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Monday, January 4, 2016

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Retrospective: The Three Faces Of Foley

By @TrueGodImmortal 

In the Attitude Era, there were very few stars that could be considered more viable than Mick Foley. Foley was not your average performer in the business, but he also wasn't supremely gifted in the ring. He didn't have the charisma of a Stone Cold, the grace of a Shawn Michaels in the ring, or the ability to capture a crowd quite like the Rock, but Foley during the Attitude Era was truly one of the more popular and exciting wrestlers of this time.

As the era started, we watched as Foley weaved through three different characters. Mankind was his primary WWF character at the time until he decided to open up his character some and debut the odd, tye dye wearing, fun loving Dude Love, which was a complete departure from what we were used to seeing of Foley his entire career. As the Attitude Era officially started in November 1997, Foley was Mankind. A few months prior, he had brought his Cactus Jack character to the WWF in his feud with Triple H. Reverting back to Mankind for a few months, Foley would enter 1998 weaving through all three characters.

There is no greater evidence of Foley's balancing act than a look back at the 1998 Royal Rumble, where he would enter in three separate spots with each character. Now, neither character would win the Rumble, but for some reason, Foley spent the next few months in his Cactus Jack role, teaming with Terry Funk, who was going by the name Chainsaw Charlie at the time. Foley and Funk would have a nice run, contending and winning the tag titles briefly before Foley turned heel again. However, the strange part of his heel turn was that instead turning heel as Mankind or Cactus Jack, he would be heel as Dude Love. A corporate Dude Love. This would see him engage in a WWF Title feud with Austin as Vince McMahon's special weapon. Foley would not win the belt or the feud, and soon would go back to being Mankind.

As Mankind, he would team up with Kane, winning the tag team titles and eventually setting his sights on a WWF Title run again as Mankind. After he was screwed out of the title by The Rock and Vince at Survivor Series 1998, Foley became a fan favorite. Dude Love was for the most part gone. Cactus Jack had taken a break and went away. It seemed as if Foley was comfortable again as just Mankind and as he feuded with The Rock during the end of 1998 to early 1999. It was apparent Foley had found his groove in WWF at this point and he would stick with the Mankind character mostly throughout the year of 1999, probably his most popular year with the company.

After all the abuse his body took in the ring, Foley began winding down his career, but not before kicking off 1999 with his first WWF Title win. He and The Rock would trade the WWF Championship back and forth during January and February 1999, then Mankind would win it again for a day at Summerslam 1999. Regardless, he etched his name in the history books as a champion, and he would be a part of one of the most popular tag teams of the era with former nemesis The Rock in the Rock N Sock Connection. They won tag team gold, had the highest rated segment ever on Monday Night Raw, and just all around entertained the fans.

As Triple H became WWF Champion again to close out the year 1999 and begin 2000, Foley was stagnant and needed a change again. He became Cactus Jack and feuded with Triple H. These two brought out the best in each other in two excellent matches, one street fight at the Royal Rumble and a Hell In A Cell match for No Way Out where the stipulation went that if Foley lost, he would retire. For whatever reason, after losing and retiring, Foley went out on top and headlined Mania for the first time in the Fatal Four Way main event for the WWF Title. At the time, this would serve as his true retirement match. Foley would walk away from the ring for some years and only be around in a referee role or a commissioner role.

Though he would come back years later and wrestle again, the prime for Foley in WWF was in the Attitude Era, starting with the Faces of Foley and culminating with him just being himself and not a character. He built his legacy and his legend in the era. We should recognize his greatness as such.



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