As soon as you hear Mark Henry’s theme song there’s little doubt: somebody’s gonna get their ass kicked.
“I talked to the guys [who recorded the song] and kind of told them the story of how I became me,” Henry said. “I grew up in an environment where you had to fight to survive, and that’s what my song talks about … when I told Juicy J that every time I go to the ring, somebody’s gonna get it, he put that in the song.”
Henry grew up fighting, as well as powerlifting and weightlifting. He represented the United States of America at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, and signed with WWE shortly after.
Henry became part of the Nation of Domination—the group that launched Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to superstardom—before reinventing himself as Sexual Chocolate. More recently, fans will remember the World’s Strongest Man for the Hall of Pain, and title reigns as the ECW and World Heavyweight Champion.
Now in his 20th year with WWE, Henry has been spending less time on the road with WWE Raw. The World’s Strongest Man has instead been keeping a closer eye on the WWE Performance Center and the next generation of WWE Superstars.
“The hardest iron is forged in the hottest fire,” Henry said. “You have to put those young competitors against people they’re kind of out of their class with so they can know where to go. It’s something I think is going to continue in the future. I thought Bayley should have been in WWE a long time ago but I think she was used as a conduit to make everybody else as good as she was.”
Henry also has praise for Braun Strowman, another relative newcomer to WWE Raw.
“Braun Strowman has my respect,” Henry said. “As strong a guy as there has been in the business since my younger days. I look forward to seeing what he is gonna do in the future because he, potentially, is going to become as skilled as he is strong. Maybe he’ll have a run like the Hall of Pain.”
Henry began ‘inducting’ WWE Superstars to his Hall of Pain in 2011, while in pursuit of the World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s one of many standout memories for the World’s Strongest Man over the course of his 20-year career. Henry also fondly recalls his Casket Match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 22; tugging on the WWE Universe’s heartstrings with a faux retirement in 2013; and travelling with the late Owen Hart.
“Owen got me involved in practical jokes,” Henry said. “We would call people in my family and play pranks on them. Before Punk’d there was Owen Hart. He called my mother and told her that he was with the IRS and that he was coming to take her house. It didn’t quite go over well because I had never heard my mother—who went to church three days a week—cuss before. She cussed Owen out and told him, ‘You son of a…’ and I just had to sit over there and laugh realising I had to stop her before she had a heart attack.
“Owen still is in the top with me of any wrestler I’ve ever met. He was like a brother to me, he taught me a lot, and he was always there for me when I needed to know something or ask a question. He never said no.”
Having been part of the WWE landscape since 1996, Henry is in a unique position to comment on the growth of WrestleMania.
“The arenas might be smaller or bigger but the size of the arena does not make WrestleMania bigger – it’s the entity itself,” Henry said. “WrestleMania was WrestleMania from the first one. The second one was just as good, and the third and the fourth and the fifth. Here we are now, 33 years later, and they stay in the same stratosphere.”
WWE WrestleMania 33 airs live on Sky Arena and WWE Network on Monday, April 3.