Johnny Nitro, John Morrison, and the “Shaman of Sexy”: John Hennigan, 33, goes by many different names. But the now-retired World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, fitness guru, and actor is quick to distance himself from one particular moniker: the “Prince of Parkour” (a nod to his favorite cross-training method), deferring to founder David Belle as the one true master.
If not a prince, then Hennigan is surely a pioneer. He helped create Out of Your Mind Fitness, a functional training program that incorporates parkour techniques into improving mobility. His movie career took a leap forward with a starring role in The Darkness Descending, which debuted at this year’s Comic-Con. And he’s busy working on other films, such as The Factory and Boone the Bounty Hunter, which he starred in, co-wrote, and produced. We spoke to Hennigan about training, lifeguards, and Jackie Chan:
Why did you adopt parkour as your cross-training method?
John Hennigan: Parkour has kept me honest throughout my career because a lot of times, pro wrestlers — myself included — have a tendency of wanting to get really big and there were times in my career when I started to get too big. I started to notice that I couldn’t move as well as I wanted to, and that was what kept me rooted in who I wanted to be as a performer, how I wanted to move, how I wanted to feel. Parkour kept me in the zone as a true athlete and performer.
How long have you been a traceur?
JH: I started training parkour-type stuff about 15 years ago. I did martial arts and break dancing when I was growing up. Technically those weren’t parkour, but they were preparing me for parkour. I was a huge Jackie Chan fan growing up, and a lot of times trying to emulate what I saw him do in Rumble in the Bronx.
What is your favorite move?
JH: That’s like asking Jeff Foxworthy what his favorite redneck joke is. It’s hard to pick one specific movement in a discipline where there are infinite movements. What I like about parkour is you can do it just like that. Anywhere. You don’t need any equipment; you just need your body.
How did you incorporate parkour into Out of Your Mind Fitness?
JH: We’ve got a couple of movements, like a tic tac progression. We’ve got frogstand and handstand push-ups, which are key to building up the functional shoulder strength you need to do a lot of vaults. It’s a functional training program that’s built to help someone move.
Have you ever gotten into trouble while practicing parkour?
JH: I’m working on a movie called Boone the Bounty Hunter that I co-wrote. It’s about a bounty hunter who uses parkour to catch bounties. We were shooting at the beach in Santa Monica and I was doing back folds off a lifeguard tower. The police showed up and told us we had to leave. I talked to them for a few minutes and explained what we were doing. They let us finish the shot and just told us to stay off the lifeguard towers, which was really cool.
You’re in a film set to premiere at this year’s Comic-Con in New York, The Darkness Descending. Did you practice parkour for your role?
JH: Not for this role, but I practice it year-round just for my self because I like it. Parkour always comes in handy. There’s a lot of stuff with stunt fighting where there are a bunch of precise moves that are very similar to parkour.
In the WWE, you were known as the “Prince of Parkour.” Now that you’re no longer in the organization, are you still the “Prince”?
JH: It’s on my vanity license plate [Laughs]. Just kidding. I did not come up with that nickname. If it was up to me, I would’ve called myself the “Godfather of Parkour” [Laughs]. If there were a “Prince of Parkour,” maybe David Belle, maybe Jackie Chan — maybe Buster Keaton even — but not me.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
JH: Boone the Bounty Hunter, it’ll be out next year. It’s what I’m most excited about. I co-wrote, starred in, and produced it. The Darkness Descending at Comic-Con. I just got done with a movie in Oklahoma with Debo from <<<italics Friday>>>, aka Tiny Lister Jr. I also wrapped on a movie called <<<italics The Factory>>> in Brooklyn. On the horizon for me is a potential return to the WWE, TNA [Total Nonstop Action] or New Japan in the pro-wrestling worlds. And Out of Your Mind Fitness, which I spent two years working on. Now that it’s out, it feels really good.