The ’90s were one of the best times to be a kid watching professional wrestling.
Of all of the wrestling-related phrases from that time (and there were a lot that put me in detention multiple times a week), one sentence can transport any fan — or anyone, really — to one specific match: “As God as my witness, he’s broken in half!”
I still remember hearing those words being shouted over the TV as my cousins and I watched a towering man in black called the Undertaker throw another man named Mankind off a 16-foot cage, crashing through a table.
It turns out Mankind didn’t actually get broken in half from that match. The man behind the gimmick, Mick Foley, who, I should add, is also a New York Times best-selling writer, is still somewhat intact enough to speak with Eugene Weekly over the phone about his upcoming trip to Replay Toys and Collectibles in Eugene on Sunday, Oct. 1, his wrestling career and how he channels Santa Claus.
Whether being thrown off a cage or losing an ear during a match, Foley has had an appetite for danger as a way to compensate for what he tells EW was a lack of athletic abilities.
“I realized a long time ago that I could not jump high. But I could jump from high places,” he says. “And for me, being a guy with a very modest genetic hand, that I had to take off from somewhere because I probably couldn’t jump over a phonebook.”
But Foley went on to have a successful career in the World Wrestling Entertainment company with many names: Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind. He says he has his favorite matches — a hardcore match against Randy Orton in 2004 and against Shawn Michaels in 1996 — but the three-time champion doesn’t want to dictate what someone should remember him for.
“I don’t get to tell people what’s important or memorable to them,” Foley says. “I’m absolutely fine if they want to remember me as the guy from Hell in the Cell or the guy who defeated Dwayne [“The Rock”] Johnson — who’s the biggest star in the entire world.”
But one thing that surprises Foley at fan signing sessions, whether it’s at a comic-con or somewhere like Replay Toys, is the age of the people who are there to see him.
“About 40 percent of the fans who show up were not even alive when I was wrestling,” Foley says. “My matches have been passed down from their family.”
Replay Toys is one stop that came together at the last minute on Foley’s West Coast road trip. It’s not the first time that he’s been on a long stint along the West Coast, a trip that will take him from Seattle down to Southern California over two weeks.
And while he’s on the road, he’ll have a few days off to do some writing. But he’s not following up to his best selling memoir — he’ll be writing letters from Santa Claus. For several years, Foley, a Christmas fanatic, has been writing letters from Santa Claus to friends from the wrestling industry, as well as bigger name celebrities, such as singer-songwriters Jewel and Norah Jones.
“In the aftermath, and the recovery from my two operations — my knee replacement and my hip and knee replacement in 2017 — I started really working on my handwriting,” Foley says. “So when I sit down, it’s almost as if I’m channeling the spirit of Old St. Nick, they’re pretty, pretty impressive. And they are a part of people’s Christmas traditions now.”
Foley says he treats every signing and fan meeting as seriously as he does when he dons the Santa suit, even though it’s been more than 10 years since he’s retired.
“It’s more about the interaction in the moment than it is about signature,” Foley says. “I know what it’s like to be elated after a meeting, and I know what it’s like to be disappointed. And so I try to give people a feeling of elation.”