“People really didn’t know back then,” Mick Foley told MMA Junkie in an interview about how MMA has influenced the world of professional wrestling. Back when he started wrestling, fans weren't wise to the moves. The average fan knew what they saw wasn't legitimate, but they weren't sure what moves actually hurt.
Outside of the diehard wrestling fans, hardly anyone knew what some of the real moves looked like in Foley's early years. This allowed wrestlers to writhe in agony as a rudimentary chin lock or armbar brought them near to tears.
Then that all changed. MMA, especially the UFC, gained popularity. Many fans of pro-wrestling also turned their eyes to the real, brutal combat sport for entertainment. As spectators were exposed more to martial arts, professional wrestling then began to adapt. In place of antiquated rest holds, there were more realistic submissions and strikes. Wrestling required its fans to suspend their disbelief, and to achieve that, promotions had to present a product that had some verisimilitude.
Chain-grapples, multi-point holds, and strikes became more prevalent over time. Even the knockout system in WWE changed from the dramatic three-count to a single hand drop and referee's discretion. While we have seen the likes of Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan apply MMA-influenced holds, there are still plenty of moves for performers to add to their move sets.