Wednesday Morning Backlash: CM Punk Turning on Triple H and Mark Henry’s Push

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I didn’t watch Raw. I told you all I wouldn’t. I did read Scott and am in that short period where I await Wheeler’s contributions (though I know his thoughts – he yelled at me pretty much through the entirety of Raw). The resolution to the walkout seems absolutely as ridiculous as the walkout was to begin with, but I don’t care. It wasn’t inflicted upon me, and I find my friends’ misery in this quite amusing. I do have one thought, however, that I haven’t seen elsewhere. CM Punk either is or was planned to turn heel at the PPV. He’s taking credit for the chaos, he’s bound to betray the fans, and Triple H still, unintentionally, screwed him out of the title. Now, since he’s apparently the new god of merch, that could have changed, but I would bet just about anything that the initial plan was Punk going heel on Triple H when they finally got to this match. He even believes in a conspiracy, just like Miz and Truth.

Now, onto Mark Henry. The internet seems entirely torn between praise and absolutely shredding this guy with our own Blair Douglas particularly outspoken against Henry. The argument against Henry goes as follows: He’s a terrible worker and has been a jobber for years; therefore, he is in no way credible as the monster he’s portraying. The argument for Henry is that he’s doing the best he can with the push he’s given and is getting quite over. I fall somewhere in between on Henry on all points.

First off, Henry is in no way, shape or form a terrible wrestler. He’s not great, but he is actually somewhere between good and very good at this point. Whether you find his form of wrestling aesthetically pleasing is up to you, but it is both viable and effective. For further explanation read here on punching and kicking and here on great matches. Go on. I’ll wait.

The articles linked have two important points. The first point is that Henry can, indeed, be quite good while relying mainly on punches and kicks. Since there’s an entire article dedicated that, I see little reason to really belabor the point. The second, though, is more important. Mark Henry, early on, and by early on I mean the first decade plus of his career, had no idea what to do when. He was usually a monster, but failed utterly at being intimidating. He was dominant in the ring, but had no idea when to sell, or how to look properly dangerous when guys bounced off him. During his time in ECW, facing Tommy Dreamer and Matt Hardy (who I hate to give credit to, but oh well) mostly, he figured out how to play to his strengths.

Three major elements of his ring work improved and that made all the difference. First, he learned how to actually portray a monster. Instead of working harder, he worked smarter, letting guys bounce off of him, and crushing them until a comeback. Second, during that comeback, he really learned to sell as a monster. There are nuances to looking like your hard to hurt, not bumping too hard as a giant, and generally making it look impressive when guys hurt you instead of looking like you have no idea how to sell an attack. Mark Henry is the most effective big man wrestler at doing this since heel Batista (and Big Show over-sellling or no selling, rather than making it a gradual process to hurt/wear down the monster has always been my main issue with his otherwise good work). Finally, Henry has improved his timing immeasurably. As a heel, he’s mostly calling the matches, and even if you find his control segments boring, the response he face gets on their comeback, the timing of the big spots, particularly his cutoff of that comeback, are impeccable. Again, aesthetically pleasing isn’t the issue – quality and effectiveness are. Mark Henry now checks those two boxes.

But crowd (improved responses, not good responses) and WWE failed to notice. He was a jobber for years. Sure, fans were moderately more interested in his matches. He even looked like he was getting his semi-annual push and turned on John Cena. Then nothing happened for ages until, suddenly, he started injuring people. He took out several of the most protected men on the roster, including Big Show and Kane, then, eventually the Great Khali. I mean, who knew utterly crushing giants and injuring them would get a guy over?

Then came a feud witht he red-hot (save the bad joke, thanks) Sheamus, as again, who knew, WWE fans reacted to two dudes who just wanted the biggest fight they could find. The reaction was so good, in fact, that since Orton-Christian was played out, Henry got the big match. Then he did the unthinkable. He utterly crushed one of WWE’s chosen few, the Viper-Apex-Predator-Legends-Killer himself. I’ve heard the push compared to Brock’s path of destruction, but even that sells this push short. This was damn-near Goldberg-esque.

So, why do we give Henry credit? Did he improve in the ring? Plenty, but years ago and no one cared. This push and him being over as a result aren’t because he was any good. They’re because he was booked like a beast. WWE showed they could take a guy who mid-card for a decade and a half and with proper booking make him a huge deal and someone the casual fan would see as a main eventer. WWE did that. Not Henry.

But he gets credit for the booking. It’s the way wrestling fans work. Someone (Owangatang I think) recently bemoaned no one having Warrior’s intensity nowadays, utterly ignoring just how protected Warrior was and that he was over for crushing a guy who held the secondary title for years. WWE can get any big guy they want over, any time, by having them crush people effectivey… it just has to be the right people (Nexus doesn’t count, right Ezekiel?). WWE can get any smaller guy over they want any time by giving them big comeback, upset wins. Remember, Bret Hart was mostly seen as a tag guy when he beat Mr. Perfect in a Summerslam classic.

None of this is complicated. Mark Henry improved a lot and deserved a push. Did he deserve this big of a push? No way in hell. That doesn’t change that it worked this time. It will next time, too. WWE knows the buttons to press to get someone over. Remember that the next time you want to argue that it’s a guy’s responsibility to get himself over. For every guy that gets over like Punk or Cena, there’s ten Mark Henry pushes.

Glazer is a former senior editor at Pulse Wrestling and editor and reviewer at The Comics Nexus.