Jim Ross has opened up about the creation of the Mankind character in WWE and how important it was that Mick Foley bought into the idea.
Prior to joining WWE in 1996, Foley was known for his violent matches around the world while wrestling under his Cactus Jack persona. However, when he signed with WWE, the ‘Hardcore Legend’ underwent a startling transformation. Donning a leather mask and showing a darker personality who squealed during matches, pulled out his own hair, and seemingly enjoyed pain, he would quickly go on to face some of the biggest stars in the company including The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
Speaking on his ‘Grilling JR’ podcast, JR explained that he was encouraged that work was being put into developing this persona as it showed WWE had plans for Foley.
“I was encouraged that at least we were thinking about something to repackage him with, meaning to me that there was at least some plans for him. The company and the executives and everybody there could see what we might have on our hands.”
The WWE Hall of Famer went on to say that the key to the success of Mankind was that Mick Foley himself liked the idea so was invested in making it work.
“The key thing was that Mick liked it. And I say that because, and this is logical, if the talent buy into their persona that has been created or been partially created for them and they buy into it – they’re a whole lot more invested to make it work than not. So he liked it, he’s ready to go and so that’s how that kind of started out. The mask was an interesting thing because it was a leather deal, stunk like hell. You know leather doesn’t retain perspiration very well, it gets gnarly. He liked the gimmick, he was invested in the gimmick because this was his opportunity to finally get into the biggest game that he ever wanted to play in and that I was all for.”
Mankind evolved over the years from the dark and twisted soul living in arena basements to a fun-loving character who became WWE Champion three times and was part of one of the highest-rated segment in Raw history when he presented ‘The Rock: This Is Your Life’. Mick Foley would also revive Cactus Jack on several occasions and also introduce the character he created during his childhood, the tie-dye wearing Dude Love.