I conducted a phone interview last week with TNA star Mick Foley, whose latest book, “Countdown to Lockdown,” was released on Friday.
Did you know that WWE was going to plug your book on Raw? What are your thoughts about them doing it?
I had a vague idea because I had gotten an e-mail from my publicist saying that someone from WWE had requested a copy of the book and asked me if I was OK with that. I said it was fine, and I received a phone call from someone who was not Vince McMahon telling me that they really appreciated the time I had spent there and that they were going to be mentioning my book. It was one of those things that I had to really see to believe. So even with a little bit of a head’s up it still caught me by surprise when it came on the air.
I think it caught a lot of people by surprise. And then WWE did the “This Week in WWE History” segment that showed you as Cactus Jack defeating Triple H from a Raw in 1997. The combination of the two things has people speculating that you are the mysterious Raw general manager. You want to put that one to rest?
[Laughs] You know, it’s dragged on so long that I’ve wondered if they’re waiting on my contract with TNA to run out. I’ve got a full year and I’m very happy where I am. It’s fun to be part of these rumors. It really was a nice gesture on their part and it’s something that is very much appreciated.
In "Countdown to Lockdown," you chronicle the build-up to your match with Sting at the Lockdown pay-pay-per-view in 2009. Why did you choose that time period to write about?
Well, it was arguably my biggest match in at least five years, probably right up there with the match I had with Edge at WrestleMania in 2006 and maybe bigger because the match with Sting had been the biggest part of the build to this show. Over time, obviously, we learned that [WrestleMania XXVI] was a much bigger show, but heading into both shows – not that we thought we were going to do anywhere near the number – we had the sense that we had done a really good job building that main event. So I think it’s a chance for fans who have probably read a number of WWE-related books to take a first look at a TNA book and see what that company looks like behind the scenes.
You tackle some serious subjects in the book. There are chapters on performance-enhancing drugs, wrestlers dying young and Chris Benoit. What motivated you to address those subjects at this time?
The Benoit situation had taken place after my last WWE book, and it was something that I had promised myself I would address when all the smoke had cleared from that initial feeding frenzy. I just really felt like at the time of the deaths that the television shows covering the tragedy were only interested in little sound bites and arguments. I knew it was a very complex issue and I felt like it was the type of issue that would really best be taken on in book form. I think people who read Internet blogs are usually trying to fit it in during a busy part of their day, and there’s only so much information that you digest. Whereas an experience with a book is a little more comfortable, and I think people are a little more willing to really delve into information.
There’s a chapter in the book titled “An Open Letter” in which you speak to “every wrestler: past, present and future” on the subject of wrestlers dying young. Have you gotten any feedback yet from anyone in the business?
I have not gotten any feedback about that chapter. I’m interested to see what the reactions from younger wrestlers might be. I had addressed the developmental guys in WWE’s two developmental territories at the time – Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling – and I wanted to do a chapter that would have the potential to reach anybody who was in the business or thinking of breaking into the business. I would like to think that trainers would be making this one chapter mandatory reading, even if they go run it off on a Xerox machine. I’m not suggesting they buy a copy for each wrestling trainee. But I think it’s a pretty good perspective from a guy who’s been around a long time and that it should be part of a conversation that other wrestlers should feel free to join in on. I don’t ever claim or feel like my thoughts or answers are the only ones that are important, but I do think when it comes to these really timely discussions that I do have a voice to add.
You wrote about your brief stint as a WWE color commentator and you give the reader a sense of what it was like having Vince McMahon yelling at you in your headset, but you refrain from getting into the specifics of what he actually said to you. Why did you decide to not make that public?
Well, I got some of that bitterness out during post-announcing interviews with different news sources and I just thought it would be dated, kind of childish. And by that time I had come to appreciate the surreal nature of that situation and thought it would be better to write it in a fun, unusual type of fictional format that would allow the readers to use their own imagination.
I know that your favorite chapter in the book is the one you wrote about meeting singer Tori Amos. Has she seen the final version of it, and have you gotten any response from her about it?
I don’t know if she’s seen the final hardcover version, but I was able to get her the original chapter when I wrote it about 15 months ago. There was this fear I had that the real Tori Amos might not particularly want to be in a wrestling book. As it turns out, she was very flattered, enjoyed it very much and she said she was looking forward to reading the rest of the book. In large part, I think it kind of put a certain fear into me that the book better be pretty good. So I definitely felt a little extra pressure to make chapters that were written later on, like “an Open Letter” and the one about the substance problems and the one about the little boy in Africa, really good.
What I really liked about that chapter is that is showed you, a guy who obviously has a level of fame and has fans who look up to you, on the other side of that equation. It showed you as a fan of someone and kind of being nervous about meeting them for the first time.
I’ve actually met quite a few of my heroes from the past. I’ve been disappointed with a couple of the encounters, but I was not swayed from listening to their music or watching their movies, but the Tori Amos connection was very personal and I was a little worried that if she were anything but super nice it might cloud the great experiences I’ve had preparing for matches by listening to her music. But she was awesome. She could not have been nicer, and she was a very positive influence as the book moved forward.
You wrote in the book about the charitable work that you’ve done with ChildFund International and RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), and you donated your entire advance for the book to those two organizations. Tell me about your work with them.
Those are the two main groups I work with. I volunteer with other groups but as far as financial donations, those are my two big ones. RAINN in particular was a group that I just thought I could benefit solely as a donor. It never really dawned on me until about a year ago that I might want to give volunteering a try. It was a difficult adventure because at the time I had really limited computer skills, so to be an online volunteer, it took a little courage on my part, if I may say so, and I’m glad I did it. It’s been one of the most important things in my life and I think I’ve turned into a pretty good volunteer and I hope to do it for many years to come.
The news broke last week that your life story is going to be made into a feature film. Tell me about that.
I had met with the director Christopher Scott several years ago and he convinced me that he had a unique way of telling a story that would lend itself to the big screen. I think I was really hesitant because until “The Wrestler” came out I don’t know if I believed that any wrestling story could be well told or accepted by an audience. So when I received another call from him out of the blue several months ago, I was very open to working with him. Together we worked out I think a really good way of telling a story that will appeal to wrestling fans and non-fans alike. I’m very involved in the process and will be writing the script for Scott over the next several months.
Will you play yourself in the movie?
Oh, man, those things have not been decided. I’d have to lose a ton of weight. So if you hear of me employing DDP’s YRG routine you’ll know that there may be a place for me in the movie.
Well, Howard Stern pulled it off, so you could probably do it.
Yeah, Stern acknowledged the ridiculous, that he looked a little too old to be playing a high school kid but you’d just have to use your imagination. But he did a great job. Who knows? That’s one of the things we’ve talked about, but I would guess that if some talented Hollywood star really wanted to play Mick Foley that I might have to allow that to happen.
Anybody in mind?
No, we don’t have anybody in mind. I’m more thinking about which hot Hollywood actress I might get to make out with.
In TNA, you’re currently working with Ric Flair, a guy you’ve certainly had your ups and downs with over the years. What’s it like working with him at this point?
You’ll see the promo tonight [Note from KE: This interview was conducted last Thursday], and unless I’m imagining things, it’s going to leave a great impression. He knew I was going to challenge him to a match and I knew he was going to say something about me being a pretty good father who needed to stay out of the ring, and that was it. We went out there and I think put some really memorable stuff on film. Anything that comes out on that interview is at least grounded in the truth, so there was a lot of real emotion in that promo, and afterward I felt more excited about pro wrestling than I had in a long time.
After you do a promo like that in which there are real emotions, what’s it like when the two of you get backstage? Is there any uneasiness, or do you shake hands and say that was great?
We were both aware that we had done something pretty special out there. There was no uneasiness. We had both acknowledged that anything was fair game once we were in the ring and that it was just a part of doing business.
I always like touch on politics with you because I know you’re knowledgeable about the subject. We’re not too far away from the two-year mark of the Obama presidency. What are your general thoughts on how he's done do far?
I think he is guilty of misreading the partisan rancor. I believed, like he believed, that there was a way to work with both sides, and I think there was a concerted effort by the Republicans to make his first two years very difficult. I’d like to think that both parties have America’s best interests at heart, and I think the Republicans felt that by making life difficult and by creating a situation where nothing appeared to be going well, that they could recapture the House and the Senate and then do what they thought was best for America. My fear is that if they do recapture the Houses, that the Democrats will then do the same thing, which is make life difficult for the Republicans. It’s almost like a game of political chicken, and eventually somebody is going to have to give in and do what’s right for the country.
Is there anything else about the book that you wanted to bring out?
I think people know by now that I do my own writing. This is the longest and hardest that I’ve ever worked on a book. There were several chapters that I worked on extensively in order to get them right. And I think that people who enjoyed my other works will like this one as well. I’m flattered that a couple of non-wrestling outlets like Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist have enjoyed the book and recommended it based on the non-wrestling chapters. I’ve made it real easy for wrestling fans to skip chapters that might not interest them and I think it’s very accessible to people who might enjoy my takes on life but not care so much about counting down to Lockdown.