On April 25 2011 Mark Henry tuned heel. It wasn’t the first turn of his career and it wouldn’t be the last, but it would be the most significant. It instigated the push that finally saw him accepted as a main event act after years of half-hearted and incomplete attempts by WWE. ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ started mentioning his Hall of Pain, produced the best promo work of his career and cultivated a monster aura.
At Night of Champions, five months after he’d gone bad and been rocketed to the top, Henry defeated Randy Orton to capture the World Heavyweight championship. That result, and the fact that it was clean, amazed me. I’d been convinced that Henners had been built up in order to be fed to a valiant babyface, which ‘The Viper’ then was. I hadn’t expected him to capture what was WWE’s second most prestigious title.
|I was shocked by the reign but he did look good with the gold
For most of 2011 the character was there but the match quality wasn’t. But towards the end of the year I began to be won over. Henry had some great interactions with Daniel Bryan (doesn’t everybody?) on episodes of SmackDown and at the 2012 Royal Rumble. He had a trio of matches with CM Punk on the April 2, April 9 and April 16 episodes of RAW which were, in hindsight, pretty fun.
Shortly after that Henry disappeared from TV to undergo surgery. He would return nine months later and continue to benefit from strong booking. This was another surprise. Previously breaks from TV had been one of the most common reasons for his pushes faltering. When he returned Henry not only qualified for a spot in the Elimination Chamber but was protected in his inevitable exit from the structure. A month later he cleanly defeated the previously unstoppable Ryback at WrestleMania XXIX.
Since then Henry has continued to be presented as a top act, most notably in his solid swerve turn on John Cena prior to Money in the Bank 2013. While my initial reasons for disliking the push, specifically that WWE could have given a younger member of the roster with a longer future and a less disappointing past such as Brodus Clay to spot in Henry’s place, remain I can’t deny that Henry hasn’t grown into the role and been accepted in it by fans. I wouldn’t claim to be the biggest Mark Henry fan, and I’d still argue that his matches often come closer to being boring than exciting, but when he’s on form against the right opponent Henry can and does shine. If WWE could get more people over to the same extent they'd have far fewer problems.
I just wish Henry hadn’t shaved his head bald. The dreads look was wonderful.