"Good God almighty! Good God almighty! That killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!"
It's King of the Ring 1998, Mankind and Undertaker are battling it out in a classic Hell in a Cell match and it's probably the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. Almost immediately 'Taker felt it necessary to toss Mankind from the top of the cage, 16 feet down and through the Spanish announcers table. JR screaming, his cowboy hat bobbing on that big old head.
JR's disgust for the scene runs perfectly alongside Jerry The King Lawler's blood thirsty enthusiasm in the commentary. One wants to look away as the other begs for more. I'm sat there, mouth open wide, wondering if Mick Foley will ever get up from this one. Surely the man's dead?
Attitude Era WWF was my obsession when growing up. I know i'm not the only one, it's a right of passage for so many of us. The Rock, DX, Stone Cold, Kane, Undertaker, Mankind, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle...I could go on. Thinking about these guys brings a real smile to my face, every time and forever. At this point in wrestling history WWF, or WWE as it's now known, had got the story lines just right, with a heady mix of brutality, comedy and the down right absurd.
You had Triple H drugging Stephanie McMahon, the company owner's daughter, taking her to Vegas and marrying her at a drive through wedding, all the time propping her up as she's out cold (the picture of true love, they're still married to this day). Later you had Stone Cold Steve Austin trapping Triple H in his car, picking him up with a crane and dropping him straight to the ground smashing the vehicle and very nearly the man inside. Don't try this at home folks.
It was theatre at its finest. I owned the T-Shirts, bought the VHS Tapes and adorned my bedroom walls with the posters. I loved each and every superstar like a weird violent Uncle, however it was always Mick Foley who was my favourite, I'd go so far as to say my hero. He came in the shape of Cactus Jack, Mankind or Dude Love, taking beatings and handing them out for fun. I've not seen anyone throw their body into metal with such grace; he made smashing into steel an art form. His catchphrases, 'Have a Nice Day' and 'Bang! Bang!', the best. The man's a genius.
But there he was in 1998 lying still on the floor, having been catapulted from the steel cage. There were a dozen men around him with concerned faces, helping him onto a stretcher. He was alive thank God, get him to a hospital quick. Just as the stretcher was exiting the stage you could see a figure running back toward the cage. Mick Foley had jumped off the stretcher and started to climb the steel! Undertaker climbs and again they go at it, the sick son's of bitches brawling away for a second time. Was the first action planned? I don't know but as Mankind and Taker fight with steel chairs, Foley gets chokeslammed onto the top of cage and breaks through. His body cascades down smashing into the ring floor, the steel chair following and hitting him square in the mouth, "That can't be planned" I say "that one had to be for real!"
As the camera closed in on Mankind's face it was one image that beamed out at me, summing up my love for attitude era wrestling. Rather than lie there twisted in agony (Foley actually dislocated his shoulder and knocked his tooth out during this match) Mankind Mick Foley started to smile. He had blood dripping down his face, his tooth was hanging out and the dude sat there smiling. The Undertaker would go on to win this match with a tombstone piledriver and quite rightfully the two men got a standing ovation. For one kid watching from home this match cemented a love for professional wrestling in his heart, one that goes on to this day.
Yes WWE, TNA, ECW, WCW were all fake, whatever. Some things went wrong, bones were broken but hey, I'd argue professional wrestling offers the best theatre around. Nothing can match Mick Foley's body flying across the ring with JR screaming "Oh My God". That moment is golden.