MR. TITO: I Believe in Joe Hendry

This column is NOT what you think… No, I’m not jumping on the Joe Hendry bandwagon, though I’m really impressed with him as a talent. What I want to speak about is WHY Joe Hendry became an internet sensation and why, thanks to this appearance on NXT, he could become an even bigger sensation.

I’ve argued this point for years and it is that PRESENTATION MATTERS in Pro Wrestling.

Viewership of a TV show or attendance at a live event isn’t based what is currently happening on a show, but what happens BEFORE it.

Wrestlemania 40… Why was it the biggest Wrestlemania of all time? Because of the utterly amazing performances by the Bloodline, the Rock, Cody Rhodes, and Seth Rollins. Regardless of how good their Night #1 and Night #2 matches were, you were either in Philadelphia or glued to your Peacock streaming service to watch these matches based on the actions that occurred BEFORE Wrestlemania 40. WWE got most of their money for Wrestlemania 40 before it even began, is my point. HYPE sold those tickets and convinced everyone to watch it.

But the same goes for ring entrances, too… If I’m randomly flipping to a wrestling show and I see a wrestler come out with an amazing entrance that contains a great theme song, great video (“Titantron” in WWE), and the wrestler, themselves, is presented well, then I’m sticking around to see how they perform. Conversely, if the theme music sucks (most of today’s does), the video screen has something lame on it, and the wrestler looks bored or uninterested for their interest, I’m changing the channel.

Whatever you think of the Ultimate Warrior, you cannot deny about how great he was presented by the WWE. That music by Jim Johnston hit and you know that a crazy man with threads tied to his arm and war paint was about to run towards the ring in a full sprint. When you see it for the first time, you’re hooked… First time that I ever saw the Ultimate Warrior was, in fact, his SummerSlam 1988 destruction of Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Title. That blew me away as a kid and I was a fan of the Warrior ever since. Each time, you HAD to see the entrance.

Fast forward to Bill Goldberg… He had badass music that an orchestra playing for someone huge to arrive and then a jacked up bald guy who looked like he could legitimately harms someone could appear. Like the Ultimate Warrior, his matches were kept short and basic, but with Goldberg, the Spear and Jackhammer combo were moves that made a major impact with fans. The guy got over instantly because of PRESENTATION.

Don’t think presentation matters? Then why did the “Ringmaster” fail for Steve Austin but “Stone Cold” blew up? Austin changed his look, changed his theme music (glass shattering, which was amazing), and delivered a new attitude for his character that got over. Ditto for the Rock… He was dreadful as Rocky Maivia but simply amazing at the Rock. “Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?”, and this jacked up villain would come out with pure swagger and then get on the mic to tell the fans what they could do with themselves.

The Undertaker with the amazing name, the outfit, and the funeral music mattered. How did he do in WCW again as “Mean” Mark Callous? Yeah, Ole Anderson did him no favors as the booker, but aside from his in-ring work being solid, he needed some help to get over. WWE provided that medicine and he was an instant main eventer thanks to the better presentation. Kane was a dentist and a fake version of Diesel before landing Kane. Wanna talk about presentation? Kane’s outfit, to that music, to the red lighting, and then some great in-ring stuff. Kane was instantly great when he debuted at Badd Blood 1997 and WWE could have dropped the ball on that debut, but the presentation of that music hitting, the look, being joined by Paul Bearer, and ripping off the cage matters.

Do you want more examples? Compare John Cena before and after the rapping gimmick. How about Deacon Batista versus Batista from the Evolution group? Hell, how about babyface Roman Reigns who re-used the Shield music and relied heavily on scripted music. Returns in August 2020 with a new attitude, added Paul Heyman, creates a Bloodline stable, and eventually gets new music. Gee, he’s suddenly making lots of money with BETTER PRESENTATION.

Joe Hendry‘s NXT debut is scoring social media reaction numbers that are equal to what happened at Wrestlemania 40. Seriously, folks, that was the BEST Wrestlemania ever, in terms of numbers, and this TNA wrestler debuting on WWE’s minor league system show, NXT, is doing the same (if not better) numbers than the biggest WWE show of the year.

But why? What made his Joe’s NXT debut so special?

All about presentation…

First of all, Joe Hendry‘s entrance is AMAZING as you can see from his official YouTube page. Everything about this is ridiculous and over-the-top, but it’s FUN. THAT should matter most… It’s FUN.

Listen to the music first… “Say his name and he appears, I believe in Joe Hendry”, and then it claps twice. Then, the lyrics repeat the phrase “I believe in Joe Hendry”. Then, it talks about geography to indicate that Joe is world traveled and that many places believe in him while the beat is suggesting more clapping should occur. Then, “I believe in Joe Hendry” is repeated twice again to encourage a phrase for the crowd to participate. After that, it hits a big guitar solo which is perfectly timed for Joe to walk to the ring.

Then, you accompany that great theme music with the actual video… Holy cow. From the second the video starts and sings “Say his name and he appears”, Joe Hendry in a ridiculous silk shirt turns around with the biggest smile on his face. Then, when when it claps twice, Joe is seen doing a ridiculous looking side clap. This is followed up with during the geography location part with seeing the full shot of Joe doing this ridiculous clap while never flinching with that smiling face. This is a complete injection of sunshine and rainbows to the viewers.

BUT THEN, Joe Hendry actually comes out and replicates that big smile on his face while looking around the arena to see the crowd hyped by his entrance theme.

Before Joe Hendry even hits the ring, you’re happy to see him and appreciating the experience of his entrance.

Now, many are arguing that Joe was eliminated too quickly during the Battle Royal on NXT. However, the NXT wrestlers ganged up on him and collectively threw him out. Afterward, video exists of Joe Hendry yelling at Shawn Michaels afterward. This is a teaser for bigger and better things, hopefully, with TNA and NXT sharing Joe Henrdry. Can’t give it all away instantly.

On my end, I want to see more of Joe Hendry based on this NXT appearance. With due respect to TNA, I don’t watch much of their stuff as I’m a cable cord cutter and couldn’t tell you where to watch TNA if I tried. But the fact is that Hendry appeared on NXT and that caught my eye.

I have to say, this NXT and TNA relationship has been GREAT so far and if I were both companies, I’d continue to work together. NXT’s show on the CW Network could benefit greatly from both companies continuing to work together and showcasing each other’s talent. CW has access to 100 million households and building a TNA vs. NXT conflict could draw huge when the show begins in the Fall. Maybe it might be worth Endeavor/TKO’s time to purchase a portion of TNA to let it be another promotion for talent development or presenting a different brand of wrestling? Either way, the energy surrounding NXT is increasing and TNA deserves a good portion of that credit.

But I also think that Joe Hendry is a lesson on why WWE and AEW are struggling to get NEWER wrestlers over, with few exceptions.

For one, both AEW and WWE cannot produce good theme music if they tried… It all mostly sucks right now, with whiny singers and terrible attempts at rock music. I LOATHED Dolph Ziggler’s theme music, while I continue to cringe when I hear Randy Orton, Miz, and Cody Rhodes’s theme music. Yes, I understand that Cody’s theme music prompts many in-person fans to scream it loudly at arenas, but I believe Cody’s popularity is based on being anti-AEW and feuding competently against the Bloodline. Smackdown’s viewership has dipped and so has attendance when you take away Roman from the Smackdown brand and leave it with Cody as WWE champion.

WWE pushing out Jim Johnston in favor of licensing artists to create BAD theme music has harmed their presentation.

AEW has never had great theme music and does foolish moves like spending 6 figures for Europe’s “Final Countdown” song among many other expensive song acquisitions.

There’s more to just the theme music and/or Titantrons…

Take Karrion Kross, Authors of Pain, or Damien Priest… I’d argue that Priest is an amazing talent, but his presentation has always been off and it just doesn’t match what you eventually see inside the ring. However, Karrion Kross was extremely dependent on his initial entrance in NXT that heavily featured his beautiful wife Scarlett but he’s struggled ever since without said entrance. Without that initial presentation, he’s just some big guy and he’s exposed as an in-ring performer. Authors of Pain have never been over and despite Paul Ellering managing them, NXT and WWE forget WHY the Road Warriors got over. Whether you heard “Ironman” by Black Sabbath or “Ohhhhhhhh What a Rush!”, you were pumped and then you saw these painted up guys with spikes on football shoulder pads.

THIS is why I was so critical of Triple H‘s tenure as EVP of Talent Relations from mid-2012 through early 2020. NXT just didn’t produce wrestlers that could draw bigtime on the WWE roster, with the exception of the female wrestlers. Someone like Bayley as a babyface was the right medicine, but then he didn’t protect that star’s image when she eventually arrived in WWE. Sasha Banks was perfectly pushed as a heel in NXT, but struggled as a babyface in WWE. But the fact remains that Triple H really struggled to fill the WWE with strong male wrestlers that he signed (Roman & Seth were Laurinaitis signings).

While I like Kevin Owens, that was HHH’s best attempt and Owens has been great for the WWE roster overall… Drew McIntyre was in WWE before and reshaped his image elsewhere, but truly has only recently found himself thanks to CM Punk. But Finn Balor, Andrade, Aleister Black, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Keith Lee, and of course, Karrion Kross just weren’t the potential main eventers that WWE needed from its developmental system.

What WWE needs are over-the-top and larger-than-life babyfaces and heels that are literally jumping off the pages of a comic book. Roman Reigns is literally Thanos right now, as he and his Bloodline group ruled the WWE for almost 4 years and Roman had an extensive World Title reign that pulled the WWE out of the COVID gutter. Conversely, they need a FUN and FLASHY babyface to go up against this monster of a heel. Hence why Cody Rhodes worked while on his “win one for Dusty” chase or while riding on the fumes of being anti-AEW. That’s why Wrestlemania 39 and 40 drew huge with them and Wrestlemania 40 would have still made money had the Rock not arrived (it made much more with the Rock, of course).

Right now for Cody, he’s supposed to be presented as someone who beat Roman Reigns, yet he’s struggling in matches against an older AJ Styles or the secondary champion, US Champ Logan Paul. And what do ya know, the numbers are declining.

Am I saying that WWE should push Joe Hendry to the moon right now? NO, I’m not… But I’m explaining WHY the guy is garnering so much attention because his entrance on that NXT event was great. Then, Joe cuts a great promo… THAT is why all of the NXT wrestlers ganged up on him, folks…

WWE and AEW could solve many problems if they would just improve their theme music for their wrestlers. Everything today is either too bland or too emotional for the wrong reasons. Themes need to be FUN… There’s a reason why a struggling WWE sold a ton of their WWE: The Music Volume One because themes like Razor Ramon’s were complete bangers and made you proud to ride down the streets with your windows down.

But then, work on the LOOK of your wrestlers… Joe Hendry doesn’t have any crazy ring attire on, but look at the way he smiles during his entrance. THAT matters… It’s how your wrestlers act and sell their characters. When Joe’s “Titantron”, for lack of a better term, hits and he’s smiling on video but he arrives with that SAME exact smile, it clicks with the audience.

Bayley aside in NXT, Triple H just isn’t good with crafting babyfaces in developmental. Maybe the improving Shawn Michaels running NXT can change things and maybe getting a closer eye at TNA’s operations will too? Babyface development is a must need for the WWE right now and just coming up with ways to create wrestlers who are about FUN and nothing else must be a priority. Joe Hendry is FUN and that’s why he’s drawing attention right now.

WWE, I DARE you to put Joe Hendry in the Royal Rumble with that entrance. That arena would explode and newer fans would instantly catch on and start signing “I Believe in Joe Hendry”. That song is catchy and Mrs. Tito is mad at me for showing her his recent NXT debut because the song can’t escape her head.

Recently, I was at a themed restaurant where they were playing music videos coinciding with a big screen that covered an entire wall and part of the ceiling. Of course, the many younger kids with their families would sing along easily with any Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song, but then Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” came on… At first, you could only hear the parents singing “We’re halfway there, ahhhhhhhh, we’re living on a prayer, take my hand, we’re halfway there”, etc., but by the end chorus, all of the kids joined and were singing along too. Many of them never heard of that song in their life, yet they instantly got it. I guarantee those kiddos instantly downloaded that Bon Jovi song to their phones or looked up their music catalog on Spotify.

Make a catchy theme song, it will spread like a virus and get everyone infected to want to participate. That is the “I Believe in Joe Hendry” song and there’s a valid reason why it has appeared on legitimate music charts lately.

Joe Hendry is getting over because he made a great theme, helped produce a great video that coincides with it, and then the wrestler coming out matches what you see in the video. He’s happy to be there and it’s infectious before he even wrestles a match.

Wrestling is supposed to be over-the-top and FUN… Stop giving your wrestlers dark and brooding personalities that match their terrible ring music.

So yeah, I believe in Joe Hendry because his character and wrestling persona are presented well, which is why it sticks out and why he’s going viral when others aren’t.

For the love of God, make theme music great again, WWE and AEW!

CLICK HERE for the Mr. Tito Column Archive @ NoDQ