WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
The OWW Wrestler of the Week: Mark Henry
Our resident philosopher looks at the former Olympian, who pinned the WWE champion on Raw, last week
Mark Henry has been a mainstay in the WWE for more than a decade. He’s a former European and ECW champion. The World’s Strongest Man was transferred to Raw, thanks to the Trump Trades. Mark made a huge impact by hitting his finisher and pinning Randy Orton. Mark Henry’s stunning win catapulted Mark above everyone else to become this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.
Mark Jerrold Henry was born in Texas in 1971. He became interested in weight-lifting from an early age. Mark worked his way into the 1992 Olympics as a Super-Heavyweight Powerlifter. He came in 10th, so his title of World’s Strongest Man was slightly inaccurate.
Vince McMahon saw Henry’s performance at the Olympics and other power-lifting functions. He began to make connections with Henry’s people. The McMahon family even sponsored Henry’s Olympic run in 1996. After the 1996 Olympics, Henry was offered a 10-year contract with the WWF/E (which was unheard of, at the time). Henry was sent to Calgary to be trained by Stu and Bret Hart. Henry would enter the WWE as the latest to use the title The World’s Strongest Man. (Ken Patera had used the same basic gimmick almost 2 decades earlier).
The Nation of Domination
Mark Henry’s first program in the WWF was against Jerry Lawler. Lawler had been a harsh critic of the Hart family for quite some time. Lawler also began to humiliate Jake “The Snake” Roberts (another alumni of the Stampede area) about Jake’s alleged recovery from alcohol and drugs. Henry came to Jake’s aid and dominated Lawler in a series of matches.
After the feud with Lawler and a few others, Henry was scouted to join The Nation of Domination. He was seen as the Power Man of the team. He came on-board as a member of The Rock’s version of The Nation. When that faction split, Henry joined D’Lo Brown to create a third, short-lived, version of the group. Brown and Henry would form a decent tag team, though they never scored tag team gold.
The Brown/Henry tandem would come to an end at Summerslam 1999. D’Lo, who held both the Intercontinental and European titles, was defending against Jeff Jarrett. Henry turned on Brown and helped Jarrett score both belts. The following night, on Raw, Jarrett gave the European title to Mark Henry. This was a major change in policy for the WWF. In the past, any championship that was handed to another person was instantly vacated (The Andre The Giant/Ted DiBiase World Title fiasco was a perfect example). That European title would be the only championship that Mark Henry would hold for almost a decade. Henry would drop the European title to D’Lo Brown less than a month later.
In 2000, Mark Henry’s character was changed into a sexually-charged and motivated persona. He began to flirt with just about every female on the roster, including Mae Young. He became known as Sexual Chocolate (some sources say the name came from the musical group showcased in the film Coming to America).
Mark was involved in some of the most troubling story angles in WWE history. While his impregnation of Mae Young was amusing, at first, the story moved to the point of disturbing when Mae gave birth to a hand. The writers reached the absolute bottom of the barrel when Henry was forced to take part in an angle where he admitted that his first sexual conquest was a coupling with his own sister. That incest storyline actually brought severe heat on the WWF from various parenting groups and the FCC.
Mark was quickly pulled off WWF TV and sent to OVW. The excuse used was that Mark needed conditioning and training. The actual truth is that Mark was moved off the main shows for two reason. 1. The storylines about Mark’s sexual exploits had brought huge negative feedback. 2. Mark wanted to take some time off to re-concentrate on his weight-lifting career. In 2002, Mark Henry won the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. That win would serve as the launch pad to bringing Mark back to the WWF/E.
The Nation reborn…sort of
Mark came back to Smackdown following his win at the Arnold Classic. He really didn’t do too much to impress the fans or the higher-ups within the WWE. He was quickly sent back to OVW for a little more training and a serious character adjustment. Mark grew out his hair and took on a more negative persona.
Teddy Long created a stable on Raw filled with various African-American wrestlers who actually used the Race Card to further a storyline that the minorities were being kept down by The Man. This grouping was similar to the Nation of Domination, only they pushed the racism angle to the extreme. Mark had a quick program against Goldberg, thanks to a bounty placed on Goldberg’s head by Triple H. Mark Henry had to take some time off after Chris Benoit injured Henry’s shoulder. It was one of the few injuries that Henry sustained during his career. The Thuggin’ and Buggin’ Enterprises faction, led by Teddy Long, was quickly scrapped after the loss of Mark Henry.
Following his rehabilitation, Mark Henry returned to Smackdown. Henry initially aligned himself with MNM. He helped the tag champs in their battles with Rey Mysterio and Batista. Henry’s direction within the Smackdown brand would suddenly change, thanks to a house show match against Batista. Mark injured the then-World Champ. Batista had to surrender the title to undergo surgery for a torn tricep muscle.
Mark Henry was involved in a Battle Royal to determine the new World Champ. Mark Henry was seen as the odds-on favorite to take the strap, but his run of championship Bad Luck continued. Kurt Angle tossed Mark out to take the win. That led to a series of matches where Mark came up short in his attempts to wrest the title from “other Olympian”.
The Path of Destruction
Mark Henry shelved Kurt Angle by Splashing him through a table. Many feel that Henry’s Splash may have helped to weaken Kurt Angle so Rey Mysterio was able to up-end him for the World title. Mark was challenged, on the same night, by The Undertaker to a Casket Match at Wrestlemania 22. Henry accepted the match, instantly. Henry came up short in his attempt to break the unbeaten streak of Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
After the loss at Wrestlemania, Mark moved forward into a series of losing matches against Rey Mysterio. That was the catalyst that kick-started Henry’s Path of Destruction. Over the next few weeks, Henry injured several wrestlers, including Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and Paul Burchill. Mark tried to injure Rey Mysterio but failed. Mark was set to battle a returning Batista, but the Path of Destruction’s final victim was Mark, himself. During a six-man tag match on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Mark Henry completely tore the patella tendon from the bone and split the patella (kneecap) completely in two.
Reaching his potential, finally
Mark Henry returned to wrestling in 2007 with a huge impact. Undertaker had won the World title at Wrestlemania 23 and seemed set to dominate. Undertaker found himself needing time off, due to an injury. Mark Henry was brought in to attack Undertaker, after a cage match against Batista. This attack was used as the explanation for Undertaker being injured. This led to a quick feud with Kane, who was seeking revenge for Henry’s attack on Kane’s Brother. Henry dominated the feud.
Following the short feud, Henry issued an open challenge to any top name star in the Smackdown locker room. No one accepted, so Henry began to decimate various jobbers to illustrate him dominance. Henry came out to show the world that no top level star would face him because of his destruction of the The Undertaker. Henry went to show a video of his attack on The Undertaker, but the video feed was distorted by The Undertaker. Henry ended up feuding with The Undertaker. Henry was beaten, repeatedly, by The Deadman.
Mark Henry then shifted his focus over to ECW. Smackdown and ECW had a talent exchange program, where stars from the two brands could work either show. Mark Henry began to focus on Kane. Both Kane and Mark Henry were involved in a Battle Royal just before the start of Wrestlemania 24. The winner of the Battle Royal would go on to fight Chavo Guerrero for the ECW title, later in the night. The last two men in the match were Kane and Mark Henry. Kane managed to toss Henry out to take the win. Kane would later go on to destroy Chavo in a mere 8 seconds. Mark Henry made it clear that he wanted a shot at the ECW title, even though he was a Smackdown member.
Mark Henry was sent to ECW in the Supplemental Draft. Mark Henry was added to the ECW title match at Night of Champions. He was the only actual ECW star to be fighting for the ECW strap. Kane was a member of the Raw roster, while The Big Show worked over at Smackdown. Mark Henry used a Big Splash to take out Kane and win the ECW title (and bring it home to ECW).
Once Mark won the title, he decided to employ a mentor/manager. His choice was WWE Hall of Famer, Tony Atlas. Mark was the final person to carry the original ECW title belt. Theodore Long, then GM of ECW, unveiled a new platinum and leather belt to represent the third WWE brand. Henry’s dominant run as ECW champion came to an end at Unforgiven, in a Championship Scramble match. The belt would end up with Matt Hardy. Mark tried, several times, to regain the title but failed.
A new home
After failing to regain his title, Mark slipped into a more mid-card position in ECW. He (and Tony Atlas) went through a brief feud with Finlay and Hornswoggle. Mark won his way into the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 25 but was barely a threat to winning the briefcase. After Wrestlemania, Mark ended up in a feud against the much-smaller Evan Bourne. Evan took several upset wins over the ginormous Mark Henry.
When Donald Trump bought (and then sold) Monday Night Raw, he orchestrated 15 talent trades. Mark Henry was moved to Raw. Mark was brought out as one of the three men assigned by Guest Host, Batista, to battle Randy Orton. Orton had defeated Evan Bourne in the first match. Jack Swagger took a count-out loss to “help” the man that he respected. Mark Henry looked to do the same, as he stepped out onto the apron and allowed the ref to begin to count him out. Around 8, Mark held the ref’s arm, grinned and came back into the ring. Mark Henry then annihilated Randy Orton, finishing him off with the World’s Strongest Slam.
Mark Henry has been a solid member of the WWE roster for over 13 years. For the most part, Mark has served as a solid part of the mid-card roster. He has helped to push newer stars and to move stories to the next level. Mark has held two major titles, one won and one given. Mark’s surprise win over Randy Orton showed that Mark still has the potential to win a title in the WWE. Mark Henry is this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.
— Jay Shannon