Whether you think Hulk Hogan is the best wrestler in the world or that Tetsuya Naito is undervalued, you can not deny that when wrestling is at its finest… just about nothing beats it. Frequently I’m watching Monday Night Raw, and I think “this is so stupid, why do I watch this foolishness?”. But then Wrestle Kingdom 11 happens, and I see Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada lock up, and I remember. I guess the thing about pro wrestling is that there’s something for everyone. Even for the most jaded skeptic, there’s some kind of pro wrestling out there that will make them beam. Whether you want to see cheesy, over-the-top soap opera stuff like Lucha Underground, or maybe outrageous, over-the-top violence like Combat Zone Wrestling, or even good old’ fashion family-friendly American fun like the WWE, there’s something for you.
It’s dumb, it’s cheesy, it’s been around far longer than you or and I, and it’ll be around long after we’re gone. It’s a circus, it’s a soap opera, it’s a crude display of pain thresholds. But people love pro wrestling because pro wrestling can be whatever you want it to be. To quote Paul Heyman, the greatest manager in wrestling history, “Wrestling is an art form. I don’t worry about those who don’t get it, I worry about satisfying those who do”.
The high-water mark of the art form of professional happened on June 28, 1998, a day when many wrestling fans around the world shrieked, ‘Holy s#@t!’ at their television screens. On that day, a match took place that now lives on in notoriety. It has since left a permanent mark on the psyche of the Undertaker, Mick Foley, and fans alike.
The match took place at the King of the Ring pay-per-view at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s not there anymore. They tore it down. Perhaps because Mick Foley broke it. The contest would set the model for future Hell in a Cell encounters. During the match, Foley suffered unspeakable violence and took two serious and influential bumps.
In the lead-up to the match, Mick Foley deliberated with hardcore wrestling legend Terry Funk ways he could outdo the previous Hell in a Cell match The Undertaker had with Shawn Michaels at the Badd Blood: In Your House pay-per-view the year before.
In Foley’s acclaimed and recommended autobiography, Have a Nice Day, Foley noted:
“Funk said, laughing, ‘Maybe you should let him throw you off the top of the cage.’
“‘Yeah, ‘I shot back, ‘then I could climb back up – and he could throw me off again.’
“Man, that was a good one! We were having a good time thinking of completely ludicrous things to do inside, outside, and on top of the cage.
“After a while, I got serious and said quietly to Terry, ‘I think I can do it.’”
And did he ever! Foley took his ideas to the Undertaker, who at first was reluctant to do them. But Foley, never one to back down from a beating, convinced the hesitant Dead Man to go ahead with his schemes of unmitigated carnage. What they left us with is a match that no one will ever forget.
So, what was going through the head of Mick Foley during what many believe being one of the most significant matches of all time? Other than the Spanish announce table? Other than his own teeth?
MICK FOLEY: “I remember having two distinct thoughts: I was falling really fast, and that the table looked really small.”
Mick’s second fall was much worse. That panel wasn’t supposed to break loose. He wasn’t supposed to fall. And the chair wasn’t supposed to land on his face.
His tooth had passed through his lip and was lodged in his nostril. He was bleeding from the mouth.
You can look into someone’s eyes and tell that they’re not there. For the next two to three minutes after that fall, Mick wasn’t there.
But he still got up.
MICK FOLEY: “Vince McMahon came up to me [afterward] and said, ‘Mick, you have no idea how much I appreciate what you just did… but I never want to see that again!’
Kevin Sullivan, who was booking WCW, later told Foley that once he saw that, he told people that the tide had turned. He said he knew right then that WWE was going to pass them and that they’d never catch them again.
Kevin Sullivan was right. This match played a decisive role in the then World Wrestling Federation getting higher TV ratings over WCW, who, for 82 straight weeks, had a lead over WWF during the Monday Night Wars. It was through matches like this one that led WWF to the top again.
After the match, Mick Foley had a long heart-to-heart with his tearful wife on the phone. This conversation almost led him to retire from pro wrestling altogether, something he did on a full-time basis in 2000.
Ironically enough, in his final match as a full-time wrestler at *No Way Out* in February 2000, Foley repeated his fall through the cell roof during another Hell in A Cell match against Triple H. This time, however, appropriate safeguards were taken to ensure his safety.
Mick Foley, you are one hell of an artist. The Picasso of Pain. The Michelangelo of Mayhem. The Rembrandt of the ring. Mr Foley, we salute you.