The vast majority of American fans will not be familiar with Joe Hendry, and fair enough, he got his start in a sub-group of an already niche form of entertainment. The British wrestling scene has been all but decimated in the previous two years. Between #SpeakingOut illustrating that many of the industry leaders are generally gross people and NXT UK sucking up the premier talent, promotions such as PROGRESS, OTT, ICW, WCPW and others do not have the same level of buzz they had in 2017. British wrestling is a style in and of itself. Characterized by grapplers and hard bastards, it is certainly something one could spend time digging into and accidentally come out with a new favorite performer.
WCPW (which changed its name to Defiant and is now defunct) was a promotion that helped me understand what was happening outside of WWE in 2017. Between Kenny Omega and this wild British indie, I began to understand that there were entire worlds outside of the promotion that I grew up with. While WCPW would get criticism for simply bringing in stars from elsewhere, they definitely had some characters that felt “homegrown”. Hendry was one of those performers. If you are unfamiliar with WCPW/Defiant, I highly suggest diving into a weekend YouTube hole.
With stints in World of Sport, ROH, and Impact in the previous two years, Joe Hendry has been a free agent for a surprisingly long time, considering the current market. He recently announced that he officially signed with Ring of Honor in 2019 and I believe he is well on his way to doing some spectacular things. Currently in a tag team with Dalton Castle, Hendry is charismatic, athletic, legitimately funny, and possesses all of the other basic attributes required to be a star in the coming years. The fact of the matter is, I believe in Joe Hendry.
Dalton Castle and Joe Hendry vs. Master and Machine (Atlanta, GA – January 11, 2020)
I feel as though this episode may not be the most spectacular indication of how good Hendry is solely based on the limited amount of matches he has had in ROH. For instance, I feel pretty caught up with the goings-on within the promotion, and I have no idea who Master and Machine are. Nevertheless, I am a big fan of both Castle and Hendry and I have yet to see them work together aside from a single match on Vincent’s spotlight episode of Day by Day.
Master and Machine look to be a couple of EDM boys and… wait, that’s Griff Garrison… well, I know ONE of the members of Master and Machine. Griff has been all over AEW Dark in recent weeks and is currently tagging with Brian Pillman Jr. in what Pillman lovingly refers to as “The Blondes”. Anyway, Griff and his partner, Marcus Kross, are EDM boys, and Marcus looks like a total goober; I’m imagining that’s the point. Dalton Castle and Joe Hendry are actual rock stars, Dalton in his persona and Hendry in his actual musical talent. While they may not seem like the most compatible team, if you have seen any of the segments they do together, it is always entertaining. If you really want to get a grasp on the team dynamics of Castle and Hendry, go listen to their episode of the ROH Strong podcast.
The crowd begins chanting “Rufio” at Marcus because of his ridiculous hair, which I appreciate, considering I am a child of the 90s. Also, I am not sure if he is meant to be an EDM boy or a weeb. Is it meant to be Dragonball hair? I don’t know. Apparently he is a black belt in some form of martial arts. One thing I do know is that Hendry and Castle have a lot more meat on their bones than the teen titans. That is the story of the match up to this point; while the young guys are able to avoid certain offence with speed, Castle and Hendry have the strength to overcome. The bigger story involves Hendry and Castle attempting to actually find a win. Up to this point, they had failed in their tag endeavours, but I am guessing this match is being highlighted specifically because they overcame said adversity. Both Castle and Hendry are old-school in their technical style; they have the veteran presence of mind to avoid the most devastating bits of their opponent’s offence.
This match is actually a lot of fun. Griff looks like an absolutely phenomenal athlete after the hot tag and Marcus is actually a pretty fantastic high flyer. Their finishing move, “Skywalker”, is unlike anything I have seen before. It is pointless to describe the move, you should just see it for yourself. It’s visually more impressive than it would be if dictated. Unfortunately for Master and Machine, this is the match where Hendry and Castle were finally able to get on the same page as a tag team. Certainly an enjoyable introduction to both teams if you are unfamiliar with either of them, it is short and sweet with pockets of absolutely phenomenal work.
Joe Hendry vs. Jonathan Gresham (London, England – August 19, 2018)
If you read my review of Jonathan Gresham’s episode last week, you know I became an absolute super-fan of this man. Ultimately, that article made me feel very official because he re-tweeted it. Yes, I am currently patting myself on the back… Anyway, this match happened before Hendry actually signed with ROH, and in his opinion, it is the match that eventually got him signed. That’s not surprising considering just how incredible Gresham is. I’m not saying Hendry needed Gresham to look good, but I am sure it didn’t hurt his chances in the slightest. I became audibly excited when I found out this was going to be the next match… like, I probably annoyed my neighbour.
The beginning of this match is one of the best things I have ever seen in the literal thousands of hours of wrestling I have ingested throughout my life. Gresham puts a full nelson on Hendry, who escapes using a technique that caught me off guard initially because I had never seen it before. He wraps his hands around his hamstring and uses the force of his leg to break the hold. I thought to myself, “Wow, how neat”. Gresham makes another attempt, Hendry counters in the same fashion. Gresham is taken aback because he has never seen it before either. What follows is legitimately humorous: Gresham asks Hendry to teach him the move and the next sixty seconds are so simple yet so effective. I can’t precisely articulate why I appreciated that sequence so much, but I did.
This match is timeless, and I don’t mean it’s the “greatest match ever”, I mean it can be enjoyed by fans of any generation. It is funny, athletic, and based in actual WRESTLING. Both men are excellent technical WRESTLERS and that is the crux of the story they are telling. They toy with one another in attempts to prove who exactly the best PURE wrestler is. It builds in intensity as each man becomes more frustrated after being bested in different sequences. Obviously, this match existed in isolation; it was a one-off between two extraordinary talents that wanted to entertain that crowd with a perfect mid-card exhibition.
Joe Hendry vs. Shane Taylor – World Television Championship (London, England – October 25, 2019)
After taking Shane Taylor to the fifteen-minute time limit, Joe Hendry earned a shot at the ROH World Television Championship at Honor United. Taylor was dominating absolutely everyone at this point in time, so Hendry taking him to the time limit was actually a pretty big deal. I haven’t been a huge fan of Taylor’s work in the past but, to be fair, I have only seen a handful of television matches in the last year or so. I’m certainly coming in with an open mind and I hope my preconceived notions come from a place of ignorance more so than taste.
Shane does not have a single member of the crowd behind him, which tells me (if nothing else) he has been an excellent heel up to this point, regardless of his in-ring style. Taylor also calls Hendry a “bellend” in London which made me feel special because I actually understood the UK slang. While Hendry is a large man, Shane is larger. Taylor is acting as the powerhouse heel while Hendry is attempting to use classic wrestling technique in order to get the upper hand. While Hendry has moments where he overpowers this mountain of a man, the beginning of the match centres on Taylor having almost total control.
This is very much what one would refer to as a “beef slapper”… two beefy boys slappin’ beef. While Taylor doesn’t perform many high impact moves, when he does, they look absolutely devastating. The same goes for Hendry. It is intensely impressive to watch these two men toss each other around. Specifically, Taylor’s package piledriver looked as though it could literally murder someone. This match serves to get Hendry over as an actual main event contender, and it succeeds in doing so. My opinions of Shane Taylor didn’t really evolve after watching this match. He is good at what he does, it is just that what he does isn’t very interesting to me. I think if I had been paying closer attention to the product at this time I would have more appreciation for what this match represented. It seems as though there weren’t many people that were even able to get offence in on Taylor, so the fact Hendry put up SUCH a fight illustrated something about him as a contender.
I was wrong about this episode not being an adequate illustration of just how good Joe Hendry is. This week’s edition of ‘Day by Day‘ perfectly illustrates Joe Hendry’s versatility. He is able to keep up with the young high-flyers, the technical masters, and the big beefy boys. While the Taylor match was not to my taste, it doesn’t really matter because you know Hendry will eventually be doing something elsewhere that does appeal to me. Beyond my personal taste, he is still perfect within the scope of a Shane Taylor match.
While being an excellent wrestler will certainly give you a career, it doesn’t make you a star. Joe Hendry also possesses all of the intangible attributes that make someone an absolute star. He is funny, creative, and has an ACTUAL in-ring personality; the latter being something that is lacking throughout the contemporary world of wrestling. Joe Hendry is only thirty-two years old: he is at his physical peak, so if all goes well, we get another decade of Joe Hendry. The world of wrestling would be better for it.