WWE Hall of Famer and AEW Rampage commentator Mark Henry was on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast with Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone. Before entering pro wrestling, Henry was an accomplished power lifter and an Olympian. He revealed his first conversation with Vince McMahon.
“It was a guy named Miles Steinborn, who was a lifting guy, but he also wrestled a little bit, and he got me in contact with Vince [McMahon],” Henry recalled. “And Vince called me one day, and I thought it was one of my friends that I watched wrestling with joking. I hung up on him, and he was like, ‘That’s not the first time that happened.’ I came into the business. He invited me to Connecticut, and I never left.”
Henry explained why his first three years in the business were “horrible”. He also discussed the other wrestlers and trainers that helped him along the way.
“As far as making it, the first three years was horrible because during that time, people thought when the other people came in, you’re trying to take the job,” Henry noted. “So nobody wanted to teach me anything. They created a developmental system. I was the first developmental wrestler because for everybody else, you learned in the territory. I didn’t have that experience. People hated me for it. They felt like it was my fault for whatever reason, but I’m a hard worker, and I started winning people over and people started teaching me.
“And it was fortunate enough for me that I ended up in Canada with Owen Hart and Bret Hart, and I met Chris Jericho when he was a young kid. And I started learning from real famous guy named Leo Burke, one of the best wrestling coaches that you can imagine. The only person that I could even remotely put in the same category with him is the other two guys that trained me, Tom Prichard and Rip Rogers. I got trained by three hall of fame wrestling coaches, and I didn’t have a choice but to succeed, if I was willing to put the work in.
“I don’t absorb my success by myself because wrestling is a sport where you need somebody across from you, and I’ve had hundreds of guys that I enhanced and made them look good, and I have some guys that when I was the s**ts, they made me look good. I can’t really take that for myself. This whole hall of fame thing, I feel like it should be my gimmick now because I’ve been in my high school hall of fame, the State Sports hall of fame, the International Sports Hall of Fame, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Cauliflower Alley Club Hall of Fame. I’ve been blessed to be able to be that guy, but it’s just my hard work.”
One of the most iconic moments in Henry’s career is when Mae Young gave birth to a hand. Henry recalled asking Vince McMahon about that segment, and he talked about a second-generation star from his family that could break into the business.
“I still, to this day, don’t get it,” Henry admitted. “I’ve asked Vince several times. ‘Why a hand?’ And he goes, It’s a hand!’ But you know what, if there is a second generation wrestler going to come out of the Henry family, it’ll probably be my son, Jacob, who is a super fan, really, really loves wrestling. He didn’t care if he was a Pro Bowl player, and he’s only gonna play about four or five years and then he’s gonna quit playing football and start wrestling.
“And I’m like, ‘Wow, what if you end up being the best guy in the league?’ He’s like, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to make enough money early so I can go and establish my life so I can do what I want to do, which is wrestling.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, more power to you, man. When you get there, hopefully I’ll still be alive,’ but if I’m not here to enjoy it, I’m sure that the fans really enjoy him because he loves it.”
When Henry signed with AEW, it was announced that he would be a broadcast analyst for the new show Rampage that will air starting on Aug. 13. Henry discussed his excitement for the new role.
“I’m really excited because I’ve never met a microphone that I didn’t like, and I get a chance to do something that I do anyway, just to entertain myself,” Henry noted. “I found myself, many times, sitting and watching shows and all of a sudden, I will go, ‘Well, he shouldn’t have done that,’ and then people go, ‘Why?’ And I was like, ‘Did you see what the outcome was?’ You just start explaining stuff, and you do it in a comical, colorful way. That’s what the announcers do.
“They paint the picture, and they give you the information. We give you the direction so you can know where you’re going, and we have foresight understanding the body and the anatomy. ‘Why does that hurt?’ Well, it’s pretty simple. We got trigger points all over my body. That’s going to go numb if he continues to press on that. It gives people an understanding and something else in their mind that validates what they’re seeing with their own eyes, and that was always one of my favorite things.
“I heard Tony Schiavone’s voice in the last 30 years of my life. I never met Tony before or really had a conversation with Tony before I signed at AEW. We casually met in passing, but I felt like I knew him, just like how fans feel like they know us. We’re supposed to enlighten the fan of something that they didn’t know, that will actually bring more clarity to what they’re seeing.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.