Mick Foley on advice he gave to Braun Strowman, Raw’s 25th anniversary, Jericho vs. Omega

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The 25th anniversary of Raw will be celebrated on January 22nd with a special broadcast from the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center live at 8 p.m. ET on USA.

I had the chance to chat with Mick Foley about the event, the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, the advice he gave to Braun Strowman and what he thought of the build for Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega.

Is December 26th the saddest day of the year for you, or does Christmas never end for you?

“As long as I’ve got my Hallmark movie stockpile, I can continue in the season for the next few weeks.”

Those don’t get old for you?

“Nah, we know how they end. It’s a nice way to escape the real world. I also made it a point to see a great production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on December 30th. I love the season, but it’s nice to get a little break from it. I’m looking out of my window and a foot of snow is mounting and so it still feels like the holiday season.”

You joined WWE after Raw left the Manhattan Center, do you have any memories of working in the building, or have you never had the chance to work there?

“Is it still called the Manhattan Center?”

Yeah it is.

“I guess not. I wrestled in the Penta Hotel in 1990, but I guess I never worked the Manhattan Center.”

The Raw 25th anniversary show is another chance for WWE to celebrate their past by bringing back some of the all-time greats, but when thinking ahead to the future, I don’t know if something like this will be possible when say, the Raw 50th anniversary show happens, because none of the stars on today’s roster, besides John Cena, seem to be able to break through the glass ceiling and reach that next level of super-stardom. What has to change in order for there to be more household names like there were during the Attitude Era?

“Well that’s more of a societal change. I don’t think we can go back there. I think WWE did what they had to do to become more successful than ever on a global basis. I would love to say, ‘Hey, things were much better back in my day,’ but the company just turned its biggest profit ever. They knew that we were in a wave, so you can either let the wave subside and complain about the way things used to be, or move forward in every area possible and that’s what they did.

So I’d say that on a global basis, the superstars are just as big, if not bigger, with the exception of you know, a Rock or a Stone Cold. I think they’re doing just fine.”

As a huge advocate for women’s wrestling, I’m sure you were thrilled to find out about the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble. What are some challenges that the women will face in having to do that match for the first time?

“I guess it depends on the positioning of the match on the card. I’m guessing that it’s going to be first.

Just trying to live up to the lure of rumbles in the past will be a challenge. It is almost always the highlight of the show. The match really gains due to the anticipation during it.

I’ll be rooting for the women. I’ll be glued to my TV set and just hoping that it goes as well as possible for everybody. I hope they have a couple of surprise entrees. Both from the past and a couple of new names.

The women are so determined. Through sheer force of will, they’re going to have a very good match, but the one thing you can’t ever … you can’t book magic. I hope there’s that element of magic in the air when they take to the ring.”

Outside of working with Stephanie McMahon on screen during your time as the general manager of Raw, what were some of your favorite moments during your run last year?

“I loved doing work with The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro), especially putting them together and then interacting with them after they teamed up.

I loved interactions with guys like Sami [Zayn]. Anyone who I was able to kind of get in and try to make a difference with, I really enjoyed.

I tried to bring a certain element of fear to the way I handled Braun Strowman. I had a major talk with him about the importance of throwing things backstage. [laughs] I told him about a legendary basketball game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977, when Darryl Dawkins was ejected. I never saw the dressing room after he was done with it, but I heard about it and it was legendary in my mind and I said to him that he had a chance to be Darryl Dawkins after that game.

He had the physical presence to do it. He was the one guy who had the strength to throw things around in a way that would be meaningful and I think he really took that lesson to heart. Anytime I see Braun Strowman throwing items backstage, I smile.”

His growth last year was one of the more shocking developments in the past few years. Obviously you see the potential based on his look, but it seemed like he really sunk his teeth into the advice he was given and understood how to use it to his advantage.

“Yeah, I put out a post one day on Facebook and I don’t think I quite hit it on the sweet spot of the bat, but it was basically Baron von Frankenstein saying, ‘Oh, that’s how you build a monster.’

I think it’s one of the most impressive builds I’ve seen a long time. Everybody has benefited.”

For sure. He’s one of the few guys on the roster who feels “protected,” and that’s something I was trying to hit at earlier about the lack of superstars on the roster. So many characters just don’t feel like they’re being protected. He’s someone who has been and the crowd understands that and is reacting to him as a top level star.

“Well, the guys go out there and do their thing with the great matches they have and there’s a feeling that the fans respect that and any guy can win at any given time.

Believe me, it’s tough when you have to have good, competitive matches for three hours [every week]. It was much easier in the days of ‘WWE Superstars’ or before that with the wrestling I saw once or twice a week where a decent match every six weeks was considered a treat.

It’s really difficult to have dominant characters when they have to be competitive so often. When you have a chance to build someone like Braun in a different way, it really stands out.”

And that’s why I feel like whoever can show their personality using the microphone or in a backstage segment, will standout even more so than in the past because we see 20 minute matches every week with extensive selling from both guys. I look at someone like Adam Cole, who can get himself over by just using facial expressions, and think that’s someone who will immediately standout to the audience because he’s expressing his character without selling a body part for 60 percent of a match or making a move look cool.

“There’s a guy who came up in an airport, almost combatively saying, ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Raw these days!’

Oh boy.

“And I’m like all right, what is it? And he goes ‘How can you have a three hour show without someone like The Miz?’

And he’s right. When someone is that entertaining that regularly, you miss him when he’s gone. So it shows that there’s room for someone else to step up.

It’s like hey guess what, Jason Jordan is entertaining. Now Drew Gulak is entertaining. Now Rusev is on the other show, but he’s entertaining. Guys find ways to step up and they find a way to make the best out of mediocre situations. They show what they can do and then they get a couple key people believing in them and then they get the ball.”

You’ve said people always come up to you and ask about Hell in the Cell with The Undertaker, but what are some of the more underappreciated moments/matches from your career that you wish people would ask you about more often?

“I was thrilled to be on Edge and Christian’s podcast where Shawn Michaels and I talked about our match at ‘In Your House: Mind Games’ for over an hour. It was amazing how vividly both of us remembered that match.

Some of my matches tend to blend together, but that was really different. A lot of outside of the box stuff.

The stuff that I did to set up the matches with The Rock that resulted in I think five consecutive Pay-Per-View matches, all of which were good.

The non-cell matches with The Undertaker, including the first-ever Buried Alive match.

Every once in a while someone will show the clip of the Big Show throwing me from the stage into a grave on a short hop.

I forget about a lot of the things I’ve done over the years, but I think I was fully appreciated.”

I assume based off of this media tour you’ve done this morning that you haven’t had a chance to watch Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega yet.

“No! It’s shame because last night I was going to put a post out wishing those guys luck and I guess I confused the time zone changes and thought it would be taking place later today. I hear they did a tremendous job though.”

Oh, it was excellent. A great blend of new school and old school. I was not expecting it to go over 40 minutes …


It was fantastic. What did you think of the build for that match?

“I thought it was great. I’ve been a big fan of Kenny’s work for a long time. During the beginning of their feud, I reached out to him and was like, is this something you guys are working on? Is everything OK between you two? And he was like don’t worry about me, just having some fun.

I thought Jericho isn’t just going to go after a phenomenal athlete like Kenny Omega and reduce him to being a curiosity. And then as soon as the match was announced I was like, ah that Jericho, he knows what he’s doing.

The article that I was going to write last night … I just happened to find a cool photo of Chris and I backstage and I was going to point out that for all of the fun and shenanigans, Jericho is a very competitive guy. Very driven. Stands up for stuff that he believes in. He wants everything he does to be the best and I had no doubt that when this thing was announced that they were going to steal the show.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

It’s His Time: Jeff Jarrett will be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame Class of 2018

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The phrase never say never is one that is used quite often in the world of professional wrestling. It’s a saying that is mostly used to drum up interest in a person’s potential return to a company or an unlikely dream match that sends the Internet into a tizzy.

But in this instance, the phrase couldn’t be more appropriate because Jeff Jarrett is the newest member of WWE’s Hall of Fame.

That’s right, J-E-double-F J-A-double-R-E-double-T is going into the H-O-F.

“I would have never dreamed that in 2018 I’d be going into the Hall of Fame,” Jarrett said to NBC Sports last week, “but as I’ve sat back and looked I said, ‘Welp, I guess there are some things that are just meant to be.’”

Considering how Jarrett’s tenure with the WWE ended in 2001, there are quite a few people who never thought the door would be open for Double-J to return.

When WWE purchased WCW back in 2001, Vince McMahon infamously fired Jarrett live on television. This wasn’t just a standard segment in which Vince “fired” someone, this was a legit termination:

For someone who grew up and then went on to succeed in the wrestling business, Jarrett understood Vince’s line of thinking, “Vince does a lot of things well,” Jarrett said. “And he knows how to produce great TV. To me that night was just good TV.”

Even though the wrestling landscape in the United States seemed dry after WWE purchased WCW and ECW folded, Jarrett wasn’t worried about his future after being fired live on television.

“It’s a business and I knew that I was going to be getting paid on my Turner contract for about another eight or nine months, so I didn’t even think to address it that night,” Jarrett said.

Just over a year later after his firing, Jarrett and his father, Jerry, launched a new pro wrestling promotion: Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. A promotion that would launch the careers of future WWE/NXT superstars including: AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Eric Young, and Bobby Roode.

But what if Jarrett wasn’t fired in 2001? What if he stayed in what was arguably the biggest transition period in the history of WWE?

“I’ve never been a guy to look in the rearview mirror and talk about what ifs, I’ve always been a guy who looks forward,” Jarrett said.

“I think from an in-ring perspective, I was just hitting my prime years in the early 2000s. I would have loved to work with the guys in WWE during that time period, but it wasn’t meant to be. I took my career in another direction and I’m glad I did so, but the Hall of Fame is another opportunity for things to come full circle.”

And boy, are things going to come full circle.

As of now, AJ Styles is set to defend his WWE championship against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania. Styles was one of the first pieces of fresh talent that Jarrett gave a major opportunity to in the early days of TNA. Without Jarrett’s vision, who knows if the “Phenomenal One” would have blossomed into the standout performer he is today.

For Jarrett, the idea of going into the Hall of Fame on the same weekend that Styles defends the WWE title at the company’s biggest show of the year is poetic justice.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, only convergences and AJ headlining and me going in to the Hall of Fame is perfect,” Jarrett said. “He’s been a friend since the early days of our relationship and it’s been great to watch him progress as a performer. I can’t say enough about the guy.”

Not only will this be a special moment for all of the superstars on the WWE roster who were given an opportunity to learn and grow on television thanks to Jarrett, it will truly be a special moment for his family.

Professional wrestling has been a three generation business for the Jarrett family. Decades before Jeff and his father launched TNA, Jerry Jarrett founded the Continental Wrestling Association in 1977, which eventually merged with World Class Championship Wrestling to become the United States Wrestling Association.

Jeff’s grandmother got into the business in the 1940s and quickly worked her way up. Working in her promotion at the concession stand helped Jarrett realize just how viable the wrestling business could be as a form of income.

When Jarrett is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he’s going to make sure that it’s a memorable time for everyone in his family who has helped him achieve this career milestone.

“It’s a humbling honor and I will be accepting it on behalf of just not myself, but my wife Karen, who has had to go through ups and downs. My dad, my stepmom, my uncle, who just passed away. My grandfather, my grandmother on the other side of my family,” Jarrett said.

“It’s a three generation business, so I’m accepting it for everyone in my family because it is a family business. That is something that is so humbling to me. I’m the one who got picked, but it’s really an award for the entire Jarrett family.”

Jarrett stayed mum about his future plans, who reached out to him from WWE about going into the HOF, and wouldn’t reveal who will induct him into the Hall of Fame, even though he already has an idea of who it will be. However, he didn’t stay quiet when asked why this is the right time for him to join the collection of wrestling’s biggest names.

“Quite frankly I’ve thought about that. Who am I? Why am I going in now? They asked and I had to do a head-scratcher because it was literally a shock,” he said. “There are less than 200 wrestlers in the Hall of Fame and you think about the thousands of guys that have laced up the boots and I’m going to be one of those 200. It just doesn’t seem right in my brain.”

While it may not seem right in Double-J’s brain, the convergence of important dates in Jarrett’s life will come to a head when he walks up to the microphone for his speech in New Orleans.

“When I first heard about it I looked at my calendar and saw that the date of the ceremony is April 6, 2018 and April 6 of 1986 was the day that I had my very first match. So 32 years to the day is sort of surreal.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis



Shawn Michaels Q&A: Legendary Raw match with John Cena, the nWo, working with WWE’s future stars

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WWE will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Raw with a unique show on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA. The show will emanate from both the Manhattan Center and the Barclays Center.

I had the chance to chat with Shawn Michaels about some of the memorable matches and moments he had on Raw throughout his career, his role in developing the next wave of WWE talent and one moment when he knew he was going to venture off script during a promo. 

I’m sitting here watching the match you had with Max Moon on the first episode of Raw and I’m wondering how it must feel to know that you’re going to walk back into the Manhattan Center and participate on the 25th anniversary edition of the show.  

“Well I gotta tell you, I hope that’s where I get to go. No one has made any decisions yet as far as I know. As much as I love the Barclays Center, I would rather get to go back to the Manhattan Center.

I don’t know that at the time I was mature enough to appreciate how unbelievably cool and awesome that building was.

It’s sort of like a rock band. They start out in those places and then you want to get to play in stadiums. As phenomenal as it is to be in front of 80 or 90,000 people in a stadium, it’s really hard to beat going back to those intimate places, filling them up, and feeling that electricity, that passion, that excitement in that environment.

For me if I were to get to pick, that’s where I would want to go back to, especially on that night.”

I imagine you had a similar feeling when you appeared in San Antonio as a special guest referee in an NXT show

“Yeah! The old Aztec is a great environment as well. It’s one of the things that NXT does that I really enjoy. They play a lot of similar venues to that. It was a great deal of fun. That is one of the many things about helping out with NXT and the folks down at the [Performance Center].”

So last night as I was prepping for this interview I went on a YouTube deep dive into some of your memorable matches and moments on Raw. The first one I want to ask about is your hour-long match with John Cena in London. I’m curious to know how that came together because it’s so rare to have a WWE match that pushes the hour long mark, especially one that’s on free television.

“So that turned out at the very end of our European tour that year. We had already been on the road there for over a week.

I found out what we were doing when I got to the building and was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’

When you hear that the match is going an hour, it seems like a long time, but when you’re working with someone like John so much … I’ve had the opportunity to go back and watch that match and it just flows right by. That’s obviously a testament to John and heck I’ll even pat myself on the back a little for that one (laughs).

It’s amazing how trying to do that hour-long match didn’t seem like such a big mountain to climb. It really helps when you have a history with someone. John and I were coming off of the WrestleMania [23] match and because of that, we had a decent amount of story points to work around, so it was easy.

It obviously doesn’t hurt when you’re in a phenomenal environment as well. Let’s face it, the folks in the U.K. are pretty easy to wrestle in front of. They are a very passionate group.

I gotta say that’s one of my favorite matches.”

Another one of my favorites was the match you had with Shelton Benjamin in the Gold Rush tournament. You guys made unexpected magic in the ring that night. Had you worked with him before that match, or was it something that just organically came together as you were talking it out in the ring?

“I don’t think Shelton and I worked together before that and we barely worked together after that. It was just something that came together. Shelton is a phenomenal athlete. There isn’t anything that he can’t do and he also makes everything look flawless.

One of the strengths that I bring to the table is that I can work to other people’s strengths. If you have a lot of them, that makes it easier for me (laughs).

It’s one of those situations where you have someone who can do anything under the sun and you’re not too shabby yourself and then it becomes just a matter of putting things together that makes sense.

It certainly helps when you’re building to a certain point in the match and the timing comes off perfectly and that’s exactly how that match ended.

I know there are a fair amount of times that I’ve tried to capture that lightning in a bottle again and I don’t think it’s ever turned out as well as that did.”

Agreed. The only spot like that I can think of that came close was the superkick on Rey Mysterio, but it just didn’t have the punctuation because that was during a Survivor Series match, so it was just an elimination, which is much different than the finish of a high-energy match.

“Yes and that’s the thing. You know it is just special and when somebody asks to do it again you go, ‘Uhhhhhh we can try it ….’ I certainly knew that when it happened that it’s something you don’t mess with. You shouldn’t try to go back and do it again.”

I stumbled across the promo you cut at the beginning of Raw in Montreal in the summer of 2005. You were working with [Hulk] Hogan at that point, but obviously the only thing the crowd cared about was Bret Hart. It had to be an unbelievable feeling to know that you had everyone in the building eating out of the palm of your hand.

“That was one of the few times after I came back in 2002, where I went out there and there was absolutely no way that I was one, going to hit any of my time cues and two, that I was going to stay anywhere remotely close to the script.

That was a situation where everyone who knows anything about this line of work felt the same way as the crowd, so no one was going to be angry about it because the moment was perfect.”

Another little random moment in time is when you returned in 2002 as a member of the nWo. The group’s run was cut short due to Kevin Nash’s injury, but do you know how the storyline was supposed to play out? It seemed like we were going to get to a point where the group consisted of you, Nash, Hunter and X-Pac.

“That is a phenomenal question and I honestly don’t know where it was supposed to go because I had just gotten back to WWE. The extent of it, that I knew, was that Kevin was supposed to work with Hunter at the next Pay-Per-View.

(Writer’s note: Triple H appeared on the next PPV, Vengeance, in a segment backstage where, in storyline, SmackDown commissioner Stephanie McMahon and Raw commissioner Eric Bischoff tried to convince Triple H to sign with their brand, but Shawn Michaels persuaded Triple H to sign with Raw and then Hunter turned on him the next night when they appeared as D-Generation X.)

I know that we had turned on Booker and then we turned on [Big] Show, but I honestly don’t know where it was going because I was just finding my footing and didn’t know enough to be asking someone, ‘Where is this going?’

I had no intention of wrestling at that point and then of course so many things changed after Kevin went down. I need to hunt someone down and find the answer.”

In an interview you talked about fading into the background, but now here you are working at the Performance Center and helping out with NXT. What was it about being down there that made you want to get involved?

“It’s honestly the environment at the PC. Matt Bloom, Sara Amato, Terry Taylor, Robbie [Brookside], Norman [Smiley], Steve [Corino]. There are just so many great people who are there to do one thing.

Everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction. Absolutely nobody is trying to prove anything to anyone. Nobody is looking to do anything but help these young men and women have an opportunity to go out there and do what we had a chance to do.

It doesn’t work if all of those men and women you work with are all pains in the backside, but they’re not. If there was something that stuck in my craw I’d tell ya, but that’s what drew me to it.

For me, it was a situation where I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness, all of the stuff that I absolutely love about this business is here and all of the stuff that I don’t care for and that I don’t feel like doing again are also here.’ It was just an absolutely perfect situation. It’s infectious and you feed off of the desire and the passion.

And then of course the direction and the vision of the people who are running that place. I’m not even talking about Hunter. He’s my buddy, obviously, and I can hang around him no matter what, but it’s what Matt and Sara and everyone else brings to that place.

It’s just a fun thing to be a part of and it’s fun be a part of the wrestling business.”

I have to imagine it’s great for someone like you who has so much experience in the business to help people when they’re struggling to find the answer with something and you can call back on an experience that will help them understand how to solve the issue.

“For sure and also getting them to think in ways that they might not know, or even more importantly, letting them know that what they were thinking about was right.

It also helps them because I was a risk-taker during my career. I’m certainly less structured than almost everybody else there (laughs). There’s a little bit of a rebellious gunslinger in me and that’s something that might be a part of some of them and I think those are the people who can be put with me and we can see where it goes.

I think they understand that if I say it’s too much, then it’s probably too much because let’s face it, there isn’t much that I think is too much.”

So what talent has stood out to you down there?

I love my guys. That’s [Johnny] Gargano, Roddy (Roderick Strong), Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, Drew McIntyre, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe, [Tommaso] Ciampa, Authors of Pain, they’re doing great.

But as I’m learning now, there’s so much talent worldwide that I think the wrestling business is in great shape for the future.

What makes NXT standout to me in this clustered landscape of professional wrestling is the way it blends old school storyline building blocks, but with a new school twist in terms of in-ring style.

“I 100 percent agree with ya. It’s all of the sort of stuff that you like about the old school wrestling, but it’s done in today’s style. I think it’s a perfect dose of both.

Again one of the things that really helps down at the PC is, I’m not the bitter old timer (laughs). I encourage the change, I encourage the evolution, but it’s important for them to hear when they need to slow down. I tell them, you won’t slow down as much as they probably want you to, but neither did I. It’s all a learning curve.

I think it’s important for them to know that people said the same things to me when I was that age.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis