It’s been a busy year for former WWE champ Mick Foley. After retiring in the ring, the Hardcore Legend recently returned to the company as the general manager of Raw, providing a steady presence alongside Stephanie McMahon on the flagship show. More importantly, the 51-year-old is raising his four children in the suburbs of Long Island, and the family decided open their home to cameras for a reality show, Holy Foley!, which just debuted on the WWE Network. The heart of the program is the relationship between Mick and his 22-year-old daughter Noelle, who stuns the rest of the Foley clan by announcing her intention of become a pro wrestler like dear-old dad. Rolling Stone caught up with the guy you maybe got to know as Cactus Jack, Mankind or Dude Love to talk about his new gigs, his friendships with The Rock and Tori Amos, dealing with chronic injuries, and his unabashed love of dressing up as Santa Claus.
How did Holy Foley! come about?
A couple different production companies had the same idea to base a show around my unique friendship and paternal relationship with my daughter. Mr. McMahon saw some footage and thought she really lit up the screen. I think he said something nice about me as well. The truth is, there would be no show without Noelle.
How did the family handle having the cameras around?
We all enjoyed it. It was very natural. I even asked the showrunner in the last week of filming, “Is it just me or did this all go incredibly smooth?” She said the people in the crew were literally telling her it was the most enjoyable thing they ever been part of in 15 years. Oddly, we didn’t notice presence of the cameras. Even the kids were really natural. The first episode they were very trepidatious, to use a New York Times best-selling author word, but they really loosened up and the younger kids became really valuable part of the show.
How would you compare your relationship with Noelle to Vince and Stephanie McMahon’s?
From talking with Shane, I know Vince rarely gave the pat on the back and I was probably on the opposite end of the Dad spectrum and the pats on the back too freely. But Vince definitely brought out the best in his children and I think I did pretty well. Noelle and Dewey are both really respectful adults and the family may be just slightly on the right side of dysfunctional, but we seem to make it work.
Last year, you were critical of how WWE and Vince handled the female wrestlers. Have you made any changes on that front?
Yeah. I think Mr. McMahon was only shown the negative things I wrote. I don’t think they showed him the other 92.5 percent of nice things I was saying. He knew I was critical but it was always constructive criticism, and when I came on board, Stephanie and I agreed that as the big proponents of the women’s wrestling evolution that we needed to draft the women very high for Raw, so we drafted Charlotte second and then Sasha Banks sixth. We are really excited about the women’s division. Moving forward, it’s going to get bigger and better.
Does that help you deal with the idea of Noelle getting into the business?
Well, today’s women have made it much tougher for Noelle. It would have been comparatively much easier for her to garner a spot in the old days when not nearly as much was expected out of the women. They’re just sensational. She trained with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks and she realizes she has a long way to go. By being an outspoken advocate for women’s wrestling, I’ve probably hurt my daughter’s chances. But I was just really fascinated with how much progress had been made in women’s wrestling. I had the platform to point it out to people and took advantage of it.
What’s life like in the suburbs for you now? You’re a pretty recognizable guy…
It slowly became obvious that I was no longer as big a deal as I thought I was, or that people just got used to me being around. The days of coming home to find people on our yard and in our poor are over. At least I hope they’re over. When Dee Snider and I get together for breakfast, it’s just two Long Island guys hanging out.
What’s the most Long Island thing about you?
It’s not the accent. Friends of mine live 10 minutes away and sound like they just walked out of a Brooklyn pizzeria, and the Foleys kind of escaped that. I would say it’s my love of New York pizza. I was living in Florida during my full-time WWE years, and I would start salivating as soon as I crossed over the Jersey border. You really can’t go wrong. There’s no bad New York pizza, as far as I know.
How much do you keep in touch with The Rock?
What’s funny is our daughters keep in better touch than we do. Like I’ll hear my daughter say, “The Rock’s going to be on Raw today,” and it’s a complete secret. “His daughter just texted me.” I get a message from him every once in a while. And I’ve got a great rock and roll Rock story. When I met his girlfriend Lauren, she said, “You and I have already met. You were at my 13th birthday party. My father is Sib Hashian, the drummer from Boston.” I happened to be with a friend of mine on the way to Fenway Park and he said, “We just got to stop off at a buddy of mine’s house.” So we’re forever bound by the fact that the mother of The Rock’s child turned 13 with me in attendance.
You’re also forever linked to your high school wrestling teammate Kevin James. Do you still keep in touch?
He went to the same college as me so I saw Kevin all the time in college. We stayed in touch until 10 years ago, just lost touch along the way. The last time I saw him I was a guest on Katie Couric’s talk show and I surprised him. I didn’t get to see him after but I did get my photo taken with Shaq, who mistakenly thought I was Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He asked me for a photo and then I see it on Twitter: “With one of my favorite all-time wrestlers, Hacksaw Jim Duggan.”
Did you correct him?
No. You don’t mess with a man whose pinkie is larger than your genitalia.
And how about Tori Amos? Have you see her recently?
No, the best way to maintain my friendship with Tori is to not see her too often. I know the boundaries, because it’s magical. She’s like my Santa Claus. There’s a reason why you only see Santa once a year, so any time I see her it is like Christmas Eve and we immediately start planning for the next visit. I know that she never refers to me as Mick Foley, she always refers to me as “my friend Mick Foley.” I’ve been told that her face glows when my name comes up. I treasure those moments.
How are you doing with injuries these days?
I’m doing a lot better. I’ve dropped 75 pounds in eight months. I’m swimming and doing Diamond Dallas Page yoga and my goal is to run the Philadelphia Art Museum steps with Becky Lynch in December. So I’m going to get as close to being down 100 pounds as I can. I think that would be a pretty nice positive statement, considering I could barely get off my couch last December. I’m not saying I’m pain free by any means. To paraphrase the Godfather, “limpin’ ain’t easy,” but I’m getting around much better.
Do you worry about Noelle getting hurt like you did?
She’s not dropping elbows on concrete floors, believe me. You will see that she had a painful elbow experience on a crash mat, so she won’t be doing any of dad’s patented poor decision making.
Is your legendary “Hell in a Cell” match the thing fans ask you about the most?
Oh, yeah. I have been Bill Murray in Groundhog Day for 18 years. Every day at least one person will walk up to me and ask, “Did it hurt?” You try to have fun with it and gently remind people that you had matches where your front tooth wasn’t lodged in your nostril. But it packs an emotional wallop. Without giving too much away, there is a very emotional scene on the show where I confront the actual cell in the WWE warehouse. I got very choked up. It made no logical sense to get so emotional about a steel object but it just felt like part of me, almost like seeing a family member that I didn’t know was still around.
What else do you get asked about a lot?
I get asked a lot about the Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection. It just seemed like something we were doing to get to the next stage, to do solo stuff. We didn’t realize this collaboration would be something that people would talk about with such reverence 17 years later. People can’t name any of our matches, but they think of the way we made them feel. We really had amazing chemistry, not just as opponents but as partners. Neither one of us appreciated it until years down the line.
Maybe you should be on Ballers with him.
Sooner or later, The Rock’s going to get tired of that empty space on his mantle where an Oscar should be and that’s when I’ll get the phone call for the buddy movie that finally makes his career. I’ll go on record as saying, if he makes a Christmas movie and I don’t get a call to be Santa, I will storm the set.
Speaking of Santa, did the documentary you appeared in, I Am Santa Claus, bring you new fans?
I think it’s a movie that will slowly find its own audience because it’s on Netflix. It’s such an oddly touching film in a very non-Hollywood way. I try to go out there every year and recreate that for other people. Last year, with Hughie as my elf, we did two Christmas Eve visits together where the parents wake up the kids and we essentially put on a performance without acknowledging our audience. It’s all about creating that magic. I told Hughie, “I feel like I just had a big pay-per-view match.” There’s something about that red suit that brings the best out in people.
With the different Santa suits and the snowman shirt you’re wearing now, where do you do your shopping?
There’s a community. Adele’s of Hollywood made this shirt, but Sew Santa out of Michigan, Santa’s Tailor from upstate New York. I don’t want to leave anybody out. And here’s a blockbuster for you. John Cena’s dad has been one of Santa’s Ambassadors for 30 years and he’s amazing in the role. Whenever we meet, the other wrestlers are shocked that Mick Foley and Mr. Cena disappear for hours to talk Santa. I’m having one of the top leather craftsman in the business create amazing identical Santa belts for us. Those rumors that you probably heard about my thriftiness are largely true but not when it comes to that role. Triple H saw me a couple of years ago in my full regalia and said, “I’ve known you for 25 years. You’ve got more money tied up in that one outfit than everything I’ve seen you in combined.” I did the math in my head and said, “Yeah, you’re right.”