“That’s What I Do”: The Career of Mark Henry (Part Two)
Last time, I discussed the first half of Mark Henry’s career. It was brutal. He was Sexual Chocolate, making out with transvestites, being father to a plastic hand and suffered many injuries. It certainly wasn’t worth the ten-year, ten million dollar investment. However, thankfully, this isn’t the end of the Mark Henry’s story.
In past articles, I examined three wresters (Trish Stratus, Alberto Del Rio and AJ Lee) using film studies Professor Richard Dyer’s “Star Text” theory. Mark Henry, one of the most important wrestlers of the current WWE, will be examined in the same way. By looking back at his history, I can determine whether Mark Henry has become a successful WWE wrestler. I believe the case will be made in the second half of his career that he has become a very valuable veteran of the WWE. His hard work paid off and he has come a long way in his very unique career.
Creditability is key to success in any entertainment field. I think Henry could have easily overcome his embarrassing early days but it was his constant injures that were the bigger problem. Thankfully for Henry after his latest setback in summer 2006, he was about to go through his longest stretch of being injury-free. It was the building of the star that is Mark Henry.
He finally returned on May 11, 2007 red-debuting during the World Heavyweight Title match. He cost Undertaker the title. Henry was back and the WWE put him into a major feud with its biggest star. It really was likely Henry’s last chance to prove his worth.
He begun by doing something rare, he won a pay per view match. He defeated Kane in a Lumberjack match at WWE One Night Stand. The WWE proceeded to build his credibility by having him destroy jobbers for the next few months. No one could stop him or would challenge him until Undertaker returned. While Henry would again lose his major match with the Undertaker at Unforgiven 2009, it showed he was being trusted to put on matches with major players. While Henry would go on a bit of a losing streak, he was constantly facing major stars like Rey Mysterio, Batista, Kane and C.M. Punk.
We in the “sports entertainment” world like to support winners. Henry was on a major losing streak. He might have become a stepping-stone to developing new talent until June 23, 2008. This was a monumental day in WWE history when Henry became an ECW star.
On June 29, 2008 Mark Henry defeated Kane and the Big Show at Night of Champions to become ECW Champion. It was amazing to think this was his first title he had one since the European Championship in 1999. Since that title was given to him, this was his first title he won ever. How many superstars could last over twelve years without winning a title in a match? Henry was certainly unique.
He would begin to work with Tony Atlas and defend his title against Tommy Dreamer. He was having success for the first time in WWE history. He would move on to feud with Matt Hardy. This would cost him the ECW title in September 2008.
He would continue to feud with Matt Hardy losing at No Mercy 2008. I was at that event and I remember the transformation in how he was perceived by the WWE fans. He spent his career being laughed at or getting little reaction from the crowds. Instead he got one of the biggest boos of the night. Henry was starting to establish his “tough-guy” persona. At least he was going to until they turned him into the Kool-Aid man.
After a few months of unsuccessfully trying to win the ECW title and losing Money in the Bank at WrestleMania XXIV, he was traded to Raw. On June 29, 2009 he defeated Randy Orton and became a face in the process. This begun the “Kool-Aid Man Era” where Mark Henry became heavily involved in the tag team title hunt. He would team, unsuccessfully, with MVP, Evan Bourne and Yoshi Tatsu for most of 2009 and 2010. His career seemed to be going nowhere. He had lost his gains from the ECW title days.
After vanishing for a while, he returned to be drafted to Smackdown and turned heel when he attacked John Cena and Christian on the April 25, 2011 Raw. He would soon begun a feud with The Big Show. He defeated him at Money in the Bank 2011 and proceeded to crush the Big Show’s leg. He would do the same to Vladimir Kozlov and the Great Khali. This would be the origin of what Henry would refer to the “Hall of Pain”. Thus begun his best period of his WWE career. A star needs to have a certain persona developed to be successful and Henry had finally found his.
The WWE helped by showing rare faith in Henry. He defeated Sheamus, via count-out, at Summerslam 2011 after slamming Sheamus through a barricade. Henry then won a 20-man battle royal to become a number one contender for the World Heavyweight title. Then on September 18, 2011 at Night of Champions he defeated Randy Orton cleanly to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Henry had finally become a credible man event character after 15 years of work. Impressive.
A star need to believed as a threat. Henry certainly was with his frequent violent attacks on fellow superstars and WWE staff. He beat Orton again at Hell in a Cell 2011 to build his championship pedigree. He was certainly aided by being part of this memorable moment at Vengeance 2011.
This famous ring collapse added to the Big Show-Mark Henry feud, which continued at Survivor Series 2011. It ended with Big Show defeating Mark Henry in a Chairs Match at TLC 2011 where Daniel Bryan cashed in shortly thereafter. This kept Henry in the title hunt at Royal Rumble 2012 but lost that match as well. While he did actually pick up his first ever WrestleMania win in a twelve-man tag match and briefly feuded with WWE Champion C.M. Punk, he suffered another career-threatening injury. Would this be the end of late career renaissance of Henry?
In Feburary 2013, he finally returned and continued his highly successful “Hall of Pain” persona. He got into the Elimination Chamber Match and although he lost it begun another successful run. He didn’t lose for nearly two month including his first singles victory at WrestleMania against Ryback. After losing to Sheamus at Extreme Rules 2013 he left with injuries again. When he returned on June 17th, the rumor was he was going to retire. It led to his best performance and proved how far Henry had come.
So looking back at the original question, “Has Henry become a successful WWE wrestler”? If you asked me that question before 2011, I would say no. However his “Hall of Pain” reign in late 2011 was brilliant. He finally had reached that original promise fifteen years earlier.
I cannot think of another superstar who had such a long road to success like Henry. I have a lot of respect for Henry because of it. He could have quit after that lucrative ten-year contract ended. Instead, he took less money and kept fighting to establish his legacy. I think he has finally done that. Bravo, Mark.
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