Author’s Note: In August 2016, I had the honor and privilege of meeting WWE Hall of Famer and New York Times best-selling author, Mick Foley, at an autograph session he was doing in my hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. As a longtime fan of professional wrestling, I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to come face-to-face with someone I’ve watched on T.V and admired for as long as I can remember. I thought this would be my one and only chance to meet Mick, but was surprisingly wrong. The following article is about why I was wrong, and how Mick has helped me make memories that I will hold in my heart forever.
It was around 2:30 p.m. on June 28, my birthday. The warm summer air engulfed my lungs as I waited for my mom to get me in her van so she and my younger brother could load my wheelchair in the back. We were headed to Millvale, Pennsylvania – one of the very last stops on Mick Foley’s Twenty Years of Hell US tour to commemorate twenty years to the day since his legendary Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker.
I was filled with excitement knowing that in a few short hours, I’d be listening to the Hardcore Legend himself recount that historic night in his own words, but I was also filled with a quiet, simmering uncertainty.
It wasn’t because this would be my second time meeting Mick.
Nor was it because I was afraid he wouldn’t remember me or the fact that I have cerebral palsy. It was instead because of a series of messages exchanged on social media that led to Mick offering to set aside tickets to his June 28th show in Millvale – about two hours away from Altoona. I replied and politely thanked him the generous offer, not thinking anything of it.
I remembered that I had sent out a tweet about my recently published book, entitled How To Wait, a few days before this – which was seen by someone who I assumed ran Mick’s Twitter account. A notification popped up on my phone a few hours later, saying that I had received a reply, which again circled back the initial offer for the tickets.
I replied again, expressing how much I’d love to go to this show but wasn’t hanging my hopes on it. I knew about the show, but it wasn’t like I absolutely had to go, as I figured tickets were a pretty penny – and far, far out of my (or my parents’) range. I explained that I would need handicap seating if I were to go, and how that pushed the thought of going even further away. I sent the message and thought that was it.
I received another reply a few hours later – just as I did before. This one read, “I’ll be happy to check on availability.”
Granted, I’ve followed Mick on social media for years, but have never given much thought as to whether or not he actually wrote his own posts on Facebook and Twitter. Truth be told, I admittedly find myself thinking the same thought most people have when it comes to celebrities and social media: ‘Their team wrote that for them.’
Being a writer and author, I’m always very diligent and careful about who I communicate with. Still, the messages coming – and me being me, I cautiously kept replying, because again, I thought I was communicating with Mick’s agent or one of his representatives – not Mick himself. This continued for weeks, then months leading up to the show. That’s why doubt slowly began to creep in when this exchange started. ‘Nah, this can’t be real,’ I thought to myself. ‘This can’t actually be Mick.’
I started to think something was odd, perhaps even downright scary about this. I even went as far as to convince myself that whoever this was just wanted to be nice and that was the extent of it. Everything in me wanted to believe that it was Mick himself who I’d been talking to, but I still somehow felt as if I was cheating myself by thinking otherwise.
It’s now 6:00 p.m. Minutes before the scheduled Meet and Greet before the show. I roll into the venue in my wheelchair with my mom and brother in tow. A cool breeze blows through what looks to be a church converted into a pub or a bar. We are led to three seats in front of a stage by a door man who says, “Mr. Foley reserved those seats for you!” That was truly my first indication that all the communication on my phone was legitimate, but I held back from getting overly emotional.
We get settled in our seats as my brother casually walks around. He stops cold when he sees a small room off to the side before running back to our spot in front of the stage.
Erin, you can get excited now. Mick is sitting back there!
Just as he said this, a line of people began to form around the sea of chairs that were set up. I made my way into that line and inched closer to the small room my brother was talking about. My mom stayed beside me through the line. I keep looking over the crowd to see if I could see Mick, but I wasn’t close enough yet. I could see the room after about ten minutes of maneuvering – enough to catch a glimpse of the man himself!
My mind was immediately drawn back to the blazing hot summer’s day in 2016, when I first met Mick at an appearance in Altoona. I was completely overwhelmed by his kindness, generosity and how he insisted on getting get up out of his seat and walking over to me so I could bypass a table that I couldn’t maneuver my chair around. Before I could tell him how incredibly impactful he has been on my life, he gave me a big hug and signed my copy of his autobiography, Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks.
Now, my only hope was that he was still the same gentle human being he was when I met him that day. I stole a few more glances as the line I’d now been in for what seemed like an eternity started to move a bit faster. I wanted to steal one more quick glance and look away, but I noticed Mick had spotted me from afar. He made sure I knew he saw me by waving at me with Mr. Socko on his hand and yelling out, “Hi, Erin!”
That was it for me.
I knew it was safe to let all of my emotions out at that very moment, because this was tangible proof that the messages on my phone were indeed the real deal. My mouth ran dry and I didn’t know what to think or say, so I burst into tears. Not because I was sad, but because this was actually happening – and the only thing I had to rely on to get me here – at least on my end, was my phone. Absolutely nothing else.
I stopped at the entrance of the tiny room where Mick was sitting – and just like he did two years ago, he got up out of his seat and walked over to me. I think he noticed I was so emotional that I couldn’t even speak.
“It’s OK, Erin,” he said as he gently put his hand on my shoulder. “I want you to have fun tonight!”
We talked for a few moments and shared a hug before he signed a picture I brought with me. At this point, I thought my night couldn’t get any better – but as I’d find out a bit later, Mick had one more surprise up his sleeve.
The show begins with an electric performance of Mick’s entrance music by Nita Strauss, guitarist for Alice Cooper. Then, the lights went up and the sold-out crowd goes wild for the man of the man of the hour!
Bigger tears begin to fill my eyes because I can’t hold myself back anymore. I laugh, cheer and cry some more as Mick brought the crowd into the moments that led to that historic match with The Undertaker – mixed in with his experiences of being a best-selling author.
There’s no energy left in my body from crying and screaming my lungs out while he’s standing a few feet away from me, but I don’t care. I‘m having the time of my life! Three amazing, incredible hours pass.
The lights go up again, and an announcer goes into the sea of humanity – with WWE cameras following him – for a Q&A segment. Questions like, “Mick, how did you prepare for the match?” echo through the building.
It was then that the announcer reveals this entire show, including the Q&A, is being filmed to air on the WWE Network at a later date in September. The crowd erupts. I start crying again, but in the midst of all of this, Mick says, “Wait!” as he walks over to where I’m sitting and points to me.
This young lady right here – Erin – is my guest tonight. She’s a fellow author and just published a book!
With that, my mom raises my hand, as if in victory.
I’ve been thinking of the right words – and the right way, to thank Mick for making my 33rd birthday a day I will remember for the rest of my life. As it turns out, I wasn’t communicating with his agent or someone else in the months leading up to this day – and I am so glad I was wrong!
So, Mick, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. I hope this article does justice to the incredible kindness you’ve shown me and the lifelong memories you’ve now helped me make. You may be the mastermind behind Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind – but in my mind, you’re a gentle giant with one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. Have a nice day!
Photos courtesy of the author.