Former WWE world champion Mark Henry sat down with philly.com Tuesday before a taping of Smackdown at the Wells Fargo Center that night.
Henry, a former Olympic weightlifter, made his in-ring debut in Philadelphia back on Sept. 12, 1996 at In Your House: Mind Games. Here is the transcript to the interview:
Johnson: How is everything going for you?
Henry: I'm having a ball. I always look forward to coming to Philly. This is one of our better crowds. The fans are very educated and know what they want. If they don't get what they want, they'll boo. I always look forward to that.
Johnson: You made your in-ring debut at Mind Games here in Philly back in 1996 against Jerry Lawler. I'm assuming you remember that, right?
Henry: Oh, most definitely. It's good to be able to come back to established roots, to have a first match and come back to the place where you had that.
Johnson: Walk me through that a little bit. Did you have any idea what you were getting into at that point? Your first match was on pay-per-view against Lawler, who was a future WWE Hall of Famer at that point and was already a legend in the business.
Henry: Hell no. I was a wrestling fan and had made the commitment to stop competing in [weight] lifting and come into this industry and try to learn slowly. Little did I know my first match was going to be on pay-per-view against a well-established legend.
Johnson: I remember there were vignettes of you walking around the city and taking in the sites. Do you remember those vignettes at all?
Henry: I do. We were just talking about that just a few minutes ago, going up the stairs at the [Philadelphia Museum of Art].
Johnson: If the Mark Henry of today, who is a wiser, more mature veteran of this business, could give a piece of advice to a young Mark Henry before his first match, what would you tell him?
Henry: For the match, I would say to use your instincts and go by what you're feeling. A lot of times when you think, you make mistakes. Your instincts are just what they are. They're there to protect you. I did a lot of things that were very thought out that didn't pan out because it just wasn't meant to be. If you go by your instincts, you can't go wrong … and not to invest in the stock market. Don't invest in properties.
Johnson: I recall you saying in an interview that you had signed a new contract with WWE back in 2013. How much longer is that contract for and how much longer do you have left in the business overall?
Henry: I don't know how I let Vince [McMahon] convince me into signing another contract back in 2013. He did a bit of magic. He's got that magic where you just go in the office and he'll talk you into it. I won't be signing any more contracts. I'm an elder statesman. This is a young guy business and I'm 100 percent for it. I love the marketing process. I love the international marketing. I love the talent development, but those are all things I'll work with the company on to make sure that our business continues to thrive, but there's a bunch of other stuff that I plan on doing.
Johnson: How certain are you that this is your final contract and these are your final days as an active participant in the business?
Henry: I'm 100 percent sure. I'm leading toward WrestleMania and I'll have a little time after that, but that's going to be it for me.
Johnson: Is there anything that you would go back and change about your career or anything that you haven't done that you want to do?
Henry: No, not at all. Most of the stuff that I want to do involve helping the industry for the younger guys. There are some things that aren't in the kind of order that would have been great for us, so I'm trying to make that stuff better for the future.
Johnson: Obviously, the business has changed over the last 20 years, but what are some of the things that you had to go through when you were breaking in that either don't exist or have changed dramatically for a person coming in today?
Henry: For one, we're corporate. It's a corporation business. Corporate America. Back then, it wasn't. There were a bunch of Wild West gunslingers that came from all over the world into one locker room. To be in that locker room you had to be savvy and you had to have the respect of your peers. There were guys that came from different organizations that didn't like each other. You were able to handle it however way you wanted to handle it, and that's not the way it is now.
Now, it's structured and "This is the way it's going to be," and "If you can't coexist, we can't have you here. It'll be a danger to the locker room or a danger to another talent." It's very corporate, but I remember being in a time where if people had a beef they just went outside and handled it. There was nothing that the company could do about it. Now, the company has all the power. It's actually for the best because a lot of the times people tend to want to do for themselves and not do for the business and I like the fact that the business is strong.
Johnson: You've spent your entire wrestling career with one company. For guys from your era, that is a rarity. What do you think about that?
Henry: The Undertaker and I are the only two guys that have been with the company consecutively for almost 20 years or more. Being with the company 19 years, and when it's all said and done, I'll have a 20-year career here, which is unparalleled other than The Undertaker.
I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to last this long and it's not just attributed to me being a talent. It's me being a businessman, me being a teacher, me being a guy that can command the respect of other men in the locker room. They look up to me. They know that when I'm done I'll be on the political side of things and helping them more. It's really impressive to myself as well, but I don't pat myself on the back too much about it. It's what I expect out of myself.