Fans of wrestling might be familiar with the name Mark Henry.
The former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Smackdown and Raw wrestler and Olympian weightlifter has joined the All Elite Wrestling (AEW) show as a commentator, talent scout and coach.
Speaking from his home in the US, Henry said: “I’m feeling really good. I love the people I work with on a daily basis, from our talent and the bosses, to the media, our production staff and our security – nobody’s been anything but great to me. I feel valued.”
He feels his views matter at AEW, which also features a local wrestler by the name of Angelico Angelico (Adam Bridle).
“I realise that I don’t have the last say and I’m comfortable with that – but I do love the fact that I’m asked for my opinion,” Henry explained.
Having started his career in 1996, he left the WWE and retired from the ring in 2018. However, he stressed that his departure from the organisation was amicable and that he was not looking in the “rear-view mirror”.
“I had a peaceful transition of power, if you will, to use a term of our government. Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship has had times where they experienced a lot of good understanding. Sometimes it changes and the understanding isn’t so good – but you have to move on. You can’t dwell on the past.”
Henry also expressed how content he was to be a part of AEW.
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“I have a great understanding of the wrestling business – not only what happens in the ring, but also what happens around it,” he said.
Although only his face was visible on the screen during the interview, as well as some artworks behind where he was seated, he still looks imposing, like the Greek god Atlas on a tea break.
Henry still holds the all-time world record in squats and deadlifts and is a two-time Olympian. He was dubbed “the world’s strongest man” for his efforts, a title that formed a large part of his alias and in-ring persona.
The 50-year-old native Texan unpacked the difference between WWE and AEW and what viewers were likely to experience. AEW, he said, was an exciting brand of wrestling that was easily enjoyed.
“Don’t compare apples with oranges or plums – everybody’s different. When you start comparing, you draw a line between the fans. I don’t want a line between them. I want the fans to enjoy all of it. Just know that we’re putting the best product out there,” he said.
The self-assured wrestler looked back at what has been an illustrious career in sports entertainment, boasting that he was the only person walking the earth who was a world champion in three different sporting codes: wrestling, weightlifting and powerlifting.
“Those are three sports that have nothing to do with each other. The common denominators are hard work and sacrifice.
“I would advise people aspiring to reach the heights I’ve climbed to never take ‘no’ for an answer. Find a way to make yourself better, find a way to get on to TV and find a way to talk to the media and the press and get your name out there,” he said.
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While conversation with Henry flowed nicely, it was difficult to avoid mentioning the “elephant in the room” – and this is not in reference to the emblem of an elephant pinned to his chest when he appeared in the ring.
Every child remembers the fretful day they realised that this sport is well choreo-graphed and rehearsed prior to the showdown on the canvas. For some fans, this discovery has either ruined the illusion of a battle of strength inside the ropes, or sparked a shift in appreciation for what is ultimately a physically demanding art, rehearsed or otherwise.
Almost defensively, Henry asked: “Have you ever watched magic? David Copperfield, David Blaine? None of those people will tell you how it’s done – unless you’re in the industry. Once you become a student, with the intention of becoming a performer, then you’re in the family. What I can tell outsiders is that a lot of work goes into it, as well as a lot of pride. We bleed for a living; we get hit for a living.
“Why would we share how that’s done and what it takes to absorb that punishment with a commoner who’s not in the industry?”
He paused for a moment and stared straight into the camera, with the expression on his face suggesting that he didn’t enjoy the line of questioning, and if it didn’t stop, he would reach through the screen and give us one of his punishing bear hugs, which was one of the moves he perfected in thering.
“What we want is for the people who watch the show and purport to love it to guard what it is and not print the small details, but simply enjoy the overall entertainment of it,” he said.