Aaron Henry’s Tough Enough application (above) has gone viral. The 60-second video has received over 8,000 hits on YouTube, and made countless more impressions on social media.
TVNZ’s Te Karere ran a segment on Henry during its Wednesday broadcast. Outside Interference, a Florida-based radio show, wants to interview Henry next week.
Has all the attention come as a surprise to Henry?
“I think the main thing with me is that I’m really used to being hated—not just in the ring—I’m used to people not liking me, so New Zealand liking me is a big change, I was real surprised about that,” he told NZPWI.
“To be honest, I wasn’t pushing a gimmick, I wasn’t pushing a character, that’s how I am—patriotic and all, nationalism isn’t dead—and it obviously worked.
“I’m surprised and not surprised. I’m surprised that people got behind me, but I did put a lot of work into it and I do put a lot of work into training, and trying to better myself.”
Prior to uploading his Tough Enough audition on May 4, Henry hadn’t been particularly visible in the New Zealand wrestling scene.
His last in-ring appearance came at IPW Last Chance in November 2014 – a losing effort with Jakob Cross against Mr Juicy and Travis Banks.
“I’ve been recreating, I guess,” Henry told NZPWI. “I’ve been training a lot, I’ve been trying to work on in-ring stuff, trying to get a bit bigger … I’m just working on athleticism and adding a few moves into my repertoire.”
Henry hasn’t spent his entire six month sabbatical in New Zealand either. He travelled to Japan in October and December 2014, spending time with New Zealand’s New Japan Pro-Wrestling star Bad Luck Fale, who Henry calls his mentor.
When Henry eventually returns to the ring, whenever that may be, it will be to a different New Zealand wrestling scene than the one he left in November – one that has changed for the better, in his opinion.
“I like how much people are working together,” he said.
“Within IPW you’ve got guys like Marcus Kool, one of the best in the country, and the first KPW guy to wrestle for IPW.”
Henry is eager to sing the praises of those he considers other standouts in New Zealand, including Maniacs United Jackson Shield holder Kingston Eclipse (“he’s quite good, and you’ve got to support the brothers”), IPW Champion James Shaw (“he’s legit the best in New Zealand, hands down”), Travis Banks (“he’s ridiculously athletic, tough as nails”), and Pat Schisk (“everything he does just makes me laugh”).
Further afield, Henry is inspired by New Zealanders making their mark overseas as he hopes to do with his Tough Enough application.
Henry was introduced to New Zealand-born Jay White on his trips to Japan last year. White, 22, began wrestling in the United Kingdom before being accepted by New Japan Pro-Wrestling to train at the NJPW dojo.
“New Zealand should watch out for Jay White, that guy is awesome,” Henry said. “He’s a ridiculously good athlete, he’s a good guy. Hard work, dedication – everybody get behind him.”
Henry also admires his former Investment stablemate Evie’s success around the globe.
“She’s another hot commodity for New Zealand, probably number two behind Fale. Watch out for her kicks, I’ve seen her knock people out with front kicks.”
If anyone in New Zealand wrestling would know a knockout, it’s Henry. Versed in freestyle, Greco-Roman, and submission wrestling, Henry has competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) and even trained with UFC heavyweight fighter Mark Hunt.
Henry trained with Hunt when the “Super Samoan” was preparing to fight Roy Nelson in Japan late last year, and briefly trained with Hunt again before he moved his training camp to Australia in preparation for his five-round fight with Stipe Miocic at UFC Fight Night in Adelaide this afternoon.
For anyone interested in placing a bet, Henry predicts a win for Hunt by way of knockout in the second round.
“He’s the man, I’m always in the Super Samoan’s corner,” Henry said.