Fighting

PRO WRESTLING: Spending some time with WWE superstars Mark Henry, Zack Ryder, Heath Slater

WWE superstar Mark Henry is embarking on 20 years with WWE.
WWE superstar Mark Henry is embarking on 20 years with WWE. Photo By Ashley Andersen

Every year WrestleMania Axxess gives WWE fans from around the world a chance to meet their favorite superstars.

However, the performers signing autographs and posing for photos with those who wait in line are also grateful to be there. Zack Ryder and Heath Slater have been on the roster for many years now, but they never forget where they came from.

“As a fan, I would wait in line to meet my favorite superstars,” Ryder said during an Axxess appearance at the San Jose Convention Center in March. “Now I’m at a table signing for thousands of fans. It’s a surreal experience.”

Slater has similar memories.

“Growing up and loving wrestling was awesome,” he said. “I mean I stood in lines to get autographs and pictures. It’s good to give back knowing as a kid you did the same thing. This was always a big deal. So hopefully we can make kids smile here.”

Ryder and Slater appreciate every moment and opportunity they are given. This has helped them endure in the top dog in sports entertainment. They’ve each seen friends and tag partners exit WWE one way or another. The two both believe evolving is a necessity in remaining relevant with the audience and decision-makers.

“You have to change with the times, especially in this business,” Ryder said. “You look at someone like The Undertaker. He has been here for so long and keeps changing. It’s never the same old thing. That’s what we need to do and have done. That is why we are still here. Think about it, even here we are two of the longest guys on the roster. It’s pretty crazy to think about that.”

Slater added: “It is crazy to think about that because you never know when it will be the last time. So for us, we just like to go out there and give it our all every night and have fun doing it.”

The locker room continues to bring in new faces from NXT, WWE’s developmental brand.

“The NXT thing is great for those guys, but I’m not focused on them,” Ryder said. “I’m focused on me and being better than everyone I step in the ring with. So that is exactly what is going to happen.”

Slater said: “NXT is awesome and doing wonders for the boys down there. It’s awesome that they have that, but I have my own goals. My personal goal is I want the Intercontinental title. It’s the only title I’ve ever wanted.”

Mark Henry hasn’t won the Intercontinental title either, but he has garnered a few belts during his illustrious career including WWE’s World championship.

When you discuss accomplishments and especially years of service in WWE as an in-ring superstar, Henry is right up there. The “World’s Strongest Man” and Olympic weightlifter is edging closer to the 20-year milestone. Despite all he has achieved, the imposing Texan remains hungry for success.

“I definitely would like to be champion again,” he said. “To be Intercontinental champion, to be WWE champion, those are the only two titles that I haven’t held. I’d like to get that done before I’m through.”

These days the veteran finds himself on a roster filled with young emerging talent. He enjoys working with many of them, including Roman Reigns.

“I think Roman has a really high ceiling,” Henry said. “I don’t think he completely believes in himself yet. Once you get off autopilot and you believe in you and what you are and what your skill set is…He is going to be a world champion.”

Along with the next generation of superstars are familiar faces like former WWE world champion Brock Lesnar, who re-signed with the company days before WrestleMania 31. Henry has been front and center when it comes to his ascent from impressive upstart to the “Beast Incarnate” we see today.

“It’s the same Brock,” Henry said. “I mean Brock is very intense. One of the things that is a strong point for him is he has a short memory. Win, lose or draw, he is still as hungry as he was the day before. So you have to bring it all the time. It was unfortunate for me because I ran into Brock when I was injured. Now I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been. I hope in the future we can run into each other because it would be a lot different than it was then.”

With WrestleMania 31 in the rear view mirror, Henry looks forward to WrestleMania 32 next year from AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

“I think a loser leaves town or retirement match is fitting,” he said. “Something like that in Dallas. If I win in Dallas, then I keep going. If I don’t, it would be a good place to go out.”

- Follow Zack Ryder on Twitter @ZackRyder

- Follow Heath Slater on Twttier @HeathSlaterOMRB

- Follow Mark Henry on Twitter @TheMarkHenry

- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN

- Pro Wrestling On the Web

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