Midway through Countdown to Lockdown, wrestler Mick Foley’s fourth memoir and ninth published work, the author says that “June 24, 2007, had been a disaster, probably one of the worst days of my year, possibly even my life” (p. 215). And that was before he’d heard the news that colleague Chris Benoit and his family had been murdered.
Of course, it was later revealed that Benoit had committed a double murder-suicide, murdering his wife and son in their home. Foley uses the tragedy as a cautionary tale to others in the business, warning of the affects of not only drugs, but the lonely business professional wrestling can be if you aren’t one of the lucky few to be on top of it.
Aside from the small portion of the book that deals with Benoit, death, drugs and Foley’s unhappiness with his final stint as an announcer in World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008 (which you can find some funny anecdotes about on pages 143–144), the rest is a riot, as are all of Foley’s efforts.
I’m going to relay some choice (re: hilarious) excerpts to really illustrate how talented Foley is:
- “I think it might have been Al Snow’s fault. For looking so darn good. No, that’s not a misprint… Al looked really good. No, not his ring work, which continued to be sloppy and juvenile. Not his facial features, either, which strike me as ‘Village People cop meets generations of inbreeding’…” (p. 5, in relation to Foley’s “multiple disk herniations” on page 20).
- “This was where testicular fortitude came in—and brother, if there is any one word that accurately describes my testicles, it is fortuitous” (p. 10).
- “We’d taped some cool commercials for the book, centred around an unsubstantiated rumour that I was something of a name-dropper—a charge I’m pretty sure CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who has interviewed me twice, would refute” (p. 11). Sounds a bit like another name-dropper I know love.
- Foley has some wisdom for keeping your underwear on during a massage on page 14.
- “I felt like such a phony, like a beauty contestant claiming natural Cs when the slightest feel, the most tender touch, the simplest tweak would have exposed the perfect, impossibly rounded, gravity-defying truth. This talk with Wolfie [Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank] seemed to be tweaking a nipple of its own: the nipple of my conscience” (p. 116).
- “… I’d been accused of being a lot of things over the years, but a ‘college professor’ was a new one” (p. 148).
- “‘… steel cage, ladders, tables, chairs, barbed wire, bats… lions and tigers and bears, oh my… it doesn’t really matter to me…’ I love, just love that lines from 1939 children’s movie are being used to promote pro-wrestling matches over seventy years after its filming” (p. 272).
- “… Like every ounce of joy had been wrung out of life’s hand towel… “Life’s hand towel”? Pretty weak” (p. 290).
The bits about Foley’s kids are the funniest in the whole book:
- “Like most dads, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to relating to my teenage kids. Well, not really Noelle, who’s like a straight-A angel, one of the least problematic kids around. See, witnessing those eleven unprotected chair shots from The Rock back in 1999 wasn’t so traumatic after all” (p. 81).
- “Her on-camera look of surprise, disgust, and humiliation when Dad handed her a twenty to go clothes shopping was a thing of beauty” (p. 91).
- Page 91–92 also deals with the time Foley, his wife and two young boys were watching Rocky and Foley decided to play a prank on the kids by leaving a message on the family’s answering machine as Rocky Balboa. The terror in the children that ensues is hilarious!
- “Wrestling My Family [the Foley family’s ill-fated reality TV show that never got picked up] seemingly had everything going for it. Humour. Warmth. A wrestling comeback match. That threat of paralysis…” (p. 95).
- Wrestling My Family also had an irresistible vampire breakfast angle going on, in which former ECW star Ariel (you guessed it, her gimmick was a vampire) would come over for breakfast with the two youngest members of the Foley clan (p. 97).
- “I looked at my children in the rearview mirror. Dewey and Noelle in the third row, listening to their iPods. Like most teenagers they found the thought of travelling forty minutes without some kind of personal entertainment device to be unthinkable. Mickey and Hughie were sound asleep in the second row—their childhood innocence shattered forever by the image of their dad in a black warm-up suit doing battle with the Coach [Jonathan Coachman]. Forget about those eleven chair shots at the ’99 [Royal] Rumble my older kids witnessed—this was real childhood trauma… That image if all my children together at the match for the first time was one I could live with gladly for the rest of my life… The Coach? A leprechaun? My own son booing me? Absolutely perfect” (p. 136–137).
Countdown to Lockdown is very much all about family, as are all of Foley’s books in some way or another. Another strong emblem of the memoir is Tori Amos. Odd, I know, but hear him out.
Foley was touched by “Winter” by Tori Amos, and it helped him get through one of his most brutal matches in Japan, in which he lost an ear via barbed wire hanging:
“And then there’s Mick Foley, who took the most beautiful song ever written and turned it into his own twisted ode to suffering and woe…” (p. 72).
Readers of Slate, Jezebel or this here blog from time to time will know that Mick Foley has been named man of the year by the Good Men Project, is a volunteer for Amos’ charity, RAINN and labels himself a feminist, amongst many other good deeds he’s used his wrestling career for.
I can’t recommend this—nor any of Foley’s books—enough. It’s got the perfect combination of violence and morbidity, family and fun, humour and intelligence, and empathy and charity.