Somewhere between my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I enjoy professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and, most importantly, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport is often capable of creating, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and death-defying chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we enjoy it anyway.
My introduction to Mick Foley, like many other fans, occurred right around the time I was first introduced to ECW. This now-defunct wrestling organization---defunct in its original form, at least---was the quintessential underdog throughout the mid to late 1990s, earning terrific word-of-mouth for its entertaining matches, international performers and trademark bloodbaths. Current and former WWE superstars like Rob Van Dam, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit and the late Eddie Guerrero built their reputations in front of ECW's notoriously enthusiastic crowds, so it's no surprise that Mick Foley fit right in. What he lacked in technical ability was made up for with physical toughness, charisma and a down-to-earth demeanor. Upon first glance, he looked more like someone you'd see at ringside, not in the middle of the squared circle.
Foley enjoyed his first real success in ECW, WCW, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and during several trips to Japan, where his hardcore nature and creatively violent matches amazed wrestling rookies and veterans alike. He was eventually offered a contract with WWE (still known as WWF, before their legal dispute with the World Wildlife Fund), where Foley would eventually take his career to bold new highs...and dangerous new lows. He underwent a drastic character change, but his reputation as a tough performer with a real heart for the fans only grew stronger. Some criticized Foley as a "glorified stuntman" who lacked genuine wrestling ability---and while it's true he was no Dean Malenko or Chris Benoit, Foley nonetheless managed to carve out a niche for himself. Most fans loved him for it.
He initially retired from the ring in 2000, but Mick Foley's second wind as a WWE wrestler occurred less than four years later. During both stints with the WWE, he's produced a quality collection of matches with notable opponents, though some still prefer his earlier accomplishments. Luckily, Mick Foley: Greatest Hits and Misses does a fine job of spanning his entire career, from his lesser-known first WWE bout in 1986 to his most recent work 20 years later. Hosted by the man himself, most of these matches have been hand-picked by Foley and are prefaced by his own retrospective comments.
Originally released roughly three years ago, this new "Hardcore Edition" of Greatest Hits and Misses adds a third disc with select matches from Foley's second WWE run (2004-2006). It's a fitting update to a deserving performer---and though some fans may be reluctant to re-buy a career retrospective, most of us had no idea he'd be back for more punishment.
Disc One: The WCW, ECW and SMW Years (1993-1996) *
Cactus Jack vs. Big Van Vader (WCW Saturday Night - April 17, 1993)
Disc Two: The WWF Years (1996-2000) *
Mankind vs. Shawn Michaels (WWF In Your House 10 - September 22, 1996)
Disc Three: Foley's Return to WWE (20004-2006) *
Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton (WWE Backlash - April 18, 2004)
* - Includes Additional Bonus Features (listed below)
From start to finish, long-time fans of Foley will enjoy seeing such a comprehensive package; though the continued lack of footage from Japan is disappointing (due to rights issues, no doubt), there's enough here for several nights' worth of action...or one non-stop marathon, if you're crazy enough. Obviously, milestones in brutality like "Hell in a Cell" (1998) will be instantly recognized by more casual wrestling fans---Foley even admits this during the introduction---but there's plenty more to enjoy than his infamous fall from the top of a steel cage. Thumbtacks, barbed wire, chairs and fire are all part of the game here, reminding us that Foley's brand of wrestling is a bit more graphic than typical WWE fare.
Of course, there's more to love than just the matches. Foley's skill on the microphone is represented by a number of bonus interviews and other sketches performed during his successful career. He balances charisma, contempt and comedy extremely well, often coming across as wildly unstable during in-character rants about his past and the wrestling industry in general. Yet one fact is as true here as it is in the movies: the nicest guys often end up playing the most memorable villains. Despite his projected lack of social grace and pretty-boy good looks, Mick Foley managed to become one of the most popular wrestlers in recent memory. In short, there's just no one else like him.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Mick Foley: Greatest Hits and Misses is roughly on par with the most recent crop of WWE DVD releases. Colors are generally bold and bright, though some of the lower-budget footage (ECW and SMW, in particular) is obviously of lesser quality. Mild pixellation can be seen during certain pyrotechnic sequences, but it's generally kept to a minimum. Overall, fans shouldn't find much to complain about.
Most of the audio has been presented in a fairly standard 2.0 Surround mix; likewise, it's about as good as the source material will allow. Sounds and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear (especially during the new audio commentaries on Disc 3), though the older footage is obviously much flatter in comparison. Not surprisingly, subtitles and Closed Caption support haven't been included.
Disc 1 kicks off with three Bonus Matches, including Cactus Jack vs. Sting (WCW Beach Blast 1992), Cactus Jack vs Sabu (ECW TV) and Mick Foley's 1986 WWE debut: "Jack Foley" & Les Thornton vs. The British Bulldogs). We're also treated to four Promos ("Cane Dewey" [below left], "Anti-Hardcore", "Spitting on the WCW Tag Belt" and his ECW farewell speech), a "WWE Confidential" featurette and a post-match Interview (after Cactus Jack's match with Vader).
Disc 2 follows suit with another handful of Promos (four WWE segments before his debut as "Mankind", plus "Music To My Ear", "The Birth of Mr. Socko" and two "Las Vegas" segments with Al Snow [below right]), a pair of Interviews with Jim Ross and a 2000 segment with "Commissioner Foley" and Kurt Angle. It's a shame we couldn't get a few extra matches...but that's what the bonus disc is for, right?
Disc 3 is technically part of the main feature, so the main contents have been listed above. As far as extras go, each of the four matches has been paired with a bonus Alternate Commentary with Mick Foley and Joey Styles. These are great additions to an already packed set; not only do they add another retrospective layer to the show, but the pairing of Styles and Foley should make ECW fans feel right at home. Though the bonus matches don't include intros from the man himself, these new commentaries serve as suitable replacements.
Overall, this is a fairly comprehensive assortment of bonus features, though the complete lack of Japanese footage keeps it from scoring even higher. All extras are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios; like the main feature, subtitles and Closed Caption support are not included.
Die-hard WWE collectors may grumble at the thought of a double-dip, but Greatest Hits and Misses: Hardcore Edition is one step closer to being the most comprehensive look at Foley's successful career. His down-to-earth personality is represented well by personal introductions and new audio commentaries, standing in sharp contrast to some of the colder and more brutal moments of footage. This all adds up to more than six hours of pure wrestling satisfaction; at times, it's as entertaining, suspenseful and dangerous as the sport's ever been. WWE's three-disc package offers a successful update to an already great release, maintaining a decent technical presentation and adding a handful of worthwhile new extras. Roughly three years after the initial release, disciples of Mick Foley should certainly find Greatest Hits and Misses worthy of a second purchase. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.