Mark Henry Names AEW's Breakout Star Of 2023

Swerve Strickland kickstarted 2024 by making it clear he wants to become AEW World Champion, putting Samoa Joe on notice. That's a position he can be in due to the groundwork he put together in 2023, and is one of the reasons Mark Henry believes he was, "Definitely the breakout wrestler" of the past year.

"You've got to look at this, too — is he the same guy that he was at WWE? At 'NXT?' He's not the same guy," Henry told Premier Live TV's "The @Smoothvega Podcast." "He grew up. He's 20 pounds heavier. He looks more the part." 

Strickland was involved in many memorable matches throughout the year, such as his performances in the Continental Classic. However, it was his storyline against Adam "Hangman" Page that truly put him over the edge in the eyes of many fans, largely because of the aggressive, violent side that he was able to showcase. Their Death match at AEW's Full Gear was one of the most talked-about encounters in the industry throughout 2023, and it showcased an edge to his character that Henry wanted to see.

"He didn't do a lot of the hardcore, the tough, character building, the phase that you go, 'Hey man, be careful. That dude ain't right,'" Henry said. "He's willing to put himself through pain in order for you to have pain. He wasn't that guy ... He's the same man, but just elevated."

If you use any quotes from this article, please credit "The @Smoothvega Podcast" with a H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.