DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08: Mark Henry "The World's Strongest Man" is introduced during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Happy birthday, ya big lug.
"The World's Strongest Man," Mark Henry, turns 41-years-old today, as he was born on this date in pro wrestling history (June 12, 1971) in Silsbee, Texas. Henry, being of considerable size and strength, became a weightlifter and even got to the Olympic level, where he was noticed and quickly signed by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). They were so high on him, in fact, they gave him an extremely lucrative decade long contract.
Unfortunately, his big push didn't last long and thanks to injuries and an inability to work, he was turned into a punching bag by WWF management. My colleague, Keith Harris, summed up Henry's history of embarrassment rather nicely:
He was signed to a lucrative iron clad ten year guaranteed contract to much fanfare and a significant push after finishing a disappointing fourteenth due to injury in the super heavyweight weightlifting class at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The push soon fizzled, as Henry was ultra green, didn't pick things up quickly and was prone to injury. This bred resentment from WWE management and thinking that they'd never get a return on their investment, they came up with the silly Sexual Chocolate gimmick and started booking him in a series of humiliating angles to embarrass him into quitting the company. First, he was stripped to his boxers, sprayed with whipped cream, blindfolded, gagged, bound and whipped by Jacqueline and Terri Runnels to kick start their Pretty Mean Sisters (P.M.S.) gimmick. Soon after, he unsuccessfully courted Chyna, who got her own back for his philandering ways by setting him up with her friend Sammy, who Henry found out was a transvestite at the most inconvenient moment imaginable. He even had sex therapy sessions where he admitted to losing his virginity at age eight to his sister and a continuing incestuous relationship with her. Then came the piece de resistance, his romance and impregnation of octogenarian Mae Young, which led to the most infamous WWE segment pre Katie Vick where Young gave birth to a hand.
Being unable to shake him off with such shenanigans, they sent him to developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling in the late spring of 2000 to lose weight and he eventually returned to WWE TV in April 2002 a much more competent and well rounded performer, deserving of his spot on the roster. But even then, he's still had to regularly contend with demeaning angles and gimmicks, like the time he threatened to stank Trish Stratus on the January 14, 2004 Raw or being given "The Silverback" moniker on Smackdown in the summer of 2007. Most recently, he seemed to be in the doghouse again when they had Derek Bateman shill Mark Henry perfume on the January 17, 2011 Raw. Mark Henry had to do the voiceover for the mock ad where he claimed that the perfume would arouse hippos, and cause dizziness in pot bellied pigs and hypertension in bees, mosquitos and wasps. That weird angle may have been a message for him to shape up again having bloated back up to 456 pounds. If so, then he took that message to heart, as he quickly shed 60 pounds and it looked like he was going to be rewarded with a renewed push as a heel headliner when he was drafted to Smackdown and turned on John Cena and Christian in the main event of the April 25 episode of Raw. But this latest rib on Mark Henry suggests that won't last.
Actually, it did last. In fact, that heel turn was the catalyst to the most success Henry has ever enjoyed throughout his long career with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He was quickly made number one contender for the world heavyweight championship and Randy Orton, the titleholder at the time, put him over clean at consecutive pay-per-views to establish him as the biggest heel on the entire roster, brands be damned.
Henry used a gimmick the Creative team stole from Brodus Clay where he would destroy his opponents thus inducting them into the "Hall of Pain." Merchandise was made and Henry was suddenly the top dog on Smackdown, running wild and cutting some of the best promos of his career. He was believable as a monster and with plenty of opponents to work his style, he got over well.
Unfortunately, the injury bug just wouldn't leave him alone and he lost the world heavyweight title to Big Show at TLC last year. After going through a period where he was working through injuries when he clearly shouldn't have been, Henry finally took time off to get surgery just last month. He teased retirement initially but later recanted and promised to come back looking better than ever.
Pro wrestling fans can only hope.
After the jump, watch Henry defeat Orton at Night of Champions to win the world heavyweight championship for the first time.