A great source of nostalgia for me is the mid to late 90’s wrestling scene. Any time a DVD or Blu Ray is released high-lighting the career of a popular wrestler from that era it always grabs my attention. I’m usually able to resist and wait for the price to come down, but every now and then I feel compelled to jump in right form the start and that was the case for me with the latest Mick Foley collection titled For All Mankind: The Life and Career of Mick Foley.
Foley is the wrestling superstar who was never meant to be a superstar. Bad-bodied and lacking any sort of flash, Foley seemed destined for mid-card status. His defining trait was a willingness to sacrifice his body for whatever promotion he happened to be working for in such a way that it made other wrestlers look good. This lead to the occasional program with some main event types like Sting and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the glass ceiling was always firmly kept in place. This changed though in large part to the WWF’s Attitude Era which gave wrestlers the freedom to express themselves to the audience on a more personal level. The rise of the internet also helped spread the tale of Foley’s hardcore exploits in smaller territories and he fast became a legend amongst the diehard crowd. As wrestling gained in popularity, the diehard audience became the mainstream crowd and the WWF saw fit to throw Foley a bone in the form of a (brief) reign as WWF Champion.
The story of the unlikely hero rising to the top is a familiar one, but Foley’s always felt special. A major assist for that goes to Foley’s best-selling autobiography Have A Nice Day! which he wrote without the aid of a ghost writer. When the book hit newsstands, Foley had already risen to the top so the book can’t take credit for that, but it can take credit for making Foley something more important to me than just another wrestler. Foley’s writing was both witty and articulate. He has a natural sense of humor and he comes across as 100% authentic. He’s not afraid to boast of his good qualities, but he’s also quick to point out when he stinks up a match. I can see how his willingness to pat himself on the back could rub people the wrong way, but I never found it off-putting. He takes his job and his legacy seriously and he has a strong opinion of how the business of wrestling should be run. This did get him into some trouble when he spoke ill of Nature Boy Ric Flair’s booking, but it’s the kind of thing readers are looking for when they buy this type of book.
Foley’s reputation for being a hardcore legend naturally sparked a great deal of curiosity on the part of wrestling fans who missed out. A lot of these matches occurred in Japan or smaller promotions in the US which were never commercially released. Fans were forced to purchase low-quality VHS bootlegs and trade them amongst each other. As a result, Foley’s career has lent itself well to home video. For All Mankind is his second major collection released by WWE following the more match-oriented Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses. That collection contained a lot of the matches fans really wanted to see. For All Mankind chooses to focus on Foley’s life and in many ways is like a visual complement to his written autobiographies. There are matches included as well, but they’re secondary in this case.
I own The Greatest Hits and Misses set so I was more interested in the documentary this time around. It runs around 2 hours and covers a lot of the same ground the books do but the visuals are a great benefit as some of the wrestlers Foley talks about have been almost forgotten. It’s certainly familiar territory but the documentary livens things up with interviews from wrestlers past and present as well as some of Foley’s friends and family. Surprisingly, we never hear from Foley’s wife which is too bad as I would have liked to have heard what was going through her mind every time her husband agreed to partake in some crazy barbed-wire death match or whatever. Less surprising, but equally disappointing, is the absence of the Undertaker who was a big part of Foley’s WWE career. The Undertaker is one of the few wrestlers left who basically refuses to break character so I didn’t expect to hear from him, but it didn’t stop me from holding out hope for it.
The documentary basically covers Foley’s entire profressional career, though it does refrain from acknowledging Foley’s run with TNA which is understandable. There’s probably close to 45 minutes of outtakes on the Blu Ray release. Most of these include funny stories from other wrestlers such as Triple H recalling a doomed attempt at a top-rope dive from Foley while other wrestlers rib him for his cheapness. Foley himself comes across as a charming sort and it’s fun to hear him talk about all of the things he’s done. He’s a natural story-teller that can draw in non-wrestling fans with little effort.
The other large portion of the release is dedicated to actual matches from throughout Foley’s career. The set, like most WWE sets, seeks to avoid repeating matches that appeared on other sets which is good for the wrestling diehard that buys everything, but it prevents the WWE from ever putting out a definitive collection of matches for any one wrestler. Foley is no exception as his best matches are on the previously mentioned Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses. There are two repeat matches from the set; Foley’s debut match as Jack Foley and his infamous Hell in a Cell bout with the Undertaker from King of the Ring ’98. The good thing about the HIAC match being repeated is that the WWE has now finally ceased censoring out the old WWF logo from its matches which helps enhance the viewing experience. The previous release also was only available on DVD, but seeing these matches on Blu Ray does very little to enhance the experience as so many of them are taken from old masters. A lot of the new matches added are from Foley’s early run with WCW including one against Sting. There’s also a few choice ECW fights with the Sandman in a barbed wire match and a humorous bout with Shane Douglas during Foley’s final days with the promotion. Unfortunately, a lot of the other matches are pretty forgetable but one match I was happy to see included was Foley’s original farewell match at No Way Out against Triple H. It’s not the best match they ever had with each other, but I like having it for the sake of completion.
This set works best when viewed as a complement to Foley’s previous releases, including both print and DVD. If you’re a Foley fan who hasn’t read his books for several years this should be a fun trip down memory lane for you. Others looking for Foley’s craziest matches will be let down by what they find here. It’s all about expectations. I got a lot out of this release and if it’s something you’re interested in checking out definitely opt for the Blu Ray if possible as the extra content is worth the extra five bucks. Foley’s documentary is good!