Mark Henry and the Impact of the Big Man in WWE

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2013

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Mark Henry made his unexpected return to WWE last week on Monday Night Raw when he crushed Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara.  

This was the first time that Henry has been on WWE programming since early 2012 and when he defeated Randy Orton on Friday Night SmackDown, it was proof positive that the time away did not weaken his resolve.  Mark Henry is out to decimate, and many fans could not be happier about it.

I have to say that it was good to see Henry come back.  I was one of those fans who enjoyed watching him reach the top as World Heavyweight Champion, especially considering the time that he had put into the company up to that point.

After all, 15 years with one pro wrestling promotion in this day and age is quite the run. Mark was a loyal employee who did everything asked of him, went through his ups and downs and in the end was rewarded for his efforts.

Ten pounds of gold is not a bad ‘thank you’ gift, right?

But the truth is, it perhaps should not have come as much of a surprise that Mark became World Champion back in 2011.  This is WWE we’re talking about here, the company that has traditionally been known as the land of giants.

At any given time, a vast collection of super heavyweights can litter the WWE landscape, wowing audiences with their feats of strength and unmatched intensity.  This has become the norm for fans, so much so that at this point we have all become indoctrinated to the idea.

And, that’s why it gets over.

Let’s face it, pro wrestling has historically always featured the big men.  6’5” to 7-foot, 300-400 pounds, with a spine-crunching arsenal of high impact moves and finishers.  This is what fans are used to seeing, and for those people who are not pro wrestling fans?

This is all they know.  Or, at least, they used to.

Since the dawn of the Attitude Era, the game changed for WWE.  Suddenly, guys like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Chris Jericho, became Superstars who were heavily featured.  In a world once dominated by larger than life comic book super humans, the average Joe was now the Alpha Male.

And no one can argue with the results.

Now, guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and The Miz are all equally as important as any Superstar twice their size and strength.  The playing field was leveled a long time ago, and now WWE looks more even, and more competitive in almost every weight class.

But there is just something about the big man.  No one can deny the fact that Superstars like Henry, Big Show, Kane and Ryback are all getting over with fans and I believe it’s not just because of their physical appearance, but what that also means for their move-set.

The big boys deliver the big impacts.  The devastating power slams, the decapitating clotheslines, the massive right hands, just watching them do their thing gets a response from the crowd.

Fans love those big-time power moments in a match.  These moments can only be provided by the monsters of the mat.  Superstars like Mark Henry bring the pain every time they hit the ring.

Of course, their success is due in large part to the opponent taking the move.  The more the man on the losing end sells the move, the more realistic it looks and the more it puts over the giant who ends up with his arm raised at the final bell.

It’s basically up to the bigger man to do his part by delivering the attitude, the muscle, and be very convincing physically while doing it.

The best example of the big man in WWE is of course The Undertaker, a talent who redefined the role in the industry.  Thanks to his skill and athleticism, Taker became arguably the best that fans had ever seen.  

He rarely needed anyone to really make him look good in the ring, as he consistently gave as good as received.  He raised the bar to a height that was incredibly hard for anyone else to ever reach.

And then there’s The Great Khali.  Can you say “opposite end of the spectrum?”

Some fans may complain that since the big man’s match is not often considered to be a technical masterpiece, that it’s really not worth the price of admission.  Pro wrestling is about the actual wrestling, not just power moves and strong-arming your way through a match.

But when you go to a WWE live event, the fact is that those moments, those moves, always make the crowd pop.  And when you watch it live on TV, the same is true.  Love it or hate it, pro wrestling crowds continue to pop for the big man and he will always be an attraction in the industry.

And for me, Mark Henry is a top-notch big man.  Now that he’s back, I for one am anxious to see how he’s handled, and if he’s allowed to rise to the occasion as he did before.

Welcome back to the Hall of Pain.