On Jan. 25, 1993, Lord Steven Regal's first day with WCW, another young competitor -- Cactus Jack -- introduced himself.
"He came up to me in Center Stage -- a little place in Atlanta where we used to tape TV -- and just told me that he'd heard about me," Regal said. "I looked at him and thought, 'What is this filthy, disgusting, scruffy bastard doing talking to me?' But, you know, he has sort of just clung to me ever since. He's like a fly around a cow's backside; he just won't leave me alone."
Nearly nine years later, after driving countless miles together from town to town, laboring in WCW, and being told they'd never make it to the top, they find themselves together again. Today, they perform alongside each other in backstage skits during RAW and SmackDown! Cactus Jack, of course, is Mick Foley, the World Wrestling Federation commissioner; Regal, who has since dropped "Lord Steven" in favor of "William," is Alliance commissioner.
Nearly nine years later, after all they've been through, they're two of the most well-respected veterans in sports entertainment.
"This isn't the first time we've shared the screen together, although I guess it is in such close proximity," Foley said. "I actually had one incident (while filming a vignette) where I laughed so hard that my back hurt -- and continued laughing even until today -- in an outtake that will never be seen."
While it took several years to get to where they are today, it took almost no time at all for them to become real-life friends.
"We hit it off right away and oftentimes traveled together -- as documented in that one famous occasion with Stone Cold Steve Austin," Foley said.
He was referring to the incident -- during their "formative years in WCW," as Stone Cold calls them -- when Austin, Regal and Foley were sharing a cheap motel next to a beach. But while Austin and Regal quickly realized that the beach was of the homosexual variety, Foley didn't until he had languished in the water for several minutes, and then realized that his friends had retreated to the hotel, leaving him behind.
"And if someone really wants to know about that," said Foley, ever the self-promoter, "they can feel free to purchase 'Have a Nice Day!' which is now in paperback, and a bargain at $6.99 - 720 pages for $6.99."
Regal's version of the story is somewhat different than the one in Foley's No. 1 best-selling autobiography.
"Me and Steve Austin left him on a gay beach once, where he floated around merrily," Regal said. "We just left him there. We were walking around and we realized where we were, and he was out floating, so we left him there. In his book, he says he came back straightaway. He was there for about three hours. And when he came back he had a load of phone numbers."
It is that wit, Foley said, that is one of the reasons he got along with Regal so well during those "formative years."
"(Regal and I) both had a really healthy respect for the wrestling business, and he has almost encyclopedic knowledge of jokes," Foley said. "So it was never dull."
Indeed, anyone who doesn't believe that Regal has one of sports entertainment's best sense of humors -- backstage, at least -- need only ask him his feelings toward Foley. Regal will proceed to spout off one-liners that are better than those of 90 percent of professional stand-up comedians.
Regal's facial expressions are priceless, so printing what he says doesn't do him justice. But we'll try.
What does he really think of Foley?
"The best place, if his wife wants to hide anything from him, is under the soap," Regal said. "He smells so bad he'd knock a fly off a bucket of horse manure. He'd make a sewer rat sick. He needs to get in the shower. He needs to change his clothes. He changes his clothes less than Fred Flintstone. Did you know that? Think about that one."
What about Foley's reputation of being -- how shall we say this? -- a bit frugal?
"He's the tightest man on God's Earth," Regal said. "He only breathes in. Did you know that? I actually stayed with him once. He said, 'Stay in this hotel with me.' It was a five-star hotel -- you could see four of them through the hole in the roof.
"When you walk around, you know the bums of the side of the road? They give him money."
In 1996, Foley came to the Federation, was christened Mankind, and embarked on a memorable feud with the Undertaker. Regal was still toiling in WCW. In 1998, Regal appeared briefly and forgettably in the Federation as the "Real Man's Man." There were two main problems -- the character was terrible, and Regal was addicted to painkillers and muscle-relaxers. During that time, Foley was becoming one of the most popular superstars in the company. The timing is sadly ironic: on Dec. 29, 1998, Foley accomplished his boyhood dream, as Mankind, and won the Federation Championship for the first of three times. The episode aired on Jan. 4, 1999. The very same day, Regal checked into a rehab clinic to get his life back together.
Regal has done just that in nearly two years since, becoming a top-of-the-card superstar. Meanwhile, Foley has retired from in-ring competition as one of the most beloved superstars of all time.
But while it has taken slightly longer for Regal to earn the respect of the fans, he has always had it from his fellow performers.
"When the guys at WCW used to gather around the TV set and knock one another when they were on TV, Regal was the only guy no one ever knocked," Foley said.
More recently, Regal has proven that he's also a master of the non-physical aspects of the business, such as "cutting a promo" or being a prominent part of a backstage skit.
"That at one point was considered his weakness, and now it's his strength," Foley said. "He's tremendous. One of the things he has pointed out that really bears repeating is that he's from the north part of England, where the accent is quite a bit different than the one he uses on television. So he's actually had to perfect that pure British accent."
Added mutual friend Diamond Dallas Page, "(Regal) has always been this character -- this great, entertaining character. (Fans) just never saw it down there (in WCW). Who else did they not see? Oh, Stone Cold. Oh, Triple H. Oh, Cactus. I could just keep going. The only reason they saw it in me was because I kept shoving it down their throat."
Foley says he has wrestled Regal about a dozen times, but Regal can only remember two matches: once in Germany (a match he enjoyed) and another in the Bahamas (a match he didn't enjoy).
There have been rumors that, since Regal and Foley are currently adversaries on television, they'll have another match. In fact, Foley has confirmed in recent interviews that a match was scheduled when Regal first took over as Federation Commissioner, but plans were canceled. According to Foley, those plans will stay canceled.
"I don't think at this point Commissioner Foley is going to be lacing up the sneakers anytime soon," Foley said.
Regal disagrees. Or at least it seems that way.
"I would very much like to (have another match with him), yes," Regal said. "The winner could take a bath. I'd let him win. That'd be the first time in my life that I've actually laid down for someone."
Whatever the future holds, in the ring or otherwise, Regal and Foley will always have that history together.
"I'm so proud of what those guys accomplished, because people said they weren't gonna make it and they weren't gonna be top guys," said Page, rolling his eyes. "Whatever."