Mark Henry on His Next Chapter in AEW and Preparing for ‘Rampage’
Fans in Jacksonville, Florida were ecstatic to see Mark Henry make a surprise appearance at All Elite Wrestling’s Double or Nothing in May. He was announced as a new coach and member of the commentary team for the company’s upcoming new TNT show Rampage.
After spending 25 years with WWE, the “World’s Strongest Man” was ready for a new challenge and opportunity to help the business he loves. The 50-year-old Texan decided to take his talents to the buzzy young company. Here, Henry goes into why he made the jump to AEW, mentoring young talent, and growing as an announcer.
How would you describe the atmosphere of AEW?
Mark Henry: It has been very rewarding because as a teacher or mentor you feel like what you’re saying is being received. Everything I’ve done has been individual, one-on-one. I’ve known Tony [Khan, president of AEW] for a long time. We haven’t talked about wrestling because I was with the other company, but I’ve met him numerous times. With him being an open book, it has been the biggest gift. A lot of people can’t talk to their boss like I can talk to Tony.
What kind of impact do you think you’ve already had as a coach?
I feel I’ve had a really strong influence, especially with the big guys. Working with Will Hobbs, for instance. He has all the tools. He just didn’t have the confidence and the direction of how a big guy works. That just takes time. Everyone expects AEW to become the No. 1 world power overnight. That’s not how it works. It’s fortunate Tony realizes that. He allows talent to develop at their own pace without that extra pressure.
All the guys are able to develop at a pace where they’re going to succeed. Max Caster is another big guy. I have to tell Max, “Max, you’re 260 pounds. You’re a big guy. Don’t work smaller because the people you are working with are smaller.” I called TMZ because we want to not only expand in the wrestling space but the entertainment space. Now Max is doing weekly rap videos for TMZ. So, we are expanding within entertainment media. I’m having an effect.
What can you tell us about the look and feel of Rampage compared to Dynamite?
I can tell you right now there is going to be a lot more humor in the commentating. As far as the show, AEW speaks for itself as a brand. You know what you’re going to get with the excitement, the athleticism. We want to make sure it’s more deliberate and shocking to the system. I think that AEW has already done that. My job is not to change anything. I’m just knocking some of the dust off and making a prettier picture. The business has never been better here. Every day it surges forward.
I’m a big fan of the Busted Open show on Sirius XM. How would you say your work there has helped you with commentating?
Unbelievably important to be able to have a medium where you talk to millions of people, and they get to see your personality, hear your train of thought and get acclimated to who you are as a talent. That is important. AEW’s audience is already there. It’s not like we have to build on it. All I have to do is go ahead and give them my point of view.
You’ve been a student of the game and a historian for pro wrestling. How have you been preparing for your broadcasting role on Rampage?
I’ve been working with Tony Schiavone and getting advice from Jim Ross just like a talent would come to me for advice about psychology and training habits. It’s no different. I look to them for mentorship, direction. I’ve had some practices, trial runs. It has been highly successful. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Myself and Excalibur will really be at the forefront. It’s going to be a team effort. Everyone there, [Alex] Marvez, Jim Ross. We’re going to have talent sometimes come in and sit with us and do a three-person table or go to backstage interviews. It’s going to look SportsCenter-like.
I think it’s amazing if it happens. As a fan, I want to see it. But I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. Let me find out like the fans, so I can react just like the fans. I’m not the gossipy type. I won’t walk around the locker room trying to get gossip. I don’t want that, but I do think either gentleman or both gentlemen would be groundbreakers. They would be able to do something in AEW like when Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart went to WCW from WWE. It would be a positive step. It’s not like we have to have that in AEW, but they would be welcomed additions.
You’ve been a big proponent for what has become AEW’s new community outreach team. Why is this new arm of the company so important in your eyes?
I was a strong proponent for doing educational and community involvement. AEW has not had a problem captivating the minds and hearts of young people. It’s a team effort. Captain Shawn Dean, being a military man and a captain in the Air Force, he is big in the Wounded Warrior Project. Same thing with the Boys & Girls Club, which is near and dear to my heart. Thunder Rosa was a volunteer for the Salvation Army and worked with them before.
Everybody is pulling to get this done and get this community activism together. It’s going to be a thing to bring the older folks, to make them see we’re not just a take-take company, that we are going into these communities and giving.
You’ve talked about getting back in the ring. As you’re working with talent, is there anyone you see as a potential opponent?
I pointed out Will Hobbs and Max Caster as an entry point, but Darby Allin and Ethan Page and Sonny Kiss and Sammy Guevara and a list of others come to me. They want to know how other stars got to the level of success they got. From the standpoint of who I would face, I have no clue. I’m not looking at the talent as one to have a competition with. I look at everybody as let me help build these guys up as much as possible because their success is our success.
Do you think we’re close to seeing you lace up the boots again?
Not the way I see it. I’ve got to get in better shape. I have been a pro wrestler for 25 years, there are things that ache still, and I want to make sure I don’t feel any of that. I’m getting there.
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT
AEW Rampage, Premieres Friday, August 13, 10/9c, TNT