One of the most delightful bits of AEW Rampage, the hour-long morsel of professional wrestling that airs on TNT, is the head to head interview conducted by Mark Henry. Henry, posted up in his little box, takes a good look at the two sides of this main event, breathes in deep, and says something like “Why are you here?”
It’s great, because as the person he’s interviewing is all “Ee’s a bloody wanker, wot wot, an’ oim gonna finish ‘im off like the last bit a’ beans in a full English, understand mate?” you can see the World’s Strongest Man’s soul leave his body, tired, at last, of the heavy lifting that is paying attention to someone say that they’re coming through the Forbidden Door because somebody opened the Forbidden Door, which will let any old trash blow through.
Then he snaps back, the first interview over, the second interview over, and lets loose his mighty catchphrase.
Well, it looks like there’s been enough talk. It’s time for the main event!
Originally slated to be one of Rampage’s four man announce team, Henry’s slow, southern manner of speech didn’t fit in with Jericho’s coked-up drive time radio DJ or Excalibur’s ability to describe a match as fast as it unfolded or Taz’s discursive storytelling. It could have worked — Henry was new to commentary, but some of the medium’s most loved announcers had honeyed tongues whose words were measured and purposeful — but he departed the desk for appearances on Dark Elevation and the teeny, tiny box from which he interviews main event wrestlers from on Rampage.
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I love that fucking box, y’all. I love the whole concept that gave us Mark Henry’s tiny box, and I don’t understand how it’s just a feature on Rampage. Wrestling has struggled with how to make split-screen visuals engaging since I was a child, but Mark Henry’s box on Rampage crushes it. The two parties that matter to the main event are big, Mark Henry is as small as need be. He sets up the first party, transitions to the second, and moves us to the ring.
AEW has a lot of backstage interviewers, but Mark Henry is the best of them. Part of it is that he has a little box when nobody else does, but for the most part it has to do with the fact that what made him a bad fit for commentary makes him engaging when talking to others. He’s not asking direct questions, he just wants to know what their respective strategies are, and he wants to see them fight.
He’s not “Mean” Gene Okerlund, but his segments are the ones that most recall Okerlund’s format at the peak of Hulkamania, the face to face interviews that would air in control centers or local house show spots. Pop FTR’s logo behind them last night, and you’ve got it exactly.
You also have Mark Henry in a tiny box. How’s that for modern technology?