On this day in Pro Wrestling history, Mick Foley pushed the limits on what a human body could take during his Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker at WWE King of the Ring on June 28th, 1998. Are you feeling old yet? This legendary match is now 25 years old.
Since this match, there have been many matches that had dangerous stunts and even drops from higher altitudes than what Mick Foley felt. HOWEVER, what happened to Foley was real and weren’t planned stunts by the WWE company. Quite the opposite, as Foley kept his plans quiet from WWE management and the Chokeslam drop through the ceiling of the cage was 100% unplanned. THAT is the difference, as everything now is planned ahead of time and obviously safety precautions are taken. Hence, why all of those matches are forgettable and why Foley vs. Undertaker from King of the Ring 1998 is still talked about to this day.
Prior to 1998, the Undertaker and Mick Foley (as Mankind) had a great feud through 1996 and in my opinion, it woke up the Undertaker from the “fighting with many hosses and giants” nap that his career was taking during most of the 1990s. Foley was different, as he was a violent character with Mankind but willing to take the punishment. Thus, the Undertaker looked better when wrestling Mankind because the Undertaker could easily slam a smaller Mankind than say Giant Gonzalez, Yokozuna, or Mabel. As Cactus Jack previously, Foley was bumping for everyone like a champ and taking high risk spots (like powerbombs on concrete floors) whether it was in WCW or ECW. While Undertaker debuted with the WWE during late 1990, it is my opinion that his peak years began in 1996 thanks to Foley.
And remember, during the Foley feud from 1996, Paul Bearer would eventually turn on the Undertaker. Then, Paul Bearer would introduce Kane, the long-lost brother of the Undertaker who was thought to be dead from a funeral fire. Following Foley’s feud with Steve Austin, where Foley wrestled as a heel Dude Love, Foley returned to the Mankind character but with the Corporation influenced white shirt to show him as a confused character conflicted on where he’d go next. After the Austin feud, Mankind would team-up with Kane and we’d have a mini-feud between Undertaker/Steve Austin versus Kane/Mankind. This feud spun off into a “First Blood” WWE Title match between Kane and Steve Austin and the Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Mankind.
Sadly, not many people remember what else happened on this WWE King of the Ring 1998 show besides Foley’s match with the Undertaker in the Hell in the Cell. Overshadowed are moments like Kane actually winning the WWE Title over Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock winning the King of the Ring Tournament and defeating the Rock in the Finals, a fun match between X-Pac and Owen Hart, and the New Age Outlaws defeating the NEW Midnight Express (OK, I’m kidding on that last one). As I look back on this show, I’m realizing that TWO former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) legends are working for the WWE with Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. For the past decade, anyone with UFC credentials gets praised and pushed within the WWE. Oddly enough, this is probably the peak of Shamrock and Severn didn’t make much of an impact.
Everyone remembers Undertaker vs. Mankind at King of the Ring 1998, period. That match is legendary, but it also helped bring attention to much needed safety measures to protect future performers in Hell in a Cell matches or other death defying stunt attempts.
Before the match, reportedly, Mick Foley and Terry Funk were brainstorming ideas on how to differentiate the Undertaker vs. Mankind match from the In Your House: Badd Blood 1997 match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker. Much of that match was actually inside the ring except when a WWE employee was struck and needed medical attention to cause the door to be opened. Then, Michaels and Undertaker went outside the cage and it was then that Michaels took a dangerous bump when hanging off the side of the cage. Thus, Mick and Terry wanted to one-up that stunt and do something entirely different with the match.
“What if we started the match on top of the cage?”, they thought.
That is exactly what Undertaker and Mankind did. Instead of getting inside the cage, Mankind opts to climb the cage the cage on the outside instead (while also throwing a chair on top of the cage). The Undertaker arrives and follows Mankind to the top. Mind you, they didn’t have pre-cut holes as they’d have in future Hell in a Cell matches, so thus Mankind and Taker are climbing that thing in wrestling boots. As Foley said later, he had worries about climbing down the cage if he had to… But Foley didn’t have to climb down, as we’d find out soon enough. Furthermore, the Undertaker actually had a broken foot for this match. Could you imagine climbing a fence with a broken foot?
While on top of the cage, both wrestlers are beginning to break metal zip ties and the ceiling is beginning to fall apart. This would be Mick Foley’s undoing on the 2nd spot… However, the Undertaker could have taken a dangerous spot, as Mankind tried to suplex Foley but Undertaker countered it. Then, they did the PLANNED spot of Undertaker throwing Mankind over the side of the cage and onto the announcer’s table. When I say planned, this was between the Undertaker and Foley, and maybe loosely with other WWE officials. The spot was highly dangerous and Foley takes a flipping bump that could have been much worse. However, he did separate his shoulder on the fall and from that, the medical officials came down with stretcher to immediately attend to Mick Foley.
As they’re wheeling Foley to the back, he gets off the stretcher and starts to climb that Hell in a Cell cage once again where the Undertaker remains. Then, a major accident happened that could have been much, much worse. After brawling on the top, the Undertaker goes to Chokeslam Mankind. Thankfully, the wrestlers chose to do this spot over the center of the wrestling ring because had this been over a ring post, ropes, or the cement floor, Foley would likely pass away from landing badly on anywhere but a wrestling ring. Furthermore with Foley, he said he was exhausted and poorly sold the Chokeslam. What this means is that Foley didn’t leap upward like you’d normally do, which could have caused the downward impact of the Chokeslam to be much more severe.
As noted before, the ceiling of this Hell in a Cell structure was held together by metal zip ties and weight of two 300+ pound guys walking on each frame of the cage’s ceiling was causing those zip ties to pop. Well, the weight of Mankind crashing down from a Chokeslam actually caused that ceiling frame to get loose and Mankind came crashing down to the right legitimately. Making matters worse, the chair that Foley tossed on top of the cage was positioned exactly where Foley was to be chokeslammed. Not only did Foley fall for real, but that steal chair just crushed him and legitimately knocked him out. It is BRUTAL and the commentary of Jim Ross screaming legitimate concern has been played back and used in many memes ever since. Everyone rushes to the ring to help what could be a dead Mick Foley.
Somehow, and by the power of God or something else in the universe, Foley wakes up and not only finishes his match with the Undertaker, but also appears later to help interfere with the Austin and Kane Main Event Match. THAT IS CRAZY! Not only that, Foley had plans to use thumbtacks in the match and during the match, he remembered to pour them all over the ring. The Undertaker chokeslammed Foley onto those thumbtacks but after the match while medics are literally pulling thumbtacks out of Foley’s arm, he asked the Undertaker if they used thumbtacks or not. He was THAT out of it. Foley was concussed but he also lost some teeth, including one that got into his nasal cavity and appeared to stick out of his nose.
After the match, Vince McMahon reportedly told Foley to “please don’t do this kind of match again” and legitimate safety precautions were considered. The ceilings on Hell in a Cell were reinforced, which probably SAVED many wrestlers from harm, and any high risk bumps were planned in advance with extra precautions. Foley would later push the boundaries one more time to Vince’s dislike, specifically the Royal Rumble 1999 where the Rock pounded Foley with multiple Steel Chairshots to his head. Fast forward to Foley’s match with Triple H during early 2000 during a Hell in a Cell match, Foley does go through the top of the cage but it was obviously planned and the ring was adjusted to create a safe landing spot. I think like a year later, Rikishi was on the top of the cage and he took a safe fall from the top.
Foley would retire after Wrestlemania 16, but had several WWE matches after that and also performed for TNA. But to the level of this danger or degree, as seen at King of the Ring 1998, nothing quite as dangerous. The impact of this match is that is not only remembered 25 years later, but it did make Foley a bigger star. Steve Austin disposed of him after their post-Wrestlemania 14 feud and this match put fans on notice. Then, Foley introduced the world to Mr. Socko and was converted into a full babyface. Honestly, the Hell in a Cell match, combined with Foley’s personal story, really boosted the sympathy towards Foley. If he’s willing to nearly kill himself in a match, then he must love performing for fans. And he did.
Rest of 1998 saw Foley grow stronger and stronger as a babyface and then he was placed into an awesome late 1998 and early 1999 feud with the Rock. The storyline and matches were seriously peak Attitude Era stuff and it allowed Foley to become a WWE Champion. Things kept opening up for Foley, as his auto-biography sold well and seriously opened up the door for other wrestlers to tell their life’s story on paper. I personally appreciated that, as disliked reading long novels but found reading wrestler biographies to be a breeze! Then, advertisers started using Foley, such as Chef Boyardee.
The crazy thing about Foley’s dangerous stunts and matches is that he didn’t need to do those wild stunts… He was a great wrestler who cut amazing promos. That said, his ability to withstand punishment and remain not just alive, but able to keep fighting really grew the admiration and respect by wrestling fans. Foley is a complete unicorn when it comes to professional wrestling and Jim Ross really hit a homerun with that signing in 1996 even though Vince McMahon was reluctant about Foley at the time. Then, Vince saw his matches and those one-on-one interview segments with Jim Ross, and he was hooked. Then, the “many faces of Foley” between switching between Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack created so many storyline possibilities but also helped sell extra merchandise. You gotta get all 3 Jakks figures, guys!
That said, this King of the Ring 1998 match is remembered because it was one of the earlier Hell in a Cell matches, before the concept was overused, and also because of the unplanned disaster that it became. I’m still amazed that Foley not only survived that Chokeslam bump, but was able to function afterward and remain as intelligent as he is. Not just the impact of that ring, but the chair slamming on his head. Just brutal… And then, he finished the match and later appeared during the Austin/Kane match. I don’t know how Foley operates the way he does…
Get this… So I’m tuning into WWE King of the Ring 1998’s Pay Per View with my usual buddies and it was announced that it was in Pittsburgh, PA… Damn it, I was so pissed because I probably would have attended this show, as it’s the most local city to me, had I known the WWE’s travel schedule better back then. I would have LOST MY MIND if I saw this match live in-person, just as a lost my mind watching it on Pay Per View as it happened.
25 years ago, Foley vs. Undertaker took place. Feeling old yet?
The current wrestling industry needs to realize that their hardcore stunts aren’t remembered like the thinks that Foley did. Why? Well, obviously, Foley took that punishment for real and what you see now is planned. But nobody did these dangerous stunts before Foley was around and thus it was unique. When you see people getting thrown through tables during a regular match on RAW, Smackdown, or Dynamite, you’ve seen it a thousand times already and know that it’s a planned safe stunt. Am I saying that wrestlers take more risks and not be safe? NO!!!!!! What I’m saying is “LESS IS MORE” and to quote the Barenaked Ladies, “IT’S ALL BEEN DONE… Before!”. Nothing what WWE, NXT, AEW, GCW, or Indy wrestlers try to day is unique. When something violent happens, wrestling fans are desensitized to it and thus creates a lesser impact. Fans still remember Foley vs. Undertaker in that Hell in a Cell cage.
This is definitely a Pay Per View and match to check out on your WWE Network or Peacock. 25 years ago, the King of the Ring 1998 was held and the Undertaker broke Mick Foley in half.