Interview: Mark Henry talks about walking into WrestleMania a veteran, Nakamura, NXT and much more
Mark Henry is perhaps the strongest man to have stepped into a WWE ring. He has been in the business for 20 years and had a successful career in the WWE. Apart from being a sports entertainer, Mark Henry is a powerlifter and has also represented the United States at the Olympics.
The ‘World’s Strongest Man’ sat down for WWE’s WrestleMania Conference Call and interacted with journalists from around the globe for thirty minutes. Henry spoke on a variety of issues ranging his most memorable match at WrestleMania, to being charged for ketchup and napkins in the USA. Here is what the interview revealed:
Q) What would it mean for you to enter the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 33 and win it?
A) Going into the Battle Royal, my whole thought process is to go out there and do the best that I can do and entertain the way I have for the last 20 years. I won’t be at the main event at WrestleMania but I will be there, and I will make sure that I do the best that I can do to uplift the company as well as myself.
Q) Given that you won the World’s strongest man competition, we were wondering who you would pick to fight at WrestleMania?
A) If there was one person that I would like to fight right now, it would probably be Kevin Owens. Kevin has carved out a place for himself and the things that are his strongpoints, I don’t necessarily like. He is very selfish.
He thinks that the sun rises and sets because he wakes up in the morning. That’s something that I never really liked. We had issues before, and he came out on the top end of those deals when we touched, and I feel like I owe him.
Q) What is your best WrestleMania moment?
A) Favourite WrestleMania moment… (pauses)… I guess my greatest competition was WrestleMania 22 vs. the Undertaker. I didn’t win, but it was one of those that I outperformed at the highest level at a main event of WrestleMania. That’s a once in a lifetime thing and I been blessed to do it more than once. Yeah, WM 22.
Q) In 2013, you did a retirement speech that led to you ultimately attacking John Cena. What was it like to be out there and experience so much emotion and so much gratitude and respect from the fans and knowing all the while that it was all essentially a big ruse and that you weren’t retiring?
A) I pride myself on being an entertainer and an emotional entertainer, and I got my chance to prove it. It was fun for me to be able to hold the strings as I called John Cena the puppet. And I was able to make all the wrestling fans in the world for one night to be my puppet.
Q) As someone who’s been around WWE for such a long time and really been the backbone, when you think of powerhouse star wrestlers, you know, you’re the World’s Strongest Man obviously, what’s your assessment of the modern day wrestlers who embody that similar style – guys like Rusev, Braun Strowman, Baron Corbin, etc. What is your assessment of these younger guys coming up the ranks?
A) Well, I don’t know if you watched RAW last week, but Braun Strowman has my respect. He’s as strong a guy as there has been in the business since my younger days and I look forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future. Eventually, he has got to become as skilled as he is strong and maybe then have a rhyme like ‘The Hall of Pain’ and I think that he could.
Q) In China, there is a huge amount of interest in the Big Show and Shaquille O'Neal match with Shaquille O'Neal being a big star over here. You’ve had many battles with Big Show in the past, what advice would you give Shaq ahead of this match?
A) The first thing I would tell Shaquille is to not try to match strength with Big Show. This is because he is nowhere near the physical match for Show despite being pretty big and strong himself.
The second thing I would tell him is if he can use his lateral quickness and move and get behind Big Show then maybe because he is a couple of inches taller, maybe he can get Big Show in a sleeper and have a chance of surprising him.
Thirdly, he’s gonna have to be the aggressor. He’s gonna have to take it to Show and not wait around and see if he plays fair because I have an idea that Show is not gonna play fair.
Q) WWE is very rapidly growing in China, and for some Chinese fans this might be their first WrestleMania. What does appearing at WrestleMania mean to you as a performer?
A) You know what, I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level, and I want everyone to see me perform, and all of the talent in the WWE are the same way. We wanna perform for our fans all over the world, not just in America.
We want the fans to understand that we are working for them and when they cheer we work harder. I’ve had some very, very good experiences in China, wrestling in front of those people and I would love to do it more and be over there from a business standpoint for the company.
The trade show in Shanghai, we had a show over there, and it was so energised like the crowd was exactly what you want and I hope that in the future we’ll be able to have more shows over there for those fans because I think they deserve it.
Q) Describe the week for us and what your typical week might be in Orlando this year, and tell us about your experience with the Australian fans.
A) I came to Australia for the first time in 2003. It was a beautiful, beautiful country. The people were warm. I’ve had experiences with friends of mine that live in Australia that have been telling me for years, ‘Man you should come over or come down under and enjoy what the country has to offer.’
One of my best friends in the world is a coach for Adelaide 36ers junior high. He’s been coach of the year five or six times. I love Australia. I love the people, I love the food, I love the culture. And being a Texan, we are barbecuers. So I know a little bit about putting something in the barbecue down there.
I love the food. The crowd that we had, it was almost like we’re on the pitch for a game. It was such an unbelievable burst of knowing whenever something happened. It was almost like pyro, it scared you almost.
The people really love the big stuff. Like you do something big you can count on an unbelievable reaction. We went to Christchurch, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, you know I’ve been all over the place, and I never had a bad time.
Q) And what about WrestleMania week for you. What part of WrestleMania week as a whole do you enjoy?
A) You know what, actually all the stuff with the kids.
I tend to, you know, spend most of my time WrestleMania week doing appearances and meet and greet and going from one place to the next. We went to Ronald McDonald House in Dallas and met with some really, really sick kids, and you know, to have a kid that has been in a bed for 2 or 3 months saying, ‘You think they’ll let me out of the hospital so I can go to WrestleMania and see you?’
That just speaks volumes. That’s what Vince McMahon is doing behind the scenes that a lot of people are not paying attention to. They don’t pay attention to the fact that you know, we do about 155 appearances a year for St. Jude and the Boys and Girls Club, Make A Wish, and Starlight Starbright and the list goes on of the organisations that we work with.
Also, having our own anti-bullying campaign called Be A Star, where we talk about anti-bullying and how to deal with people that are bullying you.
Q) On WrestleMania weekend, I noticed you after the Hall of Fame walking, I think you were waiting for a taxi or something in New Orleans and I wanted to go up and say hello to you, but you looked too intense and too tough to say hello to. Is that something that you normally get?
A) Umm, not really. There must have been something going on. You must have looked like a shady character or something. I’m pretty approachable unless somebody tends to try me which happens sometimes, then I tend to not be very friendly. But for the most part, I’m a pretty kind person, and I realise that I’m a celebrity and it comes with it.
I’ve never shunned people away from me. It’s just one of those things sometimes it happened maybe I was having a bad moment or something, I’m not sure.
I try not to intimidate. I actually welcome conversation dealing with something that I love so much, and I find that our media as well as our fans who I want to thank, they just want to be able to come up and say thank you for the moments of entertainment that you’ve given us. So, I would never shun that away.
Q) We’re dealing with something in Australia at the moment. I don’t know if in America you guys eat meat pies or sausage rolls or anything like that from a petrol station or a roadhouse or something like that, but we’re noticing that people are starting to charge for tomato sauce or ketchup as you guys would call it.
Is that happening in America or is it just in Australia?
A) You know they charge for ketchup, they charge for napkins, they charge for bags, like all kinds of crazy stuff that you know, you would never have thought that you would go to a restaurant and they would say, ’Would you like a bag?’ and you go, ‘Yeah’ and they go, ‘That would be 15 cents,’ and you go, ‘What? I’m supposed to have a bag so what are you talking about?’
You know, yeah I think it’s all over the world. I think once something starts in one place, it kind of migrates around the world.
Q) What are your views on NXT and has there been any talk about experienced wrestlers like yourself actually going back to NXT and working with, you know, just the up and coming wrestlers on their way up to be able to create some middle ground on that program?
I know obviously you do a lot of work to assist those guys in training but I’m interested to hear your thoughts about experienced wrestlers who have been around for a long time going back in and actually working with NXT newcomers.
A) I think it’s great. I’ve been down there and worked with people and not just me but dozens of other guys. The hardest iron is forged in the hottest fire. So you have to put those young competitors against people that are kind of out of their class with, so they can kind of know where to go.
It’s something that I think is gonna continue in the future. I thought Bayley should’ve been in the WWE a long time ago. I think that she was kind of used to make everybody else as good as she was and it worked. You got Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Naomi and the list goes on, Emma. They’ve come along now and are doing unbelievable jobs.