By Mike Mooneyham
Dec. 19, 2004
It’s no secret that some of professional wrestling’s most compelling material is born out of real-life, behind-the-scenes drama. Sometimes it makes it to television; sometimes it doesn’t.
WWE would be well-served to harness the kind of raw energy and emotion that was displayed by two of the industry’s top stars Monday night prior to Raw tapings in Huntsville, Ala. A backstage, off-camera confrontation between 16-time world champion Ric Flair and hardcore legend Mick Foley produced more emotion-charged conflict than anything fans were treated to Sunday night at the company’s Armageddon pay-per-view or at the following night’s Raw presentation.
The heat between the two stems from comments Flair made in his book, “To Be the Man,” published last summer. His pointed remarks were what he called a “receipt” for statements Foley made about him in his 1999 autobiography, “Have a Nice Day.”
The two wrestling icons-turned-best-selling authors met face-to-face Monday in the confines of the Von Braun Center Arena. Foley, who hasn’t appeared at a WWE event in several months, was a late addition to the show. According to sources, Foley came “power-walking” into the cafeteria area where Flair was sitting at a table across from longtime friend Arn Anderson. The commonly accepted practice among wrestlers is to shake hands upon arriving backstage. Few, however, expected the reunion between Flair and Foley to be a cordial one.Foley reportedly tossed Flair’s book on the table and asked him to sign it, supposedly for the purpose of auctioning it off for charity. When Foley made it clear he didn’t want to shake Flair’s outstretched hand, the 55-year-old “Nature Boy,” interpreting the response to be a hostile one, threw a punch.
The skirmish was quickly broken up, but sources say the heated dialogue between the two lasted for another half-hour. Flair reportedly recounted the jabs he took at Foley in his book, which took the 39-year-old grappler to task for being a “glorified stuntman.”
Foley half-jokingly asked that Anderson, now a WWE road agent, lock the two wrestlers together in a room, alluding to a similar incident last year in which Flair punched former WCW head Eric Bischoff backstage at Raw. “Fine, pick a room,” Flair reportedly said, “and may the best man walk out. Better yet, I’ll walk outside and get into the ring.”
Flair then proceeded to walk through the near-empty arena to the ring. According to reports, Foley told Flair that he wasn’t “going to hit a 50-year-old guy,” to which Flair replied that Foley shouldn’t be concerned about beating him up since he couldn’t.
Flair told Foley that he didn’t think he was “some big, tough fighter,” but that he could certainly beat him and was going to (mess) him up.
Flair said in a recent interview that he respected Foley as an entertainer and a major star, “but he couldn’t wrestle for an hour if he had five oxygen tanks on his back.”
Flair was overheard saying that he might consider suing whoever was responsible for possible breach of confidentiality after Foley told him that he had seen the original, pre-published version of the book in which Flair was much harsher towards Foley.
The company had hoped to turn the real-life tension between the two into a storyline feud and a possible match at Wrestlemania. While that chance still exists, the likelihood that the two will agree to work together appears slim at best.
Foley earlier this year volunteered to elevate Flair “to the next level,” claiming he was the only performer who could take Flair back to what he was in 1985. But he later lodged a complaint to WWE talent chief Johnny Ace (Laurinaitis) and addressed a letter to Flair stating he wouldn’t reward his own children for being “bad,” nor would he reward Flair for what he called the hypocrisy of telling him one thing to his face and then ripping on him in his book.
Foley told Flair that if not for his influence, Flair would have been “standing on the sidelines of Wrestlemania XX rather than being involved in the biggest sporting event in the history of wrestling.”
Flair later responded that he wasn’t looking to work with Foley in the first place. Foley has since expressed no interest in working with Flair unless Vince McMahon made it monetarily worth his while.
“To me, he’s taking it way too personal,” Flair said in an interview earlier this year. “If I had reacted this way over what he said about me (in Foley’s first book), it would have driven me crazy. I didn’t even read it. I never made a big deal about it, but he’s a different guy; he’s such a fan for himself now. He really believes that he is hardcore wrestling.”
Foley has been critical of Flair’s work as a booker in WCW, although Flair was only part of a booking committee at the time and had little control over the company checkbook.
Flair has said in recent interviews that he’s just having fun and, at age 55, it’s a stroke of fortune that he can still thrive in the spotlight. Unlike some others, says Flair, he doesn’t seek to curry favor with management or the writing team, shows up and does his job, and is happy doing it.
“I have four kids and a granddaughter, and it keeps me busy. It makes me stay in shape. I don’t go home and become a loaf of bread. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m having a very nice time in life. My quality of life is good.”
“Foley has a cult following because of his contribution to hardcore wrestling,” Flair wrote in his book. “But hardcore is such a small part of the history of this business. When I was training, falling off a ladder was not a prerequisite to making it as a professional wrestler. Being fundamentally sound was. I don’t care how many thumbtacks Mick Foley has fallen on, how many ladders he’s fallen off of, how many continents he’s supposedly bled on, he’ll always be known as a glorified stuntman.”
Flair pointed to statistics that indicated wrestling injuries accelerated at an alarming rate with the popularity of hardcore wrestling, and claimed Foley had a big hand in the genre’s explosion.
“Not only did a lot of guys get hurt in the ring, how about all the kids at home who were jumping off their garages? And the WWF was getting blamed for it. The bar that was being raised wasn’t wrestling. It was being a stuntman. That’s the sad thing about it, and that’s the point I was making in the book. How would Foley have gotten along with Lou Thesz? Lou wouldn’t have gotten in the ring with him. Neither would Jack Brisco.”
Flair contends that he never downplayed Foley’s position as a major draw in the wrestling business.
“He did some things very few people would have attempted to do. I’m not knocking that. I’m just saying it’s not wrestling. And they’ve gone back to wrestling. We have enough injuries as it is.”
Foley also has been vocal and responded to Flair’s book comments in the form of a shoot promo he directed toward Ricky Steamboat at a Ring of Honor show in October.
“I’m no Ric Flair because I’ve never carried Batista’s bags,” said Foley. “I’m no Ric Flair because every once in a while I actually say something different. I’m no Ric Flair because I actually put my body on the line. I don’t do stupid things like this (face-first flop). I am no Ric Flair, and thank God for that … I’m no Ric Flair because I don’t draw comparisons between my genitals and a Disney theme park ride. And most of all, Steamboat, I’m no Ric Flair because when my time was up, I knew it was time to step aside for the sake of younger, hungrier, better wrestlers.”
– Jesse White, oldest son of Leon White (Vader), has verbally committed to the University of Oklahoma. The 6-2, 280-pounder, who runs a 4.79 40-yard dash and boasts a 460-pound bench press, is rated as one of the top centers and strongest high school players in the country.
White, who recently finished out his prep football career at Denver’s Mullen High School, had earlier committed to UCLA, but reopened the recruiting process after learning UCLA did not offer the business program he desires. He committed to Oklahoma soon after watching the Sooners defeat Texas Tech on Oct. 2. He also had considered Oregon, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Washington.
Leon White was a college standout at the University of Colorado during the ’70s and played briefly for the Los Angeles Rams before an injury ended his pro career.
The 6-4, 365-pound White, 39, owned one of Colorado’s top bench-presses (465) when he played for the Buffaloes from 1973-77. White earned All-America honors at CU as a center in 1977. Knee problems ended his NFL career after just three seasons with the Rams.
Jesse White already has been named to the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Game scheduled for Jan. 15 in San Antonio.
“Quite frankly, talent-wise, size-wise and strength-wise, Jesse is head and shoulders above what I was in high school,” Leon White told the Denver Post. The elder White starred at Los Angeles’ Bell High School before heading to CU.
“Jesse’s dad was a heck of a player and a real athletic guy,” said Mullen coach Dave Logan, who played with Leon White at CU. “If from nothing else but by osmosis, Jesse has picked up a lot of stuff from his dad.”
– James Laurinaitis, a 6-2, 235-pound linebacker from Wayzata, Minn., and the son of (Road Warrior Animal) Joe Laurinaitis, has committed to play football at Ohio State after originally committing to the University of Minnesota before the start of the 2004 season.
Laurinaitis won the Mr. Football of Minnesota Award for 2004 and was the first defensive player to claim the honor. He compiled a total of 197 tackles in 14 games. His two-year total of 316 tackles is believed to be a state record.
Laurinaitis, who has a 3.6 grade point average and scored a 25 on the ACT test, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and bench presses 305 pounds.
Laurinaitis also is a star in hockey. Earlier this year, Let’s Play Hockey magazine voted him “most likely to go pro” among Minnesota’s prep players.
Laurinaitis’ dad was a linebacker and his mom was an All-State hurdler. Joe Laurinaitis was a junior college All-American at Golden Valley Lutheran College after an outstanding prep career.
Laurinaitis, whose uncle Johnny Ace (John Laurinaitis) serves as talent head at WWE, also was named all-state, all-metro and all-conference.
– Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell were backstage last weekend at the WWE Armageddon pay-per-view in Duluth, Ga. Both live in the area and visited for as short time with friends.
– Shawn Michaels will return to WWE at a house show Jan. 14 in Minneapolis against Ric Flair.
– Fangoria, the top horror genre magazine, last week heaped praise on the new WWE-sponsored movie starring Kane (Glen Jacobs). The magazine’s Web site noted that the film’s title has been changed to “Goodnight.”
“(Director) Gregory Dark has the best handle on modern horror that I’ve heard from a director in some time,” according to a magazine reviewer.
– Tom Chehak, a television writer and producer, has been hired as the new managing editor for the WWE creative team. Among his TV projects are Pam Anderson’s “VIP,” “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.,” “Alien Nation” and “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
– Penthouse Magazine will feature a major interview with Triple H in its January issue.
– Mick Foley has signed on to host a radio show through a Chicago-based UBC syndicator. Most of UBC’s deals are revenue sharing arrangements, in which the talent gets percent of national advertising sales made by UBC.
The talk show will cover a wide range of topics, including Foley’s left-leaning political views. Since launching last year, UBC has assembled a stable of programs that include talk shows for sex expert and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Berman, television’s Judge Greg Mathis and the listings program from TV Guide.
– Former ECW performer and American military hero William “Chilly Willy” Jones has signed a developmental deal with WWE. Jones will train in Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Jones was a regular infantryman assigned to a Special Forces unit inside Iraq, and was wounded by mortar fire while on a mission. He earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
– Columbia Records has released “ThemeAddict: WWE The Music V6,” the sixth volume of never before released superstar theme music from both Raw and Smackdown brands. The volume includes 15 new themes, one bonus audio track and a bonus DVD featuring expanded versions of the superstar entrance videos. Aside from these tracks, WWE has added a bonus audio track by John Cena titled “Untouchables.” which is a preview to his full-length forthcoming album titled “You Can’t See Me.”
“ThemeAddict: WWE The Music V6″ is composed, produced and performed by Jim Johnston, who helped WWE shape its musical identity and who has helped propel the previous five volumes of the WWE musical series (released between 1998-2001 on Koch) to combined sales of more than 3.5 million units in the United States alone. Executive producers of the newest volume are Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn.
Participating artists on the album include Motörhead (performing “Line In The Sand,” the theme song for Evolution) and Drowning Pool (performing “Rise Up,” the Smackdown theme).