Mark Henry in India - "The WWE is the strongest it has been since the Attitude Era"
Amidst the excited murmurs and frenzied anticipation, one man walked out looking cool and composed. That man happened to be the center of attention and ‘The World’s Strongest Man’.
Mark Henry is 44 years old and next year he’ll complete 20 years in the WWE. Not many WWE wrestlers can boast of the longevity he’s had in the business and he’s one of the few who’ve been loyal to the company, choosing not to compete for any other wrestling organization.
We are asked to begin our interview in a room where this man sits looking like a spectacle himself. He’s obviously bigger than all the fans who came to meet him and the media that gathered to get a few answers, a handshake that could engulf your entire arm and yet seems as gentle as ever.
The World’s Strongest Man was in India for 2 days for an event at the Kingdom of Dreams. Here are the few things he spoke to me about-
The First Developmental Wrestler
The hangover from NXT’s takeover show still exists. In this day and age the wrestling audience is well aware about what happens in the developmental territory which wasn’t possible 10 to 20 years ago. Question Henry about his developmental phase and he says, “There was no developmental phase. I was the first developmental wrestler.”
“I came in then The Rock came in. Then we brought in about 12 guys which included future Hall of famers Edge and Hardys and list goes on. When I came in from Connecticut in ‘97 they hired the trainer to show me the ropes and I was injured because what we do in the ring is a specific type of athleticism. It helps to be strong, athletic, and flexible but you got to know when to go fast and when to go down and relax, breathe.”
He continued, “It’s very complicated and you can’t learn that from being a fan. I was a fan. I tried to do what I saw and that sucked. With the help of time I was able to evolve and be a major player and be a champion. I can’t expect that out of everybody. The system they have now in place in Orlando in NXT is what it always should have been. I would have had three years to be more productive for the company if a situation like that was in place already. The evolution of wrestling is in a good place.
On being a mentor
Given his status as a veteran in the wrestling business, he looks out for a lot of guys. He mentors a bunch of them to whom he’s like a father/brother figure. One of them he professes to be a huge fan of is Cesaro. So much so that he mentions that apart from him, Cesaro is the strongest guy in the roster at this moment. There was some love for Ryback as well for his strength. He’s also rooting and praying for Bryan to get back fully recuperated from his nerve issues.
Calling Neville ‘explosive’ and expecting Owens to be “really, really good for a long time” he moves on to add two more names in Rollins and Reigns until he pauses a little and emphasizes that “The future of wrestling is as strong as it’s ever been. The core of the industry is strong as it’s ever been since the Attitude Era. We’re hoping to get back the numbers we had in the Attitude Era. The numbers have never been higher other than the four-year span in the Attitude Era. It’d be hard-pressed to force the business to being that.”
“You only have one Jordan. There’s only been one Mohammed Ali. Let’s just hope it happens in the future. “
That leads someone to ask him who he thinks is the Jordan or Ali of wrestling.
“I wish The Rock would have stayed, he would have been the guy. The Undertaker, no shadow of a doubt, has been the greatest in the industry. So many people became famous just by touching him. He’s able to give you power just by association. Andre the Giant and Steve Austin are right there in the category as well. There are some 10 names that I maybe missing. It’ll take me few hours just to put that list together.”
Then. Now. Forever
There is no doubt that with WWE moving to unchartered territory with shows in places like China, India- the popularity of wrestling has had an impact. With the outburst of social media, wrestling has had to change with the times.
“People are more informed and educated for sports entertainment. During the wrestling days it tended to be a lot more simple psychology -big vs. small fast vs. slow evil vs. good.
Now it’s very complicated. We now entertain a smarter, intellectual mass of people. To do what we do requires to have brains and to continue the growth that we do. Hence a roster of 80 guys with 25 to 30 graduates “
That OTHER medium of Entertainment
Prod him about his interest in acting and he says, “I have and I will act. I have done stuff, couple of films I have been cast and they’ll release soon. There is one with Aaron Eckhart(Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight and many other films) kinda like Inception but with demons and spirits.”
If you’re wondering what’s the one thing that Henry quite often wonders or dream of is of a match against Andre the Giant, who happens to be the greatest of all time in his opinion.
His parting words evoked the beauty that is the art of wrestling. “Right from the moment your music hits to the time you leave and your music hits(if you win) is exciting. There are a 100 things that are going on simultaneously that make a match a match. All you remember is how you’ve been entertained. Those things let you totally be detached from the world.”