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!’
“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.”