Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

Mick Foley is back in the writer’s chair with his latest effort, “Saint Mick: My Journey From Hardcore Legend to Santa’s Jolly Elf.” Foley’s new book documents his transformation from one of the most popular wrestling icons of all time into a real-life Santa Claus. After suffering physical and emotional trauma inside of the ring over the years, Foley recently found a satisfying new calling that will be sure to inspire a future wave of heroes down the road.

Beyond being Santa, Foley has also been dubbed “The World’s Friendliest Author” by Nicole Lunsford, the Event Manager of Barnes & Noble. Lunsford shared with Foley in a private moment, “I booked a few events with you over the years across the country. Every report that I get back from Barnes & Noble always says that you are the friendliest author that they get.” Foley nodded, “In our line of business, if you don’t interact with the fans, you are done.”

The cheery and flattered WWE Hall of Famer has a lot to be smiling about these days. A dedicated and vocal group of wrestling fans showed up to support his book tour at the Barnes & Noble in the Tribeca area of New York City on October 18th. Before giving readers a sneak peak at his new book, the Hardcore Legend sat down with Still Real To Us in an exclusive interview to talk about “Saint Mick” and the untold origins of a true Internet phenomenon.

“You’ll see distinct differences tonight. On the first stop on the ‘Have a Nice Day’ tour in New York City, I didn’t know what to expect. My dad had sent me an article about an author on a book tour that wasn’t well attended. I thought that was going to be me,” the #1 New York Times bestselling author recalled. He continued, “I show up at the Virgin Megastore and there were about 600 people out there. Clearly, there’s not 600 people out here tonight. It’s the Yankee game! It’s not me. My popularity hasn’t taken a hit at all.”

There is a reason why Foley is known in most circles to be a master storyteller. He takes his readers on an epic journey with no slowing down in sight. His “Christmas Spirit” was infectious even though the official holiday is about two months away.

“This is my twelfth book tour and New York City usually gets the smallest crowd because there is so much that goes on here. I still think people read a lot more back in 1999. There were so many copies of ‘Have a Nice Day.’ I still see them and am flattered. There were so many inscriptions to kids who were usually sixteen or seventeen at the time,” said Foley. “There would be these really touching inscriptions from the parents. A lot of the kids at the time got the book as a present. They still have the book because it meant a lot to them. Nineteen years later and the books are still in great condition…Okay, well, sometimes I’ve seen a couple of paperback copies that have gone through bathroom duty, so to speak,” the lifelong lover of Christmas joked to Still Real To Us.

Mick Foley
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

After sharing a few laughs, Foley got serious about how times have truly changed for the print industry. “I was talking to my Uber driver yesterday. I can’t drive for long distances because of my knee replacement. She knew I had a book out but she didn’t know who I was. I said, ‘You know, when you used to catch a flight from New York to Los Angeles and you didn’t have a book, you were in trouble because you didn’t have anything else to do,'” Foley said. He elaborated, “Now, reading is literally the tenth choice. There are so many other things to do when you are on a plane. It’s not like the world is demanding what is going on with this Santa thing. I wrote this book and didn’t think there would be an audience for it. I was going to self-publish it for about 200 people.”

Foley had the backing of two key players who wanted to see the book reach more people. The writer told Still Real To Us, “There were two people out there who believed there was a larger audience out there for my book. Those people were Stephanie McMahon and Jason Pinter, the man who ended up publishing it. He is my publisher, editor and publicist. It is unheard of.”

After explaining the support he received from McMahon and Pinter, the interview took a unique turn.

Foley admired the official Still Real To Us t-shirt. He took a brief break from talking about “Saint Mick” to tell readers about his hilarious encounters with David Wills, the infamous crying wrestling fan, over the course of his life.

“Here’s the story. I’m not a drinker. I think that’s fairly well-known. When I was considerably heavier, 330 around a year and a half ago. I’m down to about 260ish now. I sat on the commode at a hotel in Florida. Well, it literally came out of the wall. I had to get a new room and transport all of my family’s stuff in the heat of the summer. I was pouring sweat,” Foley shared. “I looked at SportsCenter and they showed the ‘It’s Still Real To Me’ guy. I’m watching it, and the line that got me was actually when he said, ‘I want to know stories about a true legend, ‘Captain Redneck’, Dick Murdoch,'” Foley boisterously laughed. He began shaking his head, “It was at that point I had the realization that no matter what I did in my career, most of the world would look at what I did as a joke. I took a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and just chugged it.”

mick foley
Photo: Kevin Jackson Jr.

That wouldn’t be the last time Foley would see Wills. “It’s seven years later now. I’m doing my one-man show north of Atlanta and I see the ‘It’s Still Real To Me, Damnit’ guy. In my mind, I was like, ‘I’m meeting this real life legend.’ He goes, ‘I know you.’ I questioned him. ‘What do you mean you know me?’ He said, ‘I did your lawn when you lived in Atlanta.’ All of the sudden, I had this realization. In the infancy of the UFC, it was the Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn rematch.”

The author of “Saint Mick” promised fans there was a deliberate point to his story. “They changed all of the rules later because of this specific fight. Dan realized Ken was a counter-striker. Dan wasn’t expecting to be choked out at all. Dan didn’t make the first move and neither did Ken for about thirty minutes. They didn’t do too much. Dan wound up winning the decision but it wasn’t great,” he said. It was time for Wills to make a reappearance in Foley’s world. The 2013 WWE Hall of Famer continued, “I don’t want to make Ken upset because he is contributing to the Puerto Rico auction but it wasn’t the best fight that either guy had. There was a guy wearing an ECW shirt in the crowd so I just walked up to him and did the ‘ECW’ chant. He turned around and did a double take. I had no idea he would go on to be this legendary figure.”

That’s where things should have ended between Foley and Wills. It didn’t. “He said to me, ‘Hey! I have something for you that I want you to sign.’ I went out to his car and opened up his trunk. I described it as if I could not be less surprised if there were human body parts in there. His entire trunk was filled with wrestling magazines,” Foley feverishly remembered. He then smirked, “At that time, before the rise of the Internet, the only things around were The Observer and The Torch. I was like, ‘Oh my god. This guy is the biggest wrestling fan in the world.’ He told me he had a landscaping business. There was a time where I used to do the work around the house. There came a point where I just couldn’t keep doing that because I was so busy.”

What was said next would be considered shocking to even the most jaded professional wrestling fan. “It was at that time the ‘It’s Still Real To Me, Damnit’ guy became my landscaper. What a real small world, right? Wait a second. I have a new book out and we are talking about the ‘It’s Still Real To Me Guy,'” Foley shook his head in amused disbelief.

Refocused, Foley told Still Real To Us that putting together “Saint Mick” was one of the most intimate and challenging experiences in his life. “I had my concerns when I started writing. I went, ‘This is a downer, man.’ I was talking about some of the hardships that I had. The concussions and my body not reacting kindly to the things I had done to it. Then, this character, this beloved, iconic character named Santa came along at just the right time for me,” he said. Foley noted that he wasn’t the only professional wrestler who faced hardships after hanging up the boots. The “Saint Mick” author stated, “The hardest struggle for any guy in the wrestling business is trying to find something that made them feel the way that they did in the ring.”

Photo: Stefano Giovannini

The man who proudly wears the red suit wasn’t kidding. “You spend all that time getting to that point and then it’s gone. Most of the guys don’t truly appreciate it until it’s gone,” Foley reiterated.

After he retired as an active competitor, the former three-time WWE World Champion dipped his feet into the stand-up comedy realm to find that void that was missing in his life. He told Still Real To Us his experience about being a comic. “I had the one-man shows that I really enjoyed but man…they were a lot of work. I was a storyteller as opposed to a joke teller. You get five or six drunk guys in a crowd of two hundred people and it can really throw your rhythm off. When I see my fellow comics, we all bond over the worst shows.” Foley then remembered, “The worst shows always make for the best stories. Kind of like wrestling. I had Edge at an early show in Rochester. He came out to his music in this small club with less than 200 people in it. He went, ‘It’s amazing how it feels like you’re in an arena.’ That’s one of the themes in the book.”

The accomplished author would take the important lessons he learned from his time doing comedy and apply them to his role as Santa. “For my second appearance in the red suit, I went from 30 people at Jefferson, New Hampshire to doing it in front of thousands at Tribute to the Troops. Then, I did the Raw where Santa was run down by Alberto Del Rio. The next year, I returned to Raw and expected the same kind of treatment,” Foley said. He was about to be hit with a reality check at the time that would be more painful than being thrown off of a cell from The Undertaker. “Instead, they put me on Superstars,” Foley said while raising an eyebrow. The hard facts of life didn’t stop him from growing as a person. “I later came to realize, through trial and error, it’s not about the number of people out there–it’s about that special connection you can have even with that one child in a hospital room.”

Putting together his book was not an easy task. While penning “Saint Mick,” Foley had to be selective of the stories he wanted to tell. Foley told Still Real To Us that a lot of wrestlers have a hard time putting their stories on paper because of how long their careers are. “Sometimes, the most legendary performers in the wrestling business will have a very difficult time telling their story in their autobiography. They have to cram their life into 230 pages because they have 40 years of stuff to pick from,” Foley explained. “The World’s Friendliest Author” continued, “When you have the red suit, you experience a lot of touching stories. Deep down, I knew I had something to write about. I wasn’t sure if I waited another year to get to work that I would have the same momentum. I thought that the time was right. People were touched by it.”

saint mick

One person who was especially moved was none other than “The Billion Dollar Princess,” Stephanie McMahon.

“I think people should buy the book just for Stephanie’s foreword. It’s a thing of beauty. It really is. I was so touched that she spent so much time on it. I was flattered that she thought enough of me to spend that much time on it. I remember when she told me she was almost done with her first draft,” said the gracious author.

Foley was almost left speechless. “I went, ‘Stephanie, I wrote DDP’s foreword in about ninety minutes while I was watching television! It doesn’t have to be that good.’ Then you realize that is why the McMahon family is successful. They are perfectionists,” Foley noted.

The Hardcore Legend wanted the world to know that “Saint Mick” was something that he had to do and there was no way of getting around it. Foley said, “I think when I do something like this, in a sense, it’s like Will Ferrell doing a serious movie like ‘Stranger Than Fiction.’ The people go, ‘Alright. We understand that you need to do this, and we will be here for you, but we are going to take a pass on this one.'”

He then shrugged, “It’s alright because a lot of times those are the movies that mean the most to those guys because they tried something that was different.”

Before departing, Foley had some words of advice for readers out there who believe they have high levels of testicular fortitude.

“Some of this is quite sensitive, you know. A warning to all of the tough guys out there. When you get to the last couple of pages, don’t read it in front of people. Also, get your tissues ready because it really does get sensitive. I feel like I learned a lot and I had a story that I wanted to tell,” said Foley.

You can purchase Mick Foley’s “Saint Mick” by clicking HERE. You can also follow Mick Foley on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about Polis Books, click HERE.  Pictures were provided by Kevin Jackson.  More of Kevin’s work can be found by clicking here.  You can read more interviews exclusive to Still Real To Us by clicking here.