Stimulus: Mick Foley – Countdown to Lockdown
The oversaturated, often ghostwritten world of the wrestler’s autobiography has been worn out since Mick Foley single-handedly created – or at least legitimized – the field. His first of four autobiographies, titled Have a Nice Day!, was a remarkable account of pro wrestling, compiled from handwritten notebooks written in Foley’s own hand. It remains the benchmark against which every other pro wrestler’s memoirs are judged. Since then, Foley tends to pop up every few years with a new book of varying quality detailing his life’s recent events.
Of these follow-ups, Countdown to Lockdown finds itself in the middle of the road. The main thrust of the book details Foley’s exodus to TNA, wrestling’s number two promotion, where the old gun attempts to deliver a solid match within a steel cage. The days count down as Foley’s fears, insecurities, and physical condition threaten to overwhelm him, yet he pulls himself together.
The ultimate problem that plagues this book is the insecurity. Foley’s accounts of the wrestling world are still enthralling, and it’s still really easy to get behind him in his newest adventures. But wow, does he come off as nervous in this one. The book’s scatterbrained tangents, bashful asides, and schoolboy shout-outs to the ladies take a heavy toll on the narrative.
As such, the best chapters in Countdown to Lockdown have nothing to do with the main story. Foley’s account of his marginalization within and departure from the WWE, and his take on wrestling’s many casualties and tendencies toward substance abuse, feature some of the book’s boldest writing. Foley’s criticisms of his old job, jaded fans, and the industry at large are delivered largely with fairness and without bitterness, though a few cheap shots do come out from time to time.
Another key element in the book is the description of Foley’s charitable work, both as a wrestler and outside of it. His work with disabled kids and wounded soldiers has gone back for years, but Foley spends a lot of time in this book promoting his favorite charities, particularly his work sponsoring children in foreign countries. It’s interesting to read about his impact upon a village in Sierra Leone, a place where the celebrity of pro wrestling doesn’t reach yet where Foley is treated as a hero. These stories might have felt out of place in the average ghostwritten wrestling memoir, but are completely fitting alongside Foley’s optimistic style.
But the most notable part of this tale is, believe it or not, Tori Amos. Though she’s been mentioned in Mick’s other books, here he devotes an entire chapter to praising the singer. In what basically amounts to a fan letter, he breaks down the lyrics to his favorite Amos song, builds up the nerve to meet her, and then agonizes over whether he creeped her out. It’s a strange and occasionally fawning part of the book, but one which ties in with the main narrative later on. In the larger context, it makes sense, but the presentation could have been less starstruck.
It’s an odd, meandering piece of work, but Countdown to Lockdown should appeal to the already converted wrestling fan. For the newcomer, however, start with his first book. Foley’s gift for writing may not be in full force here, but it is present often enough to signify that, while his wrestling career is coming to a close, he may still have a few good books left in him.