Dating back to the early 2000s, Anthony Henry has been a constant on the independent scene. Putting his skillset on display in promotions such as EVOLVE, ACTION Wrestling, Game Changer Wrestling, CZW and a handful of other promotions throughout his decade-plus career has solidified his spot in the business.
Anthony was one of the EVOLVE regulars, as he started with the promotion in 2016 and went on to become a tag team champion with JD Drake. This past summer, the news broke that EVOLVE was acquired by WWE just one year after an EVOLVE show aired live on the WWE Network. Several months ago, I caught up with both Fred Yehi and Tracy Williams and got their thoughts on WWE’s acquiring of EVOLVE and they said it was “bittersweet”. While chatting with Anthony Henry, he echoed the same sentiments.
“Yeah for sure. It’s kinda weird when you look at things like that happening because WWE is such a big entity in and of itself. It’s like the big monster amongst humans or whatever you wanna call it, and EVOLVE being one of the puny humans and you got this big monster WWE. But WWE acquiring EVOLVE is just like, that’s just telling of I think the talent that was there on the roster and quality of the matches and shows that we were putting on and it’s bittersweet but it’s almost kinda like also — what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s kinda like validation I guess because we belong amongst WWE talent in a way so, and then having ourselves on the WWE Network and all that stuff is really cool.”
For several years, EVOLVE had a roster that consisted of Anthony Henry, Ethan Page, Darby Allin, Fred Yehi, AR Fox and the likes of Timothy Thatcher, ACH, Kyle O’Reilly, Drew McIntyre, Johnny Gargano and a handful of other names stopped through EVOLVE and have gone on to carve out successful careers for themselves. Anthony stated that he knew at the time that EVOLVE had one of the best rosters so it’s no surprise to see everyone doing great things.
“I don’t say this being cocky but I knew it anyway, really without the validation. If the validation came, that’s great but like, we knew, everybody knew what we had going on. There was nobody on that roster that I would really pick out as a weak link. Everybody had their thing they did, everybody brought something to the table and was unique, and I knew we had it all, especially during the end. We had a lot going on for us and it’s no surprise to me that everybody’s kinda moved on and doing great things.”
Both Anthony Henry and JD Drake captured the EVOLVE and Freelance Wrestling Tag Team Championships together. They went on to form a duo known as “The Work Horsemen” and also established a real-life friendship within that.
When asked about his working and personal relationship with JD Drake, Henry spoke all positive words about his former tag team partner and praised his in-ring abilities. He added that initially when he met JD, it was a bit rough to start but over time, he realized that JD would do anything to help anyone who needed it.
“You know, the thing about JD is that he is great and I think upon first appearance, everybody wants to doubt him because of his physique and he’s a bigger guy but once he gets in the ring, they’re like, ‘Holy crap, the things he can do’ and not just that, his knowledge of wrestling. The deeper elements of wrestling, the things that really, really matter because a lot of people don’t know these things. Honestly, they don’t. That’s what separates the good guys from the great guys. He’s one of the great ones and besides that fact, besides the fact that he’s so good, it’s also his willingness to help. When you first meet him, he can be a little off-putting because you don’t know how to take him because he will give you crap, he will give you crap, he will give you crap but, if you ask for his help or even if you don’t ask for his help, he will willingly give it and that’s the great thing about him, he’s so giving. He helps others and I think people see that and so people respect that and there’s just a lot to respect because it’s coming from JD Drake.”
In November, Anthony Henry was a part of the second installment of Eddie Kingston’s Grindhouse event in Port Richey, Florida. The show is presented under the WWN Live umbrella which EVOLVE was formerly under. At said show, Henry wrestled Fred Yehi. The opportunity to be a part of the show came about through Henry’s friendship with Eddie Kingston.
He described what the environment is like at the shows and also discussed his positive experiences with Eddie throughout the years.
“I think Grindhouse is pretty cool because it’s really, it’s simply guys getting in there and fighting. It’s very — it’s not so much entertainment as it is, ‘You guys get in there. You wanna see violence? You wanna see a fight? You wanna see two guys in there competing?’ That’s what it is all about. My opportunity came because I’m pretty close to Eddie Kingston. We got to know each other really well during our days in EVOLVE. Really cool guy, one of the realest guys you’ll ever meet and he’s legit running the thing. He reached out to me, we made it happen. I’ve only wrestled there once. The first time, I had some situations come about that I had to cancel but the second time I went in, I wrestled Fred Yehi and it was a lot of fun. It was like 30 minutes, great.”
Anthony Henry has an MMA background and while he incorporates that into his style of wrestling, it came in handy when he worked Josh Barnett and GCW’s Bloodsport show in 2019. On that show, he competed against now-WWE talent Zachary Wentz.
Henry was excited about the opportunity and always wanted to work a Bloodsport show and detailed the atmosphere of being a competitor at a Bloodsport.
“Yeah, Zach’s a really cool guy first off. I like him a lot. So, it was really cool working with him and Bloodsport is always something I wanted to do because ever since it kinda came around a few years ago, I was like, ‘Yes, let me be a part of that’ because I don’t know if you’re familiar with shoot-style wrestling but it’s pro wrestling but it’s essentially done like a shoot. So it was really popular back in Japan in the Battlarts days, UWFI and essentially, the match works like a shoot fight, MMA fight with some pro wrestling elements and that’s kinda like in a way what I do anyway, even if I’m wrestling in a straight professional wrestling match so, it kinda just made sense and I had the opportunity and it was awesome. I had a lot of fun doing that and the crowd’s different because they’re not expecting these crazy high spots. They will pop for like a big slam or a suplex because you don’t get that every two seconds. You get the one big one and you’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ So it’s really cool.”
Several years into Anthony’s career, he decided to step away from wrestling. When asked about that hiatus, he linked it to his maturity level at the time. Anthony felt that with his young age and climbing the ranks of the business, he found himself getting into trouble.
Another portion of his decision to step away had to do with the culture of wrestling at the time. Anthony dove into how he is as an individual, which he feels he’s an introvert. He stated that he is very much to himself and at the time, that did not mix well because it could be viewed as a sign of disrespect that a newcomer would not make the rounds to introduce themselves or speak to everyone in the locker room.
“I was in about three years, maybe something like that. But yeah, it’s just me being young and dumb and getting myself into trouble [while doing] professional wrestling. I’m the kind of guy, just my personality is — I stay to myself a lot, I’m introverted. I know that’s kind of crazy when you think about professional wrestling. But I stick to myself a lot and I have a close circle of people that I hang around and for some people, especially with wrestling [where] everybody’s extroverted, I just came off sometimes as being like, ‘Oh, he’s an a-hole or he’s cocky’ or whatever it is. Early on, I was way worse in terms of communicating with people and wouldn’t talk [to] not that many people at all. So, I got in a lot of trouble because of those things, and politically speaking, I just decided I didn’t wanna be a part of it for a while, and I grew up and I came back.”
Over the summer, Anthony put out a tweet which read that at the end of the year, he would be stepping away from the business. The former EVOLVE Tag Team Champion shared that on top of dealing with depression and the pandemic, the #SpeakingOut movement was another cloud over the wrestling business at the time and it began to weigh on him.
Anthony did continue to wrestle throughout the pandemic and while he is six months removed since his tweet about stepping away, he is still of the same mindset but just in regards to independent wrestling. He feels that he has done all that he can on the independents and added that he’s aiming for the month of February to be his last as an independent wrestler.
“So it was a combination of a lot of different things. The pandemic, obviously put everybody through a lot, still is and a lot of people have gone through depression, I was one of those people. So… not just the pandemic as a part to where it relates to everybody suffering, but also just wrestling suffering because the pandemic in terms of not that many shows going on. There’s not a lot of work going on and the whole #SpeakingOut thing which was something I already knew about. Not ‘knew about’ but — we talked about earlier about me keeping my circle tight. One reason for that is also because I didn’t — and this is me in general but, I don’t agree with a lot of people and the way their live their lives, and wrestling, I know and I knew that there are plenty of bad people in wrestling and that’s not just to say it’s the wrestling culture or wrestling is bad. You go to any workplace, that’s gonna be the case. You’re going to have plenty of people that are not good people. That’s just life. So it wasn’t surprising, necessarily for it to happen, but just the fact that it did happen, combined with depression, combined with the pandemic, all that stuff in mind kind of led me to that, that I’m gonna be done and as far as where I’m at now with it, I would say maybe until February as far as independent wrestling shows, I’m done. So, unless you see me pop up somewhere under contract with a lot of money, I will more than likely be done with independent wrestling for now, come February.”
Henry mentioned getting signed being an end goal of his. I asked the question of what if that does not happen come February. When he looks back at everything that he has done in his career, he says he’s satisfied, at peace and believes he’ll be able to step away.
“I’m cool with it man. I’m at peace. Like I said, most of that comes from the pandemic and my experience through that and learning who I am without professional wrestling because for the longest time, that’s all I knew. It was like, who am I without professional wrestling? Who is Anthony Henry without professional wrestling? But I figured that out, so now if nothing great happens with professional wrestling, my life’s still great and I’m not suffering anymore and I’m good with it. I’ve done more than what most people have done in professional wrestling, you know what I mean? Traveled to other countries, worked for different promotions, wrestled the majority of all the biggest independent wrestling stars at least. Yeah. How can I complain about that? I’ve done great things, my way so I’m good with it.”
The full interview with Anthony Henry can be watched via the player at the beginning of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.