Working Girls: Or How Mick Foley Proved Wrestling Fans Were Smarter Than Most Feminist Bloggers
The professional wrestling term “working” has hundreds of vague definitions, but perhaps the most accurate is “attempting to convince people that the scripted actions they’re seeing are legitimate.” So when a wrestler grimaces in pain at a punch that went absolutely nowhere near his face, he’s working. When Jerry “The King” Lawler and Andy Kaufmann brawled on the David Letterman Show in the early 80s, they were working. In the late 80s, The Iron Sheik and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were arrested for drug possession. They were fired from the WWF not for this crime, but because they acted as if they were co-workers when speaking to the police, rather than feuding rivals. They were not fired for committing a felony, but because they weren’t working.
Working is important in wrestling. Even if wrestling fans are aware that what they’re seeing is, shock horror, “not real,” suspension of disbelief is key to the sport. People believed in Ric Flair’s chops or Vader’s moonsaults or Kenta Kobashi’s thrust kicks, so they’re all “good workers.”
So, was Mick Foley ever a good worker? Maybe. He was an intelligent worker for sure. He got himself over in WCW via his ability to take an ass-whipping, got out of WCW at exactly the right time to retain maximum credibility, escaped to the #3 wrestling promotion in America at the time (ECW), established himself there as a bitter escapee from the #2 wrestling promotion in America at the time, went to the WWF and with a combination of stunt wrestling he’d stolen from Sabu and “Gee, Shucks, I’m Just A Normal Wrestling Fan Living My Dream” schtick he’d stolen from Tommy Dreamer became the #3 babyface of the Attitude era. So you can’t knock the hustle, and his stuntfest matches against Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and The Rock, although not standing up to repeat viewings, certainly were jaw-dropping at the time.
It was the humbleness that was both his greatest attribute and his biggest problem though. He really “clicked” as an important WWF figure when he did an on-screen interview with Jim Ross where he explained he was Mick Foley, Mama Foley’s baby boy, he’d sacrificed his body to wrestling and that he just wanted that one shot at the gold. Then he wrote his first New York Times bestseller, “Foley Is Good”, with its title cleverly hinting at the “FOLEY IS GOD” signs that were common among wrestling fans at the time. The book explained Foley’s career to date, pointed out how all his successes were solely down to him and all his failures were down to others, and was possibly 70% made up of mocking zingers at the poor working abilities of other wrestlers. There’s a pattern emerging here.
On one pro-wres message board I used to use there was a lengthy, ongoing thread entitled something like “MICK FOLEY IS THE MOST DISHONEST CONNIVING MAN IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.” It started off as a troll thread, a thread where a man deliberately takes a contrary position just to bump up his post count and get some on-board “edge” credit. But the longer it went on, the longer Foley’s career went on…
There’s a scene in the movie “Beyond The Mat”, Barry Blaustein’s documentary that’s a good illustration here. Mick Foley is wrestling in a cage match against The Rock. And Foley’s young, three-year-old daughter is in the crowd. During the match, Foley takes 10 unprotected full strength chairshots to the forehead. After the match, he ignores his daughter’s visible signs of distress in order to ask an off-screen cameraman how gory the chairshots looked and if the crowd got excited enough for them.
This is Mick Foley’s career in a nutshell: a faux-humble man who is interested mainly in money. Foley’s attempts at breaking out of the professional wrestling ghetto have all failed – his one novel , Tietam Brown, was a critical and commercial failure that saw Foley rant and rave at length across the internet about the harsh words of literary critics. Foley went back to writing about his professional wrestling career, switching his main target of zings from his long-time friend Al Snow to the Canadian midcarder Test. Test died a year later from a self-inflicted oxycodone overdose. In one of his final books, “The Hardcore Diaries”, he displays a violently sexual aggression towards the female WWE valet Melina.
Anyway, long point cut short: Foley’s repeated comebacks to wrestling after yet another one of his outside ventures had failed meant increasingly less and less as wrestling fans twigged that his “awww, shucks” thumbs up gestures were just a way of conning them out of money. They stopped caring because he ceased to be any good at “working”. His escape to the #2 wrestling company in America at the time, TNA, was meant to be his way back, his Cristiano Lucarelli-esque method of saying “look guys, I’ve moved to a smaller outfit because I care so much about the intergrity of the fake sport I do! Please like me…” It didn’t work.
So I stopped thinking about Mick Foley. He fell off my radar. Why should I care about a bad worker? But then something weird happened. Foley finally got some cache outside of wrestling. And from the oddest fucking source:
Feminist blogs started picking up on Mick Foley. Jezebel started running articles about him more often than they ran “LOOK AT THIS FUCKEN FRATHOUSE” pieces. Homa Khaleeli of The Guardian called him “the unlikely feminist” who was “committed to stopping sexual violence.” Now, obviously Jezebel, Guardian writers, educated feminists are a lot more savvy than wrestling fans: most of us are 12-years-old, rednecks or Mexican. So surely a man who had realized he couldn’t con wrestling fans out of money anymore by pretending to believe in a cause wouldn’t have switched to the world of feminist blogs… would he?
What the fuck do you think?
I’m not going to fisk, I’m not going to do anything. All I’m going to do is this. Mick Foley has always said that his favourite ever wrestler is “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, the Fijian high flyer of the early 80s. Foley is now best friends with Snuka and organizes birthday parties for him, runs fundraisers for him, the works. Jimmy Snuka doesn’t have as much money as you’d think he has, due to him having to pay out on a few lawsuits from the early 1980s. For a laugh and a giggle, let’s compare some random comments underneath Jezebel articles on Mick Foley with newspaper reports on the death of Jimmy Snuka’s girlfriend Nancy Argentino:
Mick Foley ruthlessly piledrives misogyny and elbow drops sexism.
That night, after finishing his last match at the WWF TV taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he [Snuka] returned to Room 427 of the George Washington Motor Lodge in nearby Whitehall to find his girlfriend of nearly a year, Nancy Argentino, gasping for air. Two hours later, this 23-year-old wrestling fan who’d worked as a dentists assistant in Brooklyn and dropped out of Brooklyn Community College to travel with Snuka was pronounced dead at Allentown Sacred Heart Medical Center of undetermined craniocerebral injuries.
I seriously want to hug Mick Foley. Awesome, just awesome.
One local official involved in the investigation, as well as one of the Argentino familys lawyers, said the autopsy showed marks on the victim other than the fractured skull. And former Whitehall police supervisor of detectives Al Fitzinger remembered that the forensic pathologist, Dr. Isadore Mihalakis, confronted Snuka to ask him why he’d waited so long before calling an ambulance.
Mick Foley is a amazing human being. You would never guess by looking at him but he is a intelligent and funny guy who is never afraid to stick up for the little guy. He has done great work for victims of sexual assault and bullying.
Nancy Argentinos younger sister remembered once being threatened by Snuka when they were alone at the familys home in Flatbush. I could kick you and put my hands around your throat and nobody would know, he allegedly said. After Nancys death, family members said, they received a series of phone calls from a woman who identified herself as a former Snuka girlfriend whod tried to warn Nancy away from him. Snuka, said the woman, had once broken her ribs, and had a thing about pushing women back against walls.
Interestingly enough, in both Jerry Lawler and Jim Duggan’s shoot interview for RF Video they refer to Jimmy Snuka as a murderer. To date, Snuka, an allegedly bankrupt man, has never sued these two multi-millionaires for slander.
Let’s break it down like this: Mick Foley worked in professional wrestling. While he was in ECW that company “broke the envelope” by being the first promotion to include face male wrestlers beating up heel women. He never objected. During his WWF stay the company ran fake miscarriage storylines, ran an angle where a woman who was drug raped fell in love with her transgressor, made heroes out of two men whose gimmick was to smash women (including an 80-year-old) through tables, and encouraged fans to chant “slut” at any female wrestler. While Mick Foley was collecting his paychecks, this didn’t upset him on any level.
Mick Foley’s credibility goes downhill. Mick Foley finds another group of people to scam. And, yes, you can argue that a lot of the tactics used in modern feminist theory are similar to pro-wrestling: building up sympathy, running promos, establishing character, cutting off comebacks. And he’s worked them. He’s fooled these people, these college educated people, into thinking he gives a shit about them. And every single penny he makes out of them, he’s giving a cut to a man found guilty in a court of beating his wife to death. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
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