a wrestling singlet?
(Laughs.) We were both spectacularly mediocre wrestlers back then. Both of us just went out as seniors on a whim. I think Kevin went out because as you can see in the picture in my book, he had a much developed physique than I did. I know that that’s not what people think of when they see Kevin James on TV, but he was one of the preeminent tough guys at my high school. But we were pretty evenly matched when it came to wrestling. And I think that if we got in the ring together, it would just be a matter of who gassed out first, which is wrestle-speak for losing one’s wind.
What do you think you’d be doing for a living if you never got into professional wrestling?
I went to college for radio and television production, so I believe I’d be on one side of the camera or the other. I put together good projects, so maybe I could have been on the creative end of the entertainment world and possibly doing something with WWE.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
That I’m giving this interview from within the confines of the Mick Foley Christmas room, a year-round Christmas-themed room that I escape to.
Are there any other projects on the horizon you would like to mention?
I guess it’s bound to happen to everyone sooner or later, but there is a reality show in the works.
In the book, you mentioned …
That I specifically wouldn’t do it. But, I’ve got a pilot with A&E. I actually called them within the last week and said I’ve got exciting things happening now, if you don’t get those cameras out here in a few weeks, I can’t guarantee that my life will be this exciting come summertime.
Will this be like Hulk Hogan’s reality show?
It will be a lot different from the Hogan reality show because there’s such emphasis on the trials and tribulations of his teenage children. And I think this will be more focused on my own trials and tribulations. And the challenges I face in life are going to be a lot different than those Hulk faces because he’s got a lot more money than I do.
How does your wife feel about the idea of a reality show?
Oh, she’s terrified. You know, the people at A&E really sold me on what the show could be. I watched some of their shows specifically and I think that in the same way I was really proud of being in Beyond the Mat, I could be proud of a reality show, especially if it allows me to cover some of my interests outside of wrestling and may draw people into supporting some causes that I do.
Any final thoughts before we let you go?
I just think people will be surprised if they open this thing up to find that it’s not just about wrestling, that there are chapters that people who have never watched an episode of Raw could probably enjoy, whether it be about the child I sponsor in the Philippines or the terribly burned boy I met in Afghanistan. So I would ask people, including the mainstream media, to not so readily judge this book by its cover.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy, March 2007. The Hardcore Diaries is available in bookstores now. To read our October 2005 interview with Mick Foley, click here.