Wrestling fans in North America are about to be exposed to a whole new Joe Hendry on a whole new stage, as the Scottish star was announced on Thursday night as a new arrival in Impact Wrestling.
Just before the announcement, though, Hendry took the time, late at night, for a chat with SlamWrestling.net about the change in his body and move-set, coming to Canada to compete for Smash Wrestling once again, and how busy his life has been even during the pandemic.
But first, the Impact deal, which was announced on Thursday, September 15.
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) September 16, 2022
“I absolutely believe that Impact Wrestling has the best TV wrestling product in the game right now. The team they have, their vignettes are just next level, like the creativity, the quality, those vignettes, they look like movies,” Hendry said. “I’m very excited about that company. … I know it sounds obvious, but it’s a pro wrestling show. It feels like it is an authentic wrestling show, where you can just watch, you can lose yourself for a few hours and just enjoy.”
Now, back to the all-new Hendry.
The transformation of his 34-year-old, 6-foot-2 body has its roots in the last days of Ring of Honor.
Hendry noted that he “wasn’t quite cruiserweight, wasn’t quite a true heavyweight” and that he “felt like I’d done what I could do at that weight.”
Chatting with Jonathan Gresham, changed things. “He was teaching me about his philosophy on wrestling, in that you can have two types. So for me, it was technical and power, and he was suggesting, ‘What if you switched them around, and focused more on power, and had technical moves as a supplement?’ And so I did that and steered more into power moves.”
The COVID-19 pandemic meant no wrestling, as Ring of Honor totally shut down.
Inspiration can indeed come at odd times. “I was just really inspired through the lockdown, I was watching 1996 WWF. So like Psycho Sid, I was really inspired by him, I got inspired by Scott Steiner. Even Goldberg,” recalled Hendry. “I just started watching wrestlers, just powerful [ones] and thought, there probably needs to be more of this in wrestling today.”
Then there were the action figures and video games. He just didn’t see himself as either. “I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want to play as me.’ And I was like, ‘What do I need to do to make myself so that I would want to do that?’”
The checklist started from there. “Let’s get some cool moves, so I just stole all sorts of moves. And then I dyed my hair blond. And I thought, ‘Right, well, now I look I could be like an action figure, and I’ve got some cool moves. So let’s go.’ And then I think, in the last year is when everything just really clicked into place for me, I feel like I’m really starting to get to where I want to be skill-level wise.”
Hendry’s roots in amateur wrestling – he competed internationally in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, including on Scotland’s freestyle team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – aren’t lost in the re-design.
“If I have matches, and someone’s throwing kicks towards me, I’m gonna catch one of them and shoot a double leg,” countered Hendry. “But I think I’m leading with power moves. So that’s this conversation with Gresham, it’s like, I’m a power wrestler, but I have those technical skills there if the situation calls for it.”
Circumstances will dictate what he’s doing.
He noted that “if I wrestle someone who’s the same size as me” then “the strength is no longer the spectacle.”
Having wrestled at the smaller size, Hendry knows how to adapt. “When I’m facing bigger guys, it’s still feats of strength, but it’s just in a slightly different way. So if I was to, let’s say, skull suplex someone small, it’s not going to get the same pop from the crowd if I was to do it to Jake Something, whose a really big guy. It’s much more impressive then,” he said, referring to one of his opponents Sunday at Smash Wrestling in Toronto; on Saturday he faces Japanese bruiser Shigehiro Irie. [Details at smash-wrestling.com]
If he’s facing a smaller wrestler, Hendry says he will “do the Lesnar,” and throw someone around.
“I really enjoyed the heavyweight matches that I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed the pace. I’m a huge fan of All Japan so I feel like any chance I get to pay homage to that is great,” he added.
With a very busy life, Hendry has chosen to be very selective about which promotions he is working for, and, by and large, they all share similar characteristics.
“For me, it’s definitely about the promotion. I like the promotions that … invest heavily in having great footage, having great production, bringing in great talent,” he said. “It’s just pro wrestling at its best, and it’s that creative freedom. It’s one of those things, I’ll start naming places, but my main promotions at the moment are Discovery Wrestling, Wrestle Carnival, North Wrestling in the UK, they’re kind of the three core ones that I’ve always had my back.” There are PTW in Poland and Unlimited Wrestling in Germany too.
In Canada, it’s Smash Wrestling.
“Smash is like a second home for me, so I’m just so excited to come back,” said Hendry, who first worked for the promotion in 2016. “I’m really fortunate that I’m working with a lot of companies who have that great production, outside of just an entrance. They get you the proper treatment. But I think now that I’m being more selective about when I’m doing my entrances” — they were the talk of the wrestling world for a bit, as he meshed his music background with epic introductions — “they’re starting to get over a bit more again, things are sort of cropping up on Tik Tok and Twitter, things are starting to pop again.”
While the entrances are very public, the behind the scenes maneuvering for Hendry are equally compelling. International performers need to have visas to work in the United States or Canada for an extended period of time.
Ring of Honor shuttering closely coincided with Hendry’s work visa expiring, and he had to decide what to do, and it wasn’t easy. “It really did look like that was it, it was kind of scary, as far as me being able to come over to America was concerned,” Hendry said, explaining the game plan. “If anything, I just want people who come across this interview to realize that you can take matters into your own hands. There’s always a way and we found a way to get it done.”
Hendry decided to sponsor his own visa.
“It’s a rare thing for a wrestler to actually do it themselves,” he said. “I actually paired up with my agent Bill Behrens, he’s one of the best, if not the best agent in the game. I said to him, ‘This is my game plan. This is what I want to do. This is what I’ll have to do to get it done.’ And luckily for me, he was very patient. We’ve got some great lawyers, and we did it ourselves. So I’m really proud of what efforts that myself and Bill have put forward.”
To be able to afford it all, Hendry hustled. “It’s a bit of a whirlwind. I have a lot of business projects that I’m working on. I basically work, honestly, I’m not joking when I say my day starts, like, some days start at 6 a.m., and I’ll finish up at the gym at three in the morning. It’s pretty crazy to be running on three, four hours sleep to get this deal done, to get the money together, get the visa done,” said Hendry, who did this interview past midnight. “It’s taken a lot of sacrifice. I really haven’t been doing a lot of socializing. I really haven’t seen family all that much. This has been a huge sacrifice, it’s literally just working multiple jobs.”
Hendry has a wrestling school that he runs and a dog to walk too. It’s been a grind, but it is close to settling down.
“It’s weird, even in spite of all that, I have this crazy sense of satisfaction that all the sacrifice is paying off,” he said. “The fact that I’m just going to get on a plane on Friday and come over to Toronto to perform, there really is no privilege like professional wrestling for me, to go other places in the world and showcase what you do.”
It’s about the fans.
“I’m just ready to entertain. At the end of the day, that’s what it is for me. I just give absolutely everything to entertain the fans. I’m just excited to do that at the highest level.”
And, as of Thursday, that is in Impact Wrestling.