Joe Hendry ROH - James Musselwhite

Times are tough in the wrestling world right now. With a virus ruining our show plans and keeping people indoors, we all need something to brighten the mood. What better guy to talk to than Joe Hendry, the prestigious local hero? SteelChair spoke with Hendry to discuss his ROH progress, Dalton Castle, Twitch streaming, and more. Enjoy!

Last time we talked to you was just before Ring of Honor UK, what has been your progress within the company? How has your time been?

“It’s been awesome. It’s been an amazing place to work. It has a very hungry and driven roster, but not just the roster, everyone in the company. Every single person that contributes to the product, everyone in the office, to the people on the technical side of things, to the merchandising. I don’t want to leave anyone out, but everyone in the company is driven and determined to put out the best wrestling product that we can. So, it’s a great environment and their very supportive of the roster.”

You’ve done a lot of teaming with Dalton Castle, how has that been?

“It’s been awesome. Dalton’s been to the top, so it’s great to work with someone who has been the world champion and has that experience. I think me and him have built a lot of entertainment, a lot of comedy into what it is that we do. I enjoy that we have very different styles of comedy, and they mesh very well. You’ll see a lot of times, that he’ll catch me off guard, and he just says something or does something, and I’ll genuinely be laughing at what he’s doing. It always catches me off guard, so I enjoy looking at things from a different perspective. I feel that I’m learning a lot, and I feel that we are working well as a team.”

Will we ever see you duet on an entrance video?

“Never say never. That would be awesome.”

ROH just gained a new creative in Marty Scurll, do you think he’ll be good for the company?

“I think that it’s a part of the upward trajectory the company is going through right now, but I think, obviously, with everything that’s happened with the current situation and the coronavirus, that’s put a halt to every industry in the world. But we’re still very unified as a roster, and I think it’s a very exciting time creatively for Ring of Honor. Marty’s done a lot of great things in his wrestling career, and he knows what the fans want to see. Now, he’s going to have the opportunity to give that to the fans. We’re all super excited to get back to doing what we do, and I know he has a lot of awesome ideas and what direction he wants to take the company in. So, I’m excited to get back to working and seeing where it goes.”

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You just addressed the elephant in the room, how had the coronavirus affected you?

“Well, it’s had an impact on everyone worldwide. But what I will say, and I wish more people knew this, is that ROH has been unbelievably supportive when it comes to what’s happened. They’re standing by the wrestlers, and they’re supporting the wrestlers from multiple standpoints. They’re doing what they can to help us continue to be creative through this period. They got me, at their expense, an earlier flight to go home to make sure I could get back to my family safely before flights were getting grounded. Plus, they’re looking after and supporting the roster through this period when y’know that wouldn’t be expected of a wrestling company, but ROH is going above and beyond. So, I think we’ve got a real family vibe at ROH, and in regards to your previous question, we’re all excited to get back to work. Like I say, Marty is one of the most over talents in professional wrestling, so he knows what it takes to get the product more over with the fans. I’m excited to see where that goes when we get back. Who knows how long this will all take, but the message we’ve received is that ROH is totally supportive of its wrestlers and of its fanbase.”

That’s good to hear, we could all use some good news. So, that’s how it’s impacted you and ROH, how do you think this will impact wrestling as a whole?

“Well, I think it’s created a rather interesting challenge, and it’s something we all have to think about. We don’t know what wrestling is going to look like. Who knows what’s going to happen with coronavirus, but you’re seeing in wrestling now that there’s an additional challenge to create programming. To be honest, you’re asking a question that it’s impossible to speculate on. You’re talking about a situation where, when we got on a plane to go over to Las Vegas and do what we do, we were anxious about, we wanted to do the absolute best we could and serve the fans and give the people that break they needed from what was going on. But it escalated to such a situation that by the time the plane landed, the company decided that the right thing to do was reschedule the shows. All the wrestlers stand by the company for doing that. It was the right thing to do, but the point I’m making is in a short space of time, coronavirus went from a major concern to something that forced us to reschedule our shows.

So this is something that’s changing on a day to day basis and all the company can do, all that can be expected of anyone in wrestling, is to just respond in the best way they can. I really feel that ROH has done that on a multitude of fronts. Asking to speculate on what is going to happen is absolutely impossible to say. But I know we have enough creative people behind the scenes, and on our roster where when we’re able to meet up again, as a group, we will come up with solutions, but hey, we’ll come up with solutions remotely. We’re going to be producing content remotely as well. We’ll do what we need to do to entertain the fans, that’ll never change. People will always want to see wrestling; people will always want to be wrestlers. People love wrestling for a reason, and it will always be around no matter what form it’s in, and coronavirus is not going to change this.”

Definitely a good response there. I agree that it provides a challenge to make new content and get matches out there. Speaking of, you run a Twitch channel, how has that helped you cope with isolation?

“It’s pretty awesome, actually. The support from the community has been great.  Like the other night, we were up to 600 viewers at one point watching me play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. That was pretty cool. I guess they weren’t in the room like we’re used to when we perform as professional wrestlers, but that was a decent audience and a lot of fun. I think Twitch is a really great platform to help people just escape from what’s going on for the people who are broadcasting and the ones that are watching. So, I know as a company, online content across a multitude of platforms is going to be a focus for us.”

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Can you see more wrestlers use Twitch as a means to reach fans and keep things going?

“Yeah, I think when it comes to online content, the thing is that you should do what you’re in to. There have been times in the past where I’ve tried to experiment with different platforms or different ways of entertaining people online because that’s seen as the hot thing at that time. I’ve found, with my couple of years of experience on Twitch, and my entrances, and the online content that I’m doing, whenever I make stuff that I think would entertain me and focus on making the best stuff that I can, not worrying about which hashtags to use, just making good stuff. This is the advice I think I’d give to any wrestler or any person who wants to put content out there. Don’t worry so much about the responses it’s going to get. Just put stuff out there that you like and that you enjoy. Chances are there’ll be a whole load of people out there that feel the same way.”

Something I’d thought about, as you’re a wrestling teacher, could Twitch be used to host wrestling classes, workouts and things like that? There seems to be a market for it, especially as gyms are closed and people are stuck at home.

“I think you’re seeing a lot of people doing online workouts and stuff like that, which is awesome. I think though, with things like promo classes for example, what we do as I’m working online with a lot of my students is a closed channel. I feel like there’s so much to learn about professional wrestling that I think it’s good to do it in stages. So, once you’ve learned one aspect of pro wrestling, you kind of progress to the next one. For example, when we’ve got students in our wrestling school before they get in the ring, y’know they don’t get in the ring on the first week before they get in the ring they’ve had multiple sessions on the mats learning holds, learning basics, that sort of thing before they graduate to the ring. I think if you were to do it on Twitch, you wouldn’t get that way of building it up as people could just drop in and out. I think online is definitely the way to go, but a lot of care and attention needs to be given to it. Just throwing it out there on Twitch to people who might tune in or drop out, whenever might not be the way to do it. With that type of content, I’m trying to serve my students in the best way that I can right now. But yes, I do think online is a good way to do that, it’s just something that requires a lot of thought. You don’t want to give everything away to every casual member who may not want to be a professional wrestler.

It’s like, certain things that I’m a fan of that I don’t necessarily want to know the inner workings of because I’m a fan, and it would take away some of the enjoyment. It would take away some of the enjoyment of sitting there being a fan. That’s one thing about becoming a wrestler, you can always be a fan of wrestling, but you do accept that you do make a change when it becomes a goal to become a professional wrestler. If you put it out there on Twitch, I don’t think that would be the right way to give, for example, a promo class.”

So, it’s kind of like watching a movie then realising that the monster is an image created by a computer?

“The thing about professional wrestling is it’s hard to find parallels because it is such a unique form of entertainment. There’s really nothing like it, and that is why we all love it.”

Going back to companies providing content, what are your thoughts on the empty arena shows happening at the moment?

“I think in the industry, we’re all coming up with ideas and solutions for the best way to serve our audience. I think everyone is doing their best to help people have a little bit of escape to get through this difficult time. Right now, for example, in the UK, we’re in lockdown. So non-essential services, people aren’t really allowed to leave their house, so they’re not even feasible in the UK. That means it’s something that’s not possible for me to partake in right now, so it’s kind of difficult to give my thoughts on it. I trust that the industry will do it’s best to entertain the fans in a way that’s safe.”

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We’ll look ahead to the future when the industry is back on its feet again, what are your goals going back into ROH?

“Well, my goal in ROH is, of course, well when I came into the company, it was to be the world champion. I put out a t-shirt that said world champion because I was trying to manifest that into reality, but the more I tag with Dalton, the more that I’m realising that the tag team titles are in reach. We were scheduled to have a match with The Briscoes. That would have been the biggest match that I’ve ever had in ROH. That would have been the biggest match we’d had as a tag team. If we’d have beaten The Briscoes, we’d have absolutely been in line to get a Tag Title shot. So, everyone has been affected by this. I’m hoping that when we get back, we can get that match with The Briscoes because we were ready to go. We were firing on all cylinders. We were ready to show what we had as a tag team, and I think we can go all the way with it. It’s difficult because my tag team partner is across an ocean, and I’m aware The Briscoes are brothers, so they’ll see each other on a regular basis whilst myself and Dalton are separated by an ocean. I’m hoping we can get back to what we’re doing sooner rather than later, so we can maintain that tag team synergy.”

Does that mean we might see Joe Hendry and Dalton Castle as tag team champs before the end of 2020?

“That is the light at the end of this for me. That is what’s keeping me motivated right now. I’ve moved all my gym equipment from my unit to my spare room. I’m working out regularly, and I’m keeping myself in tip-top condition because that’s what I’m focused on. I wanna make that happen.”

And, as my last question, will we see wrestling bounce back better than ever?

“As I said, wrestling is something people will always want to see, and something people will always want to do. To me, the reason I love wrestling is that you can express yourself in more ways than any other art form that I can think of. From the moment you walk through the curtain, there are almost limitless different art forms taking place. If you think about myself, for example, I get to express myself through my gear. In fact, if you think about it, wrestlers are bodybuilders too. We put all this time in at the gym and eating the right thing to showcase our physiques and showcase our strengths in the ring. But the moment we walk through, we’re showcasing our physiques like bodybuilders would, but for me personally, my music plays, so I’m showcasing my music as a musician would. When I’m walking to the ring, when I’m talking, there’s showmanship there. When I get into the ring, I am showcasing what I can do as an athlete. We’re showcasing ourselves in so many different ways.

Even right now, I’m doing something as simple as writing a blog for ROH. I’m partaking in their blog because right now we’re thinking of every single way we can contribute to the company. It’s just another way we can showcase what we’re doing. We’ve got our YouTube channel. There are so many ways that you can express yourself in professional wrestling. So long story short, wrestling will never go away. This is not going to stop professional wrestling. People love wrestling, and sometimes when people can’t get something, it makes them want it even more. I’m so excited to see what wrestling will be like, to see how hungry the fans will be for live professional wrestling when we’re able to deliver that in front of people to the best of our abilities. That’s what’s exciting to me. No question, wrestling will survive through anything.”

I don’t think anyone could have said it better. Any last things you want to add?

“The main thing I want to say is to check out Honor Club on the ROH website. That is where you can see everything that we do. We’re adding content to it all the time. We’ve got amazing stuff on there, and I really believe that our wrestling shows are some of the best. Watch on from start to finish, give ROH a chance, and see what it is that we’re putting out there. I have every confidence in what we’ve been doing. If people go on Honor Club, they’re going to love it and feel the value of it. Check out Honor Club, it will carry you through this period. Just keep in touch, see what we’re doing, and we look forward to seeing you on the road. We’ll all get through this as a company and an industry. Thank you to the fans for their support of the wrestlers like myself, but you should also support ROH because, at the end of the day, they are going above and beyond to support the wrestlers through this period of time. That takes a lot of courage at a time like this.”

Joe Hendry can be found on Twitter and Instagram here.

Honor Club can be found here.

All images courtesy of RING OF HONOR: James Musselwhite

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