Yesterday (Sept. 7), WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley released a short video containing a message that resonated with a lot of fans. Foley spoke from the perspective of a talent evaluating his options in the current sports entertainment/pro wrestling landscape, explaining why he thinks AEW is a more attractive choice than WWE for a lot of wrestlers right now.
In the wake of his comments and the reaction to them, Foley was a guest on another Hall of Famer’s podcast today. On Sean Waltman’s Pro Wrestling 4 Life podcast, the Hardcore Legend talked his relationship with Vince McMahon’s company, and went deeper into the issues he sees with how WWE uses their roster in 2021.
“The only deal I have with WWE is a nostalgia contract, legends deal. They do pay people to be consultants and if I was being paid to be a consultant, I would say, ‘WWE, we have a problem.’ I’m putting myself in the place of a top tier superstar who has a decision to make and I would look at AEW and how they treated their recent acquisitions and I would compare it to how WWE has treated a few of their developmental [talent] that was brought up to the main roster. I would say, ‘I don’t know that I want to gamble to such an extent that I’m willing to have everything I’ve done watered down or made a joke of.’ If somebody is a more intriguing character in NXT than they are in WWE and it seemed almost by design, I think that’s a big problem.
“I love the company. I really do and I think they need to hear that. If I texted Vince, that’s one thing and it might be effective, but I think it needs to get out there. If it embarrasses them, I think that’s okay.”
Two recent NXT call-ups seem to have really spurred Foley to publicly air his concerns.
“I look at Keith Lee and how dynamic he was. I know he’s had health problems, but the guy comes out and he’s got that look. He’s a big dude and you want to cover him up. That’s part of his appeal, he’s loud and proud.
“In the case of Karrion Kross, don’t reinvent the wheel. If the guy has one of the best entrances in the business and then you send him out there as a generic guy and he loses in two minutes... people are saying, ‘this doesn’t hurt him, it wasn’t an NXT loss.’
“I’m thinking, ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression.’ Can you dig him out of the hole? Yeah, you can, but he shouldn’t be in the hole.”
Mick & X-Pac compared the way a lot of Superstars are treated today to how Vince McMahon booked them and their contemporaries in the Attitude Era. Foley returned to a frequent criticism of modern day WWE - the lack of creative freedom for performers. He also worried about the impact of recent main roster rollouts on wrestlers’ morale.
“We didn’t play ‘ha ha’ with people’s characters just for the sake of dragging them down. If you had a hand to play and you could play it, they allowed you to showcase your best stuff. The idea of going out on the big stage and being less than you can be. WWE, you get in that ring, it’s two feet bigger but it might as well be a mile longer. I’ve seen people who seem to shrink because they kind of lose their confidence and their mojo.
“Once you’ve lost your confidence, it can be really difficult. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you, ‘You got it,’ you have to believe you got it. If you don’t believe it and it comes apart because people are messing with your character, that’s a problem. I don’t want to see WWE defeated in a devastating fashion. I want them to go with their best hand, which is portraying characters in their best light. I don’t think they are doing that lately.”
Another frequently discussed topic among fans and industry observers came up on Waltman’s show - WWE’s propensity to book & write shows at the last minute. Foley has a first-hand source on this too, since his son Dewey is part of the creative team. As Mick sees it, that approach causes problems because wrestlers, writers, and fans don’t know what they can count on. Here, he directly compares Vince’s approach to AEW & Tony Khan’s.
“[Chris] Jericho said, ‘We don’t put a line through our show an hour before it airs.’ Vince will do that. My son is part of the writing team. I would never be able to handle being part of the writing team. I take a lot of pride in the things I write and seeing someone rip it up in front of me would send me heading to the exits. You lose your continuity when you promise people two or three different matches the next week and then they don’t take place and you don’t explain why and then you have another show that does a good job at that. I know Vince thinks he works his best under pressure, but you can’t have continuity that way. You have to gather your big stars and how you’re going to push them. They do it with some people.
“They need to pay attention to continuity, they need to go back to big picture thinking outside of just the WrestleMania main event and they need to let their talent be as good as they can be.”
Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy is a fan of some of what WWE’s doing, with Roman Reigns and Damian Priest specifically singled out by Mick and Sean during their convo. Foley also noted that he’s picked his spots for openly taking his old bosses to task like this, including before Daniel Bryan (Danielson)’s run to WrestleMania 30, and at various points in the Women’s Revolution/Evolution.
Why now for this critique?
“I think the AEW pressure is the best thing to happen to WWE... I would not put that video out if I didn’t think now was the time.”
H/T Fightful for transcription