A lot more fans online have been taking a shine to Mark Henry lately. This is presumably thanks to the superb presentation of him as a monster heel in recent months, his noticeable improvement as an all-around performer and now the satisfaction of seeing him finally win the World Heavyweight Title after 15 years in WWE.
While he had been improving for several years, this year, he put it all together as a total package, got perfect booking to compliment his efforts and also built up more support via an emotional WWE.com interview conducted right after he was drafted to Smackdown.
For those of you who have taken more of an interest in Henry recently thanks to his recent hot streak, here is some trivia, urban-legend busting and more about the World Heavyweight Champion.
Most wrestlers dubbed the "world's strongest man" over the years haven't really had a legitimate claim to the title. Very strong men, no doubt, and some, like Ken Patera, had very impressive credentials, but nothing that would make them the clear strongest man in the world.
Mark Henry, on the other hand, may very well be the strongest man ever to walk the planet, not just the strongest man in the world for the past 20 years. While some athletes have excelled in powerlifting, Olympic lifting or strongman competitions, Henry has proven himself to be world class in all three.
Henry started in powerlifting before moving to Olympic lifting, where he set four national high school records within eight months. When he was being hyped up as an Olympic hopeful, he set the record for the combination totals of the five lifts in the two sports.
While he didn't medal in the 1992 or 1996 Summer Olympics, he won a silver medal in the 1995 Pan American Games. After the 1996 Olympics, he went into pro wrestling with WWE.
Five years later, he took time off the prepare for the first annual Arnold Strongman Classic, a "world's strongest man" type competition held as part of one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's expos in February of 2002. Competing against world class competitors (many of whom had also been finalists in the more well-known Met-Rx sponsored World's Strongest Man competition that airs on ESPN), Henry came in first place, winning $10,000 and a Hummer that he still drives today.
Henry was also the first man to cleanly lift the infamous 172-plus pound Thomas Inch Dumbbell over his head. This specific dumbbell is so hard to handle because the diameter of the handle is almost two and a half inches.
Mark Henry may not be the best powerlifter, Olympic lifter or even strongman competitor ever, but he's excelled at all three sports at a level that hasn't been equaled. As raw far strength goes, Henry may have no equal.
Speaking of which...
You may have seen this video online in your time following wrestling. Taken from a leaked copy of the raw footage of a Smackdown taping, the match in question was Batista and Rey Mysterio vs MNM (Johnny Nitro/John Morrison and Joey Mercury) in a cage match. Mark Henry was supposed to break the locked door open to interfere and help MNM win.
The story that is normally told is that the cage door was "gimmicked" so Henry could easily break it off, but he couldn't figure out how to do it for minute or two. Thus, time stood still as he tried to get it open, and WWE had to edit the embarrassing gap between when he got to the door and when he actually got it open.
That's not what actually happened.
In reality, the ring crew forget to gimmick the door. After yanking on it over and over in the manner that would've pulled the door off if it hand been properly tinkered with, Henry had to go with Plan B.
It took 40 seconds as it seemed like time stood still in the ring, but Henry legitimately broke the chain that was holding the door closed.
Mark Henry is so strong that when the ring crew forgot to gimmick the cage door for him, he saved the show by breaking a genuine steel chain. If what happened to him happened to any other WWE monster heel (like Kane, who debuted by pulling the door off the Hell in a Cell cage), the angle would've been ruined.
Yet, because some wrestling fans like to irrationally pick on him, he's been branded an idiot who couldn't figure out how to pull off a gimmicked door.
While Mark Henry has been slowed down by injuries to his knees among other body parts over the years, he's more than just a strongman/lifter and a pro wrestler. Before his injuries started piling up, he was as incredible an all-around athlete as you'll ever seen.
His most famous athletic feat not related to his strength is pictured above: Dunking a basketball in a regulation NBA hoop while hovering in the 350-400 pound range. It was played over and over on WWE TV when he was signed in addition to being shown when he appeared on talk shows around that time. You can see the clip about 48 seconds into this video on DailyMotion.
In 1991, Henry was profiled in Sports Illustrated by Shelley Smith. In addition to detailing his feats of strength and mentioning his dunks, Smith noted that Henry was able to run a 5.2 second 40 yard dash and do a full split.
Being from Texas with his athletic ability, it's amazing that he didn't end up playing football and become the greatest lineman in NFL history.
Mark Henry is constantly referred to by detractors as "fat," but in reality, he has an odd body type (that can make him look more out of shape under his singlet than he actually is, with unique physical attributes and a lot of muscle packed on than people realize. For starters, as you can see in the photo from around 1999 when he was at his slimmest, he's shaped about the same, just smaller.
The 1991 Sports Illustrated article mentioned in the previous slide noted that his bones are thicker (he dropped a 352 pound weight on his foot and was only bruised in the process), and his muscles much more dense than those of the average person. This packs on the weight, and going by the calculations made at the time, he would be 289 pounds if he had absolutely zero body fat.
That isn't to say there have been times where he's been out of shape. Still, between knowing all of the above and that his testosterone levels are probably declining as he enters middle age, he's in pretty damn good shape at this point. I doubt that he could get into much better shape without chemical help, and it's generally believed that he's never touched steroids or growth hormone.
Shortly after the Benoit murder-suicide, Mark Henry gave an interview to local newspaper the Austin American-Statesman (it's no longer on their website, but it was copied at the time onto in various forum posts, including one at The Burning Hammer) that gained attention for this:
"Henry doesn't ride with other wrestlers to any World Wrestling Entertainment matches. A husband and father of a 21-month-old son, Henry said one reason he drives solo is for safety, that he has less chance of getting in an accident that might cause an injury that could affect his career. The other reason, he said, is that he doesn't want to be in a car if recreational or performance-enhancing drugs belonging to another wrestler are discovered by law enforcement officials.
'If they get caught, then I'd be (considered) guilty, too. If we get pulled over, we're both going down,' Henry said."
He wasn't punished, and nobody told management, whether it was because they didn't want to rock the boat during such a volatile period time or out of fear of the World's Strongest Man.
In the 48-plus year history of the WWE Championship and the nine-year history of the World Heavyweight Championship, Mark Henry is only the third black wrestler to hold either title.
The Rock was the first, winning the title by defeating Mankind in a tournament final at Survivor Series '98. He won the title a total of seven times, with his last reign being in 2002. No other black wrestlers have held the title.
Booker T is the only other black wrestler to hold the World Heavyweight Championship, winning the title by defeating Rey Mysterio in 2006.
If you count the WCW Championship's history as part of the World Heavyweight Championship's lineage, which WWE has done in the past but not recently, then The Rock picks up two more title reigns, Booker T picks up five more and Ron Simmons is added to the list for his reign in 1992, where Vader lost the title to him before regaining it a few months later.
When WWE signed Mark Henry, Bret Hart and Leo Burke (a legend in the Maritimes as well as one of Hart's favorite opponents in Stampede Wrestling) were given the task of training him. Hart had a WWE ring in the pool room of his house, so Henry was off to Calgary to train with two of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
In the next year, other young prospects would also train with Hart and Burke, including Edge and the late Andrew "Test" Martin.