Mark Henry is taking the modern WWE bad guy and turning him into an old-school heel.
From his displays of power and mocking one-liners to the sheer joy he seems to experience when squashing opponents, he's the best at what he does. By mixing elements of past great heels, Henry has been able to make himself stand out from the rest of the pack.
Who would have known that the man once referred to as "Sexual Chocolate" would one day be the meanest, toughest, most no-nonsense heel on the roster? He has done it by combining different elements from wrestling's best old-school heels.
One of the most interesting things about The World's Strongest Man is his recent display of power.
It has never been uncommon for heels to boast about their individual strengths. In the past, the WWE Universe has seen different heels step up and defend those claims. In recent weeks, Henry seems to be touching on his inner Dino Bravo.
Bravo, at the 1988 Royal Rumble, attempted a bench press of 715 pounds. With more than a little assist from spotter Jesse Ventura, Bravo pulled off the press.
Over the past few weeks, Henry has participated in bench press, tug-of-war and arm wrestling contests. This past Friday, he successfully pulled two tractor-trailers.
While not as good a talker as Jim Cornette was, Henry is nonetheless very adept as delivering lines that are both funny and threatening. While doing commentary on Monday Night Raw, Henry spewed out to Michael Cole that he was "just ate up with stupid."
A few minutes later, while whipping the Celtic Warrior Sheamus with a belt, he bellowed, "I'm gonna whip you like you stole something, boy!"
Koloff, known as The Russian Nightmare, was a scary individual who talked about hurting people, then did just that. Slater, too, was just plain mean in the ring.
Henry has taken both aspects of these men and made them his own. But where Henry excels is that he looks like he can break a man apart. While not a muscle-bound wrestler like Dave Batista, Henry is nonetheless thick, his arms like massive tree trunks ready to twist a man apart.
Jim Ross has gone so far as to praise Henry. In his blog he wrote:
Hard to debate that anyone on WWE TV this week was MORE effective than @TheMarkHenry as he and @Sheamus prepared for what appears to be a Leather Strap match at the Extreme Rules PPV. Mark has come into his own over the past couple of years and his "realness" resonates through the TV screen. Sheamus' very white skin will be marred with painful images when these two men finish with one another at the next WWE PPV. In my opinion, Henry has slowly evolved into a franchise type antagonist and his facials and promo skills as authentic as one could ask for.
The key words to the blog posting are "as authentic as one could ask for." In the world of reality wrestling, Henry is believable as a heel. Where guys like Big Show and Brock Lesnar are big and hit hard in the ring, Henry is the only one who can step out of the ring and back up his boasts of strength.
Could Show truly chokeslam a man as big as Kane in real life? What about Lesnar?
How about Henry? It doesn't matter when the perception is he could.
Henry has gone to great lengths to erase the images of his early days in the WWE shacking up with Mae Young. Whether intentional or not, Henry's embrace of old-school heel elements has made him into the best old-school heel in WWE.