“And Foley puts Konkle through the Spanish Announce table with a Double Arm DDT!” I heard JR’s play-by-play of the wrestling match that I was sure to have with Mick Foley after our show at the Improv. “For most people, he’ll take a picture. But if I do really well tonight,” I thought. “Maybe he’ll break out the bag of thumbtacks.”
My car had drifted onto the shoulder of the highway and the rumble strips on 376 woke me from my day dreams. I had been inside and outside my head all day. The Wednesday night show had been sold out for the better part of a month. This was my WrestleMania. The Grand Daddy of them all.
Mick Foley is one of those people who is so engrained in the fabric of my childhood, that when I saw him in person, I thought I would swoon. My brain wouldn’t be able to conjugate the TV personality with the living human. My left hand would reach up to my forehead, palm out. My other hand would drop a lacy kerchief as I collapsed to the floor. Deep breaths, Jeff.
I arrived at the Improv and was greeted by Dom, who runs the sound and lighting.
“Is he back there?” I asked, pointing to the tiny green room.
“Oh yeah,” he said with a smirk. He could see me hyperventilating.
I walked through the packed house to the green room door and gave a mousey knock before entering. And there in his stained sweatpants and Santa Claus shirt, was the hardcore legend. I introduced myself and like any MC asked for how he’d like to be brought up to the stage.
“Just say that I was the 3 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, I’m in the WWE Hall of Fame…and I think that’s it,” he said. Simple enough. I started to close the door. The show was starting in 5 minutes.
“Wait, actually do you want a cheap pop from the crowd?” he asked. I don’t know much but when Mick Foley sees an opportunity for a pop, I’ll take it.
“You can say that I learned how to wrestle here in Pittsburgh. And they’ll go nuts.”
“Ok, sweet!” I started to close the door.
“Wait, wait. Instead of saying ‘here in Pittsburgh’ say ‘here (pause) right here in Pittsburgh!’ That will get them going.”
“‘Here…right here in Pittsburgh.’ Got it,” I said as I turned to start the show.
“Wait, wait, wait. Let’s strategize here. What if I bring you back up on stage and we play it off like I’m mad at you for stealing my cheap pop? Then I can dress you down and they’ll love it. That will get us some heat.”
I started realizing what was happening. I was about to job to Mick Foley in order to get him over with the crowd. And that’s basically all I could ask for out of life. I know I’m breaking kayfabe right now, but it’s too good not to mention.*
I went up and did my set, which went well and brought Mick up the way we discussed. I handed the microphone to him and he was already grumbling at me. I played it off like I was confused and sorry. He started his set and called me back onto stage.
“The one thing you’ll need to learn from working with me is that you never, ever steal my cheap pop,” he said. The crowd was bought into the work. Some people were concerned that I was about to get reamed out. “What’s your name again?” he asked.
“It doesn’t matter what your name is!” he yelled and the place went bananas. “Well, I’ll say this. The undercard isn’t supposed to upstage the main event. But you set the tone and you did a nice job.”
I walked off stage and people were high-fiving me. I was high-fiving myself. That moment was one of the highlights of my comedy career. One of my childhood idols paid me a very sincere compliment. He likes me!
Now where are those thumbtacks?
* That sentence might not make any sense for normal, functioning non-obsessive wrestling fans.