Fear often consumes us. It is easily something that makes all that feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Hearts will race, and blood will pump with the fear of anxiety or supremely anxious tendencies overcoming them.
Mick Foley has become an iconic character for his hardcore warfare and the matches he’s participated in. He is a proponent of equality and is easily one of his generation’s most respected and beloved wrestlers.
However, at one point, a character that was much darker than fans had ever been aware of before emerged. The fans’ association with Foley had long been the Cactus Jack character. A man who has lost part of his ear and spilled blood. He is willing to subject himself to as much pain as he is willing to administer. This is the tale of the birth of Mankind.
_________________As it has long been mentioned, Foley’s emergence in the WWE came with the support of former WWE Vice President Jim Ross. However, Foley’s coming to the company was not met with his Cactus Jack persona accompanying him. It would have to come with some means of adjustment.
His fresh start would come at the expense of his looks, so a mask was made. The mask would cover part of his face, and the early incarnations of the character came from a drawing with a character called ‘Mason the Mutilator.’
The use of alliteration is like the horror film legend ‘Jason’ with a modern spin tied to it. However, the character’s initial drawings and identity were deemed ‘too dark’ and actually only used the mask as part of the character. The original outfit and name were no more.
Mason The Mutilator
Foley was not a fan of the name Mason the Mutilator and came up with the name ‘Mankind’ instead. When Foley did arrive in 1996, his appearance was deemed that of a character with multiple personalities.
He would squeal and sit cross-legged, rocking back and forth. It was as though there were other voices he could hear and respond to in each of these promos. Often these promos were held in a boiler room.
This overlooked area of the building became his home. His matches would often take place there as well. Between the use of steel frames, heaters, concrete, and discarded items to be used as weapons, it was no wonder why that was his ‘home’. Escape the room if you can, survive if Mankind lets you.
Mankind would call for ‘Mommy,’ often referring to a child-like need for approval while demonstrating a character’s evident instability. His anger would lead to him pulling out strands of his hair handfuls at a time. While his name may not have been Mason the Mutilator, he certainly would mutilate himself.
One of the creepiest instances of Foley’s Mankind character would be when he would hold a rat he named George. He would stroke it, showing it tenderness and affection. It appeared symbolic that a persona that appeared neglected and downtrodden was showing affection towards an animal that is often considered an ignored and downtrodden rat.
Fans had come to know that during the days of Cactus Jack, Foley would use various moves. However, the birth of the Mandible Claw had fans’ attention. The move would be intended to incapacitate his opponents when he would push his fingers below the tongue of his opposition.
It was often referred to as a nerve hold. His initial meetings with his opponent would see him cause his opposition to foam at the mouth as they appeared to lose all control of themselves and their nervous system.
It was rare that a nerve hold would be used inside someone’s mouth to incapacitate them. Mankind was coming into the WWE showing a willingness to place the hand of a man that handles a pet rat and resides in a boiler room in their mouths.
No Laughing Matter
Ironically enough, it was April Fool’s Day that Mankind debuted, the Monday following WrestleMania XII. He faced Bob Holly and won his first match that night, but it wasn’t that that made a statement. Later that night, he would attack The Undertaker beating him without rhyme or reason.
What would follow is a series of matches between the two. One of which would see the pair violently battle one another, leading to a stunning betrayal. During their Boiler Room Brawl, the Undertaker reached for his urn as the match reached its climax.
At that very moment, Paul Bearer refused to hand it to him and struck him with it, allowing Mankind to gain the win. Bearer became Mankind’s ‘Uncle Paul’ at that very moment.
“It all seemed like such a shame. We engaged in some of the most brutal contests this sport has ever known, but I couldn’t help feeling that when it was all said and done, the Undertaker never really knew me at all.
Do you know what it feels like to sit on an airplane with the stench of your own charred flesh in your nostrils for 14 hours? Because I do. And it makes me sick. Do you know what it feels like to walk inside your home, and your wife says, ‘What is burning?’, and it’s me? I needed to introduce you to my life.
And for those people out there, who find it hard to believe that someone like Mankind could have received holy matrimony, I can only say to you: Turn off your damn TV sets! Watch another wrestling program! Because I am dealing with reality.
A real-life, Undertaker, where my children wake up to the sounds of gunfire, where white trash bombard my house with rocks and chant, ‘Die, Mankind, die!’ When my 3-year-old girl says to me, ‘Keep me safe, daddy! Keep me safe!’
I looked into her beautiful little eyes, and I said, ‘I can’t do that because daddy’s on the road, 300 nights every year, working on his 17th concussion, being spit on by vile scum in Undertaker-t-shirts, wrestling main events for half the money that punked-up pretty boys make in the opening match.’
You ask me for excuses; I don’t have any. When you’re Mankind, you only need… reasons.”
As the years passed, the original mutilator that was Mankind was no more. He had undergone a series of changes. The shrieking and wailing that had become synonymous with Mankind were behind him. His early incarnation screamed as the anti-hero to the dark angel that was The Undertaker.
Mankind’s origins suggest that if someone is willing to hurt themselves, what would they do to their opposition? He attempted to join Mr. McMahon’s Corporation, joined forces with The Rock, and gave life to the other voices inside him.
In later years, Mankind was unlike what he was, and to know that is fine. However, it is the early inception of the character that was frightening and unsettling. In a mask that resembled not unlike that of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Mankind struck fear in anyone that stood across the ring from him.
He was armed with a move that caused his opposition to foam at the mouth, incapacitating them. Mankind was unquestionably frightening.
A Softening Of A Face
As the years passed, Mankind’s inhuman and frightening nature had softened. As mentioned earlier, the days of boiler room shrieks and cries of Mommy were gone. Fans were no longer privy to the character that would subject himself to the pain and anguish that showed instability.
His limp to the ring was in no way something to be taken lightly. The years of punishment to which he was subjected to was evident. Whether they were in Japan or the years of Death Match’s he competed in. Or whether it involved his matches and the abuse his body was subjected to repeatedly.
They were replaced with a more jovial and pleasant Mankind. His only resemblance to his previous persona was that he wore a mask. Could the character have lasted longer? The sheer role of someone like Paul Bearer and allegiance with Kane certainly left the door open for additional frightening encounters.
The sheer destruction that they could have unleashed as a tandem suggests that fear, violence, and bloodshed could be had by both men. This duo’s unstable and almost serial-killer mentality often would have lent itself to something chilling. The notion that these two could frighten anyone and everyone can not be understated.