Jim Ross, the former head of talent relations in WWE has discussed Mick Foley and what it took to convince Vince McMahon that Foley could be a star in the company.
Foley was best known in the early nineties for his work as Cactus Jack in WCW. While there Foley became known for his hardcore style of wrestling and his willingness to take risks.
After Foley left WCW, he joined ECW and also wrestled for IWA Japan, two companies that put an emphasis on hardcore wrestling. In 1995 Foley met Terry Funk in their notorious King Of The Death Match in Japan. Foley won the match but suffered severe burns to his arm.
By 1996 Foley’s former WCW colleague Jim Ross was interested in bringing Foley to the World Wrestling Federation. According to Ross, this was anything but straightforward.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Ross discussed the conversation that ensued when he went to Vince McMahon about hiring Foley.
Jim Ross recalled:
“I went to Vince [McMahon] and said I have some ideas of some guys I’d like for us to consider and I mentioned Mick and he went ‘aw no, no JR, that ain’t gonna work.’ He’s tried out – he asked somebody, I don’t know who he asked, maybe Bruce [Prichard] or [Pat] Patterson or whoever was there ‘how many times has [Foley] tried out here,’ ‘oh, three’ [was the answer]. So I’m thinking well you know maybe you geniuses made a mistake. I know you invented wrestling and all of you have got a vested interest in and this extreme knowledge that is extremely higher than mine or anybody I know. So I don’t get it.”
“I asked Vince if you want me to do this job, you gotta give me a chance to do it. In ‘Slobberknocker’ or maybe ‘Under The Black Hat’ I wrote that [Vince said] ‘you need to know JR what it feels like for a talent to break your heart because you’re really emotionally invested in this guy and you wanna bring him in. I can see you’re very serious, almost hell-bent on this. But you need to understand what it’s like to have a talent break your heart because he’s not gonna be successful.”
During his first few months with the company Foley – now known as the deranged Mankind – feuded with The Undertaker. According to Ross, it was thanks to the Phenom that McMahon came round to Foley’s talent.
That confidence led to Mankind headlining two pay-per-views in a row in late 1996. At September’s In Your House event, Foley challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. The following month Foley then faced The Undertaker once more in a Buried Alive match.
Ross commented on The Undertaker’s influence helping McMahon to trust Foley:
“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.”
Jim Ross has also recently discussed Chyna’s run in the WWF. Chyna won the Women’s Championship at WrestleMania X-7 by dominating Ivory. According to Ross, it was not an accolade ‘The Ninth Wonder Of The World’ was interested in.