Point being: you know you're watching TV history when your teenage buddies don't hesitate to call you well after many people's bedtimes, just so they can express their incredulousness at what they just saw.
The 1998 King of the Ring is barely remembered for the tournament, nor for the World title change in the main event. Instead, it was the night that The Undertaker nearly threw Mick Foley to his death on two occasions (the second one wasn't planned - the cell roof broke, to each man's surprise, if that's even the word). It's one of the most famous matches in the history of professional wrestling, and for good reason.
With the recent acknowledgement of the 20-year anniversary, let's look back at some details of that infamous bout, one that changed the game forever.
10. It Was Terry Funk's Idea To Start The Match On Top Of The Cell
The match would be the second to take place inside the Hell in a Cell structure. Not even nine months had passed since Undertaker and Shawn Michaels raised the bar with the maiden brawl inside the Cell, earning raves for their creative, highly-violent battle (Kane's debut in the closing stages made it even more legendary). Shortly before King of the Ring, Foley re-watched that match alongside dear friend and fellow hardcore icon Terry Funk. They would both concede that topping Undertaker vs. Michaels was going to be extremely hard.
But the two would get to work brainstorming ways in which to make the forthcoming Cell match a spectacle unto itself. It was Funk who (per Foley's recollection) laughingly said: "maybe you should let him throw you off the top of the cage." He and Foley would trade other out-of-this-world ideas that would put Foley in severe physical jeopardy, chuckling at how off-the-wall they were. Then Mick, perhaps against his better judgment, said to Funk, "I think I can do it."
9. The Undertaker Worked The Match With A Broken Foot
Although he would be in by far the better shape of the two gladiators coming out of the match, it wasn't as though Undertaker was 100 per cent healthy going in. With a few exceptions, Undertaker missed a number of dates throughout the month of June while dealing with a broken foot (though the Wrestling Observer reported bone chips in his ankle). The injury still plagued him during the bout, as evidenced when Undertaker climbs down into the cage after Foley's second fall, and he noticeably hobbles after his rough descent.
Comparing a broken foot to the laundry list of ailments plaguing Foley in the aftermath is frankly no comparison at all. But it should be noted that Undertaker did work the match with a considerable hindrance of his own. Not that Undertaker's own toughness has ever come into question.
8. Mick Foley Lied To Vince McMahon Ahead Of The Match
Even with all the risky stunts and general wildness that's taken place in WWE over the years, many performers have noted that Vince McMahon urges caution and safety in their performances. Edge has said that McMahon would a routine, "spectacular, but safe" speech to the TLC guys before their matches, while Rob Van Dam noted to me in an interview that at Money in the Bank 2013, Vince told him: "Remember, you're here for many matches, not just one," reminding Van Dam to not go too extreme in his match.
McMahon understandably would be concerned about the health of Foley, one of the boldest risk-takers of all, especially in the run-up to a match that promised danger and destruction. Foley claimed in a recent interview that he had actually lied to Vince, telling him that he had been on top of the Cell earlier that day in a walkthrough and that he felt totally safe up there. In reality, Foley had not climbed the cage at all, and says if he *had*, he would've ended up nixing the planned throw-off, because the height absolutely spooked. Once the match started, there was no backing out.
7. Blacking Out
Due to the inhuman amounts of punishment that Foley endured on that night, one could understand how his brain would have no doubt been rattled, and thus his memories of the match are foggier than a London morning. For the most part, Foley was able to recall most of the instances of the bout, except for one notable portion.
When Mankind was deposited through the Cell's roof panel in an unplanned stuntman fall, he understandably lost consciousness. By his account, there were about 30 or 40 seconds that passed that he has no memory of, waking up to find Terry Funk's shoes sitting next to him (Funk's shoes inexplicably came off during an Undertaker attack, whilst stalling for time and allowing Foley a chance to recover). Foley had awakened to find the sneakers sitting by his head, and was utterly baffled. It's the only part of the match that Foley still draws a blank on.
6. What Was Supposed To Happen?
The match would continue on, even after Foley fell backward to the canvas from a height of at least 12 or 13 feet. Undertaker claims he tried to tell Mankind to stay down, but Foley pressed onward, despite a dislocated shoulder, internal injuries, teeth knocked out, and just flat out being knocked silly. That Chokeslam bump wasn't supposed to break the Cell's roof panel, so how *were* the two supposed to re-enter the ring after climbing up that second time?
Foley claimed that the roof panel was supposed to sag a bit, billowing toward the ring (without completely giving way). From there, Undertaker would kick Mankind through the widening gap that the sag created, as the panel pulled away from the horizontal beam. As Foley was wedged through, he would have taken a more controlled fall to the canvas, after which Undertaker would follow him down to continue the melee.
5. Smile, You're On TV
The most famed visual of the match is not even that of Foley mid-flight, hurtling toward possible doom. It was the sight of the future best-selling author, slumped against the bottom turnbuckle with what looked like a demented grin on his face, one of his teeth nestled in his mustache hairs. It's the "go-to" shot of Foley ostensibly laughing off the carnage inflicted upon him, as the veritable deathmatch inexplicably continues.
In actuality, Foley wasn't intending for his face to twist into that masochistic smile - it was just fortuitous to the story that he happened to be wearing that expression. It was around this point that Foley discovered a sizeable hole near his lip, and was trying to push his tongue through it as a means of surveying the damage. Nonetheless, the visual is an indelible part of WWE lore, regardless of the actual context.
4. A Piercing Reminder
At long last, the grueling exhibition of mayhem drew to a close, and even then there were instances of further brutality. After introducing a river of thumbtacks into the match, it was Mankind who would be slammed twice onto the pointed objects, before ultimately being Piledriven with Undertaker's Tombstone. Mercifully, the spectacle had ended.
To give you an idea of just how out of it Foley was, when Undertaker went to check on him in the first aid room afterward, and a groggy Foley asked his friend and opponent, "Did I use the thumbtacks?" Somewhat bewildered, Undertaker roared, "Look at your arm, Mick!" Sure enough, Foley saw that his limb resembled an office's bulletin board, tacks embedded deep into his flesh. Well, that answered *that* question...
3. A Heart To Heart Conversation
The toll that some of Mick Foley's matches have taken on his immediate family has been shown to the viewing world. Wife Collette and then-young children Dewey and Noelle were shown at the 1999 Royal Rumble, horrified and tearful as Foley took a frenzied beating with a steel chair at the hands of The Rock. Collette was often concerned about her husband's physical well-being, particularly with the matches he was prone to taking part in.
Foley did not immediately call his wife, as was his custom, after the Cell match, due to his being in no condition to do much of anything. When Foley finally did get a hold of Collette, who expressed horror and sorrow at watching her husband subject himself to such punishment, she broke down crying during the conversation, prompting Foley to seriously consider retirement.
2. Concern At The Top
As noted earlier, Vince McMahon is known to express compassion and concern for his wrestlers that are going to be taking part in matches with an abundant amount of risks. Certainly McMahon was no different in the case of Foley on that night, telling his star mauler: "You have no idea how much I appreciate what you have just done for this company, but I never want to see anything like that again."
On the hand, sure, the boss understands how bad it looks if one of his employees gets badly mutilated in the course of the show's entertainment, but one assumes that McMahon genuinely cared for the safety and health of Foley (even if Foley would take more risks in future bouts). McMahon himself has taken inhuman amounts of punishment in his matches, as some have noted that Vince feels he should be willing to take the same beatings that he asks his employees to. If that's the case, then that's definitely a check in the positive column for the McBoss.
1. A Different Path
Up through to that Cell match, Foley had been synonymous with death-defying spectacles, be they Japanese deathmatches, brutal slugfests with Vader, barbed wire massacres, or getting tossed off the top of a 16-foot-high steel cage. The Foley brand offered much in the way of chum for the maw afflicted with blood lust.
It was after that match that Foley began to, in his own words taken from a 2018 Sports Illustrated interview: "believe in his own mortality." The Mankind that followed was a kinder, gentler character that didn't rely on dangerous risks. Mr Socko, slide-whistle humour, surreal conversations, and his general affability would begin to take precedent over the unmatched barbarism of his prior identity. The introduction of Dude Love in 1997 was meant to give Foley a reprieve from the hellacious matches expected of Mankind or Cactus Jack, but Hell in a Cell would be a major wake-up call. Mick Foley has always possessed a lovable charm, and post-Cell, we began to see much more of it.