Josh Mathews & Madison Rayne's Play-by-Play on Impact Wrestling and Their Marriage
Madison Rayne enjoys telling the story of when she first met Josh Mathews. The Impact Wrestling star recalls meeting the voice of the company and her future husband in January 2015 at a TV taping in New York.
“I was in makeup. He came into the room looking for someone. He just looked like he needed a vacation. I looked at him and said, ‘Hey Josh Mathews! It wouldn’t hurt you to smile.’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah. I know.’ Then he left the room, and that’s when I knew it was love.”
Since then the couple’s relationship blossomed behind the scenes. Their chemistry can be heard Tuesday nights on AXS TV as Rayne takes a break from wrestling to join Mathews and fill-in for his regular partner Don Callis on commentary. Ahead of part two of Impact’s Rebellion special, we caught up with the pair to talk about what it has been like working together.
Madison, what inspired you to try your hand at commentating? Was it watching Josh in the booth?
Madison Rayne: It certainly wasn’t my idea. I always had an appreciation for what the team does but never really thought it would be something I would excel at. I thought my area of expertise was in the ring. It was actually not our idea. It was suggested to us by John Gaburick, Billy Corgan or someone from management asked what we thought. I’m never one to say no to a challenge. I would try my hand at a knockouts match here and there.
Those were the storylines I was most connected to, and at the time, helping write some of them. It was an easy introduction. I had a great team of people between John and Josh and Pope, Josh’s broadcast partner at the time. Helping me along, giving me great feedback. When I was starting to find my comfort zone there, things changed. But at that point it was a bullet on my resume. So when we come to the current time, it was something I’d like to think I jumped back into relatively well.
What has it been like broadcasting together in this environment?
Josh Mathews: We’re in such a unique world right now. Calling these shows from home without an audio engineer or producer. Literally sitting down with a laptop going segment by segment. We’ve been watching the shows as we’ve been going along, playing it out before we hit record. I think it helps taking the time to go through it. Then I’m constantly on the phone with Scott D’Amore or Jimmy Jacobs or Don Callis from creative and communicating. It really is a collaboration, which is awesome.
It’s the old wrestling cliche where what you see is your real personality turned up a bit. I think it’s our chemistry turned up a bit for the two hours.We are cognizant of what is going on in the world, so we want to bring smiles on people’s faces for those two hours on AXS TV.
Madison Rayne: I think as an athlete by trade I put a lot of pressure on myself with whatever I do. I’m my own worst critic. That’s no different with this because I’m representing the company. I’m also representing my partner in the broadcast booth and in life. I want to do a good job because I know how I’m doing is a direct reflection of how he is teaching.
That’s one of the things I love so much about Impact Wrestling is that we’re given all these opportunities to branch out and push ourselves out of our comfort zone and try new things, all within the space we love. For the creative team, production and everyone who gave me this chance, I want to do well. I have big shoes to fill. I think Don Callis is incredibly talented. I enjoy hearing his feedback and getting the feeling that I’m doing a good job too.
With no crowd, do you find it especially challenging to come back and call Rebellion because you have to maintain a certain energy level to keep fans invested?
Josh Mathews: It’s challenging for sure. Doing what I have been doing for a living for the last 17, 18 years now. In WWE, you get the opportunity to lay out a lot. There are tens of thousands of fans in an arena, so you have to let that breathe. The challenge now is you don’t have people in the arena. You don’t have that to rely on. At Impact, we have some of the most die-hard, unique fans in wrestling. They’re always chanting things and are engaged. Not having that and constantly having to fill the gap.
I’m not one to talk wall-to-wall during a show. You have to do that during these unique times. It’s different, challenging. But I think we’re doing a great job. I always say to anyone I work with that the hardest thing to learn in commentary is when your partner wants to talk and when he or she isn’t going to talk. I think she [Madison] is starting to pick up when I don’t need to or feel the need to speak, and she is filling in those gaps nicely. Obviously, the longer you work with someone the more you get to know their cadences. Once you get past that hurdle, I think it’s smooth sailing.
Madison, I know you’re planning to get back in the ring, and this isn’t a permanent arrangement. However, do you see yourself continuing this role after your wrestling career is over?
Madison Rayne: The better you get at something and the more comfortable you are, the more you get excited to do it. The nerves subside a little bit and excitement takes over. I would like to think that I’m getting to that point. Working for Impact is so neat and different. I’ve done so much just inside those four walls of the wrestling ring. I don’t know how much I have to show or to prove.
I’m at this point in my career where I don’t want to overstay my welcome, but I also feel like there is something still within the wrestling space I can do. Whether that’s the things I used to do with producing and helping with storylines. I really liked doing that. I really like doing commentary. In these unprecedented times, I'm trying to do what I can the best I can.
How are you all staying connected as a roster right now without seeing each other in person as often?
Madison Rayne: When it comes to specifically the knockouts, for me, I’ve noticed it has been the most family-oriented. We’ve got several group chats going all the time. We’re always staying connected. I think I probably check in on the girls more than I need to because that’s my motherly instincts kicking in to make sure everyone is doing well. I know a couple of the girls did FaceTime or Zoom workouts together. We’re finding ways to stay connected beyond just the, “Hey, how are you doing?” I know Alisha Edwards has organized a couple Zoom happy hours. Whatever we can do to maintain that level of camaraderie and keep people’s spirits up in our locker room is what we’re doing.
Josh Mathews: We were sitting at home a couple of weeks ago. It was after hours, and I’m notorious for shutting my phone off or not answering. Willie Mack called, and he doesn’t call that often, so I wanted to see what he needed. He told me he was literally calling everyone on the roster to check in on them, catch up and see how they were doing. We ended up talking to him for 15 to 20 minutes, and he provided some good entertainment. That was pretty cool to know that Willie Mack was in Vegas and decided to pick up the phone on a random evening and was calling the entire roster.
How do you find the work-life balance, especially when you’re working from home?
Josh Mathews: It’s about maintaining a structure. For us, it’s easier because we do work from home, and I’ve worked from home for the past two-and-a-half years now. For me, I’m 9 to 5:30, and then after that the phone and computer stay in the office most days. I come out and then it’s family time. It’s dog time. It's to feed the kid time and do everything we can to spend as much family time together as possible when the day is over.
Madison Rayne: A big part of why our relationship is so successful, is that we have this ability to know when we need to have some work conversation at home and when something needs to be discussed. More so right now than probably ever with the commentary and me constantly asking him, “What about this? How do you feel about this?” We know when to have those conversations and when to shut it down and talk about other stuff. We’re a busy pair of people. I’m in school [Madison is in her final leg of getting a business degree], doing real world related things. So there are other things we’re talking about. Right now with elementary schools, grade schools shut down, we’re part-time teachers also. We have a really good ability to balance work life with our personal life.
Impact Wrestling, Tuesdays, 8/7c, AXS TV