When Mark Henry roared back into the WWE on Monday Night Raw Feb. 4, he brought a change to the stagnant heel side of the roster. With too many of the remaining monster heels being used as jokes, his return is a breath of fresh air.
With Henry back, the WWE has a new monster heel: a wrestler who comes across more vicious and mean than any other now on the roster.
Henry missed most of 2012 with an injury. This was incredibly unlucky timing, as before he left he was on the best wave of his career. He won the World title from Randy Orton at Night of Champions in 2011. After losing it, he was headlining pay-per-views and Raw in his pursuit to get the belt back.
While he was gone, the WWE has seen a huge depletion of, not just heels, but monster heels. A monster heel is one step further than a regular heel. Monster heels violently injure people (in a kayfabe way) or go after "innocent" bystanders to try to set up a match with a face or maneuver their way into a title shot or title reign.
Past monster heel moments include in WCW when The Giant broke Hulk Hogan's neck. Also, when Kane was a true heel, he attacked Jim Ross and set him on fire. Yokozuna, Umaga, Vader and King Kong Bundy are a few examples of past monster heels.
Monster heels have always played a part in WWE storylines. Sometimes a face needs to overcome that huge threat and become a hero. That's why Henry's return is so refreshing: Without him and Brock Lesnar, there are no more monster heels in the WWE.
It's gotten to the point where every other big man is a face or a joke.
The Great Khali has been a running gag for many years now. He seems to be enjoying himself, so good for him. But he is no longer fearful and can barely move in the ring. With each step it looks like his legs are going to snap under his immense weight.
Kane, too, once a great monster heel, has been regulated to comedy acts. He's a tag team champion with Daniel Bryan. Great. But there's nothing remotely scary or intimidating about the Big Red Machine. Arguing with Bryan backstage only elicits laughs, not chills.
Tensai and Brodus Clay are better draws dancing with children and each other than in getting fans to hate them—other than for being boring.
Big Show had been headlining events lately, but he's still being used as a joke. In recent weeks, Show has been hiding from, and looking fearful of Alberto Del Rio. The wheels of his bus were stolen, and he freaked out. He was dosed in paint.
Yes, it all helps Del Rio get over as a face, but what does it do for Show? How can he be feared when he's scared of a man less than half his size?
He can't. But Henry's return changes the sad depletion of full-time monster heels.
Henry has been an incredible and realistic monster heel in the ring, dominating and crushing foes like no other.
At WrestleMania 22, he came closer than any other wrestler to defeating The Undertaker and ending the Phenom's winning streak. He destroyed both Kane and Big Show in an extremely violent match for the ECW championship. In 2011, he even broke Show's ankle in a display of ruthless aggression.
Henry gives the WWE that edge it needs. The show isn't any fun if every heel is a coward and every face gets the edge over them. Henry might not win every time he steps in the ring, but his image is never broken. He's never going to be a coward or joke (like he was in the beginning, with his Sexual Chocolate routine).
He is the beast of the WWE—the man looks like he's going to break someone in the ring.
The Hall of Pain is back in business, and it's just what the WWE needs.