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Joe Hendry Interview: The Prestigious One Gunning For Gold In The Commonwealth Games

Josh Lawless

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Joe Hendry Interview: The Prestigious One Gunning For Gold In The Commonwealth Games

Joe Hendry is anything but your average professional wrestler. Not only does he back a background in music, his band were once close to signing a record deal with Sony, he has a Masters degree in business and marketing, and a black belt in judo.

Now he's added another string to his bow in qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, where he will represent Scotland in amateur wrestling.

The Edinburgh-born grappler, a late comer into pro wrestling but immensely popular for his charismatic work in Insane Championship Wrestling And Defiant Wrestling (formerly What Culture Pro Wrestling), is filled with pride over the achievement - especially given he did have his doubters.

Speaking exclusively to SPORTbible, he said:

"I feels pretty amazing. I came into pro wrestling pretty late in the day, I was like 24 just turning 25. I just decided to dedicate my all to it and it's really paid off.

"I just took the same mentality with amateur/freestyle wrestling, which a lot of people told me wasn't possible - to get to an elite level starting a spot like this at 26 - but I've proved it is possible.

"If there's one thing I can kind of convey doing this whole thing, I want to show people it's never too late if you've got a dream."

Hendry was inspired by the Commonwealth games opening ceremony back in 2014 and then made the step as part of a story for the second part of the Insane Fight Club documentary on BBC Three.

With barely any experience, or any knowledge of the rules, he was nearly Scottish champion in three weeks but had to settle for silver. His meteoric rise continued from then on.

"When I saw the Scottish athletes going around waving to the friends and family, the sense of pride, I thought I'd like to do that. I didn't know what sport I'd do but I'd quite like to [be an athlete].

"Insane Fight Club two was being filmed and the stories that were getting thrown around was the idea what would happen, because I had a bit of a judo background, there was some crossover.

"There was a conversation between myself and the owner, [Mark] Dallas, who was saying 'We had an idea, what would happen if you went in one of these tournaments?'.

"So I went and did one of the tournaments for the Scottish championship within three weeks, didn't even know the rules and I was beating the champ eight points ahead. But I didn't know I needed to be ten ahead to win the whole thing.

"If I had known that, I would have been the Scottish champion but I ended up getting a bit ahead of myself and getting rolled up. I wasn't Scottish champion but I got the silver.

"From that day on I just kept doing it, I was getting silvers and bronzes all over the country and then in 2016 was just a real change of mentality. Almost overnight I went from getting bronzes to winning all my matches in 30 seconds."

Not only is it a huge achievement for Hendry himself to represent his country, he is also representing the craft of professional wrestling, which is a big thing for him.

"I have a tremendous respect for the professional wrestling business, I'll do what's best for my career but also I want to do what's best for the wrestling business.

"I've got so much out of the business in such a short space of time, I feel it's only right I give something back to it and if I can play a very small role in legitimising pro wrestling, that makes me extremely proud."

Balancing being a professional wrestler and an amateur wrestler is no easy task and it goes way beyond Hendry changing his favoured hand depending what activity he is partaking in (he does everything left-handed in pro wrestling, but everything in amateur wrestling is led with his right).

The financial element, as well as the time and energy being devoted to amateur wrestling has proved challenging but Hendry has found ways around it.

"It's been extremely difficult. I don't think people realise how expensive it is to pursue a sport at an elite level without being paid any way shape of form for it. Everything that I've made in pro wrestling has ust been immediately invested somewhere else, whether it be amateur wrestling, my Twitch channels or my recordings.

"It bore a financial burden, it had a burden on me in terms of the time and energy that you give to it - it's a very stressful thing competing.

"But when I learned to enjoy the process and embrace the nerves, the intensity, and just understand I'm lucky to be able to compete at this level and show my skills.

"Not many people get the opportunity to do that so when you embrace those intense moments and enjoy them, then it becomes fun."

The Prestigious One hit headlines in October 2016 when he shared the ring with Kurt Angle in what was a dream match for Hendry.

A bit of social media interaction with the Olympic Hero himself helped get the ball rolling and the two locked up in a memorable pay-per-view match.

Reflecting on working with the current Raw General Manager, Hendry said:

"It was incredible, I've got a shortlist of people who I would consider to be heroes of mine - Kurt Angle's one of those. It's one of those things, I was hearing rumblings about it but tried to not get excited because I was like, 'It's probably not going to come to fruition' for whatever reason.

"It all started because a fan asked me, 'If you could wrestle anyone, who would it be?' And my dream program or feud would be The Rock but my dream match is Kurt Angle. A fan asked me and I tagged him.

"I got this DM from Kurt Angle saying, 'Work hard, maybe one day I'll give you the match'. That was kind of like the year before it happened and then 2016 came along - I gave him a DM and let him know what I'd been up to and it grew arms and legs.

"What Culture, now known as 'Defiant', brought him in and had the faith in me to wrestle a pay-per-view main event with Jim Cornette and Jim Ross calling the action of me against Kurt Angle.

"It literally can't get any bigger than that outside of Wrestlemania. That was just about as big as it gets really. I think that day was really a turning point for me because I progressed a lot as a pro wrestler coming out of that and I'm thankful to Defiant, I'm thankful to Kurt for giving me the opportunity to do that."

Angle wrestled his final match in the UK against Alberto Del Rio before heading to WWE and Hendry stole the limelight by attacking him after the match.

"I kind of had the idea for that because the crowd were starting to rebel against me - [I was] too by the book and too 'goody two-shoes' and I had this other side to my personality so I thought it was the right time to show that side and is there in bigger or better way to do it than kicking your hero in the nuts?!"

Despite the post-match blow, Angle has been very accommodating to Hendry, which he is extremely grateful for.

"He's given me a lot of advice which has been great when it comes to both pro wrestling and amateur wrestling. Kurt is someone who wants to nurture the next wave of talent; he's someone that wants to give back to the professional wrestling business so I'm grateful for the fact that he has been there to give advice and help me make decisions."

The longest-reigning Defiant Wrestling champion feels the amateur wrestling influence is slowly transferring to his work in the squared circle. He adopted Angle's famed ankle lock as his finishing move but put his own spin on it thanks to some words of wisdom from Goldberg, WWE's headline Hall of Famer this year.

"It's gradually and naturally happening. I'm experimenting with it. Actually, I got the chance to meet Goldberg and he gave me some advice that changed my outlook on wrestling. He was like, 'If you like certain moves, don't copy someone else's move. Do your own spin on it and then that becomes your move.

"That advice really made me think a lot about what I do so, for example, instead of doing the ankle lock as my finish now, what I do is, I step over and turn it into a half-boston ankle lock and that's the Hendry lock.

"Just by changing that one thing, that allowed me to put my own spin on it and I can take it into a different direction from those that have done it before me."

Hendry's current schtick is very different to what he was doing as 'The Local Hero' yet he's quick to stress it is merely an extension of who he is as a person - someone who is oozing with drive and confidence.

"It's not a gimmick or a character - it's me with the volume turned up. I see myself as a main event player, I see myself as the WWE champion and 'the Prestigious One' is me saying that. Right now, I feel you need to have that confidence and see yourself as a world champion because if you don't see yourself as world champion, no-one else is going to."

While his focus will be on the Commonwealth games from March to April in Australia, his ultimate goal is to be the absolute top dog in professional wrestling and he believes he'll get to that level.

"My goal is to be the number one in the business, the top talent in the business, whatever that means. That's the goal I've had from day one. People don't like me because a lot of the time I have outrageous goals but when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. In my mind, I see myself as world champion and everything I'm doing is working towards that."

Topics: kurt angle, Wrestling, WWE, Scotland

Josh Lawless
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