Exclusive: “Russo’s Road Stories” Vol. 5: How The Heartbreak Kid Re-Booked WrestleMania XV

Vince Russo

russo's road storiesThroughout my career, I’ve always tried to reward those who were going above and beyond the call of the squared circle. Opposed to the factitious and magical “push” that many like to believe exists, my “promoting” of the talent was based strictly on their performance, just like any other boss would rate an employee. The more you gave, the more you got – it was that simple. 

Back in 1999, Mick Foley had done everything within his power to contribute to the success of the Attitude Era. Whether he was Mick Foley, Cactus Jack, Mankind, or even Dude Love, it didn’t matter. Mick came every night to play, always giving his best performance whether it was through his unique acting chops, or his unbelievable work ethic in the ring. With Mick, everything he did was based on pride. Through his years of accomplishments there was nothing left for him to prove to anybody, but Mick just wanted to be the best…for Mick.

I’m going to interrupt this story for a minute in order to share a sidebar with you that will paint the picture of how devoted Mick was to being the best. I can remember first hand watching Mick’s epic and monumental Hell in the Cell match that he had with Taker. No exaggeration – on two occasions, I thought Mick had seriously injured himself. So, when they brought him back on the gurney, I just wanted to be there to make sure he was all right. 

They wheeled Mick to a room where he waited for the trainers to show up. The one vision that I will never forget was seeing Mick’s teeth through the skin above his lip. As he laid there, beaten like a man who had just been run over by a mattress truck, Mick looked up at me and said, “How was it, Vince? Was it better than the match that Shawn had?” All I could think about was: Mick, you have a family…you have kids…and you’re just worried about your match being better then Shawn’s??? But that was Mick. I’ve never met anyone more prideful than him in my career.

Getting back to WrestleMania XV – with Mick’s contributions over the past year, I had pitched Vince a three-way for the World Heavyweight Title between Mick, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin as the main event for the most important show of the year. Vince didn’t hesitate for a second. He knew Mick was both worthy and deserving to be in that match, so he gave it the green light without ever thinking twice. To me, this was just one of those moments that made all the other crap worthwhile. Having the opportunity to tell Mick that he was going to be in the WrestleMania main event – in Philly, no less – was going to bring me more joy than perhaps even Mick himself. 

So, as soon as I got to the building for the next taping, I immediately went over and told Mick the news. Man…he was almost speechless – just humbled beyond words. He couldn’t thank me enough. Growing up as a kid jumping off roofs in Long Island, this was his ultimate dream. He had reached the pinnacle of a business that he loved more than anything else.

Feeling sky-high, I went back to work and started going about my business. Around the same time, I remember seeing Shawn Michaels.

Now, I’m a bit sketchy on this detail, but from what I can remember, I don’t think Shawn was even scheduled to be on the show that day. I think he was just there. At that time Shawn wasn’t the focal point, being that we were going with the “Big Three” at WrestleMania, and all our focus and attention was there. But, like Mick, the Attitude Era wouldn’t have happened without Shawn. And, on top of that, I don’t think many people remember that it was Shawn who practically single-handedly kept the entire company afloat the year before we hit pay dirt. So needless to say—I had much respect for the Heartbreak Kid. 

But, on this day I knew I was in trouble.

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