Greatest Wrestlers Of The WrestleMania Era: #14 – Mick Foley

At first, much like my piece on Hulk Hogan, I thought that Mick Foley was ranked too low. But as I looked at who ranked higher than him, my opinion changed. I think he’s ranked perfectly.

There’s no mystery to Foley’s career and what he thinks about it. He’s written four biographies and we know every bit about what he considers his best work, his worst work, and everything in between. I think that’s both good and bad for lists like this. Foley is such a great self marketer that he’s cemented his name in the wrestling history books. But we’ve also never really had a chance to miss him. And like Hogan, the last several years of his career probably hurt him more than help him. I wonder if when Foley left originally in 2000, would he be better remembered, or more forgotten?

All that being said, he’s one of my all-time favorite wrestlers. I feel like I know who Mick Foley is more so than any other wrestling superstar I’ve followed. While I remember him being in World Class, my first memory of Mick was as Cactus Jack on an episode of Class Of The Champions. He was wrestling Mil Mascaras and was drop kicked off the ring apron and fell back first on the outside. Jim Cornette screamed that Cactus Jack was dead. I thought it was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. How’d he fake that? Well, he didn’t really, but thanks to his body, which worked for him like shocks on a car, he made a living out of taking bumps like that.

Foley was put into a feud with Sting and I thought it was a little early for him to be in the feud because he wasn’t as over yet as he could’ve. But going toe-to-toe with the guy WCW was banking on as being their top guy did good for him. He had some really good matches with Sting including a non-title match loss at Beach Blast in 1992. It wasn’t exactly the main event as WCW pushed Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude’s Iron Man Match and the Steiner Brothers’ match against Terry Gordy and Steve Williams higher even though Sting was WCW Champion. That lead into some really violent matches with Big Van Vader who seemed to like taking liberties with many guys, but Foley was perfect for him because he could hit him so hard and because Foley was really a big guy, the shots looked even more impressive. While the matches were insane, they probably did more harm than good for Foley because he was concussed in one match and then lost his ear in another, which is the story that opened his book, Have A Nice Day. On a WCW European tour, Foley went to do a hangman spot, but the ropes were too tight and when he tried to get out of the spot, a large part of his ear was cut off. His WCW run was memorable, but more so because of how he felt about it, which we learned in Have A Nice Day. Foley didn’t like how he was booked, and thought the backstage politics held him back.
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Greatest Wrestlers Of The WrestleMania Era: #22 – Big Van Vader

For the longest time, big men in wrestling were of one mould. Slow, lumbering and of course large, not much was ever expected of a 350lbs+ performer from an athletic point of view. Their asset was their size and as long as they maintained that, they would be fine. Leon White changed that. Making his first (and perhaps biggest) impact in New Japan Pro Wrestling in the late 80’s, White was given the gimmick which he would carry with him for his whole career – Big Van Vader. As a former NFL prospect, Vader was blessed with legitimate athleticism for someone his size. Not only was he as strong as an ox but he could move around the ring with a swiftness that defied his size. His agility was equally as impressive, peaking on the occasions where he would pull off a top rope moonsault (never the prettiest moonsault but still absolutely remarkable). These talents gave Vader the ability to have some really great matches throughout his career, and the combination of guaranteed match quality plus his natural monster aura made him a guy much more suited to being a top guy in the main event scene than most of the big men that came before him.
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Video – Mick Foley Talks About Who Was The Most Physical To Work With

Wrestlemania 13 – Enter The Stone Cold Era

To preface this review, I will let you know that out of all Wrestlemanias, this one drew the smallest PPV buy rate. It also is considered one of the worst cards from top to bottom in Mania history. However, there is one reason why this isn’t the worst Wrestlemania ever. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart is why. The politics behind the match are laughable. After Bret Hart put over Shawn Michaels in the main event of Wrestlemania XII, they were supposed to build for a rematch at Wrestlemania 13 with Shawn then putting Bret over. Unfortunately, whether you believe that Shawn didn’t want to put Bret over, or that he was injured, that program didn’t happen and thus, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart did. Shawn didn’t even wrestle on the card. This match had a lot of significance in branching out Stone Cold’s character. The program did two things perfectly. It established Stone Cold as someone who would never quit and it also helped turn him face, while turning Bret heel at the same time.

The most interesting non-main match on the card was a very snotty Hunter Hearst Helmsley (before he made the DX turn into Triple H) who was seconded in the ring by a very muscular and masculine looking Chyna facing off against Goldust. They actually had a really good match. The kicker was watching Chyna throw around Marlena like a rag doll. That one spot helped make her into a frightening character. She’s still frightening today, but for different reasons.

There was a star driven six man tag match that was also on this card. The Legion Of Doom (or Road Warriors), who were past their prime, teamed up with Ahmed Johnson. If you’ve never heard of Ahmed Johnson, it’s because he was only in the WWF for a couple of years. He was an immediate sensation as a huge and mobile big man, yet he was very sloppy in the ring and people didn’t like working with him because of it. He later tried to make a comeback in WCW years later as Big T, but he was way out of shape and went away very quickly. They took on Crush, Farooq, and Savio Vega in a Chicago Street Fight which is similar to your modern day hardcore match, except the match wasn’t “falls count anywhere”. The match served it’s purpose which was to have LOD, who were always billed from Chicago, get over huge. And putting Ahmed in there with them helped establish him, but also, give the aging tag team some of his rub. However, the match wasn’t anything memorable and it was sloppy at times. But at least the crowd was happy.
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Wrestlemania XII – The Iron Man Match

Wrestlemania XII was total one trick pony. There are wrestling cards that only promise one great match, but the possibly is there for good matches on the undercard. Here, WWE simply said, “We are going to give you the main event, and it’s going to be an hour long, and we really don’t care what else is on this show.” If you think about it from a time standpoint, you have one match that is going to take a full hour out of your three hour PPV. The rest of the matches and skits will have to be cut into two hours. Basically they cared about the main event and nothing else. I guess they did promise us the Ultimate Warrior again.

The Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart match was a good match, but over the years, it has been called the greatest match in Wrestlemania history by WWE. It’s not. Our own Big D calls it the most overrated match in Wrestlemania history. It was built up on television as “a boyhood dream” for Michaels to win the belt. As the story went, Michaels had been a wrestling fan as a kid and even though he was on the smaller side, he always wanted to win the WWF Heavyweight Title in a league of gargantuan monsters. Since Vince McMahon was giving us two great wrestlers in the main event rather than two slow moving, punching and kicking heavyweights, he made sure that we were going to see pure wrestling. He made it an Iron Man match. The rules of an Iron Man match are simple. There is a clock set with a one hour time limit. The person who scores the most falls in one hour wins. The hardest thing to do in a match like this is to keep the fans entertained at the same time as making sure the wrestlers don’t wear themselves out. Michaels and Hart paced themselves, but it still wasn’t intriguing enough live as many of the fans left before the match was over. Some detractors say that although they were entertained for most of the entire hour, they didn’t like the finish. Neither man won a fall in the entire hour and Bret Hart decided that since it was a draw, he was still champion. WWF President at the time, Gorilla Monsoon came out and said there must be a winner and ruled that the contest must continue and there would be a winner in sudden death. Soon thereafter, Shawn Michaels broke the Hitman’s heart with the sweet chin music and won the match and the title.
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