During this week's (June 17, 2013) Monday Night RAW, longtime veteran Mark Henry staged a fake retirement, only to swerve the audience and demolish WWE champion John Cena in the process (reactions here). The result? A championship title match against Cena at next month's Money in the Bank (MITB) pay-per-view (PPV).
I'll be ordering that one.
That's because Mark and I have some history. It was just over two months ago when I froze my ass off, standing in line at the IZOD Center with my kid at WWE Fan AXXESS, so that we could rub shoulders with some of the talent prior to WrestleMania 29 in my home state of New Jersey.
We got inside, warmed up, and had a blast.
The night was capped off by a meet and greet with Mark Henry. As luck would have it, "The World's Strongest Man" signed her book, posed for a picture and gave her one of his paws to shake. He was the first WWE superstar she'd ever met.
That shit is thrilling when you're 10 years old.
Needless to say, she's been Mark Henry's number one fan ever since. So you can imagine her surprise when the artist formerly known as "Sexual Chocolate" lumbered to the ring in a pink sport coat, big enough to cover my Kia SOUL in case of inclement weather, and called it a career.
I saw her bottom lip begin to tremble.
Then came Henry's tears and welp, it was waterworks at Casa de Holland. There wasn't much I could do except sling my arm around her and try to assure her that he would be surfacing in the WWE Hall of
Pain Fame at some point in the not-too-distant future. By then, even I was convinced the big lug was hanging up his boots.
Then came the ultimate act of betrayal.
My initial reaction was, that son of a bitch got me.
It's not often I get worked these days and it's not because I have some otherworldly insight, but rather because I've been watching pro wrestling for 30 years and I recognize the usual patterns. As for my daughter, red-faced and glassy-eyed, her expression was indescribable.
It was like she wanted him dead.
By contrast, I saw quite a few reactions on Twitter -- as well as right here on Cageside Seats -- to the effect of, "Dude, it was so obvious," and "Well, I knew it was a work the entire time." If you are one of these people, I think it might be time to ask yourself why you still watch WWE programming.
If you can't allow yourself to be a mark when the situation calls for it, or at least enjoy the occasional kayfabe ride, then what's the point?
I don't understand this need to be the smartest guy in the room. Is it an ego defense? I have a friend who I positively WILL NOT see a movie with, because as soon as the opening credits begin to fade, he starts doing his detective shtick for the next two hours. It's maddening.
Psst ... see that guy in the trench coat? I'll betcha he's the killer!
He can't enjoy the movie because he's too busy trying to outsmart it. Similarly, I know a lot of pro wrestling fans these days who can't enjoy the product, because they take every angle, promo and storyline and run it through the spectrometer for analysis.
It's like a contest they have with themselves to see how quickly they can outrun the ending.
When they're right, they pat themselves on the back. I knew it. When they're wrong, they complain about how stupid the booking was. Typical PG era bullshit. I guess some guys just can't handle getting beat. Sure, we're all guilty of it from time-to-time, but last night's segment, even if you had your doubts, was flawless.
The credit falls squarely on Mark Henry's sizable shoulders.
Everything about his career-defining performance was spot on. From his delivery, to his tone, to his inflection. His dialog felt real and let's face it, when a man who can bench press Rhode Island starts crying on live television, it's hard not to take him at his word.
Plus it helps that he creamed the promotion's top babyface (great breakdown on that here).
It's a monumental task in the Internet age to keep anything a secret. Shutting-the-fuck-up is a lost art, so most of what's laid out in advance will slip through the cracks, or mirror aforementioned patterns from the angles of yesteryear.
The good news is, there was no collateral damage. Apprehensive about reopening any wounds, I meekly asked my daughter this morning if she was still a Mark Henry fan. Her reply? "Well yeah, I mean I met him and everything, but I'm not happy about what happened last night. Not happy at all."
World's Strongest Actor.