Exciting surprises are synonymous with televised professional wrestling. Throughout the rich history of a company like WWE, there have been countless events that people still talk about today. Remember the time Eric Bischoff showed up as the GM of Raw? What about the evening Stone Cold Steve Austin drove a beer truck down to ringside and doused The Corporation? And we’re almost to the two-year anniversary of CM Punk’s career-defining “pipe bomb promo.”
This past Monday on Raw, Mark Henry gave us another one of those special moments. He promised us a retirement. He delivered one of the most heartfelt promos in WWE history. And then, he laid out the champion.
John Cena I’d like to say I’m sorry but I’m not. Now all you fans know how manti te’o felt! WOW! That was low even for me. Still laughing!
— TheMarkHenry (@TheMarkHenry) June 20, 2013
I can’t give Mark Henry enough praise for the way he sold the moment. The mentions of his daughter, his tears, everything. It was a powerful retirement speech. But his ability to switch back into beast mode mere moments later, and shock the world with a “World’s Strongest Slam” to John Cena, is a testament to the veteran presence of Henry.
Everybody was talking about what happened. The internet community loved it. But then, in the next breath, those same people were predicting a Cena-Bryan matchup at Summerslam.
I know that Daniel Bryan is the internet darling. I get it. His in-ring work is phenomenal, the fans can’t seem to get enough of him, and he finally seems primed to be the face of the company. But why have we already moved on from the incredible feud that kicked-off this past Monday Night?
Henry is obviously in the twilight of his in-ring career, at least when it comes to health. Numerous injuries are plaguing the World’s Strongest Man, and he can’t seem to last more than a few months without needing an extended break. Nevertheless, he continues to put out some of the best work he’s ever done. His current character, the one that’s given his career its spark back in the last few years, is the type of monster-heel the WWE is sorely lacking in.
And John Cena is the company Superman. He can do no wrong. He can’t be defeated. So he needs somebody that can match him in power and strength, while being the exact opposite of what a “hero” is, to humble Cena a bit. For all you fellow comic book geeks, WWE’s Man of Steel needs a Darkseid to contend with.
So Mark Henry should win the WWE title at Money in the Bank. Him and Cena have a few weeks until then to promote their conflict as an epic good-vs-evil dynamic – something that didn’t work with Ryback (or “Be-ell-ze-bub”) because his character just wasn’t strong enough. Henry can sell it, though. He is a scary, scary man.
Let Mark Henry beat Cena clean – the Philly crowd won’t necessarily care who beats Cena as long as Cena loses. Bryan, meanwhile, can feud with Orton, or win the Money in the Bank ladder match. Either one of those should make the fans happy. And Bryan carrying around the contract sets up any number of scenarios for cashing in, most of which, much like Ziggler, could cement his popularity with the fans.
I’m not arguing that Henry needs a lengthy title run here. Just long enough for Cena to rise to the occasion. Let Cena chase a Champion Mark Henry, and actually seem like an underdog for once. That way, when Cena finally wins the title back at Summerslam or Night of Champions, it feels like a special victory.
This, in turn, opens the door for Daniel Bryan. Seeing him possibly headline Survivor Series with Cena would be a pretty great moment. If WWE truly considers this one of their big four PPVs, they need to give both casual fans and hardcore fans a reason to check in. Bryan could be that reason.
Obviously, this is all just Fantasy Booking 101. The WWE creative team should be smart enough to know that it needs to capitalize on the good will it created with Henry’s promo by turning this into a decent feud. There’s no reason to leave money on the table by rushing Bryan into that top spot.
Then again, I’m a sucker for the classic slow-build rivalry. I strongly believe that If you give storylines a chance to cultivate, and characters a chance to grow, then you can create even more history-defining moments. This is one of those opportunities.