Although he now has a new home in AEW, Mark Henry is a WWE Hall of Famer, and now a legend in the business. Despite various ups and downs in his career, Henry finally climbed the ranks after fifteen years in the business to finally reach the main event to become the World Heavyweight Champion in 2011. The build-up to that is fondly remembered as the best period of his whole career, and it was certainly great.
It Took Henry A Long Time To Settle In WWE
After breaking records that still remain unbroken to this day during his powerlifting days, Henry was brought into WWE in 1996, coming off the back of appearing in the Olympics, and was signed to a ten-year contract, which is incredibly rare in wrestling. His size and strength were impressive, but it was clear that he was incredibly green in the ring, with WWE doing everything they could to convince Henry to back out of his contract.
Henry, however, was committed to becoming a top performer. Whether it be in the Nation of Domination or being booked as a ladies’ man under the moniker of “Sexual Chocolate”, he tried to make anything work to the best of his ability, showing true determination and grit. Despite his best efforts, Henry’s storylines were abhorrent, with him being painted as a sex addict who had relations with his sister and even fathered a hand along with Mae Young. Thankfully, Henry was sent to OVW in 2000, taking him away from awful storylines, and finally given the opportunity to develop.
In his absence, Henry won several strongman contests, officially earning the impressive title of “World’s Strongest Man”. Despite that, his fortunes didn’t really change in wrestling until 2005 where he would begin challenging for World Titles, albeit briefly. Over the years, he became a more solid and stable performer, using his size well and, at times, feeling like a truly dangerous competitor, so much so that he was even given the privilege of facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It wouldn’t be until 2011, however, that he would receive a true push.
Henry’s Hall Of Pain Gimmick Brought Him World Title Gold
Following the 2011 Draft, Henry turned heel, embarking on an absolutely dominant run. He would take out any individual whom he was faced with, with his first target being The Big Show. A feud between these two big men doesn’t look all that good on paper, but they made it work with some hard-hitting, impressive action. The rivalry would see Henry begin his trend of shattering his opponents’ leg in a chair, where the victims would be entered into Henry’s “Hall of Pain”. His range of victims would include the likes of Kane, The Great Khali, and Vladimir Koslov, as he went on a rampage through the roster.
Although Henry had been a constant presence on TV for years, he had managed to reinvent himself into a truly phenomenal character. His promo work at the time was stellar too, and the whole package made fans expect and welcome a World Championship pursuit. When he came face-to-face with World Heavyweight Champion, Randy Orton, at Night of Champions 2011, it was expected that Henry would win based on the fact that he felt truly unbeatable at that point. It wasn’t the bad kind of predictable, where fans weren’t invested, it was the type of logical storytelling that made complete sense based on Henry’s booking. It was perfect, as he managed to overcome Orton, and convincingly become the World Champion.
His Reign Could Have Been Better, But Fans Look Back Fondly
Henry looked great with the championship over his shoulder, and after years of roaming the midcard, he was a true main eventer with everyone on board with him in this prominent position. Henry would defend his title inside Hell in a Cell, once again emerging victorious, before his past would back to bite him in the form of The Big Show. When wrestling at Vengeance, the pair would perform a superplex, breaking the ring in a huge, memorable moment, second only to the initial ring-break spot years earlier.
During a feud that also included Mr. Money in the Bank, Daniel Bryan, Henry would lose his title to The Big Show at TLC. This was unfortunate, as his reign didn’t perhaps reach the heights it could have done, and a younger star would have benefitted much more from being the one to finally dethrone the monster champion. That was undoubtedly a missed opportunity, but at least it led to Bryan winning his first World Title in WWE. Regardless, Henry’s run during this period is looked back on with great appreciation and celebration, because it was truly brilliant.
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