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A Man Divided
Do you think that you threw yourself into athletics as a way to compensate for some of your academic struggles?
Most definitely. I wanted to show the world. I wanted to show them that I was somebody. You make bad grades, and then suddenly they’re putting you in the newspaper for breaking the high-school national record and the junior world record, stuff like that. People would say, “Wow!” I went from being that troubled kid who was fighting because he was picked on to being in the newspaper every week for doing something extraordinary.
Speaking of extraordinary, in researching this article, we found out about your Uncle Chudd, who almost sounds as if he were a character from a tall tale that you might write about. Can you tell us what he was like?
He was me in a different time. He was my grandmother’s favorite cousin, and he would board at her house while he worked in the woods. I come from a logging area in East Texas called Silsbee, and he lived in between Jasper and Silsbee. I’d hear Paul Bunyan-like stories of him hooking chains to logs and pulling them out of the mud—just all of this crazy stuff. He never wore shoes. He always had on moccasins because they couldn’t find any shoes to fit him. Listening to my grandmother tell these stories was just amazing to me, and I think it helped give me a respect for strength. I reveled in the fact that one day I could be strong like that.
You’re now in your 17th year with WWE as a Superstar. What’s the secret to your longevity?
Focus—and being a businessman. And I look at this as a business. It’s not just entertainment; it’s about being able to market yourself and stay relevant, and I’ve been able to do that. And also, I have the luxury of being the strongest man in the world. There are still things I can do that these young guys can’t do. I may not be able to do it as much as I used to, but I can do it once!
During the past two decades, what’s one thing that hasn’t changed about Mark Henry?
That I’ve always been helpful. I’ve helped out a lot of people. The Rock, John Cena, Big Show, Randy Orton, the NXT guys, The Prime Time Players, Zack Ryder—the list goes on. I take a lot of pride in giving people advice and helping them out backstage. I’ve had a lot of help myself, so I figure it’s only right to give it back. Here’s another thing that hasn’t changed—my car. I still have the Hummer I won at the Arnold Classic! I drive it every time that I’m home. I got it in 2002, and it only has 89,000 miles on it. Of course, I’m on the road a lot, so I don’t drive it too often, but when I’m home, it’s still my car. I’ve taken really good care of it over the years, so it’s in great shape. That’s how I am with anything. Once I’m in, I’m in!
We imagine that that kind of backstage help is valuable in the WWE locker room, where the wrong move can put you in some hot water.
You have to be respectful of the people you work with and, in some cases, the people you work against. If you have differences, you get behind closed doors and say, “Hey man, we’ve got a problem. We need to work it out.” At times I’ve been kind of a legal presence, representing both sides: the impartial party making sure the action stays where it belongs—in the ring, not in the back.
To read more from this exclusive interview including Mark Henry’s run-in with Andre the Giant, pick up the all American issue—featuring John Cena now or SUBSCRIBE HERE and save 70 percent off newsstand sale price.