Posted by: Necci – Apr 11, 2014
This past Thursday night at the Richmond Funny Bone, "Hardcore Legend" and WWE Hall Of Famer Mick Foley captivated a sold-out crowd of wrestling fans (as well as plenty of non-fans) with the last night of his "Tales From Wrestling Past" show. Foley, who portrayed Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and most famously, Mankind in his storied wrestling career, is definitely one of the most beloved wrestling legends of all time as well as one of the most eloquent wrestling personalities there has ever been. Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise at all that the show would sell out just so people could hear whatever the two-time New York Times Bestselling Author felt like saying on that particular night. What was a surprise was just how the night would go.
While the excitement and anticipation from wrestling fans before the show exceeded the last time WWE came to town, I don't think anyone really knew what to expect for a variety of reasons. For one, Mick Foley's been pretty clear that this was not going to be a "comedy" show, rather a "storytelling" show that fans and non-fans would be able to enjoy. A one-man show definitely makes more sense given Foley's reputation, but it still didn't answer the question of just what we were going to see and hear, and how much of it we've seen and heard before. For two, and a lot more importantly, it's been an emotionally exhausting week for wrestling fans. From all the moments of pure jubilation and utter shock from Sunday's WrestleMania show followed quickly by the sudden loss of Ultimate Warrior on Tuesday less than 24 hours after seeing him live on RAW, it's definitely been the most eventful and emotional week for wrestling in seven years. Foley had a difficult job of performing in front of such an exhausted crowd, but like he's proved in his illustrious career, he's definitely capable of mesmerizing any crowd no matter what the circumstance. He pulled it off once more here in Richmond.
Foley and Bullock backstage at the Funny Bone
The evening opened up, very briefly, with comedian Ray Bullock. The Richmond native's set was comprised of some good and basic jokes, such as Golden Corral getting overly ridiculous and the hilarity of dating a little person, as well as a small bit on pro wrestling that got a good reaction from the crowd. You could tell Bullock was a wrestling fan (even if he did put Triple H before Steve Austin chronologically) which definitely gave him some charm, but I think it was really the wrong crowd to perform in front of. Granted, it was only about ten minutes, but this isn't a typical comedy show that the crowd was expecting to see. Unless you were in the wrestling business and had some funny or interesting stories from your time there, the crowd was only going to politely care. This isn't a point to harp on too much, but if Foley feels he needs an opener (which I definitely don't think he does), I would think the show would be much better suited if he grabbed a local indy wrestling talent or personality who lives in the area to just tell a few stories in the beginning.
Coming out to his famous entrance music, Mick Foley sauntered to the stage before explaining to us what we should expect from the night, as well as some ground rules for the evening. It may sound silly, but for wrestling fans, I think it was definitely needed, and something extremely smart of Foley to add. I don't want to badmouth my brethren here, but it's pretty well-known that at any type of wrestling event, irrelevant things are often shouted out or chanted at inopportune times. Sometimes, like in the case of Daniel Bryan recently, it can be effective and can serve a much greater purpose. But other times, like the infamous Super Dragon fan of YouTube fame, it's just a desperate ploy to get attention. I think the Richmond crowd honestly would have been okay just out of sheer respect for Foley, but you really never know with any crowd, and all it takes is one asshole to ruin a night. Foley cutting down on the chance of that happening just made the night worry-free from that point on.
Funnily enough, the show itself was laid out just like a wrestling match. There were broad talking points (the infamous Hell In A Cell match and his Hall Of Fame induction) that Foley would keep coming back to and keep revisiting throughout the night, while other things filled in the holes (digs at Al Snow, his match with Terry Funk in Richmond in '98, etc). Concurrently, he kept teasing the trademark moments or "spots" (dropping an F bomb and getting the cheap Richmond pop in) to heighten anticipation for later in the evening when he would finally do them. When it came time to drop the one F bomb he allocated himself at the beginning of the evening while talking about Kane reacting to his match with Edge at WrestleMania 22, he took it in a different way to an even bigger reaction, similar to someone countering out of a chokeslam with another impressive move. The structure of the night definitely was well planned and resulted in absolutely nothing dragging at any point in the show.
The stories themselves were just great. Having read all his books and seen countless interviews, I was a little worried that there would be a lot of material that I have heard countless times before, but in fact, it was quite the opposite. While he kept coming back to his most famous match, the Hell In A Cell match with Undertaker at King Of The Ring 1998, he revealed a lot of different details and interesting anecdotes about that evening. It was the same for the rest of his stories. For fans who've followed Foley his whole career, the night was full of great stories as well as hilarious asides like his dig at his "comeback" match with Carlito in 2005, and the always great running joke of "WWE Superstars...and Al Snow." After about an hour of storytelling, Foley did a Q & A to close the night. He was asked questions like his thoughts on The Streak ending, his favorite wrestlers, and more. Wrestling fans have probably witnessed hundreds of Q & As over the years, whether in person or on YouTube. What made Foley's unique was that he devoted a good amount of time to each question. There wasn't any question that was just answered with a polite sentence before moving on to the next one like you'd normally see. Each question got a thoughtful response from a man with a thousand opinions on everything pro wrestling, and it ended the evening perfectly.
As you can tell by listening to any of his legendary promos or reading any of his books, Foley has a unique and fantastic way of telling stories that really makes any time he opens his mouth something you not only want but need to pay attention to. This ability definitely translated perfectly to an intimate atmosphere, and made for an unforgettable night as he spoke. While it's no doubt that wrestling fans are going to get the most enjoyment out of these shows, it was very easy to see non-wrestling fans enjoying themselves and being caught up in Foley's stories just like we were. They weren't going to understand every reference, but were easily going to understand why Foley is so beloved. Mick Foley was an absolutely one-of-a-kind star throughout his career, and now, over a decade after his career realistically ended, he's created a night of storytelling and entertainment that is just as unique, just as enjoyable, and just as "can't-miss" as every single one of his performances was. Foley may not be God, as wrestling fans state, but adding an extra "O" and just calling himself good might be the understatement of a lifetime; as he proved on stage... right here... in Richmond, Virginia!
By Doug Nunnally