Saturday 1 February 2014

Alternate Twilight

It’s not a secret that when Mick Foley went through his first retirement in 2000 he was not in the best of shape. It was a situation that worsened every time he returned to the ring. And he returned to the ring a lot. The most high profile instances were obviously with WWE. Between 2004 and 2007 he wrestled several matches for the promotion, the most notable probably being his street fight encounter with Randy Orton at Backlash ’04 and I Quit match with Ric Flair at SummerSlam ’07.

The latter was a horrible mess of a match. The reason for this stemmed from the real life dislike the two men had for one another, exacerbated by the Vince Russo-esque worked-shoot nature of their feud. Even though they’d both been around long enough to know better they each took statements made in promos (so basically things that were said to advance the story rather than reflect genuine feelings or emotions) personally and so the match was disastrous.

By contrast the street fight was very good. It probably helped that ‘The Hardcore Legend’ was facing a man younger and more athletic than Flair who had been taking better care of himself and was willing to work with Foley to get the match, himself, and Foley, over. While Foley wasn’t a passenger in that match I think Orton, then a hungry ‘Legend Killer’ eager to make a name for himself, did more to make the match memorable than Foley.

Mick’s time in TNA and ROH produced similarly mixed results. A relatively lengthy feud with Samoa Joe took place in Ring of Honor. The original plan was apparently for Foley and Joe to wrestle one another but it didn’t happen because Foley didn’t feel he was in good enough shape to wrestle what would have been a very physical match. It’s almost certainly one of the biggest missed opportunities in ROH history: a match pitting a legendary figure like Foley against then company figurehead Samoa Joe when he was at his peak would have sold a lot of DVDs.

This did not lead anywhere good
Despite being in worse shape than he’d been in when appearing for ROH Foley also wrestled for TNA. Many of his matches were forgettable tag and six man outings with and against the likes of AJ Styles, Sting, Billy ‘Cute Kip’ Gunn, and Devon. Probably the most memorable match of his TNA stint was another encounter with ‘The Nature Boy’. They were getting on better by then so the match flowed a little better, but both were older and in worse shape than during their WWE clash so it was another dud.

What’s frustrating is that after Foley entered semi-retirement in 2000 he appeared for companies other than WWE while they were popular and he retained his characteristic attitude of trying to help and raise the profile of everyone he interacted with. Had he taken better care of himself and focused on keeping his waistline trim (or as close to trim as he ever was) he could have had that ROH match with Samoa Joe and he could have represented himself better in his TNA outings. Perhaps WWE and TNA would have been more inclined to use him for singles matches and we’d have seen him take on guys like John Morrison, AJ Styles and CM Punk in matches worthy of his status.

We’ll never know for sure how different the last decade and a half could have been for Mick Foley. But I think it could have been significantly better. With a bit of work he could have had the final send-off he deserved.

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