Mark Henry was the featured guest on the most recent episode of “The Steve Austin Show”. During the appearance, Henry discussed the struggles that he had early on in the WWE due to his non-wrestling background and thin skin. He detailed the ribbing he received from JBL and Ron Simmons and what he learned from it. He also discussed how an incident that saw him threaten Shawn Michaels led to a positive change in his career path. Here are the highlights:
On What He Learned From Being Ribbed By JBL & Ron Simmons:
[WWE] sent me down to [Ohio Valley Wrestling] to get my head together because I wanted to fight everybody who said anything negative to me because my wrestling coop was off. I had a lot of respect for the boys. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any respect for the boys but I came from a different place. When you tried somebody you better be able to whoop them where I’m from or don’t say nothing to them. Let a sleeping dog lay. I used to always pick on Bradshaw because he and Ron Simmons used to entertain themselves by messing with me. And Ron would would tell John, ‘He don’t like black jokes. Don’t say nothing but you got to do it cuz watch him get hot’.
I walked up to [John] behind the bleachers one time and said, ‘Hey man, today is the last day. There’s nobody around. One more joke and I’m putting your lights out’. John said, ‘ What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am. It’s over. All your passes are gone. I don’t care if they fire me. But you’re going to be hurt.’ So he took me over to Ron and I said, ‘ I’m going to kill him because I’m tired of all his jokes’. And Ron said, ‘I’m sorry I put him up to it cause it’s so entertaining watching you get mad!’ And we laughed.
And I realized I had to be indoctrinated into the business. I had never really gotten accepted by the boys because I was so into my life outside wrestling. I was somebody before wrestling. And you need to treat me like I was somebody before wrestling and that don’t mean nothing in the wrestling landscape. When you come into pro-wrestling you got to love that and put everything else aside. I let everything else interfere with me getting indoctrinated into wrestling.
On His Early Struggles:
There was no such thing as a developmental wrestling system. You went to the Indies, you went to a territory, and you learned how to work and they gave you baby steps. You put the ring up, you drove and got food for the boys, you refereed, you rung the bell. You did everything around the business until you got brought into the business. They hired Dr. Tom Prichard to train me specifically, a wrestling diet, wrestling 101, and I went from being an anaerobic athlete to an aerobic athlete and they expected me to get it in a few weeks
I didn’t feel like wrestling was loving me back. I was doing everything wrestling told me to do, but still the boys used hazed me. I was doing everything there was to do, but when it came time to get on TV, I didn’t get put on TV…I didn’t know anything about wrestling.
On How Threatening HBK Changed His Career For The Better:
It took me getting banished to Canada because I threatened to kill Shawn Michaels. He hid my crutches when I broke my ankle and I said, ‘This is it’. I was like, ‘Man, you’re 180 pounds. It would be unfair for me to whoop you.’ And he said, ‘Are you threatening me?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think it’s really a threat. I’m just telling you like it is. Y’all need to leave me alone’. So he told Vince and Vince said, ‘You can’t threaten our top guys. What’s wrong with you?’ And I said, ‘Look man, I’m just not used to having people trying me.’ And Vince said, ‘Beating people up is not going to fix it. They’re trying to bring you in but you keep pushing them back’. So he said, ‘I’ll talk to Bret Hart, he’s training some people up in Canada.
I was up there for nine and a half months. Training everyday. Every morning in the ring. Four hours a day. And then Owen introduced me to his dad Stu Hart. I would leave Bret’s house where the gym was and drive over to the Hart’s house and wrestle in the basement in The Dungeon. Stu started teaching me wrist locks and hand holds. Stu was a master in wrist locks and hand holds. He was like, ‘With your strength, you could do things to people that would be illegal. Wrestle like that. I want you to put people in holds that look like you’re going to pop them.’ That’s when a light switch came on and I started to wrestle like that…I felt like after nine months I understood what it was to be a wrestler. They should have done that to me first before putting me in the locker room with seasoned wrestlers.
On Learning From Jim Cornette:
Then I went to Louisville for another year. I had Jim Cornette- people that really understood. There’s nobody crazier in this world than Jim Cornette but there’s nobody in this world that I’ve met that understood the psychology of wrestling or could teach the psychology of wrestling better than Jim Cornette. [He’s] special, but crazy as hell. Super special. I love him to death because if it wasn’t for him, there’s no me in wrestling. He’d see me reading a book and say, ‘You know, you need to put those football books and down and start reading some wrestling books’. [Cornette] said, ‘If these guys [in the books] were your size, they would need to be put in jail.’ So Jim Cornette gave me a vehicle that strength had its place in wrestling and that was it. I was done.
On When He Finally Felt Like He Belonged In The Business:
[After my match], Ricky Steamboat came over and said, ‘You know, it’s good to see that [wrestling] psychology still exists in our business.’ That was the first time anybody had brought me in. That said ‘You’re a part of us. You’re one of us’ He said ‘our business’. He didn’t say ‘My business’. I felt as accomplished as I’d ever felt in power lifting, weight lifting, strongman or anything else. Ricky Steamboat in one comment validated that I belonged in business and nothing nobody else could tell me anything different.
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Credit: The Steve Austin Podcast. H/T WrestlingInc.