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. One of the most iconic moments in Henry’s career was his heel turn on John Cena after cutting an emotional retirement speech. Henry explained why the segment worked as well as it did.
“It was real that’s why it worked so well because I truly wanted to retire and not wrestle and become more of an executive, and do more coaching, and training and work in support, but they didn’t want me to do that,” Henry revealed. “They wanted me to keep working as talent, so I was basically going to retire anyway, and Vince [McMahon] just talked me out of it. I knew for about four months, but I still prepared like I was retiring that night, and it was one of the more emotional moments in my life because I mourned the death of my career.
“And that’s the way that I looked at it. That’s why I was so emotional. It was over, and when I put the boots on the steps and I walked through the ring, I said everything that I would have said at a retirement. And my kids did cry at that time when I left home. It used to hurt me being on the plane going, I’m gonna miss ballet, I’m gonna miss tap dance recitals I’m gonna miss my kids who are in a band. It was tough. It was easy to draw the emotion of the moment because it was real.”
Henry continued and revealed what made John Cena crying during that time. He also revealed the reaction backstage.
“I just knew that, at some point, I’m gonna have to shut the waterworks off and focus on doing business with John Cena, and John Cena was standing at ringside. And it was really impromptu,” Henry noted. “It wasn’t something that was planned. John tried to give me the title, and I just told him, ‘No, I don’t deserve to hold that. I never won that. I’m not gonna do it,’ and he just started crying because I had emotionally got to him.
“When I looked over there and I saw him crying, I was like, oh, shoot, this is different. I knew it was different. From the time that a lot left in the tank came out of my mouth to walking in the back, when I got in the back, for the first time in my career, and it was the end of my career, all the wrestlers were in the back waiting on me. It was like walking into a concert crowd.
“You walk off the stage and walk into the people. Everybody was there, and everybody was applauding and clapping, kind of coming up and hugging me. I was like, damn, I would’ve retire A long time ago if I knew I would have gotten everyone’s attention. That will always gonna be one moment in my career that I’ll treasure.”
One of the iconic parts during the segment was Henry’s salmon jacket. During fan questions, a fan asked Henry if he still had the jacket.
“I actually let the WWE put it in archive for WrestleMania’s so fans can see all of that stuff,” Henry revealed. “It hanging in my closet is not going to be beneficial to the fans, so a lot of my stuff are in museums and hall of fames.”
Henry also commented on whether he had a “perfect match” or not. He talks about his memorable matches that he had in his career.
“No match I ever had was perfect,” Henry admitted. “The night that I lost the the heavyweight title to Daniel Bryan, he and I had a cage match the the week before that was pretty damn spectacular. Everything that we did worked. You could go out there and do the wave, and the whole crowd would do the wave. Everything worked, and I think about that match.
“I think about being in a main event at WrestleMania with Undertaker in the casket match. It was another match where everything worked, but it wasn’t just because me. I’m not patting myself on the back like that. I’m saying that from a match perspective. I guess I can only take credit for promos and pre-tapes, where I was by myself, and I don’t think any of them were perfect, but I guess my retirement speech was something that was impactful, that the fans thought was pretty damn perfect.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.