When it comes to professional wrestling, fans don’t really agree on anything. However, the one person who has captivated the entire AEW audience since he first appeared at Double or Nothing in May is Stokely Hathaway.
In case you don’t spend every Wednesday and Friday night watching the entertaining action of Stokely and his colleagues on AEW Dynamite and AEW Rampage, Hathaway is the hilarious, trash-talking manager of The Firm, a faction of talented wrestlers brought together by superstar Maxwell Jacob Friedman a.k.a. MJF. Currently featuring second-generation tag team Austin and Colten Gunn, charismatic Canadian star Ethan Page, athletic up-and-comer Lee Moriarty and powerful, big man W. Morrissey, this is a group of performers who are on the verge of break-out moments but they just need that one missing piece to push their careers to the next level.
Hathaway’s promos and one-liners routinely go viral—particularly his shoutouts to Black culture. With The Firm poised to help No. 1 contender MJF in his quest to defeat AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, Hathaway spoke with The Root about working Black references into his promos, teaming up with MJF and whether The Firm is still looking for new members.
Stokely and Max have been real-life friends for a long time, having known one another and worked together on the independent wrestling circuit for years. Considering how talented they are on the mic and the over-the-top personalities of their TV characters, fans are excited to see what the two do together as they continue chasing Moxley.
“We’ve known each other for a really, really long time and he is genuinely one of my best friends. This is something that we’ve wanted to do on a larger scale for years,” Hathaway said. “We’ve worked together on the Indies…and now we are back together.”
Right now, the wrestling business is in a very interesting transitional period. It’s hard to say who will be with which company from month to month, so if Stokely and MJF were going to team up on a big stage, now is the perfect time. Both men are hotter than they’ve ever been and the crowd reaction to their partnership has been enthusiastic.
“I think the goal is just to do what we’ve always wanted to do, and that is to entertain and have fun,” Hathaway said. “Right now, there’s a question of what’s next and will our goal to reach the top of AEW come to fruition. With MJF in the picture, I think it will definitely happen because MJF gets what he wants. His goal is for all of us to be on his level, and to be one of his friends that to personally be asked to be a part of this, it means the world to me.”
The highlight of seeing Stokely on TV each week is that he always has something special in store for Black fans. We never know when it’s going to happen or what it’s going to be, but he does a fantastic job of making us feel seen by organically—and hilariously—working Black culture references into his promos.
“I try to appeal to everyone but obviously I’m Black. I love Black culture, as I should, [and] I wouldn’t change who I am, what I love, for the world,” he said. “When I first got into this, my goal was to have other people who look like me go, ‘Oh, I can do this too.’ Not to necessarily be a manager, but whatever they want to do, right? I’m on national television, twice a week and hopefully some kid who looks like me or who can identify with what I do, they can hear the references, they can watch the promos, and they go, ‘Oh, that’s cool, he’s appealing to me. Maybe I can do this too.’ So it may sound crazy but that’s been my goal.”
In wrestling, like any form of entertainment, you can’t make everyone happy. But the former WWE superstar is focused on keeping the crowd entertained and making things fun while also remaining true to himself.
“The other interesting part of that is honestly some of what I say may fly over people’s heads, so it’s been kind of a struggle to appease both worlds,” Hathaway admitted. “Obviously, I want to keep doing what I’m doing, but AEW’s demographic is a little different. It’s me trying to blend in so many things and so many demographics and just trying to make it work. I don’t think I’m there yet but obviously, that’s a challenge. And people like me look forward to those challenges and just trying to make it work to where, even if you aren’t Black, you can go, ‘Oh, I know what he’s talking about. I get it. That’s funny.’”
Sometimes when wrestlers become known as “the funny guy” they get stuck in the mold and can end up trying too hard. In Stokely’s case, he’s just being himself. This is the No. 1 reason he’s developed such a strong connection with the fans.
“I think I’ve decided I just need to be me,” he said. “If I think of something funny, I say it. If I think of something witty, I say it. I just need to be Stokely Hathaway. That’s kind of what got me here, so I probably shouldn’t deviate from that too much.”
Just in case you’re wondering what it takes to join The Firm, Stokely made it clear that there are very specific requirements for potential members.
“Our goal is to reach the top of AEW and if you feel like you can help, why not join us? If I feel like you can help, I may give you a business card,” Hathaway said. “It’s one of those things where the doors are not closed. As long as you have no problem getting me Zaxby’s in the morning, you can be a part of The Firm.”
You can catch Stokely Hathaway on AEW Dynamite, which airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on TBS and AEW Rampage on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.