In 1996, after competing in the Summer Olympics, WWE signed Mark Henry to a 10-year contract. He made his debut prior to this, on the March 11, 1996, episode of Raw while being interviewed by Jerry Lawler. This interview ended with Henry press-slamming Lawler, and he defeated him months later in his debut match at the In Your House: Mind Games pay-per-view.
Since then, WWE fans have witnessed incarnations of Henry being a member of the Nation of Domination, his role as "Sexual Chocolate," memorable angles with Chyna and Mae Young, as well as the Hall of Pain, among others. Henry's first championship came when he helped Jeff Jarrett become a holder of the Intercontinental and European Championships. As a result of turning on D'Lo Brown, Henry was awarded the European Title by Jeff Jarrett.
After a 21-year career with WWE, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer is reporting that Henry is pretty much considered retired. Henry has not wrestled since the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania last April. The only other two televised matches he had in the past year was the February 13, 2017 episode of Raw, in which he lost to Braun Strowman, and the 2017 Royal Rumble match. His last victory was on the December 5, 2016 edition of Raw, defeating Titus O'Neil.
Henry is still under a WWE contract, and will not be looking for outside dates. The exception of this is a Northeast Wrestling event, scheduled for March 3, but he will not be competing in the ring.
I had the chance to discuss Henry's retirement with Shawn Daivari, who managed Henry in 2006 and is now the co-owner of "The Academy: School of Professional Wrestling".
"Working with Mark was awesome," said Daivari. "We were both kinda thrown in the deep end when we were put together. it all happened accidentally. I was with Kurt on Raw, then Dave [Batista] got hurt on SmackDown. Mark just started with a monster push to be a heel that was big enough to make Dave sell. Dave is massive. It's hard to get babyface sympathy on a guy who legit is bigger than a statue of a Greek god. So Mark got thrown right into the deep end after kinda being in a bit of a lull. Then Batista tore his tricep I think and kinda left Mark with no one to work with and Smackdown's biggest babyface on the shelf for six months.
"So they moved me and Kurt to SmackDown, put the belt on Kurt, then did the swerve where they put me with Mark. Neither I, nor Kurt, nor Mark knew this was happening. And from that, we forged an awesome friendship. We drove together we hung out together, I got to know his wife and his (then) new baby. Mark was a guy very similar to Muhammad [Hassan] who was kind of unfairly judged a bit by a lot of the boys. I was happy to work with him during that run where we both had this mentality of [proving the doubters wrong]. Undertaker was the first one who jumped on board and allowed Mark to be elevated. Things were going great too, until he got hurt and kinda had to start the whole process all over again. But, as you saw, it worked out.
"The best advice was how to conduct myself as a human being in the spotlight. People forget how young I was when I started. I was only 21 at that time, and although I was very mature for a 21-year-old, I still didn't have the maturity of someone who was on TV, recognized places he went, had enough money to kinda do whatever I wanted, etc. He just taught me how to be a normal human being and be polite, humble, civil, and charitable to those who aren't as lucky as we were."
Two other defining moments in his career was winning the ECW Championship from Kane at Night of Champions on June 29, 2008, and winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Randy at Night of Champions on September 18, 2011.
Henry teased his retirement during an episode of the WWE Network's Table for 3 featuring the Nation of Domination.
"It's been 21 years, and as we know, that Father Time is undefeated," said Henry. "My time is coming to an end. I'll go from talent to an employee here in a few months. I'm just looking forward to making that transition, helping these young guys and girls coming in beneath us."
The Academy is starting their next class on Feb. 2nd, 2018. For more information about training at The Academy, please visit www.theacademyprowrestling.com.