Published on November 7th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz


WWE Hall Of Famer Mark Henry on his early days with The Rock, scouting talent for WWE & more

Few athletes have had anywhere the amount of success that Mark Henry has. He is a two-time U.S. Olympian, a Pan American Games medalist, a three-time U.S. National Weightlifting Champion, and the holder of several world records that still stand. Within professional wrestling, he was a multi-time World Heavyweight Champion and a 2018 inductee into the WWE Hall Of Fame. Henry has also been enshrined in the International Sports Hall Of Fame, which inducted him in 2012.

While Mark Henry is retired from athletic competition, he is not short on projects. Beyond working with WWE as an ambassador, Henry is pursuing a number of film and television projects. He is also co-hosting the popular SiriusXM show Busted Open Radio on a weekly basis.

One of Henry’s television projects that can be revealed is an appearance on the third episode of the Facebook Watch series Risky Biz. In this episode, Henry joins the Risky Biz team to create the ultimate test of strength where two contestants push their muscles to the max for a chance to win $25,000. Interestingly, Risky Biz was inspired by a story in The New Yorker and the buzzed-about series itself is produced by Condé Nast Entertainment and MAK Pictures.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Henry by phone and below are highlights from that chat; part 1 can be read via Sportskeeda. More on Risky Biz can be found at, while Mark Henry is on Twitter as @TheMarkHenry.

Is it true that you live in Westchester?

Mark Henry: No, I live in Austin [Texas] and Harlem [New York]. I go back and forth.

I knew that you were originally from Texas, so you split your time between Texas and New York I take it.

Mark Henry: Yes.

Back in the day did you have to live in Florida like most wrestlers did?

Mark Henry: No I didn’t. There was no such thing as the developmental system. When I came into wrestling they picked the best wrestlers from different territories, and Vince [McMahon] said that he wanted to cultivate his own talent the way that they wanted to do business, and I was the first one.

They had a warehouse that was half-empty and they put a ring in there and hired a wrestling coach and I was the first student. We went to warehouse every day, me and him, until The Rock came. Then The Rock moved in with me and he and I trained for about a year and then we both went to the Memphis territory for Jerry Lawler and worked for that territory.

But there was no system. It was like, “We’re gonna train Mark Henry and The Rock, they’re gonna be our first two guys.” It’s funny that he first two guys ended up as Hall Of Fame guys.

Both Hall of Famers and World Champions, to say the least.

Mark Henry: And World Champions.

When you think about it in a way, had your training not gone well, there might not have been a future developmental system.

Mark Henry: I’d hate to think that. I’d think they would say, “We need to rethink how this works and reestablish what we’re going to do.” I think they actually did that. We went from working in a warehouse to them being a partner of the small wrestling franchise Ohio Valley Wrestling, starting from scratch… And that’s exactly what happened.

Then when the Ohio Valley relationship ended, they opened up the FCW in Florida in Tampa, and they had the developmental system in Tampa for a while before they built the Performance Center and moved it to Orlando. That’s where it is today. You have around anywhere from 30 to 50 people working full-time all year long to try and make it. I work with those guys and girls.

There have been several that I’ve actually sent there from scouting that have made it to be the best in the business. Braun Strowman, who is one of the current top three, top four guys, Baron Corbin who is one of the top five to ten guys in the industry, and a bunch of the guys that made it to the top. They’re traveling and working every week. We have a young girl that I found in CrossFit, Bianca Blair [Belair], who is on her way to the top. So I’ve got a pretty good eye for picking talent.

Another thing that I would say you’re the first, or one of the first people about, is the fact that you used your real name to wrestle. Was that a conscious decision of yours?

Mark Henry: Yes it was, because I was somebody. I worked really really hard to become the world champion in powerlifting. I worked really hard to be a seven-time national champion in Olympic weightlifting and a gold medalist in the Pan Am Championships and a gold medalist in the Olympic trials. I won everything except for the world championships and the Olympics.

So only two competitions eluded me and I went to strongman, which is a completely different sport, and became world champion in strongman. Being the only person to ever do that, why would I give up the name that I created for myself? Not a lot of people can say, “Hey, you can pick out any strongman in any era, and combine all their numbers, and Mark Henry is higher.” So I had to be Mark Henry.

Ultimately is there anything that you didn’t get to accomplish within the wrestling part of your career that you’re still hoping to accomplish in general?

Mark Henry: The only thing that I can see right now is I’ve never got to be the General Manager [of a WWE program]. I never got to be the guy that made the matches. The guy that said, “Listen you’re a great wrestler, but this is what we’re going to do. I call the shots. You just do what I tell you and everything will be fine.” I never got to be that guy.

As far as being WWE Champion, I never got to be WWE Champion, but that’s just a brand thing. The time that I was champion, I was on Raw. I ended up being the World Heavyweight Champion and being the ECW Champion. So I’ll take it all day long and twice on Sunday.

When you are auditioning for things, does it help that you are such a high-profile person with wrestling? Or really does that just play to the type? I ask that because you had that famous in-ring promo of “having plenty of gas in the tank” and I’m sure you could have used that for an acting reel.

Mark Henry: (laughs) I wish I could, but I don’t think anybody’s paying attention, because it’s not like I’m getting my door beat down. I have to hustle out there for a few roles and films and I think that I’m going to start getting some of these at some point. Being in Incarnate and Haunted House, MacGruber… That was great, but those roles weren’t created for me. That was me just playing a character.

I want to be able to be a character that people will remember like Michael Clarke Duncan was John Coffey in The Green Mile. That’s where I want to be one day.

So it sounds like you’ve accomplished everything that you want in the wrestling world. You’re planting the seeds at this point in time within acting. But I take it that there’s no musical aspirations for you?

Mark Henry: Man, I can’t hold a note in a bucket. I wish I could sing. I can dance but I can’t sing, and I’m going to play an instrument. I don’t think I’m going to be a trifecta guy. I think it’d be fun to be able to play a character that danced that people didn’t expect to do that.

So in closing, Mark, any last words for the kids?

Mark Henry: My whole life I’ve tried to live where kids would be proud and follow my lead. You can’t tell people what to do if you’re a failure, and I’ve had a lot of success in multiple fields. And I think two of the biggest realms of my success have been my relationships with people that had no idea that I existed. Once people meet me in-person, and they have an experience with me, they’re like, “Man that dude is like solid. Where have you been all my life?”

I’ve never been shy. My mother wasn’t shy. She was gregarious and full of energy and I’m just like a male replica of her I like to have good times, but in having a good time, you have to be responsible and you’ve got to lead by example so people will be able to follow you. They know I’m going down the right path because I’ve never been in trouble before, and that’s kind of what I preach to kids.

I want kids to shoot their shot. A lot of kids are shy and a lot of kids are unexposed. They don’t know that certain worlds exist, and I want to be able to bring to light those worlds so that these kids have more opportunities than I had.

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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World,, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" series, which airs on dozens on television and digital networks. He has also co-authored 2 published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), and co-hosts the world's only known podcast about David Lee Roth, "The DLR Cast."

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