Mark Henry recalls his infamous “retirement” speech and segment with John Cena from 2013.
Perhaps the most well-known moment of Mark Henry's WWE career outside of his WWE World Heavyweight Championship victory is when he came to the ring on June 17, 2013, during Monday Night Raw and delivered a faux retirement speech before dropping John Cena with the World's Strongest Slam.
Many fans recall the emotional promo and the now-iconic salmon suit jacket that Mark Henry wore that night in the ring while he spoke about the difficulty he was going to have “walking away” from wrestling.
Speaking about that moment on AEW Unrestricted, Mark Henry would say that it worked so well and still resonates to this day because it drew upon real emotion. Mark would even reveal that for him, the moment became even more real when he saw genuine emotion cross John Cena's face.
“It was real. That's why it works so well, because I truly wanted to retire, and not wrestle anymore and become more of an executive, do more coaching and training, and work in support. But they didn't want me to do that, they wanted me to keep working as a talent. So I was basically going to retire anyway. Vince just talked me out of it. I knew for about four months, but I still prepared like I was retiring that night. It was one of the more emotional moments in my life because I mourn the death of my career. That's the way that I looked at it. That's why I was so emotional. It was over. When I put the boots on the steps, and I walked through the ring, I said everything that I would have said [in a real retirement.] My kids did cry, at that time, when I left home. It used to hurt me being on the plane going, 'I'm going to miss ballet, I'm going to miss tap dance recitals,' I'm going to miss -- my kids are in a band, you know, Jacob is the lead singer in a funk and hip hop band and my daughter plays the drums, so I would miss them. So it was tough.
“It was easy to draw on the emotion of the moment because it was real. I just knew that at some point, I'm gonna have to shut the waterworks off and focus on doing business with John Cena. John Cena, you know, was standing at ringside and it was really impromptu. It wasn't something that was planned. John tried to give me the [WWE Championship belt], and I just told him ‘No, I don't deserve to hold that. I never won that. I'm not gonna do it,’ and he just started crying because I had emotionally gotten to him. I knew when I looked over there and I saw him crying. I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, this is definitely [different].’ I knew it was different, and you know, from the time that ‘...A lot left in the tank’ came out of my mouth, to walking in the back. When I got in the back for the first time in my career, and it was the end of my career, all the wrestlers were in the back waiting on me. It was like walking into a concert, a concert crowd. You walk off the stage and walk into the people.
Henry concluded, “Everybody was there. Everybody was applauding and clapping kind of coming up and hugging me and I was like, ‘Damn, I would have retired a long time ago if I would have known that it would get everybody's attention.’ But it did work.”
Elsewhere on the same podcast, Mark Henry recalled telling WWE that he was ready to begin looking for work elsewhere and that he would be taking his competitive spirit with him. Learn more here.
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