Date: December 13, 2004
Location: Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Mikemooneyham.com, SunSentinel (Alex Marvez), Armpit reader Dave McGuckin
The real-life heat between wrestling icons Ric Flair and Mick Foley dates back to 1990, when Foley had just started with WCW and Flair was heading the booking committee. It slowly built over the next two decades, coming to a head in 2004 when the two got into a very minor skirmish backstage.
Foley was not the first pro wrestler to write a book, but he was the first to be really successful with it. In his 1999 bestseller “Have a Nice Day,” Foley voiced his complaints with WCW in 1990, writing, “Ric Flair was every bit as bad on the booking side of things as he was great on the wrestling side of it.”
Foley was unhappy that Flair didn’t see his potential at the time, which is a valid point, and obviously Foley went on to draw millions of dollars for the WWF. Flair publicly said he wasn’t bothered by Foley’s comments in the book, and that he didn’t even read them. However, he must’ve been bothered somewhat, as when it came time to publish his own book (“To Be the Man” in 2004), he said disparaging things about Foley in what he admitted was a “receipt” for what Foley had written about him.
In Flair’s book, he wrote, “Foley has a cult following because of his contributions to hardcore wrestling. But hardcore is such a small part of the history of the business. When I was training, falling off a ladder was not a prerequisite to making it as a professional wrestler. Being fundamentally sound was. I don’t care how many thumbtacks Mick Foley has fallen on, how many ladders he’s fallen off of, how many continents he’s supposedly bled on, he’ll always be known as a glorified stuntman.”
The kicker was when Flair compared Foley’s talent level to that of Brutus Beefcake or the Ultimate Warrior, who are two men known in the industry for being poor workers in the ring. No matter what one thinks of Foley, that comparison by Flair was utterly ridiculous. Foley was several levels above either Beefcake or Warrior, and a far better promo than both of them put together. And while Beefcake connected with WWF fans to a degree, and obviously Warrior was a mega star, Foley connected as well. He also had superior ring psychology.
Foley took Flair’s comments far more personally than Flair took Foley’s. In October of 2004, Foley worked a show for Ring of Honor, and in a promo against Rick Steamboat, he took several shots at Flair that were only slight exaggerations of his own feelings: “I’m no Ric Flair because I’ve never carried Batista’s bags. I’m no Ric Flair because every once in a while I actually say something different. I’m no Ric Flair because I actually put my body on the line. I don’t do stupid things like this (face-first flop). I am no Ric Flair, and thank God for that. I’m no Ric Flair because I don’t draw comparisons between my genitals and a Disney theme park ride. And most of all, Steamboat, I’m no Ric Flair because when my time was up, I knew it was time to step aside for the sake of younger, hungrier, better wrestlers.”
WWE was taping Raw in Huntsville, and Foley was a late addition to the show. Before the show, Flair was in the cafeteria with his best friend and WWE road agent Arn Anderson.
One version is that Foley power-walked up to Flair and asked him to sign a book (one report said he threw it on the table) that would be auctioned off for charity. When Flair went to shake his hand, Foley refused.
Another version is that Flair is the one who approached Foley, and extended his hand. Foley refused, and said he wouldn’t shake his hand, but would appreciate it if he signed a book that he’d auction off for charity.
Clearly Foley was bothered not only by Flair’s comments in his book, but also that he was acting nice to his face while writing scathing things behind his back. While Foley is the last person to start or be goaded to fight, he’s also very proud and protective of his legacy in the business he loves.
In both versions, Flair threw a punch after Foley refused the handshake, and it connected. It was immediately broken up, but the heated words continued. Foley joked that Arn Anderson should lock them in a room together, which was a humorous reference to what Flair did to Eric Bischoff a year earlier when Flair physically attacked him. Flair didn’t think it was a joke, saying, “Fine, pick a room and may the best man walk out. Better yet, I’ll walk outside and get into the ring.”
Flair then walked through the arena and towards the ring, as the building was still mostly empty. Foley responded that he wasn’t going to fight a 55-year-old man, to which Flair replied that it wouldn’t matter since he couldn’t anyway. Flair continued, saying he wasn’t some big, tough fighter, but that he could certainly beat him.
The two wrestlers sat down with John Laurinaitis at one point, and it was said Flair and Foley cut world class promos on each other that were better than anything that had been on WWE TV recently. It’s not clear if some of the comments quoted above were from that sit-down with Laurinaitis, or prior to it.
They continued arguing over their legacies, with Flair saying Foley wasn’t in the league of the guys he wrestled night after night, like Bruiser Brody, Harley Race, Rick Steamboat, etc. Foley asked who had drawn more money, and Flair did admit that Foley had. Foley asked why Flair wanted to work a program with him in WWE, and Flair said he didn’t ask to, just that if management had asked him, then he would. Foley then said he wouldn’t work a program with Flair, because it would be rewarding bad behavior, something he wouldn’t even do with his own kids.
Foley told Flair that he read the original manuscript of Flair’s book, which was quite more harsh on Foley than the version that later got published. Flair was overheard saying he might sue whomever was responsible for leaking that info to Foley, as it was supposed to be confidential.
Several in the company thought the whole argument was a work, but it wasn’t. It was very real, although even those who knew it was real thought it was childish of each of them to argue about their respective legacies in the manner they did.
Nobody was punished, but obviously Flair was at fault for laying his hands on Foley. The two later worked out their differences and are friends today, reportedly having hashed it out over a plane ride in which the two were seated next to each other.
It’s clear Flair never would’ve written those things about Foley had Foley not started the war of words in his own book. Maybe Flair just said them to get under Foley’s skin in an act of revenge, or maybe he really does believe what he wrote. In fairness, both men wrote things that were exaggerated. Flair’s tenure as booker did see ratings climb, and Foley is of course worlds better in the ring than either Beefcake or Warrior. It’s unfortunate it happened and we’re glad the two no longer have heat with each other.