Local wrestling fans have a nice day

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2005

For nearly two decades, a man from the town of Bloomington, Ind. made wrestling fans around the world stand up and cheer.

As Cactus Jack in World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrest-ling, he thrilled jammed arenas with his infamous elbow off the ring apron and numerous hardcore brawls with the likes of Vader, Raven and the Sandman. As Mankind and Dude Love in World Wrestling Entertainment (back when it was the World Wrestling Federation), he went to the mat – and oftentimes the floor and elsewhere in the arena – with the Rock, Triple H and &uot;Stone Cold&uot; Steve Austin. He’ll always be remembered for getting thrown off the top of a 15-foot high steel cage by the Undertaker at the 1998 &uot;King of the Ring&uot; pay-per-view event, and is the proud three-time owner of the WWE title.

But away from the ring, he’s Mick Foley, a soft-spoken father of four and, get this, a best-selling author. On Saturday afternoon, local wrestling fans got to meet the man who took them inside the mind of a wrestling superstar with his autobiographies, &uot;Have A Nice Day&uot; and &uot;Foley is Good.&uot;

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&uot;I was never asked to do something I didn’t want to do,&uot; Foley said as fans lined up outside the Tidewater Sports and Collectibles store. &uot;I think the WWE takes a bad rap, but I did all the things I did in the context of the match. A lot of the things I did looked reckless, but I always tried to be as safe as possible. When I was 19, I knew my knees would be shot by the time I was 40, and they are. I knew my back would be hurt, and it is. I knew all the concussions I got wouldn’t be good. But I’m happy with the decisions I made. I was proud to be a wrestler, and I’ll wrestle again in the future.&uot;

That might come within a month; he’s in talks to appear on the ECW &uot;One Night Only&uot; reunion pay-per-view on June 12.

&uot;That’s up in the air,&uot; Foley said of the show. &uot;I want to do it; we just have to reach some kind of agreement. I have to find something that makes me really want to get back in there.&uot;

Entering the WWE in 1996, Foley was Mankind, who crept down the ring aisle to eerie music and often seemed impervious to pain, sometimes ripping out his own hair during a match or allowing his opponents to bash him with chairs or drop him through tables. Not until Mankind gained a sense of humor in mid-1998, Foley feels, did her truly get over with the fans.

&uot;When I was doing wild physical stuff,&uot; he said, &uot;I couldn’t connect with the casual fan. I couldn’t connect with the kids. But when I started doing the goofy stuff, it took off. It was like night and day.&uot;

With his self-deprecating humor (he once referred to himself as &uot;the World’s Ugliest Wrestler&uot;) catch phrase of &uot;Have a nice day!&uot; and technique of putting a sock-named Mr. Socko – over his hand and jamming it down an opponent’s throat, Foley shot to the top of the wrestling word and stayed there for years before retiring in 2000, though he’s remained an on-camera WWE personality and still does one-shot wrestling deals, such as at Wrestlemania 20 in March 2004.

&uot;I think that if the latest Wrestlemania (21, this past March) was any indication, fans are starting to gear up for the big events,&uot; said Foley (the event drew nearly one million buys on pay-per-view). &uot;If we do our job and let fans get inside the wrestler’s lives, it should last.&uot;

The organization’s two current world champions, WWE Raw star Bautista and Smackdown’s John Cena, could get them there, he continued.

&uot;Cena’s got a good chance,&uot; said Foley, perhaps referring to Cena’s recent hip-hop CD You Can’t See Me.

&uot;He connects with the kids. He’s got a good shot at becoming a mainstream star. Bautista just kind of caught fire. He’s getting people into wrestling.&uot;

Perhaps, Foley said with a laugh, that’s not all because of Bautista’s in-ring ability

&uot;He looks phenomenal in a speedo!&uot; Foley said. &uot;That’s something I could never do!&uot;