I recently had a chance to sit down with former WWE World Heavyweight Champion to discuss military outreach, charity efforts, a possible political future, and the prospect of his retirement in the near future.
Listen to the interview below…
And a transcript of the interview…
We’ve seen the Tribute to the Troops shows on television, but I don’t think the general public truly appreciates what the WWE does in terms of military outreach. Could you tell us more about what the company does to honor our soldiers?
Well, Tribute to the Troops is just like one of the things that we do for our military. It’s a show. We invite all armed forces on the base that we do the show. And we try to bring light to the fact that we respect and love our soldiers for giving us the freedoms we have in this country. But we also do Walter Reed, Mathers. There’s a new facility in San Antonio that we’ll be frequenting. So, it’s a lot. It’s not just one or two events. All of our guys kind of … in my feeling when I say that we respect and love our military, and we try to serve our country in a way. But it will never meet what they do for us. I’m on a team called the Big Guns, and we basically work with the National Guard. We try not to leave them out because, a lot of times they feel like they get the short end of the stick (laughs), but we’re very pro-Army National Guard. We do a lot.
I see there’s a lot of things like giving out free tickets to events and pay-per-views for our soldiers. It seems like the mainstream news media pays attention when there’s a negative story. But there isn’t much coverage about the charity work done by the entire company. Is that an accurate assessment?
Yea, there’s a lot of that. You know, the media is going to try to sell papers, or articles, or whatever else. We don’t really look down on that. It’s not that big of a deal to us. We know what we do. And, I don’t think nobody’s looking for a pat on the back for our efforts. We are 100% pro-our guys and girls in the military and could care less how the media portrays it. Of course, you want to set a precedent. Vince is very competitive. He wants to do as much or more than any other professional sport or civic group. And it shows in our effort.
You’ve been a part of several Tribute to the Troops events, including a couple in Iraq. Is there any particular memory that stands out regarding the men and women you’ve met during or after these shows?
Yea, I got to hold … the Buffalo Soldiers actually pulled a .50 caliber off the turret, and they wanted to see if I could hold it. It weighs like 87 lbs. And one of the sergeants was like “Man, if I had two of you, I could go down some of these narrow (inaudible) and clear a good path.” I was like, “If you had two of me, the least of your worries would be the insurgents.” (laughs)
What does it feel like to know that men and women who are essentially, they’re American heroes, who after the show will return to work fighting – and possibly dying – for our country, they want to spend their free time by going to see you perform?
If you have a valid military ID or if you have your military address, then you come to the arena and you get in free. That’s minimal. We have ‘meet and greets’ and different VIP functions that we also invite our military to. We have a lot of military staff and security involved in military. Most of them are military. John Marks is still in active duty and he’s right now away doing, living up to his responsibilities, and we’ll see him back in three months.
The company’s involved in several other charity efforts, particularly for children. Can you tell us a little bit about those, especially the ones you’ve been involved with?
The biggest is Make-A-Wish. John Cena has granted more wishes than anybody in history. He goes the extra mile, and our company also, with the rest of our talent grants a lot of wishes. But John Cena in particular, he should run for President for all he’s done on that front. We also do a lot of urban outreach and community involvement. We work with many groups that involve after school programs. We have a bullying campaign called Be A Star which is very high on my list. I was bullied as a kid. Sometimes it’ll turn out good, it may be hyper-competitive, but it also breaks the kids down, and I hate to see that happen so I really appreciate that we have that campaign. And many more, there’s just so much that we have on our plate and we’re not running from it, we’re running to it.
Well, I can’t actually imagine anybody bullying you but…
Well, I wasn’t always 6′ 4″ and 400 lbs. When you’re a kid, you’re a kid, it don’t matter how big a kid you are.
How do you reconcile that with, there are some angles on the show, particularly the one I think of with Ryback, who tends to be bullying other people within the show. How do you guys reconcile an anti-bullying program with what’s produced on the air?
Everything that we do, there’s some bullying involved. What we do is an action soap opera. We’re entertainers. Ryback is an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. Big Show, and all other big guys, Brock Lesnar, the list of intimidating big guys. When we leave the arena, we leave those (inaudible) behind. The real world is where the issue is. It’s not with what we do. We also say ‘don’t do what we do at home’. We have a campaign where we have all of our talent, and they show video of us getting injuries and we’re professionals, so what could happen to you? Not to mention, don’t take this to school. Don’t take it to church. Don’t take it to play. Because it’s a highly skilled environment, and guys that put on these 104 shows on Raw and Smackdown a year, we don’t make it through the year. It’s very dangerous and as far as the bullying aspect of it … it’s a show.
You recently had an angle with John Cena where you did a fake retirement speech. Have you considered retirement or is that …
Every day. Every day. It might be tomorrow, it might be next month, it might be next year. I don’t know but it’s going to happen.
When you’re set to hang it up with the WWE, any thought of running for political office?
I’ve done way too much dirt in my life. I don’t want people digging into my past. No running for office for me.
Yea, that Mae Young thing might come back to haunt you.
I’ll do some philanthropic things. I’ll do some community involvement, some institutional programming things, and maybe some international marketing. But no sir, no public office.
Are there any other personal projects that you do, any websites you’d like to promote and get the word out on?
I just tell people to follow me on Twitter @TheMarkHenry. Same thing on Facebook.
I know we’re strapped for time. One last question, I told my son I’d ask you. He wanted to know who was your toughest opponent as a wrestler.