wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Mark Henry Underrated?

May 16, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Mark henry WWE HOF Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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Don conforms, consumes, obeys:

I recently heard that Roddy Piper was to sign with WCW in 1989 and have a program with Ric Flair, but Piper decided to go back to the WWF instead, which is why Terry Funk was brought in. Curious if Piper did go to WCW and work the program with Ric Flair, would he have been the heel?

I have read that there was the possibility of Piper heading to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1989. In fact, in the March 1, 1989 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was stated that there were negotiations between the two sides, with one deal floated being a one-year, $500,000.00 arrangement. (That’s $1.1 million in 2022 money.) However, the Hot Rod was being shoot managed by agent David Wolfe at the time, and Wolfe having greater connections with the World Wrestling Federation facilitated Piper’s return to that promotion.

Though I’ve read about the JCP/RRP negotiations previously, I hadn’t read anything that says a Piper/Flair program was set had he signed. Granted, that’s the most logical feud to have done, since Flair was the biggest star on the Crockett side and bringing Piper back from Hollywood would’ve immediately put him right on the Nature Boy’s level if not higher. However, I don’t know that it was actually penciled in or that Funk was brought in specifically due to Piper’s change of heart.

However, had it happened, I think that you would have to have gone with Flair as the heel and Piper the face. If you think about it, Flair was a heel right before the Funk feud turned him, since he had been in the middle of his program with Ricky Steamboat. The Hot Scot returning to professional wrestling after two years AND jumping ship from the World Wrestling Federation would have made him insanely popular, to the point that positioning him as a heel would have likely been battling your way upstream. It would’ve been much better to go with the flow and make him the hero to Flair’s villain.

ItsJDbeoch is going round and round with round robins:

So this was my first year watching NJPW tournaments and I loved them. I was wondering if you could put together top 5-10 tournaments that they have put on and then your thoughts on the top 5-10 matches from any of these tournaments. I have only watched the Super J and the G1, but am open into checking others if there are great ones put there.

Honestly, this might come off as a bit of a lame answer, but New Japan has cranked out so many tournaments that have been at such a high level that it’s almost impossible to rank them, because they’ve all got so much to offer that the distinctions between them become highly subjective.

I do think that it is generally accepted that, with one exception I’ll get to below in a moment, that the G1 Climax is the king of tournaments and that its golden age is 2013 through 2019. If you watch any one of those G1s, you pretty much can’t go wrong, and, again, if you ask ten different fans which one of them is the best, you are likely going to get ten different answers.

As far as the best individual matches are concerned, some of the most universally heralded bouts from that series of G1 tournaments are as follows:

Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada from 2017
Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega from 2017
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi from 2018
Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega from 2018
Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii from 2018
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada from 2018
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay fom 2019
Kota Ibushi vs. Jay White from 2019
Shingo Takagi vs. Tomohiro Ishii from 2019
Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada from 2019

There are tons more that you could argue are in the same tier, but that is just a sampling of the awesomeness.

I did mention that there is one non-G1 tournament from NJPW that is almost as universally heralded as among the best. I’m talking about the 1994 Super J Cup, which is a single elimination tournament as opposed to a round robin affair. Some might argue that one of the reasons this tournament is so well remembered has more to do with its nostalgia factor than its match quality, as it was a gateway for a lot of American fans of my age to get into puroresu back in the 90s. However, it’s definitely a show that holds up . . . if you’re somebody who can still watch Chris Benoit matches, because he is all over he thing. (As I’ve mentioned in prior editions of this column, I do not consider myself part of that camp.)

Night Wolf the Wise is, to use a massive cliché, is playing the game:

Here’s an interesting question for you. What will the legacy of Triple H be? We know what his legacy is as a wrestler. He’s a 14 time World Champion. Lead one of the Greatest Factions of all time in DX during the Attitude Era. Had match of the year against the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, etc. He’s in the Hall of Fame with DX and certainly will be in the Hall of Fame as a stand alone. But what will Triple H’s legacy be as an Executive. The Guy behind NXT? And how does many of his NXT wrestlers floundering on the main roster affect that legacy?

It’s far, far too early to say. At this point, we are still in the Vince McMahon era of WWE, and we do not know how things are going to shake out in terms of corporate leadership once he is gone. Triple H’s legacy will be largely shaped by where he lands after his father-in-law is gone. Will he step up and lead the company alongside his wife as was once predicted? Will he just be another cog in the machine with an executive from outside the wrestling industry like Nick Khan in power? Will he continue to have health issues that will take him out of the industry altogether?

There are too many unknowns to make this questionable answerable.

DC is looking for something to hold up his pants:

I’ve been watching a lot of old NWA on YouTube this week. It got me wondering. Who owns all those old belts? World, Tag, TV, National, U.S., Junior, etc? Also, do current champs get to keep belts after a new one is issued?

Back in the days of the NWA, belts were not quite as revered as they are now and were largely done away with after they outlived their usefulness. My understanding is that several of them have just been outright lost and those that are not lost are mostly in the hands of private collectors.

On the subject of current champions keeping old belts once they are decommissioned, the answer is that it depends on what point in history you’re talking about. Nowadays in the corporate wrestling environment, the promotion would almost certainly take their property back. Back when wrestling was far less formal, technically the promotion would have the right to recoup the belt as its property, and they might do it . . . but they would also be just as likely to not care and let whoever wanted the thing take it.

Okay, so now the column has taken a little bit of a turn. For reasons that I still do not fully understand, I have been dealing with a protracted internet outage at my house on the day that I set aside to write this column. We’re talking about in excess of twelve hours, and I need to get this wrapped up. So, for the remainder of the column, we are going to have to answer questions that I can answer off the top of my head, with no real ability research – or at least no ability to research beyond the handful of wrestling books in here on my shelves.

Hopefully we’ll be back to normal next week.

Tyler from Winnipeg is gonna get his wig split:

Considering how long Mark Henry has been around, do you consider him underrated in IWC folklore?

Not really. When he was around in the 1990s, I remember fans being really hard on the guy, but there was a valid reason for fans to be hard on him – he wasn’t a very good professional wrestler at the time. Of course, there’s an excuse for him not being good at that point. He had virtually no experience and was learning the job on national television, which is an unenviable position.

However, to Henry’s credit, he hung in there and kept working and learning, not letting the naysayers get him down.

Due to his persistence, by the late 2000s, he had really figured out this whole professional wrestling thing. He was not and was never going to be somebody who flew around the ring like Rey Misterio Jr. or somebody who got down on the mat and had scientific classics like Bret Hart, but he knew what he needed to do in the squared circle with his body type and power, and, perhaps more importantly, he became an outstanding personality, especially when a heel. He figured out what being a monster heel was all about and was a perfectly viable main eventer.

When that happened, my observation was that fans largely came around on him and started praising the guy’s performances, not listing him as an all-time great but recognizing that he ought to be at the level he was.

So, no, I don’t think that Henry is underrated. Generally, people said he sucked when he sucked, and they came around on him once he was able to improve.

Pepperidge Farm remembers. So does Brad:

Is it my imagination, or has the “both wrestlers running the ropes” sequence largely disappeared? Today it’s not uncommon for one wrestler to run and gain momentum. But what about both of them running in opposite directions, one ducking, the other leaping, continuing a couple times, building suspense, until something physical happens in the middle? Or the criss-cross sequence, where they run at right angles, out of phase, not meeting in the middle right away, building suspense, until finally colliding? Seems like in the classic WWF days of my childhood those sequences were more common.

You’re absolutely correct. That particular highspot seems to be long gone. It’s no doubt a victim of professional wrestling becoming a much more athletic endeavor than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. If you’re going to get fans excited about what two wrestlers are doing in the ring these days, you’re generally going to have to involve a lot more than just running.

Big Daddy is doing his hair toss and checking his nails:

Why has no one ever challenged/disregarded the “no compete clause?” It seems that legally it won’t hold up in court with them being classified as independent contractors. The most consequences likely be forfeiture of income that they get until it expires. Wouldn’t a rival promoter just tell them: “I’ll make up for that” just so they can show up ASAP?

There are a couple of different reasons for this. Practically speaking, the wrestlers get paid during the non-compete period. I don’t know about you, but if somebody wants to pay me to NOT do my job for 90 days, I’m taking them up on that offer and not complaining – particularly if my job is hard on my body and I might need some time to allow nagging injuries to heal.

Moving to the legal side of things, plenty of courts and judges have weighed in on this issue, and you actually can have an enforceable non-compete clause with an independent contractor in most of the United States. Granted, it’s more difficult to draft an enforceable non-compete with an independent contractor than it is an employee, but it is possible.

And Big Daddy is correct that any consequences for violating the non-compete for the wrestler would likely be financial, and his new employer could pay it off. However, what that fails to account for is the possibility of a lawsuit against the promoter who participated in the non-compete violation. There is such a thing as suing for tortious intereference with a contract (also sometimes called contract tampering), and most promoters would not be interested in having that sort of legal action brought against them.

The above is not intended to be legal advice, and you should consult with any attorney about any similar situation that you may find yourself in.

Adheelios from Sheffield, England: has two best friends he always hangs out with:

Have a question for you – do you think AEW could introduce a AEW Trios title at any point?

Just thinking with such a overloaded roster and the high number and quality of 3 man stables a tournament to crown a new title could be epic. AEW seem to love a tournament too compared to WWE!

Some stables or potential teams below (I’ve possibly omitted some too) of course this would depend who are in Title or other feuds at the same time:

Blackpool Combat Club (Yuta/ Mox/ Danielson, House of Black (Black / King / Murphy), Death Triangle (PAC/ Fenix / PZM), JAS (Jericho / Hager and Garcia or 2.0), Ass Club (Billy/ Colten / Austin), Dark Order (Reynolds / Grayson / Silver), Team Taz (Starks, Hobbs, HOOK), Swerve / Lee / Brian Cage or Joe, Elite (Omega and Bucks), Undisputed Elite (Cole and reDRagon), Jurassic Express (JB, Luchasaurus and Christian Cage), Sting / Darby / CM Punk, Best Friends (Baretta, Taylor and Cassidy)

The question is could AEW introduce Trios Titles. The answer to that question is almost indisputably “yes.” Any promotion can introduce any title at any time if they really want to, plus, as as Adheelios has noted, there are plenty of trios or potential trios running around the promotion’s roster.

However, in my mind, the more important question is not whether AEW could introduce Trios Titles but rather whether AEW should introduce Trios Titles.

My answer to that question is “no,” even if there are a lot of teams that could conceivably compete for them.

There are two reasons that I would pass on Trios Titles. The first is that I think the company already has enough championships. The second is that I’ve never really seen Trios Titles work anywhere in the United States or Japan.

On the first point, AEW already has a primary and secondary singles championships for both men and women, men’s tag team titles, and an “unofficial” singles championship that they can put more or less focus on as they desire (the FTW Title). They also periodically recognize championships from other companies, whether it’s the AAA Tag Team Titles from Mexico, the IWPG United States Championship, or the TNA Championship.

If you’re producing three hours of first run professional wrestling television a week – and I’m not counting the YouTube shows because they’re the equivalent of low level WWF syndicated television from the 1990s – that is more than enough titles. If you attempt to cram more belts into three hours of television, chances are that you’re going to overdo it with the championships and wind up diluting the importance of one or more of them.

Also, as noted, I don’t know that I have ever seen Trios Titles work outside of lucha libre, and even then they have only worked for limited periods of time because, as a general rule, pro wrestling promotions in Mexico do not emphasize championships as much as their counterparts elsewhere. Jim Crockett Promotions promoted a version of the NWA Six Man Tag Team Titles in the 1980s, and those lasted for five years, but during those five years they were often forgotten about and sat vacant for a couple of extended periods. In New Japan Pro Wrestling, you currently have the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles, and they are the definition of a useless championship, as I cannot remember one single time that they were the focal point of an important moment on a show, nor can I recall any fan I’ve spoken to being in the slightest degree excited about a NEVER six man match.

It’s possible that Tony Khan could still institute the championship and do a great job with it, proving me totally wrong, but I am remarkably hesitant about this idea.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.