Silsbee, Texas native Mark Henry proved that being called “The World’s Strongest Man” was not just a catchphrase. Vince McMahon recruited Henry as a result of his impressive strongman career. His accolades include being a two-time Olympian (1992 Summer Olympics – Barcelona and 1996 Summer Olympics – Atlanta), gold, silver, and bronze medalist at the 1995 Pan American Games, 1995 World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation Champion, and two-time U.S. National Powerlifting Champion (1995 & 1997). He was 1992 American Open winner, two-time United States Olympic Festival Champion, and North American, Central American, and Caribbean champion.
In 1996, Henry signed to the World Wrestling Federation. He debuted on the March 11 episode, press slamming Jerry Lawler due to being ridiculed during his in-ring interview. Months later, Henry made his pay-per-view debut at the In Your House: Mind Games event on September 22, defeating Lawler. His debut match was just a day before at a WWF live event in Baltimore, Maryland. He took a year off to heal injuries and continue training, before returning at Shotgun Saturday Night in November of 1997. Henry continued to remain a babyface and received mild fanfare. However, on the January 12, 1998 episode of Raw Is War, Henry turned on Ken Shamrock and joined the Nation of Domination.
Mark Henry Focuses on Pro Wrestling Career
In 1998, Henry transitioned more from weightlifting to focus on his career as a pro wrestler. However he did go back to his roots as a weightlifter to win Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Arnold Strongman Classic in 2002. He continued competing while a member of the NOD, teaming with D-Lo Brown and Kama Mustafa. As The Rock broke away from Faarooq and became the leader of The Nation, Henry started to become less featured on the card. He did, however, began to adopt a likeness for Chyna, which caused him to don the nickname of Sexual Chocolate. He continued his attempt to gain the love interest of Chyna, even going out on a date with her.
Chyna, at first, was offended at Henry’s advances. However, she reluctantly agreed to a date, and even called him “her man” to Jacqueline and Terri on the December 28, 1998 episode of Raw. D’Lo and Henry maintained a partnership, but Henry turned on him during his match against Jeff Jarrett at the 1999 SummerSlam pay-per-view. Jarrett awarded him the European Championship for assisting him to defeat D’Lo, but Henry lost the title to D’Lo the next month at Unforgiven.
Henry tried to make amends with D’Lo for what he did, admitting that he lost his best friend because he had a sex addiction. This soon turned Henry into a babyface, further embracing his Sexual Chocolate gimmick. In 2000, Henry began a relationship with Mae Young.
This bizarre storyline led to Young giving birth to a baby hand, which is one of the most memorable moments of the Attitude Era.
Mark Henry Transitions Out of Sexual Chocolate
Henry soon aligned with The Godfather for a brief period of time to further extend his Sexual Chocolate gimmick, but dropped lower in the card before going to Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2000. He returned in 2002 with his World’s Strongest Man gimmick, even performing feats of strength on the SmackDown brand. While he received a mild reaction as a babyface, he turned heel again and sided with Teddy Long on the August 25, 2003 episode of Raw, following a return back to OVW. After a quick loss to Chris Benoit on the February 2, 2004 episode of Raw, he tore his quad during an OVW practice, causing him to be on the shelf for nearly a year. He returned again to OVW in 2005, and come back to the SmackDown brand in 2006.
Here is where his character started to elevate more, as he competed against Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble, and The Undertaker at WrestleMania in a casket match.
Night of Champions proved to be the most successful pay-per-view in Mark Henry’s career. In 2008, Henry defeated The Big Show and Kane in a triple threat match to become the ECW World Champion. When he was drafted back to Raw his character decreased in status again. However, his return to WWE SmackDown gave Henry another boost, as he popularized his Hall of Pain gimmick, At the 2011 Night of Champions PPV, Henry defeated Randy Orton to win the World Heavyweight Championship, which is undoubtedly the biggest achievement of his career.
Sexual Chocolate Will Always Be Remembered
Henry remained on the full-time roster until 2016. His WWE career consisted of becoming the World Heavyweight Champion, ECW Champion, and European Champion, along with multiple title matches against the likes of names such as WWE Champions John Cena and CM Punk, and World Heavyweight Champion Goldberg. His World’s Strongest Slam finisher was one of the most devastating moves in professional wrestling, and he is certainly one of the most popular super heavyweights that ever stepped in the ring. In addition, Henry has been in notable main event feuds with other superstars such as Batista, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio, Roman Reigns, and his infamous steel cage match against Daniel Bryan at both SmackDown and Royal Rumble.
In 2018, Mark Henry was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I had the pleasure of being there live on the floor, and the emotion that Henry showed as a result of being inducted was certainly infectious. With over 20 years as a full-time professional wrestler, Henry went through several ups and downs in the WWE, but was able to use gimmicks such as Sexual Chocolate to make lemonade out of lemons.
As WWE.com put it, “For the devastation he caused inside the ring, as well as the work he does to help the next generation of Superstars, there is no bigger honor for Mark Henry than to become The World’s Strongest Hall of Famer.”