This is a semi-regular column focused on introducing the lesser known or not as well represented stars of professional wrestling to the people of the Cedar Rapids corridor.
Mark Henry is certainly a name most wrestling fans would now recognize. A former WWE-ECW and World Heavyweight champion, Henry has truly risen to the main event in a big way.
He started out as an Olympic caliber power lifter in the super heavyweight division. He never scored an Olympic medal, but he placed in several other competitions in the mid 90s. WWE signed Henry to an unprecedented 10 year contract in 1996.
Henry received training by a trio of Canadian wrestlers including two WWE hall of famers. Leo Burke, Stu Hart and his son Bret all contributed to Henry’s early attempts at wrestling. Unfortunately after only a few weeks of training, he was pushed on to television far from ready for the ring.
By 1998 he was the junior member of the Nation of Domination. He did little inside the group and would not really gain much success until he became “Sexual Chocolate” after the group disbanded. Still unskilled in the ring, the new gimmick allowed him to participate in several edge-pushing angles in 1999.
He would be sent down for conditioning in WWE’s developmental roster at the time Ohio Valley Wrestling. He would get a better knowledge of how to wrestle there as well as get in to ring shape, only to leave for a few months to train for, and win, the 2002 Arnold Classic strongman competition.
He returned to television directly after that victory, but out of condition for the ring. It would be only months later that a quadriceps tear would put him out for a year. He returned again, only to have a knee injury put him out for several months.
When he again returned, he was in the best ring shape of his career. He feuded briefly with the Undertaker before moving to ECW and almost immediately winning their championship. He would dominate ECW for the summer of 2008 and finally come in to his own as a truly powerful force in WWE.
In 2009, Henry was drafted to Raw where he was quickly lost in the shuffle after an impressive win (and face turn) against Randy Orton. He would form an unsuccessful tag team with both MVP and Evan Bourne.
In April 2011, he would move to Smackdown. Almost immediately he became a dominant force. He would put in impressive wins over Sheamus, Kozlov, and Great Khali before he pinned Randy Orton to take the World Heavyweight Championship. Mark Henry would dominate his opponents for the next several months.
An injury in December put his title shot in danger, and he would drop a brief contest to Big Show at the TLC pay-per-view. (Big Show would in turn lose the title to Daniel Bryan seconds later.)
After 15 years in wrestling, it seems Mark Henry was suddenly an overnight success. It seems likely the 400 pound behemoth will remain only one World’s Strongest Slam away from domination in WWE for several years to come.
Cedar Rapids wrestling fans can regularly watch Henry every Friday on Smackdown. He also makes regular appearances on WWE Raw every Monday night.