The 3-Count is a regular feature in which your distinguished digit of an author muses on a trio of related items around the world of pro-wrestling. Questions following a big event, examples of a landmark style or move – it could be anything! But there’ll be three and, hopefully, there’ll be intrigue!
The wrestling world was rocked earlier this year by the unexpected and tragic loss of Jay Briscoe. A long-time Ring Of Honor stalwart and tag-team specialist alongside Mark, his younger brother, Jay had recently concluded an acclaimed trilogy of matches with FTR and taken back the ROH tag titles in the process. This had the pair pointed towards a longer relationship with the re-established brand under Tony Khan’s ownership when Jay was lost in a car accident at the age of 38. An age that just happens to be one that your author, his spouse and many of his friends share at this very moment. The thought of one of them getting suddenly removed from this Earth terrifies me to the core. Time left unspent, words left unsaid, or simply missing opportunities to live and do more together eat at all of us, but become all the more stark when they’re final. We try to learn this lesson every time, but we slip when normalcy resumes.
Even the AEW family itself had been through this before, with a stirring Celebration of Life for the late Brodie Lee in the past. Still, watching Mark Briscoe put on a rousing and emotional tribute win over fellow ROH tentpole Jay Lethal, I was inspired to call my own brother just to check in and say I love you.
Once that was done, I thought of the wrestling side of these same feelings. Tons of folk shared stories of meeting Jay at events all over the country and how much that positive experience still meant to them. They all the more-so wished they could tell him that one more time. Seeing those well wishes and remembrances, I started to think about just who I loved and owed the most during my time as a fan, and who I’d regret not telling so if I were suddenly gone.
This is a special 3-Count addressing:
3 Wrestlers I Most Need To Thank
I would not be writing this if not for you. Who knows if I’d even be paying attention to pro wrestling at all. The first memory I have of it is watching you on Superstars on a Saturday morning and falling in love with how cool and intense it felt. It was visceral, in a way childhood cartoons just can’t be, while still being fun and colorful. You brought out all sides of that, made it feel real, and allowed me to believe.
I can remember pretending to do that backbreaker, middle-rope elbow, and getting ready for the Sharpshooter. Being a gawky kid following you I got to see an example set that if you perfected your craft, worked harder at it and were better at it than anyone else, it could take you all the way to the top. This bonded me to wrestling and the friends I made with it over the years. I even followed my love of the sport to freestyle wrestling in school, which was one of my most important formative team and growing experiences.
As I came of age, the stature of your work both in and out of the business similarly grew with those who’d also grown up on it. Through this shared experience I received a key lesson – that some things, even the best things (there ever will be), may take time to be truly appreciated but can still get there. As I strived to develop as a person, as a career professional, I could take comfort in that and keep plugging away. It held true, as the struggles I had entering into full-on adulthood have led me to a place where my skills and value are more appreciated and highlighted.
All growing out of a 5-minute victory over Brooklyn Brawler. I call that having an impact on your fans, and I thank you for it.
Growing older as a wrestling fan in the now-fabled Attitude Era, I found myself a bit at odds with the stars on my screen. I enjoyed a lot of them, I wanted to be more than a few of them, but I couldn’t really see myself in any of them. I wasn’t cool, I cared a bit too much, I didn’t look like a stud athlete, and was earnestly looking for acceptance in a lot of places (whether or not I found it).
So, when Mankind turned from the hair-pulling freak to the tie-sporting suckup who wanted to be in Mr. McMahon’s good graces, and then from there a fun yet still tough good-doobie, I connected to it right away. As you continued to do things others wouldn’t, endure things others couldn’t, and kept on plodding ahead, it inspired me. When you finally came out on top as WWF Champion I wanted to cry in the best way. It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, your heart and will and courage could still conquer all!
But this section is labeled “Mick Foley,” not “Mankind.” There’s the parts of your incredible career both before and after that time, which I followed forward and studied backward for years of belts and bestsellers. But even moreso what I want to talk about is what’s come since.
There’s plenty of performers in wrestling who justifiably feel like they’ve given so much of themselves that when they hang it up, it’s then time to focus more on themselves, the day-to-day. Your continuing to engage with all of us fans at events, online and everything in between with good humor and patience, even when you don’t have a promoter in your ear demanding it, just shows that being genuine through success is still possible.
In recent years, it’s been a welcome surprise and privilege to watch you take on and excel in a whole other stage. Delighting and working audiences on your own terms and in your own way, at this stage, is an example anyone who worries about trying new things should follow. You’ve given all of your fans an incredible role model on how you can pivot, continue driving your talent and believing in yourself, and carry that into new chapters of your life. I
If you haven’t seen Mick live on his comedy tours, you’re missing out.
And, importantly, a role model on how to age gracefully, shifting priorities with a smile and a wonderful devotion to family life that is too rare among successful people both in and out of wrestling. As someone who didn’t get to see his own father reach that stage, it’s a comfort that means more to me than you could know and one that I treasure.
I got back into wrestling more deeply in the mid-2010s. This was during a time where I had taken the chance to move to an entirely new place, not knowing anyone and without any traction built up to land my career there. After sitting around too long for comfort, I learned the confidence to suck it up and walk in to places to sell myself; to take odd and part-time jobs as they came in, whatever helped contribute. Just a month or two earlier in the same year, you’d asked for your WWE release and started crafting your own story.
As I watched you break into indies, tweak your character, connect directly with your fans and start to gain a foothold, it gave me hope. As you started to become the most recognizable name across those feds while still indulging your passions (for Zelda, for old fashioned storytelling, for rediscovered heeldom), it allowed fans like me to see that if you #DoTheWork you can cross the event horizon and make your vision a reality. Riding that all the way to the launch of AEW, establishing the TNT Championship and playing such a key role in the arrival of guys like Eddie Kingston and Ricky Starks, you proved you were right and showed that you can do that with everything actually going perfectly.
Until it doesn’t. When you get everything you think you want, it’s all too easy to cling onto it so hard until it’s too late. Realizing something was off with your current situation, as so many of us have found in a job, doesn’t make it any less hard to admit that you may still need a change after everyone feels you’ve hit on all your goals. When I found out you had made the call to go back to WWE, I was hitting unexpected bumps in my day job where I had thought I’d be spending the rest of my career and realizing that there’s no such thing as perfect and, in all likelihood, no such thing as forever. Seeing someone even further up the ladder know when the time was to make the change yourself, and control what your narrative and next steps are, just empowers all of us to do the same no matter where we’re at in the moment. Each step of the way, you’ve modelled a real and human path for your fans that we can know it’s ok to follow – it’s not just straight to the moon but with disruptions, flaws and resets. The fact that I can appreciate it all the more for that speaks volumes, and I thank you for bringing us along for the ride now and in the future.
Bonus Thanks: YOU
If you’ve read all this way here or have ever clicked on my pieces/this site at any time, then I can’t thank you enough for welcoming us into your wrestling consumption. We couldn’t keep it going without you and while what we write about is the performers, wrestling wouldn’t be a thing without its fans. The passion of folks like you support the wrestlers, the feds, and even someone like your author here. There’s a lot of ways you could spend your time, and I can’t thank you enough for spending some of it on Wrestle Inn.