Game Over…

by Kevin D’Hooge

Professional athletes don’t know when it’s time to quit. Can you imagine calling it quits on a career that could include incomprehensible adrenaline rushes associated with playoff games, grudge matches, game sevens, or even Wrestlemania for that matter? This past weekend’s episode of HBO’s Ballers elaborated on this when Charles discussed the difficulties he’s been facing while transitioning from Pro Bowl lineman to Chevy car salesman (I still can’t believe the actor who plays Charles is not related to Forest Whitaker).
Athletes and superstars may not want to throw in the towel, or know when to for that matter, but it is much easier for spectators to make that determination. Perhaps when crowds start chanting Please retireduring matches or when all of your matches result in jobbing efforts, retirement becomes crystal clear to the audience. Big Show and Mark Henry, I’m talking to you.
Alas, there are others, namely Kane. This has not always been the case for these behemoths. At one point all three men were feared superstars and made for credible players in the sports entertainment lexicon.
Before Kane became Kane, he was Isaac Yankem DDS. That’s right, his first character in WWE was an evil dentist, and here’s his entrance. I think I actually prefer corporate Kane to this guy. To no one’s surprise, Isaac Yankem didn’t exactly connect with audiences.
Glen Jacobs went back to the drawing board and debuted as Kane at In Your House in 1997. Even in his character’s debut, Kane proved that he has always been a fan of interfering in matches for no good reason by tombstoning Undertaker and allowing Shawn Michaels to pick up the win in the initial Hell in a Cell match.
Ever since, Kane has been a lynchpin of the main event scene and has remained one of WWE’s hardest workers, most respected superstars and has been one of the company’s most entertaining characters. Kane has never been an in-ring technician, but he has at least been credible as a monster for the majority of his run in WWE.
It is difficult to pinpoint when things started to take a downward spiral for Kane. It is apparent now that his in ring skills are dwindling. Audiences do not take him seriously as a heel superstar. Him and Big Show were booed out of Philadelphia at this year’s Royal Rumble for eliminating a majority of the entrants in unbelievable fashion. He gets carried in most of his matches nowadays and is seemingly never allowed to win clean anymore. How can he be taken seriously anymore? Even if he were to transition to the Demon, his limited physical ability remains a liability.
Kane remains a firecracker as a character. He is a loose cannon and if given the right storyline, he can thrive. However, in this business it’s all about what you can do in the ring. Kane is hindering his legacy on a nightly basis by wrestling slow, boring matches. His greatness as the demon is so distant in the rear view mirror. Now all I can think of is him wrestling matches in dress pants. Watching Kane in a ring is like watching an all time great like Kevin Garnett waste away his last years on the lottery bound Timberwolves.
Mark Henry is a former winner of the Arnold Classic strongman contest, has squatted and deadlifted over 900 lbs, he is a graduate of the infamous Hart Dungeon, and he had an acclaimed Hall of Pain reign as World Heavyweight Championship in 2011. Like Kane, Mark Henry has never been the most exciting competitor in the ring, in part due to his heavy frame. But at least he was a memorable character who has always been ready for the call of duty. Mark has frequently been a dependable company man, especially as an injury replacement. Most recently , Henry was a substitute for Rusev at Elimination Chamber when the Bulgarian Brute was unable to compete due to an injury.
It’s hard to recall a recent victory by the World’s Strongest Man. Recently he’s been jobbing to the likes of Roman Reigns, Big Show and Ryback. Seeing a former World Champion job on a regular basis is just sad (for an even sadder case, see this guy over here). Losing to Ryback or Roman Reigns isn’t too shameful, but the way Henry has been losing is detrimental to his legacy. He is barely allowed to initiate any offense in his matches. With everything Mark Henry has given to WWE, it is sad seeing him get treated like this. If WWE needs to find a big guy who could legitimately job to superstars, why don’t they just resign The Awful Great Khali..on second thought, maybe not.
Big Show is an incredible physical specimen. He’s 7 feet tall and 400+ pounds, but has found a way to make a lasting career in pro wrestling. When he debuted as The Giant in WCW he was no joke, as he even won the WCW championship from Hulk Hogan. For years, Big Show was able to captivate arenas with the sheer presence of his size. When given the right storyline, Big Show has been able to take the ball and run. He does have surprisingly strong charisma.
Over the last few years, it is just becoming more and more apparent that he has lost a lot of steps. He is getting slower, older, and more boring by the second. The only entertainment value he provides now is just trying to guess when his next heel/face turn will come. For some dumb reason, Big Show is now chasing after the Intercontinental Championship, a title he does not need in what is sure to be a pointless feud.
When Big show won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, it seemed like it was the indicator for his ride into the sunset. Instead, WWE is still trying to sell him as a credible foe. Big Show did put on a great match with Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules, but Roman carried the match and the bout was spot heavy.
Big Show has many accomplishments in WWE, including tag teaming with nearly everyone on the roster, 2 WWE title wins, and 6 tag team championship reigns. He seems like an all around good guy. He is somebody who seems like he could successfully transition into commentary, NXT training, or becoming a WWE executive. He is currently killing his legacy and torturing fans by continuing to stay in the ring. I’m sure another face turn is looming for the “young upcomer” Big Show, but when it comes, will the fans continue to boo him? Big Show deserves better.
When Vince McMahon went on the Stone Cold podcast, he said that he listens to the audience and gives them what they want. He doesn’t necessarily respond to tweets or emails or website forums, but he says that he listens to arenas and can tell what they like and don’t like. Whether that’s true or not is debatable. Whether Big Show, Kane, or Mark Henry listen to the audience is a whole other question.
The fact that all three are also big guys is not coincidental. Carrying around huge frames at their ages is not advisable in sports entertainment. Big guys just can’t last that long. It is interesting to note that smaller superstars, such as Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, arguably got better in their later years.
Sadly the legacies of Kane, Henry, and Big Show are being tarnished. All three superstars were once talented, but it’s clear that their time is gone. They’re talented men in different walks of life, but their wrestling ability is all but gone. When superstars get to this point, how will they know to throw in the towel? Crowds are clearly fed up with these superstars. Agents, family and friends are all vested in the superstars, so they would not air disdain.
Ultimately, the superstars have to recognize that it’s time to walk away. Surely they have to be aware of their increasing aches and pains and limited wrestling abilities. Replacing the thrill found in the ring is difficult, but let me book their futures: Mark Henry should be the head WWE strength and conditioning coach, Big Show can commentate for NXT, and Kane could become a politician. The possibilities are endless. Just pick something that doesn’t involve wrestling matches.
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