Mick Foley still recalls his transformation into Cactus Jack.
Slipping on the tattered t-shirt.
Working through the stiffness in his knee to put on his pants.
Lacing up the trademark leopard-print boots.
The final step was mental, as the friendly, jovial Foley became a certifiable mad man in the ring.
“Cactus Jack required me to be tougher and meaner,” said Foley. “The tough part for me was to be more aggressive because that wasn’t my natural manner, but the red Santa suit allows me to be kinder and wiser.”
Just like Foley felt indestructible in the flannel and boots, he also comes alive when donning his Santa Claus suit.
“I was so caught up in the moment that I believed I was Cactus Jack when I was out there, and that is how I feel now in the Santa suit,” said Foley, who is a beard-wearing member of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. “Christmas brings out the best in people. I know there are those who think it’s overly commercialized, but all I see in Santa Claus is the ability to bring joy to people. When I think of Christmas, I think of joy.”
The WWE Hall of Famer’s new book, Saint Mick: My Journey from Hardcore Legend to Santa’s Jolly Elf, allows readers the opportunity to connect with Foley on an intimate level as he reveals how he became so wrapped up in Christmas, including his visits to children on Christmas Day in his Santa suit.
“I had visited a little boy in the Stony Brook Cancer Center in New York, and he was so sick I doubted he’d even remember the visit from Santa,” recalled Foley. “I was worried that the visit wasn’t successful, but I looked over at his mom, and she had tears streaming down her cheeks, so touched that someone was going out of his way to try to bring some joy to her son. I gave her my information and asked if she’d like me to visit the house as Santa. I really wished I could have done more for them.”
Foley later learned from the hospital that the boy would love a Christmas Day visit from Santa Claus, but his family did not want to bother Foley with the request.
“When I learned that, my response was, ‘Please tell the family there is no place I would rather be,’” said Foley. “When I got to the house, I was expecting that same exhausted little boy, but there was a startling metamorphosis when I opened the door and saw the happiest little boy.”
After his house visit as Santa, Foley thought back to a list he had once made of his most memorable moments in wrestling.
“I wrote out a list, which included the match with Shawn Michaels at Mind Games, my match with Sting in WCW, and the interview with Jim Ross,” said Foley. “As I was leaving their house, I was thinking that I should put my visit to that child’s house atop that list. As crazy as it sounds, I believed I was Santa. So did the family. I’ll never forget that moment, it resonated so deeply in me, this ability to take children’s minds off their problems.”
The 52-year-old Foley, who is a father of four, saw his love affair with Christmas blossom when he wrestled for World Championship Wrestling.
“My oldest son was born in February of ‘91 and I started working for WCW in September of ‘91. I was on the road almost constantly for WCW. We even worked Christmas night. I was away a lot, but I found the way that we could maximize that Christmas season was to build it up for months.”
Foley and his wife, Colette, have four children, and the family embraced the yearly visits to the Santa’s Village theme park, which is tucked away in Jefferson, New Hampshire.
“We’ve gone to Santa’s Village in New Hampshire every year since 1996,” said Foley. “Since I was always on the road with wrestling, we built the Christmas season up for months. I remember when my daughter Noelle was young, I’d put Al Snow on the phone with her, and Al would ask her where she was going in a few months. Noelle would answer, ‘Santa’s Viwwage.’ Maybe I overdid it, but my children still gravitate to that place, they have so many great memories of it.”
Foley grew up in Long Island in a house with his parents and older brother John, and he waited all year for the suspense of Dec. 24 and the overwhelming joy of waking up early on Christmas Day.
“We lived in a very modest house and we didn’t get too much material-wise the rest of the year, but my parents believed, with the help of Santa, of course, in making that Christmas morning really special,” said Foley. “I’ll always remember the anticipation of Christmas morning.”
Foley admitted that his newest book is the most personal he has ever written.
“It’s extremely personal, and I originally planned on self-publishing for 100 or 200 people, but the two people who changed my mind were my publisher/editor/publicist Jason Pinter and Stephanie McMahon,” said Foley. “Stephanie was my weekly sounding board in WWE. When it came time to select someone to write the foreword for the book, I told Stephanie that she wasn’t just my first choice, she was my only choice.
“Even before I decided to publish, Stephanie grew to really take an interest in it. She did a remarkable job with the foreword, considering the amount of time and effort she put into it, while I wrote my foreword for Diamond Dallas Page in 90 minutes while watching TV.”
Foley captures the spirit of Christmas in his book, as well as his genuine joy of giving himself to others. The most touching parts of his work as Santa detail the interactions with children.
“The goal is to turn a hospital room into a little wonderland during a visit from Santa,” said Foley. “At the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, there was a little girl in quarantine. I couldn’t go into her room so, from the threshold of the doorway, I told this little girl about the box of ‘Fairy Dust’ I was holding. I really built up that box of fairy dust, and I’ll never forget the look on her face when I opened it up.
“I broke down afterward in the hallway, and I’m so grateful that I am in a place where I can spread that type of joy. That’s more a testament to that red suit than anything else. If you believe in what you’re doing, that suit has the ability to bring out the best in you.”