Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ canvas
There’s a warning about not meeting your heroes because they may let you down, but that could not be further from the truth with Mick Foley. Michael Francis Foley was born on June 7, 1965 in Bloomington, IN, and grew up in East Setauket, NY. A childhood love of professional wrestling led him to Dominic DeNucci’s wrestling school, and he made his debut in 1983, occasionally appearing as enhancement talent for the World Wrestling Federation but mainly working in the territory system as Jack Foley, Nick Foley and Cactus Jack, including Memphis’ Continental Wrestling Association and Texas’ World Class Championship Wrestling. In WCCW he was known as Cactus Jack Manson and was a part of Skandor Akbar’s stable. He had a brief stay in World Championship Wrestling, having a memorable match against Mil Mascaras, before stints in the Universal Wrestling Federation and Tri-State Wrestling. At Tri-State in one night he had three impressive matches with Eddie Gilbert, leading to WCW bringing him back in.
In 1991 back in WCW, Cactus Jack immediately made his presence felt by attacking the champion Sting. About a year later he transitioned into a fan favorite, feuding with Paul Orndorff, Vader and Harley Race. The battles with Vader were especially brutal and in one match saw Foley lose an ear, albeit due to a loose ring rope. He won the WCW tag team titles with Kevin Sullivan before leaving the organization in 1994.
Towards the end of his time with WCW, as Cactus Jack, Foley also appeared for Extreme Championship Wrestling, feuding with Sabu and cutting some of the best promos in the history of the business. After leaving WCW, he worked more with ECW, twice winning the tag titles with Mikey Whipwreck. He worked against Terry Funk regularly as well as teaming with him. Near the end of the year he made appearances with Smoky Mountain Wrestling, involved in an angle with Chris Candido. Back in ECW, he feuded with The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, and Shane Douglas and was a part of Raven’s Flock before leaving in 1996.
In 1996 Foley debuted full-time with the WWF/WWE as Mankind, a masked, dark and mentally deranged schizophrenic. He entered a notable rivalry with The Undertaker, then against Shawn Michaels. In 1997, after a series of fantastic interviews with Jim Ross, Foley came to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s aid as Dude Love, a hippy-type throwback to early 80’s superstars, and became tag team champions together. Dude Love went on to face Triple H, but soon faced him as Cactus Jack. Cactus and Terry ‘Chainsaw Charlie’ Funk also teamed together, briefly holding the WWF tag titles together.
In 1998, once more as Mankind, Foley had his most memorable match, and one of the most memorable in wrestling history, facing off against The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. The bout saw him thrown from the top of the cage’s ceiling through a table at ringside, and then later, and by accident, through the roof of the cage when it gave way and down onto the ring. After regaining consciousness, the match continued including Foley being thrown into thumbtacks before ultimately losing to The Undertaker, who did the whole match with a broken ankle. Afterwards, WWE owner Vince McMahon thanked Mick for the match and told him he never wanted to see anything like it again.
After winning the tag title with Kane, he became more of a lighthearted character and slowly won over the fans, including the introduction of Mr. Socko, a sock with a smiley face drawn on it, used for a mandible claw. On an episode of Raw broadcast on January 4, 1999 Mankind defeated The Rock for the WWF Championship, leading to the first time WWF beat WCW in the ratings after several months. He lost the title back to The Rock in a particularly violent I Quit match at the Royal Rumble. Mankind soon won it back in the infamous ‘Empty Arena match’, but ultimately lost it back to Rock with help from The Big Show. The duo patched things up and had a very successful run together as the Rock n’ Sock Connection, winning the tag titles three times together.
Mankind defeated Stone Cold and Triple H for his third WWF Championship, but lost it a night later to Triple H. The rivalry between the two saw the return of Cactus Jack and a violent series of matches that really cemented Triple H as a main-eventer. The feud ended with a Hell in a Cell match with Foley’s career on the line, which Triple H won. In 2000 and 2001 he served as the commissioner on the show under his real name of Mick Foley, which he has said was the most fun he had in his career. After sporadic appearances over the next few years, he returned in 2004, battling against Randy Orton, reteaming with The Rock against Orton, Ric Flair and Batista at WrestleMania XX, then on to a brutal rivalry against Edge and another against Ric Flair. Foley left the WWE in 2008.
In 2008 he debuted with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, and the next year defeated Sting for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but lost it soon to Kurt Angle. That year he also competed against Kevin Nash and later Abyss. For the remainder of his time with the company he was largely not used as a wrestler, although he did have a match against Ric Flair. He left TNA in 2011.
Since that time Foley has made appearances with WWE. When not wrestling, he is also a multi-time New York Times bestselling author, penning memoirs like Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks and the follow-ups Foley is Good, The Hardcore Diaries and Countdown to Lockdown. This little bio I did here does not do the man and his career justice, and I highly recommend reading those to all of you! He also has a successful touring one-man show where he recounts humorous events from his travels, and also serves as Santa Claus, as seen in the excellent documentary I Am Santa. Mick was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010 and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. Mick is also well known for his charitable giving, which is how we came to know each other after I started contributing to his annual WrestleMania fundraiser for RAINN. For the past two years I’ve donated a painting of the winner’s choice, in addition to their amazing all-expense paid trip to ‘Mania.
About the piece: I painted this live at Wizard World St. Louis, which I enjoyed greatly. The piece encompasses Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love, but also elements from Foley’s books with the logo and the smiley face wearing his Mankind mask. The Wednesday night after the show I let Mick see it in person at his show RIGHT HERE in Kansas City. He was gracious enough to let it be displayed next to the stage while he performed, and also had me draw a couple Mr. Socko’s for him. He pulled one of the socks out, letting the audience know, “The same guy who painted that wonderful picture over there is the one who did these socks. I expected a little more out of him.” Hey, there’s only so much you can do with a smiley face, Mick!