The sound of a car crash screeching by, followed by a roar of fans, is what you would often find on an episode of Monday Night Raw when Mick Foley made his way to the ring.
Akin more to almost a wild stunt man than a professional wrestler, the matches we will look at today will largely lack the technical finesse we might find in a Bret Hart match, but that doesn’t diminish their value.
Mick Foley was not someone you’d image wrestling a 60 minute clinic with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, but you can be damn certain that we will be looking at some of the most exhilarating and exciting matches to take place in the last 30 years of professional wrestling.
Few people on any wrestling roster anywhere could entertain and get a reaction from the crowd like he did.
Whether he was Cactus Jack, Dude Love, Mankind, or just lovable Mick Foley.
The Long Island native has had a very unique, one of a kind, career. One in which we will likely never anyone duplicate.
10. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. STING (BEACH BLAST 1992)
This was Mick Foley’s first chance competing on a large platform.
While it is certainly not a 30 minute epic, it is probably the shortest match I’ve seen that was able to be deemed main event worthy. I’d say that is the highest compliment I could give to these two, seemingly, mismatched characters.
In 1992, Foley was still very mobile and it showed in this match. Barely any of this encounter took place inside of the ring. This was Foley’s “big match” debut and while it could have been better, it was still a very important and notable encounter that remains entertaining even today.
Foley would leave WCW in 1994 and never return, unlike many other performers who jumped between the Connecticut and Atlanta-based promotions.
I think it would have been really interesting had these two met in the ring five or so years later when Foley dawned the mask of Mankind and Sting evolved into The Crow. Regardless of the missed opportunity these two still told a really compelling story and packed a ton of heat into a very short amount of time.
It just felt incomplete, so I’m afraid I can not justify placing it any higher than this, which makes it perfect for the number ten position.
9. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. VADER (HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1993)
Like many of the matches we will talk about in the season finale of the Pro Wrestling Countdown this was a gimmick match. A Texas Death match to be exact.
Jack was actually able to dominate the then WCW Champion in the early going of this match. Within minutes both men had been busted open, but it took Vader awhile to get any upper hand on the crazed Cactus Jack.
It was matches like this in WCW that truly earned Mick Foley his reputation as an absolute lunatic. He was not a traditional professional wrestler in any sense of the word.
Jack absorbed a sick looking moonsault from Vader, and two straight steel chair shots on the entrance ramp. Still, Jack was about to come back to hit feet, but Harley Race, Vader’s manager, struck him in the leg with an electric taser, keeping him from answering the ten count.
The ending was dumb, but that was a trend that followed almost all main event matches in WCW throughout the 1990s no matter who was in charge. They had several other good matches in WCW, but never one in which Jack looked as dominate as he was here, even in defeat.
Several years later these two men would find themselves both under the wing of Jim Cornette in the WWE. They even wrestled as a tag team for a brief time.
8. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. THE UNDERTAKER (KING OF THE RING 1998)
When Hulk Hogan slammed Andre he created aquintessential WrestleMania moment. When CM Punk sat Indian style on the stage of Monday Night Raw and delivered his worked shoot promo to John Cena and the WWE he made himself a mega star.
When The Undertaker threw Mick Foley 15 feet off of the top of Hell in a Cell it was Mick Foley who would get the credit for sacrificing his body. He gave wrestling fans one of the most “real” visuals we could ever replay.
Forget being in awe, fans the world over collectively lost it when Foley fell off and through the Hell in a Cell.
I nearly regulated this match to Honorable Mention, but when it comes to legend making matches this might be the best of all time.
It was largely made up of two major bumps that started the match, but Foley continued wrestling Undertaker even with all of the broken bones and injuries he had sustained during his falls.
The Undertaker, who was also wrestling with an injured foot, scored the victory. However, it would be Foley who would benefit most from this match. It was the career making moment, and within the next year he was one of the biggest stars of the WWE.
The phrase “career shortening match” is thrown around very lightly in this day and age, but I think this was one of the rare cases where that call would have been right on point.
So much has been written and said about this match, but while it might be his greatest moment, he has had far better matches. Still, this is the one-in-a-million case when a bump largely makes a match.
“You have no idea how much I appreciate what you’ve just done for this company, but I never want to see anything like that ever again.” -Vince McMahon
7. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. SABU (HOLIDAY HELL 1995)
This will probably be the only time we ever talk about Sabu on the Pro Wrestling Countdown so please enjoy this.
These two would have looked more appropriate fighting over a rotten hamburger in a back alley. Luckily, ECW’s bingo hall was not far off.
I wanted to represent Mick Foley’s time in ECW in some way and this match up has always been a guilty pleasure for the hardcore fanatic in me.
The mad man from Japan and the insane Cactus Jack seemed tailor-made for one another, and in 1994 it happened when WCW allowed Jack to go down and work for the (then) NWA ran Eastern Championship Wrestling.
He would soon leave WCW and become a permanent part of the ECW roster and entered a feud with the “Suicidal, Genocidal, Homicidal, Death-Defying Sabu” (I had to say it, just once).
They both had many encounters throughout ECW and the NWA, but this has always been their quintessential car-crash in my opinion. This match took place during Cactus Jack’s “Anti-Hardcore” gimmick and Foley even brought out an Olympic wrestling style referee for this match in order to make it as “clean” as possible, but Paul Heyman’s 911 took care of the little well-meaning referee.
What followed that was exactly what you would expect. Broke tables, moonsaults, guard rails, loud-as-shit steel chair shots, and dangerous leaps of faith. This was E-C-F’N-W after all!
I do have to mention that the finish came way too soon and was a little disappointing after the match had been so viscous up to that point, but that always seems to be the case when these two wrestled.
As I said in the introduction, Mick Foley was no 60-Minute Man.
6. MICK FOLEY AS DUDE LOVE VS. STEVE AUSTIN (OVER THE EDGE 1998)
This might be the most overbooked mess of match ever.
This was a No Disqualification Falls Count Anywhere match for the WWE Championship. Vince McMahon was special guest referee, Gerard Brisco was the time keeper, and Pat Patterson was the bell ringer. Finally, The Undertaker was also in the ring side area in the corner of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
All of these things were supposed to cater to Dude Love, who was working under the wing of Vince McMahon.
This is the best example of sloppy late 1990s WWE booking you can get. It was a damn wreck – but this time they pulled it off. Their match at Unforgiven one month prior left a lot to be desired, but adding the stipulations to their match gave the two iconic brawlers free reign to do whatever they liked.
Surprisingly they started off wrestling a very “straight” wrestling match. However, later on, as you can see above, the moved more into their comfort zone.
The ending was screwy as it gets with multiple referee bumps and outside involvement, but it was 1998. What do you expect?
Austin pinned Dude Love by slapping the lifeless hand of Vince McMahon to the mat three times. Somehow, this allowed him to retain the WWE Championship to the roar of the Milwaukee crowd.
It bordered ridiculous, and could have placed higher if some of the extra elements were taken out, but Austin and Foley had a really similar style and gelled well when the focus was on them. This match worked because no one involved took it too seriously. Bodies flew everywhere, and Austin one-uped Vince McMahon again.
5. MICK FOLEY VS. EDGE (WRESTLEMANIA 22)
“Yeah due to my own sheer chip on my shoulder, I thought I should have been in the main event of WrestleMania so I decided I would dive through a flaming table while I still had thumb tacks stuck in my back.” -Edge
This was the last lover letter from a hardcore icon.
To me, this should have been his final match ever. Edge was able to carry the broken down boy from Long Island and was finally able to give him his “WrestleMania Moment.”
I have been critical of this match in the past, but now I see it in a much better light.
I always though this match should have gone another 10 minutes or so to take it that “next level.” However, now I see this as Foley doing the best he could.
He could not give the fans a 30 minute classic at this point, but he could still manage a great match with all the action a 30 minute match might have, but in half of that time.
So maybe this match could have taken the number one position of this Pro Wrestling Countdown had it taken place a decade earlier, but what we have here is still worth giving a high place.
It means even more knowing how much this match means to Foley, personally.
Edge may have gotten the victory after spearing Foley off of the ring apron and through a flaming table, but the hardcore legend walked out Chicago knowing he finally got his moment.
This was really Foley’s final great match. His comebacks after this and his run in TNA felt uninspired and I’m sure Mick Foley would echo the same thing in an honest confession.
4. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (MIND GAMES 1996)
This match occurred just a few months after Foley’s arrival in the WWE on the day after WrestleMania XII.
One thing I think Mankind did expertly in this match is selling. While I don’t usually find it necessary to mention selling in a match this was a brilliant example of making one’s opponent look dominate while making yourself look obstinate.
Foley sold his legs for a majority of the match after the “Heart Break Kid” focused much of his early offense on them. Foley went as far as to stab his knees with a pin to try and get feeling back into his legs. It just added another layer of storytelling to the match.
For a long time, this was one of Foley’s best matches in the WWE, and it still is, but he was able to far surpass what he and Michaels did on this night. With his former ECW colleges sitting in the front row, Mankind brought some hints of hardcore to a very stale WWE product.
This was probably my favorite match from Shawn Michaels during his first ever reign as WWE Champion and Foley’s first match worth talking about during his WWE tenure. I think I favor this match so much because how odd of a pairing they seem to be, and how blown away I was at how well they worked together.
I wish I could have seen them wrestle on a larger scale and not just on a forgotten In Your House event.
The terribly screwy ending with Vader and Sid kept this match from sneaking into the top three matches of the Pro Wrestling Countdown, but everything Michaels and Mankind did on this night in Philadelphia was absolutely worthy of acknowledging here.
3. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. RANDY ORTON (BACKLASH 2004)
To me, Randy Orton’s “Legend Killer” character is one of the most understated and brilliant gimmicks ever produced in the WWE. In saying that, Orton’s first true character in WWE was at it’s absolute peak when he was feuding with Mick Foley in the early months of 2004.
3. Foley & Orton IIIn the best shape he had been in almost a decade, the former three time WWE Champion came back looking for his defining WrestleMania moments at WrestleMania XX.
When his match with Evolution failed to live up to his expectations he decided at Backlash he would have another match.
But this time he would go one-on-one with the cocky young WWE Intercontinental Champion.
The match was absolutely one of the most cringe inducing matches the WWE has ever allowed on pay-per-view. Seeing Randy Orton being thrown, back first, into a pool of thumb tacks was something straight out a nightmare.
Barbed wire, tables, thumb tacks, steel chairs, and so many other weapons were used by both men. It may not have been the bloodiest match we’ve seen in WWE, but it is absolutely one of the hardest to watch.
After taking a ton of abuse from a crazed Cactus Jack, Orton managed to sneak out one final game changing RKO to “kill” the legend of Mick Foley.
2. MICK FOLEY AS MANKIND VS. THE ROCK (ROYAL RUMBLE 1999)
Much in the way that we will never see another Hell in a Cell match like the one from the 1998 King of the Ring, we will also never see another I Quit match like the one from the 1999 Royal Rumble.
The story going in was Foley, who was WWE Champion at the time, built up the fact that the I Quit match was a match that “[The Rock] could not win and that he, Foley, could never lose.” Mankind said he had never given up and that pain was his life’s calling.
The Corporation was in full swing by this time, and The Rock was the companies top heel. So an I Quit match with the most hated man in the company going against a man who could absorbed so much punishment was really smart booking.
“The Rock is in uncharted waters.” -Michael Cole
The Rock was just beginning his accent to becoming ones of the companies most recognized stars and Mick Foley was really the buffer between he and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Rocky was sort of portrayed as the
ambitious up-and-coming main eventer who was in over his head with the hardcore, WWE Champion, Mick Foley.
The goal of this program was to make The Rock look credible against Austin at WrestleMania. It worked. It worked magnificently.
We had seen The Rock have some pretty nasty matches before, like his Ladder match with Triple H, but his match with Mankind at the Royal Rumble was something people still point to as the benchmark of brutality in WWE history.
After nearly 20 minutes of slamming one another into just about anything and everything but the inside of the ring, a handcuffed Mankind passed out on the entrance ramp. The Rock, taunting, the fans and his opponent, held the microphone down to the WWE Champion’s mouth one last time.
I’ve never known how to feel about the unique ending to this match. A sound clip of Foley saying “I Quit” was played by the Corporation while The Rock held the microphone to the lips of an unconscious Mankind. It was clever, but almost too much for me. Foley was an absolute punching bag in the match and may have taken more offense here than any other match.
But, he kept to his promise. He never quit.
Foley truly deserves a lot of credit for being the first to “dance” with The Rock as he ascended into main event status. He put him over in grand fashion, and he’d do it again only one year later…
1. MICK FOLEY AS CACTUS JACK VS. TRIPLE H (ROYAL RUMBLE 2000)
A year later, Mick Foley would once again be battling for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble.
In the same arena he watched “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka jump off the top of a Steel Cage onto Don Maraco years earlier, Mick Foley main evented the Royal Rumble against Triple H in a Street Fight for the WWE Championship.
How could Foley ever top main eventing Madison Square Garden for the WWE Championship? This was everything he wanted to achieve when he became a professional wrestler.
Near the end of his active career, Foley wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and put over one of the men who would carry the company for the next decade. While, Foley would not really stay away for long he did indeed
become the first man to make Triple H look like a bona-fide badass.
This match, while probably not as vicious as some of the matches we talked about earlier in this Countdown, was a Street Fight in every sense of the word.
Foley brought out the barbed wire baseball bat, mallets, steel chairs, and more. Triple H may have been out of his element compared to the sadistic Cactus Jack, but it never takes the “Cerebral Assassin” long to adapt.
Triple H, while bloodied, managed to stay in control as the match entered it’s final moments.
He back -dropped Foley on the very tacks he poured in the ring then delivered the Pedigree, but to his shock Cactus Jack was not finished. He kicked out at two!
Jack got up and charged “The Game” again, but got kicked in the gut and ate another Pedigree. This time, face-first onto his signature thumb tacks. Triple H retained as “My Time” echoed through the New York arena.
In true Cactus Jack fashion, he would get the last world by attacking the WWE Champion as he was being wheeled away. Madison Square Garden returned in kind chanting “Foley” as we faded to black.