Monday Night Raw has come out of the initial WWE brand draft as clearly being the stronger show. Although we at Today’s Powerbomb and other professional wrestling writers have lambasted segments involving Titus, Young, R-Truth, Goldust, and other similar stinkers, Monday nights have been entertaining and consistently show significant promise for things to come.
Much of this success comes off the heels of spearheads of the New Era, but many may not notice that the show is enhanced by what comes out of the mouth of WWE legend and veteran, Mick Foley.
Most followers of professional wrestling will most likely immediately associate Foley with being one of the cornerstones of the Attitude Era. Being thrown from the top of the cell by The Undertaker, winning the WWE Championship on Raw and the smorgasbord of chair shots he took to his hardcore head are still being showcased on DVDs and highlight reels that focus on this beloved era. His presence is everlasting, but he strangely is rarely placed on the same bleachers as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
His bowling champion figure and Mark Henry-like speed may have something to do with this. He did not have the look of a champion. Rather, he had the look of a mentally warped annoyance that was just dangerous enough to represent a temporary threat, but not good enough to maintain the status of being dangerous.
However, he was not booked as such (not for long, anyway), for it was his mind and mouth, two ingredients that first displayed his forlorn, forsaken, dismal eulogy — and later projected a man knowingly on borrowed time who must win the WWE Championship and will literally dispose of his bones to get it — that carried just about every program he was involved with.
Foley’s WWE mic work (check out his extraordinary stuff from ECW as well) was first put on display when he challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship at In Your House: Mind Games in 1996, just Shawn was coming off his Ironman Match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12. At that time, he played a tortured soul who fought through an internal conflict that forced him to decide between peace and anarchy, once admitting that he was “afraid of what I might do when I no longer have control of my mind.”
But it was an interview with Jim Ross in 1997 that stoked Foley’s transition from deranged heel to underdog babyface. In this interview, that was featured in its own segment for four weeks, Foley was humanized in front of the world as he told the story of how he grew to love pain and how it was his destiny to become the WWE Champion. In an era when fans were beginning to embrace the hyperbolic human side of competitors rather than intelligence-insulting gimmicks, Foley became a relatable every-man figure and became one of the top babyfaces in the company.
Although he has not wrestled regularly in more than a decade, Foley has since become popular with adult wrestling fans through his commentary on the business he was temporarily watching from afar. Rumors swirled online as fans speculated that Foley was in hot water with WWE management over judgments he had about managerial decisions, most notably regarding the handling of CM Punk and not having Daniel Bryan win the Royal Rumble.
Each role that he has played on television was played with vocal conviction, containing a charisma that allowed audiences to gag, feel sorrow or extreme jubilation. Foley took his limited wrestling skill set and combined it with a rhetorical creative range to create a character fans can instantly get behind.
This range is now being put on full display on Raw, placing Foley in a position to be the perfect contrast to the selfish, greedy Stephanie McMahon character.
His backstage segment this past week on Raw showed that Foley was still able to incite an inner-torment in the belly of those he associates himself with. Foley was humiliated as a leader the week prior when Triple H interfered in the WWE Universal Championship match that Foley booked, basically hand-picking Kevin Owens to take the strap and betraying Seth Rollins in the process.
Foley went on to tell a story about McMahon consoling a grief-stricken superstar backstage, forever planting an image of her in his brain as being the “girl with a shy smile”, and how being associated with Triple H’s interference would destroy that image, replacing it with one of repugnance.
McMahon’s character has not broken down on screen since being nearly sacrificed by The Undertaker during the Attitude Era, and Foley had her folding like an accordion.
Foley was also able to articulately put Bayley’s climb to the Raw roster into perspective the night of her main roster debut, setting the stage for fans who may have otherwise not been familiar with the NXT product.
The New Era presents a time period in which there are a handful of microphone masters, but finds in-ring performance taking precedence. Foley is no longer taking chair shots to the head (not that anybody else is), and now is in a role that allows him to verbally highlight segments of Raw that need to be sold to the live audience.
His diction is no longer soaked in melancholy, nor is it seeking a particular destiny. Rather, his diction expresses an understanding that it was his rhetoric that made him a legend, and it is a rhetoric that can begin the formation of one’s legendary status within today’s product.