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Move over Shakespeare, here comes Foley


By BENSON LEE -- Canadian Press

MANKIND Mick Foley, shown in Toronto Monday, Nov. 22, 1999, has good reason to be grinning from ear to ear. Foley, better known as World Wrestling Federation star Mankind, has added the unlikely title of best-selling author to his lengthy list of achievements. (CP PHOTO - Steven D'Souza)
TORONTO -- Mick Foley has good reason to be grinning from ear to ear.

Actually, it's a toothless grin running from ear to half-ear. But more on the facial features later.

Foley, better known as World Wrestling Federation star Mankind, has added the unlikely title of best-selling author to his lengthy list of in-ring achievements.

Foley's autobiography, Have A Nice Day!, is currently No. 3 on the New York Times non-fiction best-sellers list and is doing brisk business in Canada. It is an honest, often hilarious memoir, sprinkled with a liberal touch of nice-guy sentimentality.

"Some people look at the book and won't look at it seriously because they think it's about wrestling," says the soft-spoken, bear-like Foley. "To me, it's about a hell of a lot more. It's about living, and it's about growing up as an insecure kid chasing your dreams and doing anything to achieve them."

The East Setauket, N.Y., native is articulate and unassuming in person, a far cry from his bizarre in-ring persona of Mankind. (He has also wrestled in the past as Cactus Jack and Dude Love).

As Mankind, Foley is clad in a leather mask a la Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, complemented by a white dress shirt, track pants and running shoes. Oh, he also wears a tie. He's about as far from Hulk Hogan as you can get. Yet Mankind has somehow become one of the WWF's most popular stars.

"I saw that amidst all these tough guys in the WWF, the market was wide open for someone who was a little goofier," Foley says. "I've had more fun doing funny things this year than I ever had before, when in actuality my wrestling skills are deteriorating, and no one seemed to notice, because at least I'm humourous out there."

Foley, a three-time WWF champion who took up wrestling in college, wrote his book by hand -- he confesses to being computer illiterate -- in a seven-week period earlier this year. He estimates he wrote about 4,000 words a day.

"My biggest problem was that my hand was getting tired," Foley says. "My brain was really firing on all cylinders. It was actually a lot of fun to write."

It's hard to imagine how Foley could have so much fun recounting some of the horrific injuries he's suffered. But he does so in his book with seemingly masochistic glee.

Foley lost most of his right ear during a match in Germany in 1994. He became caught in the tight ring ropes, and as he attempted to extricate himself, left a bit of himself behind. The ear has since been surgically reconstructed, but is noticeably smaller than his good ear.

As for the missing teeth . . . well, two were lost in an auto accident in his youth. But two others were knocked out during his now-legendary Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker last year. During the match, Foley was thrown from the top of a steel cage. He fell five metres to the ground, landing on a table which was shattered by the impact of his six-foot-two 297-pound body. The match went on.

Foley was later choke-slammed through the top of the cage into the ring. He was knocked unconscious. When he came to, the match resumed, with Foley being bodyslammed onto hundreds of thumbtacks that had been scattered in the ring. Foley lost the match, but the outcome was irrelevant. He had cemented himself a spot in wrestling lore. MANKIND

"I had a dislocated shoulder, dislocated jaw, one-and-a-half teeth knocked out, 14 stitches underneath my lip, a bruised kidney, and I believe there was a concussion," Foley recalls. "I think the fact that I was knocked unconscious and couldn't remember what happened probably would be an indicator of a concussion."

He was back wrestling less than a week later. Foley remains philosophical about risking life and limb for the sake of sports entertainment.

"I don't think I've done that many things that were that dangerous," he says. "They just hurt a lot."

Not surprisingly, the years of physical punishment have taken their toll on Foley. At 34, he is pondering retirement from in-ring action and says it will likely happen "some time in 2000."

"I kind of have an opportunity to go out on top," he says. "How many wrestlers can say they did that? Most people are forced out or they hang on way too long. ... I have a chance to write my own story-book ending, so why not do it?"

And how would he like to be remembered?

"Hopefully as a nice guy, hard worker, good writer and not a bad dancer for a big man."

More on Mick Foley