The Big Show and Mark Henry are quite different in certain aspects. For example, since being assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in Louisville, Ky., Big Show has shaved his head; Henry's hair is longer, and he sometimes comes to the ring wearing braids. They both have well-thought-out reasons for their hairstyle changes. "I got the idea from the movie 'Major Payne,'" Big Show said. "He shaved the kids heads. He said the kids have to earn their 'do ... their hairdo. I took a comedic scene from a movie and applied it to myself in a very serious manner. Before I let my hair grow back I need to make some positive changes." And then there's Mark Henry's decision to let his hair grow longer and braid it. "Women find it attractive," said the Silsby, Texas, native. "It's different than anybody in the wrestling industry. It's more of an exotic look. Mark Henry has also been a big strong guy. Lots of personality but nothing ever signified it." Beyond specific differences like hairstyle preference, Big Show and Mark Henry have a great deal in common. Sure, there's the obvious stuff. World Wrestling Federation officials sent both to OVW to improve their physical conditioning and in-ring skills. OVW is a training camp for men and women that the Federation thinks can one day become WWF Superstars. The focus is on training and practice.
There are television tapings with crowds of 40-50 people, a significant difference from the 20,000 fans that are packed into many arenas for Federation live events. OVW's emphasis on condition has worked: both Show and Henry have lost a considerable amount of weight. But there are many more similarities, many more than they probably realize. In separate interviews with WWF.com, the two men sounded similar, often times eerily so, as they discussed their plight. Both men were extremely candid and admitted that, while they certainly weren't thrilled with being sent to Louisville at first, they now realize that Federation officials made the right decision. In fact, they're both in positive spirits. Both say they now realize that they had problems in the past. Both say that they not only want to make it back to the Federation, but they want to be top stars there, and they're confident they can do it. Both even used the analogy of a coach-player relationship, even though they weren't specifically asked about it. In the past, Mark Henry now says, he was "focused on partying and living the 'Life of Riley.'" He admits that he's had motivation problems. "I (traveled) with Rocky (The Rock)," he said. "He was like, 'Come on Mark, let's go to the gym.' And I'd be like, 'Man, go ahead. I'll see you at the (arena).' Now I realize how much I was missing. That's a part of our job, and he looked at it like that, and I didn't. Now I see it that way." The superstar who has competed as "Sexual Chocolate" said that, in the past when he felt lazy, he'd have a coach barking orders at him, encouraging him to stay motivated.
"I didn't have that (in the WWF), and I might have needed that," he said. "I had to learn how to teach myself, how to coach myself. It's not just in sports but in life. (People) are so used to being coached and led that they never learn to lead themselves or teach themselves what it takes to win. And that's what I've learned here. It didn't take long; I pick it up." Henry has picked it up by losing 50 pounds since he was sent to Louisville in early spring. When asked how his diet and workout regiment have changed, he quipped, "Man, you got about two or three hours?" Henry consumes about 3,000 calories a day (down at least 1,000 and often as much as 2,000 calories daily). He's watched his carbohydrate levels and eats at least 500 grams of protein daily. In the past, "I never really cared to dissect how much I was consuming as long as I was full." He works out every day, and as often as four times a week, he works out twice a day. He focuses on cardiovascular conditioning more than ever. When he lifts weights, he concentrates more on developing specific body parts and shuns heavier weights that lead to more bulk. Officials wanted him to slim down to 340 or 350 pounds. Today he weighs 330, which he says is ideal because if he slimmed down anymore he'd lose strength. "I've re-found my athletic ability that I had when I was in high school," he said. "I can dunk with two hands now. I'm fast. I don't think there's many guys that are over 300 pounds -- even in the NFL -- that are as fast as I am now. I think that I could run a 4.9 (or) 5-flat (seconds) 40 (yard dash). "I can go and play three or four games of basketball. I can get on the treadmill for 45 minutes, then workout, and then wrestle later on that day. Before, if I knew I had to wrestle, I wasn't going to do anything all the rest of the day because I didn't want to get tired." If it sounds like the "World's Strongest Man" is confident, it's because he is.
"I know for a fact that I'm going to be successful in this business," he said. "The only thing that's going to keep me from being Rocky or (Stone Cold) Steve (Austin) or Undertaker is me. (Federation chairman) Vince (McMahon) told me from the beginning that he thought I had the charisma, but I had to learn the wrestling business and I had to understand how the game was. Coming to Louisville, Kentucky, has done that. I wouldn't have learned it on the road." Like Henry, the Big Show says that he probably didn't get enough training in fundamentals before being thrown into the spotlight. Prior to his days as the Big Show, Paul Wight competed in World Championship Wrestling, where he was trained for only six months before making his television debut in 1995. "I didn't really learn probably like I should have," he said. The Show's first year in the Federation was rocky by his own admission. There were personal problems, including a divorce, that he let "wear me down to the point that I was unapproachable." There was the weight problem -- he was 480 pounds when he was sent to Louisville - which led to injuries. And then there was his aforementioned lack of fundamental training. Show didn't understand it at the time, but now he realizes that he became insecure. He looked around and saw superstars that he calls the greatest entertainers on Earth - The Rock, the Undertaker, Stone Cold and Triple H - and subconsciously decided that he couldn't live up to their high standards. But because he hadn't yet identified the problem, he couldn't solve it. Instead, he developed an attitude. "I'm being so honest here it's not even funny," Big Show says today. "I'm telling you exactly the way it was. In a lot of aspects I was a jackass to work with. In a lot of aspects I just didn't have it. I had it at times, but as soon as times got tough, I turned into a jackass. I look back now and I'm so pissed at myself. I'm better than that." But Show says he's fortunate that men like Vince McMahon, Undertaker and Jim Ross, who is both the voice of the Federation and the head of its talent relations department, "saw past my front and saw that maybe deep down inside there there's a good guy that just needs some encouragement and a kick in the ass." He got that kick in mid-August in Worcester, Mass., during a meeting with Mr. McMahon. "(It was) like a coach talking to a player," Show said. "'If you don't bust your ass in practice I'm gonna bench you, or I'm gonna cut you.'" Initially, Show groaned about his Louisville assignment. In fact, he complained openly to his fiancee, Bess. It was Bess who helped him turn the corner, attitude wise, by looking him in the eye and telling him, "Honey, you're acting like a (pansy)."
Once he got to Louisville, Show also had a two-hour heart-to-heart meeting with Danny Davis, one of the OVW trainers, which helped. But ultimately, the decision to change one's attitude comes from within. "Slowly over time, I began to attack myself, like when I'd lay in bed at night or if I'm sitting on the couch watching TV, I'd start grilling myself, tearing down the false walls that you put up sometimes to save your ego," Show said. "I tore down the wall and kicked my ego right square in the teeth. "The biggest difference in my attitude is I want to work hard. I want appearances thrown at me. I want double bookings (two events in one night) thrown at me. I want to wrestle the 30-minute matches. I want to be in the main-event spotlight. I want the pressure. I want the responsibility. Before, I didn't even want to lace up my boots and go out." They say admitting the problem is always the first and most difficult step in solving it. Since Big Show cleared that hurdle, his progress and his attitude have improved steadily. "Trust me," he says, "I'm so positive now that I could write a self-help book and do a TV commercial, (imitating a voice on an infomercial) 'You can do it too!'" He's doing so well that the Federation officials have hinted that he may make an appearance at January's Pay-Per-View spectacular, the Royal Rumble. But the former Federation Champion isn't merely interested in returning to the Federation. Like Mark Henry, he wants to make a profound impact. "Rocky is the most explosive entertainer ever," Show says. "When I'm in the ring with him, I can feel the crowd, the noise, the vibration. I want to get to that level, where I can impact that crowd like that. "There's a new, bigger, badder, faster Big Show coming back. So stay tuned."