Bust the competition. Win. Be the best.
That’s standard success-guide fare you would expect from a decorated athlete or prized performer.
But you won’t hear it from Mick Foley. Not in general, and not when he comes to Buffalo on Sunday to perform his one-man “Hardcore Legend” show in Helium Comedy Club.
Despite his status as a wrestling legend turned best-selling author, stand-up comic, occasional actor and, most recently, Santa Claus, Foley doesn’t aim to be the greatest.
He just wants a reaction.
“I was never fueled by a desire to be the very best,” said Foley, 49, who wrestled from the late ’80s to early 2000s and was best known for his WWE characters Cactus Jack and the masked Mankind. “I was fueled by a desire to get reactions from the audiences, whether it be wincing, booing, tearing or laughing.”
Foley’s showmanship has transcended several stages. In the WWE, the former Cortland State student stands among the most celebrated wrestlers in history. Two of his matches were recently ranked in the Top 10 of the WWE.com’s 50 greatest Raw contests, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
Foley has authored 10 books, from memoirs to children’s literature; acted in TV shows ranging from “30 Rock” to “Boy Meets World”; and established himself as a stand-up comedian. (Foley has played Buffalo twice before, including a show last year at Helium.)
“I’m not really a dabbler,” said Foley, who lives on Long Island with his wife and four children. “I do tend to get fully involved in what I’m doing.”
Foley’s “Hardcore Legend” show weaves together tales from his career to answer the question, “How in the world did all of this happen to me?
“I go deep into what fuels me,” he said, “how I thrived off the reactions.”
Foley fully realized the importance of reaction during the writing of his first book, “Have a Nice Day,” which became a New York Times No. 1 best-seller in 1999. With “a willingness to dive headlong into projects,” Foley wrote the 200,000-word memoir by hand in 50 days. Early on, he read some material from his first four-hour writing session to his wrestling colleagues.
“It was a pretty defining moment for me,” Foley said. “Their reactions made me feel very much like I did when I was inside the ring, without the obvious physical setbacks.”
(Note on injuries: Those included an amputated ear and a front tooth jammed through his nose.)
Now, Foley added, by taking his written stories to the stage, “I get the chance to make them better every night.”
Launched earlier this summer, the “Hardcore Legend” show is one of Foley’s newer endeavors. Another, to be released later this year, is a documentary about the bearded Foley’s yearlong attempt to channel Saint Nick by wearing something “Santa Claus-esque” every day. Among the highlights: Performing as Santa in singer Norah Jones’ Christmas show with her band, Puss n Boots.
“He’s probably the best Santa I’ve ever seen – he is Santa,” Jones told Michael Yoder of www.tristateindie.com.
In fact, Foley is begging Jones and her band to have him back in December, telling them, “I look forward to this as much as I used to my biggest WrestleMania main events.”
And therein lies Foley’s success-guide message.
“Don’t go around letting other people define for you what the big moments are,” Foley said. “If I get as much enjoyment out of singing ‘Silent Night’ as Santa Claus as I did performing in front of 75,000, then that’s my call to make. The Helium Club last year in front of 300 was every bit as satisfying as being in an arena in front of 17,000.”
The reason? The crowd’s reaction. Though Foley’s show is comedy, he isn’t aiming for a chuckle fest. In fact, a club owner once told him to work on his LPMs (industry talk for “laughs per minute”).
“I just said, ‘I have no desire to compete with anybody for laughs per minute,’ ” Foley recalled. “I’m looking for the smile at the end of the show.”
What: Mick Foley
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St.