Mick Foley questions Goldberg's decision to fight Lesnar, talks WWE Survivor Series
Foley discusses Goldberg's return, his own feud with The Rock, and watching his kids join WWE
Heading into Sunday's WWE Survivor Series, Raw general manager Mick Foley -- hardcore legend, historically fearless risk-taker -- doesn't sound all that enthusiastic about Bill Goldberg's chances against Brock Lesnar.
"My advice would be to run, but I don't think Bill's in the ring to run," Foley told CBS Sports. "If Bill had taken any of my advice, he wouldn't be in the match. I would have said, 'Don't do it.'"
Strange coming from a WWE Hall of Famer who himself used to fight through pain and injury on a nightly basis. But former WCW sensation Goldberg hasn't wrestled since 2004 and is now 49 years old. Even though Goldberg has indicated this is his final match, the imposing Lesnar is a bold choice of opponent. This is not a UFC fight, but make no mistake, the potential for injury is quite real.
"Bill hasn't been in the ring in 12 years, and he's going to have to make up for ring rust with unparalleled physicality," Foley said. "And that's what Brock brings to the ring every time he steps into it. I don't think it'll be anything fancy, but it will be physical."
Lesnar vs. Goldberg headlines the 30th Survivor Series, a yearly event that predates all but WrestleMania on WWE's lineup of pay-per-views. Early Survivor Series cards consisted of nothing but tag team elimination matches (where members of each team can be defeated individually, and once one entire team has been eliminated, the remaining wrestlers are declared the winners, or "survivors"). This year, there are three such elimination matches, each pitting members of the Raw and SmackDown rosters against one another.
The main event features Raw universal champion Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, U.S. champion Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman against SmackDown world champion A.J. Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and commissioner Shane McMahon. Foley sees a ton of talent on both sides.
"On the SmackDown side, A.J. Styles really has been phenomenal," he said. "Ambrose is a guy who's really come into his own the past couple of years. And on our side, look for not only some real physicality but some physical humor from Jericho and Owens. They've just been phenomenal in helping carry our show. I also think that the wild card is whether Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins can coexist, which I believe they will. I think it's gonna be a great night for the Raw brand."
Foley's greatest success as a WWE wrestler came during the Attitude Era. In 1998, he was the focal point of one of the most memorable Survivor Series storylines of all time. During a one-night WWE title tournament, Foley (as Mankind) wrestled Duane Gill, Al Snow, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night. The end result of his efforts was a betrayal by Vince McMahon and The Rock that kicked off a memorable feud and laid the groundwork for Foley becoming WWE champion.
"Rock and I went out there and had no plans at all, and ended up having a very good match," Foley recalled. "That evening ended up kind of flipping the switch on. You know, the personal program that I would go on to do with The Rock. I think we did four consecutive pay-per-views. It really set the stage and created a great rivalry that then turned into a tremendous partnership."
Prior to becoming a WWE fan favorite, Foley made his mark as a sometimes ultra-violent hardcore wrestler, commonly leaping -- or falling -- from dangerous heights, enduring weapon attacks and hobbling out the ring with a smile on his face afterward.
Few who watched the glory days of Foley's first successful gimmick, Cactus Jack, would have envisioned that guy as a future authority figure on WWE television. Then again, you also wouldn't figure Cactus Jack to be the type to tirelessly work for multiple charities or to have a special room in his home decorated for Christmas year-round. Yet, here we are. Wrestling fans learned years ago that the man who portrayed the deranged Mankind was always, at his core, a kind man.
Foley's first stint as a TV authority figure was in 2000 as "Commissioner Foley," a six-month story arc that put his talent for comedy to great use. Now that he's back in the role of WWE shot-caller, Foley said moving away from his wilder personas wasn't too difficult for him.
"It seemed like it would have been a really strange transition, but everything fell into place and worked out wonderfully," he said. "It's a lot tougher now [than it was in 2000] to try and hold the roster together and make sense of the show every Monday night. But I'm lucky that I have the respect of almost all of the people in the dressing room."
Foley's two oldest children are now pursuing their own careers in sports entertainment. Son Dewey is an assistant on the WWE creative team, and daughter Noelle is training to become a wrestler. Foley has made sure Noelle understands that the physical damage he endured in wrestling could be in her future, too.
"I don't advocate any child following in their parent's footsteps when their parent's footsteps are as crooked as mine are," he said. "But she wants to do what she wants to do, so I want to be supportive."
Foley knows all too well what it's like to get bit by the wrestling bug. In 1983, he famously hitch-hiked from Cortland, New York, where he went to college, to Madison Square Garden in New York City to make sure he didn't miss a cage match between Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Don Muraco. Later, he went to great lengths to train at Dominic DeNucci's wrestling school. His commitment paid off. Now he hopes for the same success for his kids.
"It's much easier to see my son involved in creative than to see my daughter in the ring," Foley said. "But they've both worked really hard. I'm really proud of both of them. Dewey is making contributions on a weekly basis. And Noelle is facing an uphill struggle to try to reach the level of the current female superstars in WWE, but we feel like there's a role for her somewhere in the company."
The WWE women's division is more competitive now than it's ever been, which means that for Noelle or any other competitor, the physical toll of succeeding in that environment could be high.
"I definitely point out the way I walk and ask her if she wants to be walking that way when she's my age," Foley said.
Back in 1983, young Mick Foley was just an obsessed wrestling fan like thousands of others, scraping together money for tickets when the show came to town. A show the size of a modern-day WrestleMania, which comes to Orlando on April 2, 2017, would have amazed him, he says, although it would have been difficult for him to attend.
"[Young] Mick Foley wouldn't have had the money for WrestleMania tickets," he said. "I kind of spent my last $50 on that  ticket, so young Mick Foley would probably have needed to stay home, although it would have been really painful."
Fans fly in from all over the world to attend WrestleMania festivities, which span multiple days and now include everything from autograph signings to the yearly Hall of Fame ceremony and additional wrestling shows, on top of WrestleMania itself.
"Orlando is like a dream come true because there's just so much going on in that city anyway," Foley said. "The weekend has expanded to where it's not just the weekend. It basically starts on Wednesday. It's like a week-long celebration."
Next year, Survivor Series will follow the example of WrestleMania. WWE announced plans this week for four consecutive nights of shows taking place in Houston from Nov. 18-21, 2017. As for this year, Foley said he anticipates a crowd-pleasing event.
"I think this is the first Survivor Series in a while that really has people talking. Survivor Series had seemed a little bit antiquated up until this year. Now the five-on-five matches will all take on a special meaning. We are looking forward to a great show."
Survivor Series airs live on WWE Network from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 20, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
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