Monday, January 25, 2010

Former Olympian tests toughness in World Wrestling Entertainment bouts

Mark Henry and cohorts ready to rumble for Saturday matchups

From the Evansville Courier & Press
By Jacob Bennett
Posted January 21, 2010 at midnight

Mark Henry has been The Silverback, The King of the Jungle, Sexual Chocolate.

He's the longtime World Wrestling Entertainment star who isn't exaggerating when he calls himself the World's Strongest Man. Don't argue, or you might suffer his finishing move, The World's Strongest Slam.

In an industry dominated by tough guys, Henry, a former Olympic weightlifter, is quantifiably tougher. And at 6-foot-1, 392 pounds, he literally is the biggest reason to attend the WWE Raw Live house show Saturday at Roberts Stadium. He and tag-team partner MVP will take on the team known as Legacy during an untelevised event also scheduled to feature stars such as John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston.

"They got over on us last time, but we've got big payback planned," Henry said. "Of course we always travel with our divas; there's a six-diva tag-team matchup that you definitely need to see."

Henry, a Texas native, phoned on a day off as he took care of the mundane business that makes up real life in Harlem in New York City, where he now lives.

"I try to get all my necessary stuff done before I get back on the road — laundry, get my hair done, make sure everybody's all right in the family," Henry said. "I'm actually at the hair-braiding place now. They're working on me as we speak."

Henry is one of the longest-tenured wrestlers on the WWE roster, and his in-ring personality has evolved just like the company — from an antagonist to an envelope pusher to the kind of wrestler you could let your kids watch.

Henry was a legend in some circles even before he joined the WWE, as a weightlifting phenom — his raw talent led to all sorts of U.S. records, two trips to the Olympics and anecdotes swapped among other lifters that would sound like fish stories if they weren't true, involving minimal training and even less equipment.

The best evidence of his toughness isn't even his first-prize finish in the "World's Strongest Man" competition at the 2002 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. Flex Magazine recently ranked him the second-strongest man who ever lived, based on his lift totals and his claim to being the first guy to ever clean and press with one hand the famed Thomas Inch dumbbell — which weighs 172 pounds and has a bar diameter of nearly 2½ inches.

The magazine said he might have topped the list if he hadn't left the sport in 1996 to join the WWE.

As a wrestler, Henry has been part of tag teams and militant factions. He went through a phase where he called himself Sexual Chocolate, during which he was purported to be a sex addict who was having a baby with Mae Young, who began her wrestling career in 1939.

Henry said he didn't necessarily prefer one gimmick over another.

"I don't worry about all that," Henry said. "I let my actions in the ring take precedence, and that usually is the best policy."

The WWE has dropped racier gimmicks over the last year or so for programs more appropriate for children.

That should help sales of the new line of action figures the WWE is releasing this year with Mattel, which Henry said are the best he's ever seen.

Henry said he didn't get any of the toys in advance, but he planned to get the whole set for his 4-year-old son, including the one modeled after himself. Henry was asked if his son understands what it means to have a parent who also is an action figure.

"He just knows his dad is the strongest man in the world."

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