Last Word on Pro Wrestling’s series, War of the Words, explores the art and impact of the promo by looking back through the archives. This series will examine all kinds of promos, from the most memorable or ones that have been overlooked and are underrated, showing the background of the promo, the promo itself, the aftermath of the promo, and what came from it. Shifting focus to the Land of the Extreme, we take a look at the infamous “Cane Dewey” promo by Cactus Jack.
“Foley is God” fans would say, and not many would disagree with that sentiment. Mick Foley is indeed a wrestling icon amongst the sea of faces that have stepped in and out of the squared circle. Loved by just about everybody whether it’s the fans or his peers, Mick is a universally respected and adored figure. The man literally gave all he could to his adoring public; his blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention his severed ear, in service and love for the professional wrestling business. His uncanny ability to make fans feel things is second to none. At the drop of a hat, he can make people love him, then fear and detest him the very next moment. And that’s exactly what Cactus Jack did on a dark September day in 1995.
Background: Cactus Jack Reaches His Breaking Point with “Cane Dewey”
Cactus Jack’s time with Extreme Championship Wrestling was an extremely memorable one, no pun intended, full of violent encounters and scathing promos. The ECW disciples adored the ground that Jack walked on, as he supplied their need for blood every chance he gets. Cactus Jack never disappointed and would go to great lengths and sacrifice his body for everyone’s sadistic pleasure.
However, as time went on, the tides would turn slowly but surely. Cactus Jack began to reject his hardcore fame and the fans that made that happen. Also puzzled by a young upstart just breaking into the business, he turned his attention to his tag-team partner Tommy Dreamer and his quest to be christened by the ECW crowd as one of their own. Imploring the kid to not go down the same path he did, The Mad Man would also take the opportunity and address the rabid enthusiasts of the “Tribe of Extreme”. Foley would tell them about his genuine distaste of their morals and actions.
War of the Words: Cactus Jack Rejects ECW and Hardcore Wrestling
Cactus Jack was dumbfounded by Tommy Dreamer’s incessant need to be accepted by the ECW fans. He indirectly referenced the time Dreamer lost to The Sandman and the consequence being he had to get caned 10 times. Tommy took every searing blow and even politely asked for it at one point. And yet, it was The Sandman who was cheered and walked away as their hero. Foley was pleading with Tommy Dreamer and said:
“More than anybody else in that ECW dressing room, Tommy Dreamer, maybe more than anyone else in the wrestling industry you are willing to pay the price. To sweat, to bleed, to suffer. You’re willing to bear that cross. And I say, Tommy, DON’T DO IT! Because you see in order to sacrifice and bear that cross for them… it means that I’ve got to suffer too.”
He would continue to say that Tommy still has a choice. He’s young and his best years are still ahead. But not him, not Cactus Jack. He felt like he already dug his own grave and must lie in it. Jack went on to say:
“I’m telling you from a voice of experience that they’re not worth it, Tommy. THEY’RE NOT WORTH IT! You see you got the choice – NOT ME! I made my bed of nails and now I got no other choice but to be powerbombed on it. But you see Tommy, the world is smiling at you. The wrestling business is smiling at you. AND DON’T YOU FROWN BACK ON IT!”
Cactus Jack would go on to deem the applause and notoriety as “not worth it” anymore. He felt accepted but not respected and that no matter what he did it will never be enough.
“I’m going to take you back to a very deciding point in my life – a time when I believed in something. A time when I thought that my face and my name made a difference. Do you remember the night, Tommy Dreamer, because it’s embedded in my skull, it’s embedded in my heart, and it’s embedded in every NIGHTMARE that I will ever have again.”
Jack would painstakingly chronicle the exact moment his life changed forever:
“As Terry Funk took a broken bottle and began slicing and dicing Cactus Jack, the pain was so much that I’ll be honest with you Tommy. The pain was so much, Tommy, that I wanted to say I quit, Terry Funk, I give, I wave the flag, and I’m a coward – please don’t cut me anymore. When I saw my saving grace. You see, Tommy, I looked out in that audience, my adoring crowd, and I saw two simple words that changed my life.”
The straw that would break the proverbial camel’s back finally landed as Cactus Jack saw a horrific fan sign that broke his whole being:
“‘Cane Dewey.’ Somebody had taken the time and the effort and the thought to make a sign that said, ‘Cane Dewey’ and I saw other people around, as every moment in my life stopped and focused in on that sign and the pain that shot through my body became a distant memory- replaced by the pain that will be embedded in my skull ‘TIL MY DYING DAY! ‘Cane Dewey.’ ‘Cane Dewey.’ Dewey Foley is a three-year-old boy, YOU SICK SONS OF BITCHES!”
Mick Foley, the man behind the character, rose to the surface. He wore his heart on his sleeve and vented out his frustrations even more as he lost his composure and let loose:
“You ripped out my heart, you took everything I believed in and you flushed it down the damn toilet. You flushed my heart, you flushed my soul, and now it sickens me to sit back and see other people making the same mistake.“
Foley, being the wrestling genius that he is, instantly went back to work and Cactus Jack was once again in control. Cactus would smoothly mix kayfabe and storytelling seamlessly. He put Dreamer over as the “Heart and Soul” of ECW. Foley talked about how he traded the money, fame, and security that WCW offered for the unpredictability of ECW. He would also plead with Tommy Dreamer to rethink his choices and move on from the company. It’s simply never going to be enough for these fans according to Jack. Cactus cared for Dreamer and had only his best interest in mind.
Cactus Jack would put the punctuation on one of the best promos in wrestling. He said the following words directly to Tommy Dreamer:
“I’m saying to you – before I take these aggressions out on you – to look at your future and realize that the hardcore life IS A LIE, that these letters behind me are a blatant lie, that those fans who sit there and say ‘He’s Hardcore He’s Hardcore He’s Hardcore’, wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, you selfish son of a bitch!”
Aftermath: Mick Foley Tells All
The feud is one of the most underrated in ECW’s history. Shortly after, Foley would go to the WWE and introduce the monster known as Mankind. He cemented his place as one of the legends of this sport in his time with the company. Tommy Dreamer was finally accepted by the ECW fans as one of their own. Tommy stayed with the promotion until it folded in 2001; he became one of if not the greatest ECW had to offer.
In an interview decades later, Foley would state that the fan who made the “Cane Dewey” sign actually asked for his permission. Foley actually said yes and thought nothing of it initially. Afterward, his wife came to him and was so disgusted that someone would promote such violence against their three-year-old son. It would dawn on Mick eventually and he too was very angry which led to the promo. He said the promo materialized because of his disdain for the ECW fans at the time. He was also frustrated with the state of the industry as a whole.
Mick Foley did such an excellent job that the fan genuinely felt bad and apologized to Foley for the incident. Dewey, who was now old enough, was asked how he felt about it. He went on to say he thought it was “pretty cool” he got to be part of something historic. On that night, Mick Foley proved to everyone that professional wrestling is not only about action but about storytelling. And tell a legendary story Foley did.
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