Mark Henry on How Veterans Treat Younger Talents Now, His WWE Career, Vince McMahon, More

Mark Henry

This week’s episode of “Talk is Jericho” with Chris Jericho features former World Heavyweight Champion and The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry. Courtesy of my good friend Mark Adam Haggerty and, below are highlights:

Chris starts the show by performing his cowbell rendition of Mark Henry’s theme song. Mark can’t remember the name of the Oscar Award-winning hip hop duo that performed his track—Three Six Mafia—and says: “I can’t remember. I been hit in the head too many times. Maybe I should get in on this lawsuit with these dummies.” Mark says that the majority of the people on the lawsuit only worked in the WWE for a brief period, and it was toward the tail-end of their careers. He says that he mentioned Sinn Bodhi AKA Kizarny on another podcast, and Bodhi was livid over the shoot Henry did on him. Mark went on to say, “Kizarny’s mad at me like he could hold water.”

Mark says that his very first wrestling match was on pay-per-view. He wasn’t trained, he had never taken a bump, but Jerry Lawler insisted that he could work with him. Jericho asks for the details of the feud and Mark says: “Well Jake got cleaned up. Uh—quote, unquote.” Mark says that the developmental system was devised specifically for him: “Doctor Tom just decided he was gonna stop wrestling and start training full time.” Mark Henry was the first Developmental Superstar in history, as well as the first wrestler in WWE to receive a guaranteed contract. Henry says that he’s the second longest contracted wrestler—after the Undertaker. Other Superstars like Goldust and Triple H were around before Mark, but Goldust has come and gone, and Triple H is now semi-retired. Mark says that a fan once told him he’s had over 8,000 wrestling matches, and that he’s in the Top 10 for most matches of all time.

Chris asks how Mark got into the wrestling business. Mark is—or at least was—the real “World’s Strongest Man.” He’s the only man in history to become a world champion in Power Lifting, Olympic Weight Lifting, and Strong Man Competition. Added to that, he’s the only man to also hold a world championship in professional wrestling. That technically makes Henry a 3-sport world champion. He was touring talk shows after the 1996 Summer Olympics, and he was asked by Oprah what he likes to do to unwind. He told her he likes video games, live music, and all sorts of sports. “But on Saturday and Sunday,” Henry continued, “I’m watching wrestling. Don’t even try to bother me. Those are my wrestling days.” Vince McMahon called Mark personally and when Mark picked up, Vince said, “So I heard you like to watch wrestling.” He identified himself as Vince McMahon, and Mark immediately hung up, thinking it was his friend Wes. Mark’s manager called him and asked why he hung up on Vince McMahon. Mark was eventually invited to visit Stamford, where he met Yokozuna, played WWF: The Arcade Game [which was in the lobby], and worked out with Vince McMahon.

Mark told Vince that he was used to training for up to six hours a day, and Vince told him: “You can’t work out like that on the road.” It was bittersweet for Mark, who had a passion for weight training, but was eager to become a WWE Superstar. When Vince and Mark were in McMahon’s office, Vince showed Mark the cast Andre the Giant wore when he broke his ankle. Mark told Vince a story, that brought the WWE Chairman to tears. When Mark was a young pudgy kid, he went to the Beaumont Civic Center with his grandmother to see wrestling. When the wrestlers were coming through the curtain, all of the kids rallied alongside the railing in the hopes of getting to touch their heroes. Mark was shoved so violently that he spilled over the railing and fell face-first into the entry aisle. Andre walked up to him and helped him to his feet. The Giant then lifted Mark Henry over the railing and placed him safely on the other side. Vince responded with tears in his eyes: “I miss him.” Mark Henry says that Vince McMahon has touched so many lives, not just in terms of wrestling but in the world of business, and predicts a future National Holiday when Vince eventually passes.

WWE sent Mark to train in Calgary with the Hart Family. Mark lived in the Hart House while training and said he even helped babysit the kids, and help around the house whenever he could. He remembers Owen Hart fondly, and says that Owen is “one of the Gods of Wrestling.” Chris remembers meeting Mark Henry at the Hart School, when Y2J was working as a trainer. The first thing Mark asked Chris was: “Can you teach me to do an arm drag like Ricky Steamboat?” When WWE launched their Developmental System, he lived with Dwayne Johnson, who he still remains close friends with to this day. He says: “My council is my wife first, then the Undertaker, then Dwayne.” He credits the Undertaker with smartening him up to the inside of the wrestling business. When he first showed up, ‘Taker called him a Babyface, which infuriated Henry, who didn’t know what it meant. ‘Taker took him to the side and explained how to behave and what certain things meant. Mark said it took him a few years until he was comfortable enough around the locker room to actually succeed inside the ring. He says he’s never been a big fan of ribs when they “go too far.” He says someone put feces in the Rock’s food once, and insisted Mark didn’t say anything because “the rib wasn’t on him.” Mark refused to let the Rock eat shit, and blew the joke out of loyalty to his friend. “It was very cliqued up back then. You had the Puerto Ricans, and Shawn and his crew. It was like jail.”

Mark says that the wrestling industry is different from anything else because of how most veterans treat the young talent. “There are guys who failed, and they’re willing to teach you how to succeed, based on what they did wrong. You don’t get that in a lot of places.” He does say that things are different now however. He says when he and Chris came into the business during the 1990s, main event talents would pray for the fresh faces to fail, just so they didn’t lose “their spot.” That’s what made talent so hungry in those glory days of the business. “Now the young guys know,” Mark says, “If you listen and don’t screw up, and wait your turn, you’ll get your shot.” He gives additional credit to guys like Billy Gunn, Ron Simmons, Mike Rotunda, and the Brooklyn Brawler, who worked with him before and after events to help him get better.

Chris asks Mark how he went from Sexual Chocolate to a monster inside the ring. Mark remembers a house show where the production team played a public joke on him. He went to the ring, and waited for his opponent. The producers—including Vince McMahon—played three different entrance themes, before Mark got hot and asked for the mic. He started cutting a promo on the guys in the truck, and the mic was cut off. He stormed out of the ring and through the curtain, where he could only find a writer that gave up the entire rest of the crew. Mark says that he destroyed “$10,000 dollars’ worth of equipment in Gorilla.” He called Vince and cut a promo on him with the intention of quitting when he returned to TV that week. When he saw him, Vince told him that he needs to channel that aggression inside the ring. He went on to show him a clip of how angry he got while they were ribbing him. Vince told him he could make a lot of money if he acted like that when the cameras are rolling. Mark says that he was scared to let that side of him come out, because he’s not stable when he’s that angry.

Mark says that one of his greatest accomplishments in life was winning the world heavyweight title from Randy Orton at Hell in the Cell. He puts that alongside his match with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 22 at the top of his list of favorite matches of all time. He says that he appreciates Randy Orton: “Randy’s Randy, you know? He’s a different kind of bird. But he’s in my top five—top three.” He says his favorite people to work with were the Undertaker, Orton, Shawn Michaels, and Rey Mysterio. When he gave his salmon-colored jacked retirement speech, it was because he was actually thinking of hanging up his boots. He approached Vince once again and told him it was “getting harder to come to work.” He even pointed to the fact that he “gets hurt every month.” Vince told him, “You’ve got a long way to go,” and convinced him to sign a 3-year deal then and there. Henry says that Vince McMahon could “talk paint dry.”

They finish their conversation by talking about Mark’s run as “Sexual Chocolate.” He says, “I believe it! I was into it! I tongue-kissed Mae Young!” He says that when they were filming the Valentine’s Day segment in the motel room, Mae decided to smoke a cigar between takes. It was so funny to people on set that it was incorporated into the segment. He says he loves Mae Young, and that she was always asking to get hit. “Nobody wanted to hit her! But if you didn’t she’d tell you that you were being a—uh, a ‘C-Word.’” They laugh about how Mae “talked like a sailor,” and even had an anchor tattoo. Mark says that “Sexual Chocolate” ended 15-years ago and every night he still hears people chant “Sexual Chocolate. Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.” He says that he doesn’t care what people remember him as, as long as they remember him. To this day, he doesn’t understand why Mae Young gave birth to a hand. When he asked Vince about it recently, the Chairman chuckled and hollered: “It’s a hand!”

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