WWE Hall of Famer and AEW analyst Mark Henry was on a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho. Henry and Chris Jericho talked about what led Henry to leave WWE and sign with AEW. Henry recalled what his mindset was after he retired from in-ring competition.
“When I retired, I thought I was going to be an employee of WWE. At some point, I was gonna be somebody that had an influence on the business,” Henry said. “I was like, I want to be an executive. I know enough about this business and every facet of it, and there were people that were in jobs and talent development, and people that were in jobs in talent relations and people in jobs in corporate, that I knew the business better than them. And I had a way of fostering relationships.
“That’s been the number one thing that I’ve been able to accomplish in my life more than anything else is I foster good relationships with people, and people realize that I’m not a screw up, that I’m going to do stuff that’s going to be well thought out. And that is going to benefit kids because that’s where my heart is. I want kids to have experiences, and WWE, they were not at a place where they wanted to hire me for that. And I asked. I wrote it up. I spent months putting together a two-year plan of events.
“I was like, what else can I do? I just had to call and say, ‘Hey man, I’m going to start looking for work because I know what I can do well, and I don’t feel like I’m valued in that capacity.’ And when I got the ‘no’, it didn’t come from Vince [McMahon]. It didn’t come from Brad Blum. It came from Johnny (John Laurinaitis), who was an employee. It’s not his place to tell me ‘no’. If the duties got delegated to somebody that it’s not their job to tell me, then it’s over. You got to know when the door’s being closed?”
Henry has spoke in the past about his loyalty to Vince McMahon. He explained how difficult it was to leave WWE.
“It felt like a divorce. It was painful,” Henry admitted. “I love the people over there. Man, just the thought of not seeing people like [Tony] Chimel, and Sean Selllman and the production office, it hurt me. Them people like family to me and not to mention people in the office and the talent.
“They’re like our brothers, but if I can’t work there, I got two kids. They go to private school, costs a lot of money. I’m only 50. I can’t get my retirement and tax sheltered annuity until I’m 53. I have to work until at least I’m 53 before I get my money, but I feel a lot of joy in talking to Darby Allin, and talking to [Powerhouse] Hobbs and mentoring him and Dante [Martin] and all these people that have come up to me.
“They came to me and was like, ‘Man, just tell me what you see.’ That’s the beauty of this business. People who are already over, but everybody wants to be more over, and I’m gonna do everything I can while I’m here to get those people to be you. You’re gonna have some competition in the next two to three years, you watch.”
Jericho responded to Henry’s story and said his situation was similar. He revealed what McMahon would do if he wanted to talk to you if you had a problem or issue.
“You just hit the nail on the head that I went through too at a different level of, like you said, when you’re not hearing ‘no’ from the top and something’s getting delegated, then you got to read the room and know that it’s over,” Jericho agreed. “That happened to me when when Tony [Khan] and AEW started becoming a thing, and I said, I’ll give the due diligence and talk to WWE.
“It was one guy that just kind of jobbed me, but it wasn’t Vince. Then Vince didn’t get back to me. Vince has that yellow legal pad. You’ve seen it. That’s where he writes stuff down, and if he wants to talk to Mark Henry or Chris Jericho, and it’s 3:30 in the morning, he will call you. And if you don’t answer, he’ll say, ‘Call me when you get up,’ and he’ll be up at 6:30. And that’s when I started realizing that they don’t care if I’m here or not. Now they do.
“They care now, but at the time, it’s like, oh, let them go to this new place because you move the needle, but I don’t think they thought that at the time, just like with you. Maybe Mark Henry, in their opinion, is not executive material. You’re like me. ‘Okay, just watch me.’ You guys need people like you. They said, no, we AEW, need someone like you, and it’s gonna go through the roof, whatever it is that you’re doing here and whatever you decide to do and whatever.”
Henry made his AEW debut at Double or Nothing. Henry’s segment was cut short, and he was not able to cut a promo on the night of his debut. Jericho revealed what he was doing that night in response to Henry’s segment being cut short.
“I want to talk about the first night you came. This is at the pay-per-view,” Jericho stated. “I actually talked to everybody afterwards, people were going over incessantly. The whole show was running behind, and we had a 30-minute Stadium Stampede that was taped, and 10 minutes or so of live that we had to have. And I was sitting here like, nobody was going home on time.
“It was just over and over and over, and the one guy who was cool enough and kind of sacrificed your promo first night in. You got to come out, wave, and then you had to go back because we had no time and the five minutes that you gave us saved the day. I apologized to you on behalf of the roster because I was embarrassed that here’s our new guy who comes in from this crazy WWE to the new world and you still get cut.
Henry noted that while he was fine with his segment being cut short, Tony Khan was very upset over the entire situation.
“But you know what, I never had an ego like that. I’ve never been that dude,” Henry noted. “My thing was, what’s good for the brand is good for me, and I didn’t have to address the talent. You did, and I appreciate you doing that and you did it with class. Tony was pissed, and came in at the end and was like, ‘This is bullsh*t! Somebody! You do it again, and they’re gonna be consequences!'”
Jericho added, “He ran across the concourse to be involved!”
“He ran, and I was like, oh snap, but you know what, it’s important to know your role and to be giving of the brothers behind you,” Henry said. “I was never notorious for going long because I would usually get tired after about 15 minutes and want to go home anyway, but there’s some guys, they just got to get all of their sh*t in, and sometimes, if it takes another four minutes and they got to take that out of somebody else’s match, they don’t care, but they need to.
“If anything, you should be able to go, ‘Bro, you think we can get two minutes because I really want to put this over.’ Just be straight up and find out. Go and find out if you can get more time. Somebody else might be injured, or hungover or whatever. They might want to give you that two minutes. I just want people to be cognizant of there are other people beyond their nose that’s important, but as far as me getting bent out of shape, I appreciate y’all being relaxed like that and saying, ‘Hey man, we don’t mean for it to be that way.'”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.