Foley made his WWE debut as Mankind in 1996, and Jim Ross played a pivotal role in signing the hardcore legend. JR stated that Foley was rejected on three different occasions by WWE as the higher-ups were not happy with Foley's tryout matches.
"His first three attempts to get hired were not successful, and that was a result of what was perceived by upper management as less than impressive dark matches, tryouts, whatever you want to say, whatever term you want to use."
Jim Ross, however, had a better idea of Mick Foley as a performer and a person. JR was familiar with Foley's work as they were together for some time in WCW.
Jim Ross said Foley was a man of integrity and character, unlike the other talent from that era. The veteran announcer knew Foley would be a great fit for any top wrestling company.
Jim Ross stated that Mick Foley was a professional, and most importantly, not hooked on drugs.
"I knew Mick from watching him a lot in Dallas when working for the Von Erichs and others because the Von Erichs television came in Oklahoma on regular cable every Saturday night. So, I had a feel for the guy."
"And then, myself and others that had a vested interest in his success, we brought him to Atlanta to WCW, where I got to know him very well. You just saw a guy with high character. He had integrity. He was going to be on time. He was going to work his a** off, and he wasn't popping pills. He wouldn't walk around like an amoeba, 'Oh, hey bro?' God!"
Jim Ross noted that Mick Foley made financially sound decisions and was the right guy to push.
"Mick was very conservative with his money. He wouldn't live high on a hog like they say in Oklahoma and Alabama. So, I knew the kind of character that he was, not a TV character, the human being. Maybe better said."
"You've got to give me a chance to do the job" - Jim Ross to Vince McMahon
Jim Ross also recalled a conversation he had with Vince McMahon about signing Mick Foley. While JR had a few ideas for Foley's WWE debut, McMahon was not convinced about Foley's prospects in the company.
The WWE chairman was also aware of Foley's unsuccessful attempts to get into the promotion. However, JR challenged McMahon's decision with all due respect and was devoted to signing Foley.
The WWE boss told Jim Ross that some talents are bound to disappoint, and he wasn't too high on Mick Foley either.
"When I went to Vince. I had some ideas for us to consider, and I mentioned Mick. And he goes, 'Oh, no, no, no, that ain't going to work. He has tried out.' So he asked somebody. I don't know who he asked; he might have asked Bruce (Prichard), or (Pat) Patterson, whoever the hell was there. 'How many times he tried out here? Oh, three!' So, I'm, thinking, 'Well, maybe you can change your mistake.' I know that you invented wrestling, and all of you have got a vested interest in the extreme knowledge that you have that is extremely higher than mine or anybody that I know. But I don't get it."
Jim Ross was the Head of Talent Relations, and he wanted the freedom to make a few crucial calls regarding incoming talent.
"So, I asked Vince, 'If you want me to do this job, you've got to give me a chance to do the job.' That was from the famous; I think I wrote it in Slobberknocker or maybe in Under the Black Hat, that, 'You need to know, JR what it feels like to have a talent break your heart because you are really emotionally invested in this guy. You want to bring him in.' I can see he was very serious, almost hell-bent on this, but, 'You need to understand what it's like to have a talent break your heart because he is not going to be successful.' Okay. So he said, 'What is your idea to do with him?'"
Jim Ross had a grand plan for Mick Foley. The Undertaker was the top babyface in WWE at the time, but The Deadman needed opponents.
WWE also required a new face at the top, and Jim Ross felt that having Mick Foley in a feud with The Undertaker would give the company some time to prepare another top star.
"I said, here's the deal. We have a seven-foot babyface, and he ain't turning to be a heel. He has already had that run, and you wouldn't screw with that deal talking about 'Taker."
"We needed a dancing partner for the Undertaker until we got somebody else ready, and we didn't have anybody ready at that time, in my view. So, that was kind of the dialogue that went into that deal. I'm so glad that Vince acquiesced and saw different light on Mick, and then he had that Hall of Fame run, and he's been great ever since."
Jim Ross did many great things when he was WWE's Head of Talent Relations, and hiring Mick Foley was undoubtedly one of his best decisions.
Please credit Grilling JR and give a H/T to Sportskeeda Wrestling for the transcription if you use quotes from this article.