It is no secret that Jim Ross was integral in bringing Mick Foley into the WWE.
Foley had already had three try-outs with the company, prior to Jim Ross going to bat for Foley with Vince McMahon one more time. Ross later recalled that McMahon hired Foley, telling WWE’s Head Of Talent Relations that “you need to understand what it’s like to have a talent break your heart because he’s not gonna be successful.”
During his time in WCW and ECW, Foley had been competing as Cactus Jack. However, when he arrived in WWE, he was to be given a fresh character. That character would be Mankind.
While Mankind would go on to become a loveable, fun character later in Foley’s WWE run, the persona was initially pitched as an unhinged, depraved heel.
Speaking on the latest episode of his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross explained how a series of vignettes helped establish the Mankind character. Not only that, but how those vignettes, which included appearances from Jim Cornette’s pet rat, gave Foley confidence that he had the backing of those in creative.
“It [the debut vignettes] gave him confidence that his creative input was being utilised. How well it would get over was still to be determined but I think that it encouraged him to invest everything he had in this new persona. It wasn’t cactus jack, it wasn’t dude love, it wasn’t Mick Foley – it was Mankind. He took ownership of it and I thought that was pretty cool. I don’t know, homerun?
Mehh, it ended up being a homerun. I was a big supporter from the beginning, but I was even more a supporter, I was more confident that it was going to work, when I saw how much this meant to Mick Foley. […] He needed a gimmick and needed to continue to be weird and strange and macabre, what emanates from the bowels of the building were always a mystery and unpredictable and the rat [Jim Cornette’s pet] just seemed to fit the motif. Having a crazy son of a b*tch with a leather mask on, missing part of his ear, with missing teeth – he looked like his character and his ability to articulate that verbally was phenomenal. […] The rat just fit the gimmick, as they say”
Ross went on to describe how another key factor in Mankind’s success was The Undertaker. JR recalled how the Deadman praised Foley, which in turn gave Vince McMahon confidence in Mrs Foley’s baby boy.
“Vince relied on talents that he trusted. One of the great traits of a really, really good booker is that you bring guys in, or you put two guys in a ‘marriage’ and you count on them to add some creative to it. The more they add to it, the better it’s gonna be executed. That’s called ego.”
“I think Vince saw early on, thanks to Taker’s selling [and telling Vince] ‘I think we’re onto something here, boss.’ That’s all Vince needed to hear. Your main star felt invested. So we’re onto something and I’m gonna make sure that we don’t cut this thing short.”
Mick Foley would go on to enjoy the most successful period of his career in the WWE. Over the next four years following his debut, Foley would win the WWE Championship on three occasions. While his feuds and matches against the likes of The Undertaker, The Rock and Triple H have became the stuff of legend.