Historically Speaking: Foley versus Helmsley

“There will always be a connection between the way in which men contemplate the past and the way in which they contemplate the present.” – Harry Thomas Buckle

The Opening Chapter
Eight years ago this month Mick Foley said he would retire from wrestling if he lost to Triple H in a “Hell in a Cell” WWF Championship match. Foley lost that match, but yet somehow he has competed on a WWE pay per view in 2008.

You gotta love those iron-clad wrestling retirement clauses.

In February 2000, Mick Foley, as his ruthless Cactus Jack persona, took on Triple H in the “devil’s playground” Hell in a Cell. It was the main event of No Way Out 2000, and the final piece of the puzzle to get Triple H over as a legitimate main event threat in the eyes of the fans and the wrestling industry.

That match not only was the catalyst the put Triple H into the main event stratosphere, but it was also the “blow off” to their second round of feuding.

Both men got their first national recognition in World Championship Wrestling and by the time they both got into the WWF by 1996 they became intertwined within months of being in the same company together. This is a feud between two men a decade in the making. Let’s see how it’s all gone down.

King of the Ring
Mick Foley, under his “Mankind” persona,” and “The Connecticut Blueblood” Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, despite being on the same side of the heel/face divide, couldn’t have been further away from each other on the spectrum. Their own and only brief pairing together was in October 1996 when Helmsley help “bury” Undertaker after his “Buried Alive” main event with Mankind.

By the time Helmsley and Mankind met again it was en route the finals of the King of the Ring 1997. Triple H was finally out of the “doghouse” stemming from the Clique “curtain call” a year previous and Foley was coming off the success of his series of televised sit-down interviews with Jim Ross and was slowly become a sympathetic babyface. HHH beat Crush and Ahmed Johnson while Foley beat Savio Vega and Jerry Lawler en route to the finals. Helmsley walked out as King, which played perfectly into his “blueblood” gimmick, but his run against Mankind was just getting started.

The next month at the Canadian Stampede PPV, Mankind and Helmsley battled to a double count-out when they brawled all the way through and outside of the Calgary Saddledome. By this point Foley was a full-fledged babyface and his alter ego of Dude Love had also begun to appear on WWF television along with Mankind.

Being that match didn’t solve anything it was decided that things would be settled in a steel cage match at SummerSlam. The match was noteable that is one of WWF’s last cage matches to feature the late ‘80s/early ‘90s blue bars cage style. Foley came into the match as Mankind, but as he ascended the top of the cage he took off the Hannibal-style mask and opened his shirt to reveal a “Dude” heart tattoo. It was Mick’s tribute to the famous “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka cage leap from Madison Square Garden a decade earlier that Foley saw live in person and inspired him to become a wrestler.

Two weeks after SummerSlam their feud continued in a tag match where Mankind and Undertaker teamed up on RAW to take on their rivals Triple H and Shawn Michaels. This was common WWF practice to put two top singles feuds together into a free TV match. Little did we know that the seemingly random on-off match would lead to the permanent pairing of Triple H and Michaels into the now infamous DeGeneration X.

Their feud continued at the United Kingdom-only PPV One Night Stand in September 2007 when Helmsley defeated Dude Love. The final blowoff to this leg of the feud was two nights later at the RAW taping from Madison Square Garden. It was all set up for a Dude Love-HHH street fight but Dude backed out of the match, claiming he wasn’t hardcore enough for this type of match. Instead he presented his third alter ego, Cactus Jack, as a replacement. The match was a huge success for everyone involved. Cactus came out the victor and cemented this alter ego as the third viable option in his arsenal.

After this Triple H transitioned into the wisecracking sidekick of Shawn Michaels in DX while Foley went on to split up his time in between all three characters, battling a variety of opponents.

Their next big meeting would in February 1998 at the No Way Out PPV where Foley, as Cactus Jack, teamed with Terry Funk, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Owen Hart to defeat Triple H, Savio Vega and The New Age Outlaws in a wild eight-man anything goes match.

WWF Championship
By the time the two would really cross paths again, both men were much bigger stars. Foley had become a two-time WWF Heavyweight Champion and Triple H was on the brink of main event stardom. Mankind was leader of the short-lived Union that battled Mr. McMahon’s Corporate Ministry, which Triple H was a large part of. During a May 31 hardcore match between the two on RAW, HHH took out Foley’s knee with a sledgehammer. This solidified Triple H’s evil ways and gave Foley a couple months to rest up some nagging injuries.

As the summer went on the original planned main event for SummerSlam ’99 was to be Triple H-Steve Austin one-on-one for the WWF Championship but rumor says that Austin didn’t feel HHH was ready for the belt and didn’t want to job out to him. So Mankind was brought back early from injury and after a convoluted series of matches, the main event was changed to a triple threat involving Austin, Foley and Triple H. Mankind pinned Austin for the belt at the PPV, and the next night on RAW Triple H beat Foley to win his first of eleven World Championships.

The following month both Triple H and Mankind were part of the first ever Six-Pack challenge for the WWF Championship. Triple H came out as Champion in a match that also included The Rock, The Big Show, Kane & Davey Boy Smith.

The pair then spent the rest of 1999 apart with Triple H defending the WWF Championship while Mankind teamed and feuded with The Rock and Al Snow.

As the year 2000 dawned it was decreed that Mankind would get a WWF Championship bout against Triple H at the Royal Rumble in a street fight. And in a play from a year earlier, Foley agreed that Mankind couldn’t handle a task like this and re-introduced the world to Cactus Jack, an alter ego that had lain dormant since WrestleMania XIV. Triple H sold the news like death, and a big-time main event was established. The match itself was phenomenal and really put Helmsley over in the eyes of people who didn’t think he could hang in the main event.

The next month Cactus Jack pleaded for a rematch but Triple H wouldn’t grant him one, saying he nothing to prove or gain by beating him again. So Cactus agreed to put up the career of Mick Foley in exchange for one more shot at Triple H and the WWF Championship. Triple H agreed to that stipulation and the event was put into Hell in a Cell to add to the drama and keep out the shenanigans. It was one of those matches that even the hardened “smarks” didn’t really know who was going to win until the final three was registered, but when it was all said and done Mick Foley lost and his career was over.

But not really…

Five weeks later Foley was back on WWF TV as Linda McMahon’s representative in the four way WWF Championship match at WrestleMania 2000 where he would compete against Big Show, The Rock and Triple H. Foley was the first one out and actually faded into obscurity for a few months.

By June 2000, Foley was back again, this time as the figurehead on-air commissioner for the WWF. He spent the rest of 2000 ruling over the WWF, staying out of the ring but often coming into conflict with Triple H over match decisions and official announcements. Foley was “fired” from this commissioner position in December 2000 by Mr. McMahon. After that he and Triple H wouldn’t cross paths again until 2003 as Foley legitimately quit the WWF in 2001 while Triple H was out with his quad injury.

In June 2003, Triple H was gearing for a Hell in a Cell against Kevin Nash when it was announced that Mick Foley would be the special guest referee for the event. Foley was brought in to spice up things as management were worried Nash and HHH couldn’t pull off a high-pressure match like Hell in a Cell.

After that match Foley disappeared again but returned in December and transitioned into a feud with Triple H’s new stable Evolution, and primarily the group’s youngest member Randy Orton. He and Orton feuded well into 2004, finally ending their battle with a hardcore match at Backlash in April 2004. Despite Foley feuding with Triple H’s stablemates, the pair remained pretty distant of each other, as the goal was to get Orton over as a threat much like Foley had done for Helmsley four years earlier. Mick Foley was gone again after his run against Orton.

Since the fall of 2005 Mick has been back with WWE in a semi-regular basis. He’s primarily been used to put over other talents like Edge, Ric Flair and the ECW brand in general. During these runs Foley has usually come back with some sort of purpose.

His most recent run, however, was merely a two-week shot where he teamed with Hornswoggle to earn a spot in Royal Rumble 2008. Logic would dictate that his appearance in such a match would be the springboard for Foley’s last angle, however his appearance was for nothing more than a chance to go face-to-face with Triple H in the ring at Madison Square Garden, eight years after their historic street fight in the very arena during the same event. Triple H got the better of him once again, eliminating Foley like he was nothing more than prelim guy.

The Perspective
Mick Foley has always been a guy that has made his career out of putting over other people. Even he was on top in the WWF he was still there to put over others higher than him, namely Undertaker, Austin and Rock. And when it was time to send Triple H to the same level as those others, it was Foley who got the call to do the honors. Their first run was a classic example of exact opposites at odds with each other, and there was even a little bit of “beauty and the beast” story thrown in for good measure. Their second run was a great example of a main event story done right. Both men knew their roles well and played them perfectly. After that run Mick Foley would be established as the go-to-guy for putting over the new top heel. Just ask Randy Orton and Edge how well a job he did with them. And despite Foley “retiring” eight years ago he’s still around to do the job when called upon, while Triple H is still at the top of the mountain where Mick put him back in 2000.

It’s funny how some things change and how some things stay the same.

For this week the vault is closed…

Linked to the Pulse
Kace Evers breaks down the top moments of this week’s ECW, but his comparing of Kelly Kelly to The Rockers is either insane or brilliant…I haven’t decided yet.

David B. reminds me that Michelle McCool and Maria were in the first Diva Search.

John Wiswell has a really good review of the two-disc ROH “Man Up” DVD set.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1994 – Brian Christopher defeated Doug Gilbert for the USWA Southern Heavyweight title
1998 – Tennessee Volunteers defeated Ladies Night Out for the Music City Southern Tag Team title
2000 – Three Count defeated Brian Knobbs for the WCW Hardcore title
2001 – Shark Boy defeated Matt Stryker & Dean Jablonski in a Battle Royal for the vacant HWA Heavyweight Title
2001 – Nick Berk defeated Justice Pain for the Combat Zone World Heavyweight Title
2001 – Yoshihiro Tajiri defeated Nick Berk for the Combat Zone World Heavyweight Title
2001 – John Zandig defeated Yoshihiro Tajiri for the Combat Zone World Heavyweight Title

1953 – Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was born
1970 – Sebastian Kane was born
1978 – Masato Tanaka was born

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

My colleague here at Pulse Wrestling, Pulse Glazer, is a ROH-bot through and through, and that’s not an insult to Mr. Glazer. He has been doing his best to get the rest of our staff a taste of Ring of Honor at least with hopes of converting into ROH followers. So he graciously sent me a copy of the January 28, 2006 show titled “Dissension.” Next week I should have separate, stand-alone DVD review for this show, but I do want to give a quick preview and say that this show was quite good, as I expected it would be. The main event is a ROH World Championship match between two of my favorites in “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and AJ Styles that is entertaining and had a simple, easy-to-follow storyline and build-up to it. It also featured some solid matches between Matt Sydal and Christopher Daniels (two other guys who I am fond of) and an Aries/Strong-Jacobs/Whitmer ROH World Tag Championship match that I liked after all the early match stalling and shenanigans. By watching this show I am not going to run out and yell through the streets that Ring of Honor is the greatest thing since Sliced Bread #2, but it was an entertaining wrestling show with very simple and logical storylines and some real solid in-ring action.