January 30, 2015
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning, Mick Foley was sprawled out on a couch in the basement of the Wells Fargo Center, looking as if he’d just been thrown through a table by The Undertaker. On this day, however, it was a much different opponent that got the best of the man formerly known as Mankind.
"It's one of those things I'm glad I did, just to say I did it. People were appreciative...pretty lubricated."
Foley was in town to compete in SportsRadio 94 WIP’s Wing Bowl 23, the annual wing-eating contest that draws some of the world’s top competitive eaters - as well as thousands of fans and strippers - to South Philly on the Friday before the Super Bowl.
"I’ve been thrown off the top of giant steel structures," Foley said to the sellout crowd as he made his way to the stage, "and I’ve never been this intimidated.”
Entering the arena on a float that was part wrestling ring and part Santa’s workshop, he received one of the loudest ovations of any of the eaters.
But for the 49-year-old wrestler, comedian and author, the debauchery was short-lived.
“I came. I saw. They kicked my butt,” Foley told PhillyVoice after he was disqualified for cheating in the first round.
WIP's Angelo Cataldi (a PhillyVoice contributor) said in an interview earlier this week that the judges would be watching Foley closely, as he has a history of cheating.
"There's a fairly good chance [he gets kicked out]. He cheats," said Cataldi, who -- along with WIP co-hosts Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes -- helped to make this event into the spectacle it is today.
That prediction came true on Friday, as Foley was caught stuffing uneaten wings into his fanny pack and tossing others below the table so it would appear he had eaten more than he actually did.
"I decided to bow out gracefully by getting caught cheating," he said laughing, estimating that he actually ate 70 or so wings before being disqualified.
According to Foley, you can blame the Ghost of Wing Bowl Past for his early exit.
"I've never seen something look so unappetizing as when it was coming out on the JumboTron," Foley said, referring to the grotesque video of a contestant named Sloth violently vomiting at Wing Bowl IX. "Granted, that was 13 years ago, but it might as well have been yesterday. And I could seriously envision that being me."
But that wasn't his only reason for bowing out early.
As he pointed out on stage immediately after being caught, it was also the level of competition that led Foley to more or less give up any hope of seriously competing for the Wing Bowl crown, which comes with $10,000 and a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
He was just caught hiding wings under the table. “I decided to stretch the rules a little bit.” He said no way he could compete with Molly.— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) January 30, 2015
"[Defending champion Molly Schuyler] was next to me, and she was like a machine. And she had her own group of people cheering her on," said Foley. "Nobody was there saying, 'Hey, good job, Mick. You can do it, Mick.' Nobody was there for me to be that guy."
Maybe not on stage with him, but Foley did have the crowd behind him early, at least until his early exit.
"I had a good time," Foley said looking back at his experience. "It's one of those things I'm glad I did, just to say I did it. People were appreciative...pretty lubricated."
"Back in 1990 when I came to Philadelphia as part of WCW, there was a much greater appreciation for what I did here as opposed to the rest of the country at large..."
Wing Bowl marked the second time in less than a week that a raucous crowd packed the Wells Fargo Center for a big event that didn't involve the Flyers or Sixers.
On Sunday night, WWE hosted its second-biggest event of the year, the Royal Rumble, at the arena. And while Foley was not in attendance that night, he was nearby.
"I dropped my kids off at the Wells Fargo Center at 6:30 and picked them up at 10:45. When I got home, I didn't have the code for the WWE Network, so I watched 'The Other Woman' on Home Box Office," Foley admitted.
That's right, Mankind was taking in a chick-flick instead of watching Roman Reigns -- thanks to a little help from The Rock -- win the Royal Rumble.
"I watched the people as they left, and they seemed pretty disappointed," Foley said. "And I don't think that's the way you want people leaving one of your premiere events...I hope WWE sends people home from next year's Rumble happy and excited, because that's not the feeling I got, at all, from the people I observed walking slowly and mournfully from the Wells Fargo Center."
Foley's no stranger to the demeanor of Philly sports fans, especially those who enjoy wrestling, as he spent time here in the 1990s as part of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
But his ties to the city go back even further.
"I'll always have that bond with the people of Philadelphia," he said. "And that goes way back. Not only to the independents I did before I got full-time work. People had an eye for and could appreciate hard work as far back as '86 when I started.
"Back in 1990 when I came to Philadelphia as part of WCW, there was a much greater appreciation for what I did here as opposed to the rest of the country at large...So I have a warm spot in my heart for this city. It's been really good to me for a long time."
As was evident by the ovation he received from the crowd, including chants of "ECW! ECW!" as he made his way into the arena, this city still has a warm spot for Foley as well.
And by 9:30 a.m. Friday, after it was all over and Foley was able to lay back on that couch, he thought about what the winners had accomplished.
Or, rather, what they had consumed.
"It would probably take several months," Foley said when asked how long it would take him to eat 444 wings, the record-breaking amount turned in by winner Patrick Bertoletti. "I don't believe I'll eat wings for months to come. I know the Super Bowl is two days away, but I'm going to avoid wings at all costs."
So would he consider doing it again?
"You never say never," Foley said. "I think I'd give it a good year in between, but you never say never."