Date: August 16, 2011 (aired on August 19, 2011)
Stipulation: #1 contender for World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions
Roster (19): Trent Barreta, Wade Barrett, Johnny Curtis, Ted Dibiase, Justin Gabriel, the Great Khali, Mark Henry, Tyson Kidd, Ezekiel Jackson, Jinder Mahal, William Regal, Cody Rhodes, Zack Ryder, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Heath Slater, Yoshi Tatsu, Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso
As we hit the last battle royal of this one-a-day series, we end on one of my favorites. It’s from the first Smackdown after Summerslam 2011. At that Summerslam, Wade Barrett defeated Money in the Bank holder Daniel Bryan. Sheamus’ sense of honor cost him when Mark Henry slammed him through a barricade and won via count-out. Randy Orton had finally ended his feud with Christian, meaning he needed a new contender for his World Heavyweight Championship.
And so, a battle royal was put together. It was meant to be a 20-man battle royal, but Daniel Bryan chose to challenge Alberto Del Rio earlier that night and got his arm destroyed. Too destroyed to compete again that night. Also, one of the angles of the time had Jinder Mahal more or less owning Great Khali, due to his status as brother-in-law. It’s a complicated Indian thing.
You can tell that they’re trying to make Mark Henry a big deal because when he walks to the ring, resident strong face dude Ezekiel Jackson is all, “Uh… shit.”
The bell rings and Henry stands in the center of the ring. With the exception of Khali guarding Mahal in the corner, everyone pounds on the World’s Strongest Man. He decides that it merely tickles. It tickles and Mark Henry isn’t a man who enjoys laughter.
He immediately removes Trent Barreta and Yoshi Tatsu. The minutes that follow include your usual filler of guys working each other over with nothing happening. Stuff comes alive when Ezekiel Jackson throws his rival Cody Rhodes over the top and he holds on by skinning the cat and pulling himself back in. Then Big Zeke just sends him back out with a massive clothesline.
Khali is still guarding Mahal in the corner and is commanded to take care of Ezekiel. Ezekiel stuns Khali with a running clothesline, steps back for a second one and runs right into a Brain Chop. Khali flings Ezekiel out of there and Henry decides to step up.
You might recall that Khali/Henry was a showdown that wouldn’t be in that 2007 battle royal I covered a few days ago and while they tangled in the Monster Mash, their interactions were barely of note. Finally, they’re going to go at it and I’m ready for it to be terrible. Khali chops Henry down and prepares for the Vice Grip. Henry powers out and then decides, fuck this, I’m the World’s Strongest Man!
Whoa! That’s kind of awesome! Extra points for most everyone else in the ring hanging back to see how this fight plays out.
Sheamus runs into Henry with an axe-handle and sends him rolling to the outside. He’s still in the match, but just angry. Also, champion Randy Orton is watching the battle royal unwind as he sits near the announce table with Henry angrily roaming around.
Whenever somebody gets eliminated, Henry proceeds to grab them and throw them around like a ragdoll. Just ask the Usos.
His rage not quite satiated, he returns to the ring and helps take the number down to four finalists: Henry, Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Sin Cara. You can tell Sin Cara is the fan favorite because of all the chants they edited in in post-production. Barrett, Sheamus and Sin Cara go at Henry together, but Barrett’s greed gets to the best of him and he turns on Sheamus. The two Europeans end up brawling on the apron after each going over the top rope. Sheamus wins the brawl with a kick to the chest and Barrett falls to the floor.
Sheamus and Sin Cara have a nice little battle that ends with Sheamus preparing to Brogue Kick him out of the ring. Henry gets up from the earlier beating and washes his hands of the big Irishman.
Now we’re down to Sin Cara vs. Henry. Sin Cara does a crossbody off the top and Henry falls over after catching him. It’s hard to tell if it’s a botch or not, but my gut says yes. Sin Cara is unable to move Henry with a couple hurricanrana attempts and goes for a crossbody off the second rope. Henry catches him correctly this time and crushes him with the World’s Strongest Slam. Then he presses Sin Cara’s sin carcass over his head and dumps him out of the ring like he’s nothing.
Mark Henry is the #1 contender and ends the show staring down Orton, taking a second to get a whiff of him.
“YEAH, I SMELL YOU. THAT’S FEAR. THAT’S FEAR I SMELL!”
After a career of being a jobber to the main event, Mark Henry would be rewarded for being suddenly awesome after 15 years by going over Orton cleanly and decisively. Twice! He proceeded to have the best heel title run in forever that sadly got derailed by an injury. Part of me will always lament that we never got the correct ending to the Rocky III Balboa/Clubber angle they were setting up with Daniel Bryan and Henry. But hey, said injury also led to Bryan’s heel turn and the whole, “YES! NO!” thing, so it all evens out.
Enjoy the Royal Rumble, everybody.