Three-time World Wrestling Federation champ Mick Foley is flying high.
No, he's not hurling himself off the top of a 20-foot cage.
Hot on the heels of his 1999 best-selling autobiography, Have a Nice Day, the 300-pound wrestling legend is back with a second volume of memoirs, and the crowd seems to approve: Foley Is Good hit bookstores in late May and it's already No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list.
Pleasure and Pain
Foley — better known to fans as "Mankind" — made his pro wrestling debut in 1986 and quickly earned a reputation for enduring pain. For years, he toured the world, hammering his body in brutal encounters that included thumbtacks, barbed wire and beds of nails.
But violence in the ring took a tremendous toll on Foley's body. He's sustained a legion of injuries including eight concussions, five incidents of broken ribs, a broken cheekbone, second-degree burns and a torn abdominal.
In 1994, Foley lost two-thirds of his right ear while performing one of his signature moves called the "hangman" in Germany.
"I'd done it a lot of times and always managed to get free," he recalls. "In this case the ropes, which were elevator cables covered in rubber, were just too tight, so when I squeezed my head out, it more or less pushed my ear off my head."
In the end, were the fans and the fame worth the physical damage?
"Yeah, definitely," says Foley. "I'm pretty sure I'll suffer to some degree for the rest of my life, but I don't think that's any different from any football or basketball player."
In his book, Foley takes on critics who blame the WWF for the recent rise in backyard wrestling leagues and wrestling-related injuries among kids.
"If we are supposed to be blamed for the backyard injuries, then maybe we ought to start blaming Mia Hamm for the proliferation of women's knee injuries," he says. "It's not fair in either case."
It's really up to parents, says Foley, to establish guidelines and educate their kids about wrestling moves that could damage the spinal cord or lead to other serious injuries.
"Anybody with a ninth-grade education can teach their kids basic rules of human anatomy," he says. "If the kids don't pay attention, then it's time to turn off the TV."
Foley chronicles a devastating 1999 "Royal Rumble" match against wrestling giant The Rock that didn't turn out as planned.
The idea was simple, he writes: Two guys would beat the hell out of each other until one yelled the magic words, "I Quit."
In the script, Foley, handcuffed and down on his knees, would take five unprotected shots to the head with a steel chair. But five shots turned to eleven, and Foley was left bruised and bloodied, with a dislocated jaw and a four-inch gully on the right side of his head.
"I was in a match that had gotten carried away," he recalls. "I was suffering a great deal, and I wanted it to end."
Foley's wife and kids were among the 20,000 onlookers that night who watched in horror as Mankind was beaten to a pulp.
Concerned about the effects of ring violence on his kids and the impact on his body, Foley decided to quit the profession.
In February 2000, Foley went head to head against Triple H, one of the WWF's most ruthless competitors, in a bloody, hair-raising bout known as "Hell in a Cell."
Wrestling as "Cactus Jack," one of his many personas, Foley gave as good as he got, battering Triple H with steel chairs and a two by four wrapped in barb wire.
Though he lost the match, he considers it the high point of his career: "I just felt like a classic movie cowboy riding off into the sunset," he says.
Life After Wrestling
After retiring from a 15-year career in pro wrestling, Foley cut off his long locks, hoping to alter his appearance and travel with his family incognito.
It was a tactical error, he says, as he became more recognizable than ever. And sunglasses aren't exactly an option: "They slip off the side of my head due the lack of that one ear."
Does he ever miss the thrill of life in the ring? "Actually, no," he says. "I feel the same adrenaline rush when I'm writing."
But don't expect a third volume of memoirs; Foley says he's officially out of real-life stories and is moving on to fiction. He plans to write children's books and a novel.