Submitted by James Cox
Puns, word-play and witticisms aside, ‘For All Mankind’ could not be a more fitting title for a DVD collection about Mick Foley. For a career that has been so well documented in his previous DVD releases; in his four autobiographies; in his Hall of Fame speech and in his comedy tours, here, new life is breathed into a great story about the life of a remarkable professional wrestler.
But Mick Foley isn’t just a professional wrestler. As the title of the DVD suggests, within the span of his ‘life and career’, Mick has become more than just a gimmick (or series of gimmicks) – and let’s be honest, how many pro wrestlers finish their career having gone through three, successfully? Foley is the everyman who over-achieved, who took his talent and applied it in the right way, who is capable of making everyone appreciate some aspect of his ability whether they’re wrestling fans or not. Mick is guy who has a great story to tell and this documentary really lets him do that, on a level that ‘all mankind’ can understand.
Now, of course, if you were to say all of that to Mick, he’d probably tell you that you being way too generous and that it his gimmick, a plain white gym sock, and nothing beyond it, that will be what puts his kids through college.
Foley’s WWE documentary is one the most detailed accounts of a career on DVD to date. At 2 hours 14 minutes, this story takes us from his idyllic childhood in Bloomington, through college with Kevin James, training with Dominic DeNucci, WCW, ECW and Japan, to the WWE, writing, retirement, stand-up and leaves us where he is now. It is wide-ranging and comprehensive and features a fascinating range of talking heads from more obscure talent such as Vader and Shane Douglas to the WWE’s DVD-jobbers, Miz and Joey Stiles.
If you know Mick’s story well, don’t feel that this is one to avoid; if you haven’t read Mick’s books, you won’t be alienated. There are some highlights here from Mick’s career in the ring that we’re shown footage of that viewers may have never seen before. Mick is shown as a young wrestler working out in his garden at home, looking slender, athletic and really quite dashing. Later, we’re shown grainy tape of the match with Vader where he lost his ear in Germany where the referee picks it up off the matt and passes it to the ring announcer, none of whom speak any English. We see vignettes with Vince, Rock and Austin; interviews as Cactus Jack from the early days of WCW and promos from Foley as Mankind at the start of his WWE run. Obviously, Hell in a Cell with Undertaker is covered in some detail as is his first title win that turned the ratings around. But some of the freshest material comes from the contributors to the film, such as CM Punk, HHH, Shawn Michaels and Jim Ross.
Punk’s comments are never just generic sound-bites in these instances, he never just describes the event that we’re about to see, he’s relevant and intelligent. He particularly puts over Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind from In Your House 10: Mind Games. If you haven’t seen this match in a while, or ever, go back and watch it because it is tremendous. Punk says that this is “one of [his] favourite matches of all time” and it really feels like it was a turning point for Foley at this stage in his career. It’s so inventive and they use the whole of the ring, apron and outside areas. Little moments stand out like Michael’s suplexing Foley outside the ring so that his leg hits the steel steps, looking and sounding stiff but causing no pain. The pace is perfect and Shawn Michaels comments how “it made me look a lot more aggressive than I had ever seemed before.” It really elevates both of them while Mick says that it was this match that was “the match that I looked to as being the greatest match of my career, for a long time.”
Of course, the WWE are masters at creating narratives with what they have. This documentary weaves together accounts of feuds using match footage, photos, narration and talking-heads but actually, to many fans, it is the material that focuses on Mick’s life and career outside of the ring will prove most interesting. In many ways this is the new content that will sell the DVD, the content that we’ve not been allowed access to before. Judith Regan, for example, talks about the book deal with Mick and WWE and Mick tells us about his first experiences of writing and how he shared his work with people like Hunter on planes and in locker rooms.
Mick talks genuinely about missing the opportunities WWE afforded him to do the Make-a-Wish Foundation and meet with other charitable organisations. Foley says that he and his wife turned their attention to other foundations, such as Child Fund International and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The photos and tape here are inspiring, showing that this is a man who realises that he is in a privileged position.
In its latter stages, the documentary makes use of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister - one of Mick’s close friends. He provides a lot of insight into how Mick inspired him to be a more charitable person. Snider states that he never did any charity work before meeting Foley and was embarrassed by the level of Mick’s commitments. Moments like this really show how benevolent Mick is without feeling contrived or sickly sweet.
Interestingly, we are also treated to some of Mick’s stand up: there are some entertaining clips from his Comedy Store shows and his daughter Noelle even gets to put him over. These sorts of moments are the real gems.
However, where the documentary falters (and yet where Mick’s written word is at its honest best) is that this behind-the-scenes footage stops before Foley’s comments about being able to scout younger talent, referring to his time spent at Ring of Honour. He puts over CM Punk and Samoa Joe as the two workers that he wanted to call Vince about. Punk discusses his promo time that he had with Foley on-screen in ROH but, as you would expect, contractually WWE cannot provide any clips for these moments.
Ultimately, we’re shown the portrait of Foley, the man; a retired pro wrestler in his late 40s. Paul Heyman describes Mick as a man in “daily pain” and Foley leaves us to say that he is, despite everything, “doing pretty good... pretty, pretty good.” And you would be foolish not to believe him - how many wrestlers can boast successful careers inside and out of the ring and still have a wife and children that they haven’t alienated in that time? ‘For All Mankind’ is the story of a man whose story is really worth telling and is certainly worth listening to.