Mark Henry's Path of Destruction
In the minutes after Mark Henry used sheer brute force to drive all 480-pounds of Big Show through the reinforced wall of a steel cage on the June 27 edition of Raw, the WWE fans in Las Vegas seemed to suddenly lose that exciting feeling of watching danger from a safe distance. As The World’s Strongest Man stalked up and down the ringside area, shouting “I wish somebody would,” ticket holders realized that if this Superstar felt like climbing into the front row and breaking one of them in half there was no one in the building who could possibly stop him.
It was a sobering moment and one that begged the question: When did Mark Henry snap? Speaking with the men who have dealt with him firsthand throughout his career and the monster himself, WWE.com attempted to pick up the pieces in The World’s Strongest Man’s path of destruction and find out how Mark Henry became the most feared Superstar in sports-entertainment. (PHOTOS)
Ron Simmons (leader of The Nation of Domination): No matter how many weights you lift, you’ll never get as naturally strong as Mark Henry.
Joey Styles (former ECW commentator): One of the things I liked to say about Mark Henry when I was calling his matches was that he had arms like legs and legs like people.
Matt Striker (WWE NXT host): The beauty of Mark Henry is that the match is almost over before it even begins, because when you see Mark walking down that aisle you’re already doubting yourself. It’s the Mike Tyson syndrome.
Mark Henry: Everybody that I wrestle against in this company owes me a debt that I allow them to exist, because if I want to snuff them out right now then they can consider themselves snuffed.
Mark Henry wasn't always so angry, but he has always been strong. A state champion in high school, the mighty Texan became America's top power lifter by the time he was 20. Over the next decade, his remarkable talents took him to both the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics and earned him the moniker of The World's Strongest Man. Henry's biggest test, though, would come in '96 when joined WWE as a grinning big man in a star-spangled singlet. (WATCH)
Howard Finkel (WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer): There was a big buzz simply because of the fact that he was coming off the Olympics in Atlanta. Did he really have the wherewithal to make it within our company?
Henry: I wanted to befriend the world, but at the expense of my integrity. I just felt like I was forced to be smiling.
After a brief rivalry with Jerry “The King” Lawler that culminated in a match at In Your House: Mind Games, Henry disappeared from WWE television without notice.
Henry: I got a lot of heat from the higher-ups, because I wasn’t quiet. I didn’t bow down and be subservient — carrying people’s bags and doing all the stuff that rookies do. That just wasn’t me. It was a point where I ended up getting banished. Got sent away and went to Canada, which was good for me.
Relocating to Calgary, Henry trained in the legendary Hart Dungeon and sharpened his mat skills. When he returned in 1997, The World’s Strongest Man combined his new talents with a different attitude when he joined Superstars like Ron Simmons and The Rock in the militant faction known as The Nation of Domination. (WATCH)
Finkel: The Nation was a group where somebody who was relatively wet behind the ears was able to get plugged into somebody who’s had experience like Ron Simmons.
Simmons: He was still young. He was still distracted with a lot of things out there. That was the thing that I always wanted to try to get across to him: Once you get focused on what you really want to do in this business, man, you are going to be unbelievable.
Henry: Ron Simmons was the one that made me want to be a man. He was like, “I want you to go out there and rough people up.”
Simmons: Mark Henry possesses all of the skills that men dream of having — athletic ability and superhuman strength. Mark Henry is a modern-day Samson and that’s serious. He’s the real deal.
Styles: I think Mark Henry was overshadowed in terms of personality by other members of The Nation of Domination.
Henry: During that time, everything was so hung on The Rock. I was like low man on the totem pole.
Inspired by The Great One, Henry adopted a more entertaining presence, emerging as a ladies’ man known as Sexual Chocolate. Charming at first, the persona took an odd turn when The World's Strongest Man linked up with octogenarian Mae Young who eventually spawned his offspring, which turned out to be a human hand.
Styles: Mae Young gave birth to a hand for no other reason than to make Jerry Brisco vomit on television, because Mr. Brisco has a horrible gag reflex. I think that was the whole purpose of doing that.
Henry: Sexual Chocolate was sometimes fun, but I felt like I was a buffoon.
Finkel: From an entertainment standpoint, it was interesting. Certainly it was not my cup of tea.
Styles: I would argue that Mark Henry’s most successful persona to date was Sexual Chocolate. If you look back at “Old School Raw” this past year when Mark Henry came out with the Sexual Chocolate singlet and that music, the crowd went wild.
Henry: I felt like I was betraying everything that I was. It was just like back to smiling and cheesing like I did when I came in as an Olympic hopeful.
The powerhouse got serious again in 2003 when he linked up with Teddy Long's aggressive group of tough guys known as Thuggin’ & Buggin’ Enterprises.
Henry: Teddy was one of those that said, "Look you’re the biggest, strongest guy in the world. Go out there and be that."
Teddy Long: I felt that Mark Henry should’ve been as vicious back then as he is now.
Henry: I allowed people to get up. I didn’t finish people when I should’ve finished them. I didn’t do the stuff that I was capable of doing, because I was worried about the business. I don’t care about furthering the business. I care about the advancement of Mark Henry.
Long: That’s the stuff that I tried to instill in him and it’s finally come out. I just had no idea that Mark would be as vicious as he is.
Henry: I had a lot of success. The match that I had with Goldberg was the best match he ever had. He took a real good whooping. Everybody else during that time that faced me took a whooping. (WATCH)
The big man’s brawls with the likes of Shawn Michaels and Booker T were exciting, but physically taxing on the behemoth.
Henry: I was doing stuff that I probably shouldn’t have been doing. I wanted to show everybody that I was an athlete, but I was hurting myself. I had a lot of injuries.
After some time away from the ring, Mark Henry joined WWE's relaunch of ECW in 2007. Here, he would capture the ECW Championship and flourish under the guidance of managers like Matt Striker and WWE Hall of Famer Tony Atlas.
Henry: Tony wanted me to not have pity on people. "Go out there and be you and do your thing. Hey, if they get broke they just get broke." That’s basically the philosophy that I’m living by right now.
Finkel: I thought Mark fit like a glove in ECW. He was mean, big, ornery and he brought his own style to ECW. (WATCH)
Henry: I imposed my will on people, because that's what was necessary. People don’t deserve to be in the same room with me unless I invite them in.
Styles: ECW gave Mark Henry a platform to prove how dominant he was. It was a launching pad to get Mark Henry back into main events on Raw and SmackDown.
Following his reign over ECW, Henry spent some time in Raw's tag division, but the powerhouse would make his biggest impact when he was drafted to SmackDown in April of 2011. Combining his unmatched power with a newfound rage, Henry finally realized his potential as the most dangerous force in sports-entertainment.
Henry: I’m tired of people walking up and putting their arm around me and patting me and poking me and touching me like I belong to them. People are in danger when they get within arm’s reach of me.
Styles: Mark seems to have found that center of anger and he’s taking it out on people like Big Show and Kane. These aren’t small men. Mark Henry angry is very frightening.
Striker: He’s cementing his legacy in this industry.
Finkel: He’s worked 15 long, hard years to get to where he wants to be and I firmly believe right now that Mark Henry is in that place. I might not agree with some of the methods that he uses in the ring, but you cannot deny the fact that he is succeeding better than he’s ever succeeded before in his career.
Simmons: The sky’s the limit with him, man. He’s unbelievable.
Long: I wanted him to be a monster, but to me he’s actually out of control. The days going to come when we’re going to have to face each other and hopefully I can talk some sense into him.
Henry: The only thing that could stop me is Vince McMahon running out of money paying me. As long as my checks come on Monday, people around here need to take notice that they’re walking on eggshells. If I hear you, if I smell you, you’re going to get dealt with.