Joseph Curtis "Joe" Hennig (October 1, 1979) is an American professional wrestler and actor previously signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) under the ring name Curtis Axel. Hennig debuted in WWE in 2010, joining The Nexus under the ring name Michael McGillicutty. He had previously wrestled at their developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) and was part of the second season of NXT. In 2011, Hennig won the WWE Tag Team Championship with David Otunga as a member of The New Nexus. In May 2013, Hennig reignited his career under his current ring name, paying tribute to his father "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and his grandfather Larry "The Axe" Hennig and won the Intercontinental Championship.
Professional wrestling career
World League Wrestling (2007–2008)
Hennig made his professional debut on July 13, 2007 in Waterloo, Iowa for World League Wrestling (WLW), teaming with Ted DiBiase, Jr. to defeat Dinn T. Moore and Branden Tatum by disqualification. Hennig later went on an nine-month winning streak in WLW before suffering his first singles loss to "Wild" Wade Chism.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Florida Championship Wrestling (2007–2010)
On March 31, 2007, Hennig along with his mother, siblings, and his grandfather represented his father "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig at the 2007 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony by accepting the award on his behalf. On the October 26, 2007 episode of SmackDown, Hennig teamed with Steve Fender in a loss to Jesse and Festus.
Hennig signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment and was assigned to its developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). On September 11, 2008, Hennig and Sebastian Slater defeated Nic Nemeth and Gavin Spears to win the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship. On October 30, Hennig and Slater lost the Tag Team Championship to The New Hart Foundation (DH Smith and TJ Wilson).
On November 20, Hennig challenged Sheamus O'Shaunessy for the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship but it ended in a double disqualification. A rematch was made, but Hennig was again disqualified. Hennig had another chance to win the title on December 11 when he participated in a fatal four-way match for the championship, but Eric Escobar won the match, and the title. Hennig defeated Escobar on February 26 at a TV taping and won the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship. On the April 5, 2009 episode of FCW it was announced that Hennig had suffered a serious injury and therefore he had surrendered the Florida Heavyweight Championship.
After recovering, Hennig made his return to FCW in late June. Soon afterwards, he formed a tag team with Brett DiBiase known as The Fortunate Sons. On January 14, 2010, The Sons won the Florida Tag Team Championship by defeating The Dudebusters.
The Nexus (2010–2011)
On June 1, 2010, it was announced that Hennig would take part in the second season of NXT, using the ring name Michael McGillicutty, with Kofi Kingston as his pro. He made his NXT debut on the June 8 episode, but did not compete in a match. He made his in-ring debut on the following edition of NXT, teaming with Kingston in a tag team match, where they defeated Mark Henry and Lucky Cannon. On the June 22 edition of NXT, McGillicutty defeated Titus O'Neil to improve his record to 2-0. In the first poll on June 29, McGillicutty was ranked third, behind Kaval and Percy Watson. On the July 20 episode of NXT, McGillicutty earned immunity from elimination in the next poll by completing an obstacle course in the fastest time. On the following episode of NXT, he moved up to first place in the second poll. After six consecutive victories, McGillicutty suffered his first loss on the August 3 episode of NXT, when he was defeated by pro The Miz. On August 9 the rookies appeared in a six-man tag team match on Raw, in which McGillicutty teamed with Husky Harris and Alex Riley to defeat Lucky Cannon, Kaval and Percy Watson. The following night on NXT, his team lost a rematch when McGillicutty was pinned by Kaval. In the next poll later that night, McGillicutty relinquished the first-place ranking back to Kaval, slipping to second place. In the season finale on August 31, McGillicutty ended the competition in second place, being beaten by Kaval. At the end of the show, McGillicutty turned heel by attacking Kaval with the other eliminated rookies.
In October 2010, at Hell in a Cell, McGillicutty and Husky Harris disguised themselves as fans and interfered during the match between John Cena and Wade Barrett. This allowed Barrett to pin Cena and win the match, forcing Cena to join The Nexus per the pre-match stipulation. McGillicutty's and Harris' identities were revealed on the following day's episode of Raw, though Barrett claimed he had not asked for their help and refused to make them full-time members of The Nexus. The following week, McGillicutty and Harris interfered in a match between Cena and The Miz, costing Cena the match and prompting Barrett to give them the opportunity to win membership in The Nexus. On the October 18 episode of Raw, McGillicutty and Harris were unable to earn a place in The Nexus when they lost to Cena and Randy Orton in a tag team match. Despite this, Barrett confirmed both he and Harris were members on the October 25 episode of Raw.
Punk would bring in Mason Ryan to bolster the ranks.
MM and Otunga reigned as champions for a while, and continued on after Ryan left due to injury and Punk left due to an expired contract after winning the title.
The pair would later lose their titles to the new team Air Boom, and also lost the rematch.
Intercontinental Champion (2013–2014)
On the May 20, 2013 episode of Raw, Hennig returned under the new gimmick Curtis Axel. He debuted under the management of Paul Heyman, where he was immediately challenged by Triple H. During the weeks after their initial confrontation, Axel embarked on a series of notable matches against Triple H and John Cena, gaining controversial victories over both men. On June 10, during the opening hour of Monday Night Raw Axel faced Triple H in a supposed singles match before Vince McMahon ordered the immediate cancellation of the matches. After a series of back-and-forth power-plays between McMahon and Triple H, Axel was awarded "two" victories according to McMahon's score card. Later that night Heyman, who was making the announcement of behalf of Vickie Guerrero, said that Axel was added to the Intercontinental Championship match at WWE Payback 2013 where he will face Wade Barrett and The Miz. At Payback, Axel won the Intercontinental title after pinning a downed Barrett, captalizing on The Miz's finishing moves. Axel was originally scheduled to defend the title on the following night on Raw against Barrett until Vickie Guerrero chose Christian to face Barrett in an impromptu match. During that same week on the June 21st episode of Friday Night Smackdown Axel faced Barrett in a title rematch successfully retaining his championship. On the July 8 episode of Monday Night Raw, Axel wrestled and loss his first match to Chris Jericho due to interference by The Miz, who was at ringside for commentary. During that same week on Smackdown, Axel would face Jericho in a rematch, losing once again to Jericho via count-out. Six days later at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Axel defeated The Miz to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Axel made another title defense on the following episode of SmackDown, defeating Chris Jericho.
Axel then feuded with CM Punk alongside Paul Heyman. Axel was set to team with Heyman in an elimination handicap match against Punk at Night of Champions. During the pay-per-view, Heyman begged Triple H to cancel the match, but Triple H refused, not only confirming the match, but making Axel defend his Intercontinental Championship against Kofi Kingston, who had beaten him twice. Axel would defeat Kingston and retain the title, but he would be eliminated by Punk later in the night, leaving Heyman alone to fight Punk by himself. Ryback would then later interfere in the match by slamming Punk through a table. On the September 30 episode of Raw he was defeated by R-Truth in a non-title match, which gave him a title match at Battleground. On October 6 at Battleground he would defeat R-Truth and successfully retained the Intercontinental Championship. The next night on Raw Axel teamed up with Ryback to face R-Truth and CM Punk. R-Truth picked up the victory for his team, pinning Axel. On the October 11 SmackDown Axel once again retained the Intercontinental Championship against R-Truth. At Hell in a Cell, Axel was scheduled to defend his title against Big E. Langston, however the match was cancelled due to Curtis' legitimate hip injury. Axel lost the title to Langston on the November 18 Raw. Axel failed again to regain the Intercontinental Championship in a rematch at Survivor Series against Big E Langston.
Axel and Ryback won a non-title match against Cody Rhodes & Goldust, putting them in line for a future WWE Tag Team Championship shot, but they lost their opportunity. On the Elimination Chamber kick off, Rybaxel were accompanied to the ring by Larry Hennig. On the March 28 episode of SmackDown, Rybaxel along with other tag teams attacked The Shield under orders from Kane and were rewarded with a WWE Tag Team Championship shot on the WrestleMania XXX pre-show which they lost. On the April 14 episode of Raw, along with nine other superstars, they attacked The Shield again under orders from Triple H. After Rybaxel began a winning streak, they earned a tag titles shot on 28 April on Raw, but lost to The Usos again. at Payback, RybAxel defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust, at Money in the Bank, RybAxel faced Goldust and Stardust in a losing effort, at Battleground, Axel competed in a 19-man battle royal for the vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship which was won by The Miz. With Ryback injured and later to return as a fan favorite again, solo, RybAxel seemingly broke up.
At the Royal Rumble, Axel was set to enter the Rumble match at #6, but was attacked by Erick Rowan on the entrance ramp, rendering him unable to compete. As a result of not being eliminated (having never officially entered the match), Axel trended on Twitter following the event, and also received supportive tweets from former WWE Superstars Lance Storm and Tommy Dreamer and then later from current WWE Superstars Xavier Woods, Zack Ryder and David Otunga, the latter offering his legal services. Axel was defeated by Rowan on the following week's episode of Main Event. Axel then began an angle where he began referring to himself as "the true winner of the Royal Rumble", claiming that he still hadn't been eliminated from the match and that he deserved a shot at Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as a result. This involved Axel interrupting segments involving the likes of Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Rusev to protest his cause, and also led to Axel starting his own hashtag, #AxelMania.
On the May 11 episode of Raw, Axel turned face when he shook hands with Damien Sandow (dressed as "Macho Mandow"), similar to the handshake of The Mega Powers when they formed a tag team. After this, Axel began impersonating Hulk Hogan while teaming with Sandow. The two were dubbed The Meta Powers. The Meta Powers were defeated by the Ascension at Payback kickoff. The Meta Powers interrupted The Miz's Miz TV with Daniel Bryan, at the Elimination Chamber kickoff show. Axel and Sandow ceased their AxelMania and Macho Mandow imitations on July 24, after WWE fired Hulk Hogan and severed all ties with him. On the August 21 edition of Superstars, Axel returned to singles competition, defeating Adam Rose. On the September 30 episode of Main Event, Axel was defeated by newcomer Braun Strowman. On the Special New Year's Eve episode of Smackdown, Axel announced his entry into the 2016 Royal Rumble.
Various alliances (2016–2020)
On the January 4, 2016 episode of Raw, Axel turned heel when he, along with Heath Slater, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas, debuted a new stable and went on to assist Slater in defeating Dolph Ziggler, calling themselves "social outcasts". On the January 11 episode of Raw, now billed as "The Social Outcasts", the group would face The Wyatt Family in a losing effort. Axel would enter the Royal Rumble match at the #5 spot lasting one minute and eleven seconds before being eliminated by the debuting AJ Styles. On the January 28 episode of SmackDown, Axel would face Styles in a losing effort. On the January 19 episode of Main Event, Axel and Heath Slater defeated The Dudley Boyz in a tag team match. On February 21, at Fastlane, Axel defeated R-Truth in a singles match. On the March 17, 2016 episode of SmackDown, The Social Outcasts announced they will be participants in 3rd annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, which was won by Baron Corbin. In May, The Social Outcasts began filming The Marine 5: Battleground, taking them out of action. The Social Outcasts returned on the June 27 episode of Raw, confronting Enzo Amore and Big Cass. The following week on Raw, The Social Outcasts faced Enzo and Cass in a losing effort.
As a result of the 2016 WWE draft on July 19, Axel was drafted to the Raw brand, being the last pick for the brand. The week after on Raw, Axel was nicknamed "Mr. Irrelevant" due to being the last draft pick for Raw. Axel then stated that they "saved the best for last", before he was defeated by a returning Neville. On the October 10 episode of Raw, Axel returned to action, teaming with Bo Dallas and losing to Sami Zayn and Neville. The following week on Raw, Axel was at Dallas' side when he defeated Neville, but was attacked by Dallas after the match, showing signs of a face turn and igniting a feud between the two. On the October 24 episode of Raw, Axel cemented his face turn in his home state of Minnesota, receiving a pop from the crowd before losing to Dallas. Axel then appeared on Superstars and Main Event, defeating the likes of Jinder Mahal, Titus O'Neil and Bo Dallas. On April 2, 2017, at WrestleMania 33, Axel participated in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, in which he was unsuccessful.
On June 19, 2017 episode of Raw, Intercontinental Champion The Miz approached Axel and Dallas, offering to make them "the stars [they] deserve to be" if they become his "entourage". Later that night, Axel and Dallas appeared in bear costumes during a in ring segment between Miz and his wife Maryse, where they came to reveal themselves and ally with Miz by attacking Dean Ambrose, thus turning Axel heel once again. On June 26 episode of Raw, Miz and "The Miztourage" fought against Ambrose, Heath Slater and Rhyno in a winning effort.
On April 30, 2020 WWE announced they had released Axel.
Hennig is a third generation professional wrestler; his grandfather Larry "The Axe" Hennig and his father "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig were both professional wrestlers. His sister Amy is also a professional wrestler. He has two other siblings who are not wrestlers. Hennig and his wife had a son, Brock, in June 2009. In a WWE Network original series episode of 'Table for 3', he states he has three sons. He enjoys ice fishing and fantasy football. He won WWE Magazine's Fantasy Football League for the 2011 NFL season.
Hennig graduated from North Hennepin Community College with an Associates of Science degree in business computer systems and management.
|2017||The Marine 5: Battleground||Deacon|
- Finishing moves
- As Curtis Axel
- As Michael McGillicutty
- McGillicutter (Running one-armed swinging neckbreaker)
- As Joe Hennig
- Signature moves
- With Bo Dallas
- Tag teams and stables
- "The Axeman"
- "Paul Heyman Guy"
- Entrance themes
- "SOS" by Collie Buddz (June 8, 2010 – August 31, 2010; used as the rookie of Kofi Kingston)
- "We Are One" by 12 Stones (October 3, 2010 – August 22, 2011; used while in The Nexus)
- "This Fire Burns" by Killswitch Engage (December 27, 2010 – August 22, 2011; used while a part of The New Nexus)
- "All About the Power" by S-Preme (July 21, 2011 – August 22, 2011; used while teaming with David Otunga)
- "And the Horse He Rode in On" by Reluctant Hero (October 6, 2011 – May 16, 2013)
- "Reborn" by CFO$ (May 20, 2013 – 2014)
- "Meat On the Perfect Table" by Jim Johnston (March 31, 2014 - August 26, 2014; used while teaming with Ryback)
- "Real American" performed by Rick Derringer and composed by Jim Johnston (May 17, 2015 – July 24, 2015; used while teaming with Macho Mandow)
- "Outcast" by CFO$ (January 11, 2016 – July 19, 2016; used while a part of The Social Outcasts)
- "I Came to Play" by Downstait (June 26, 2017 – May 14, 2018; used while a part of The Miztourage)
- "Battlescars" by CFO$ (May 14, 2018 - July 30, 2018; uses while teaming with Bo Dallas)
- "Go, Go, Go" by CFO$ (August 6, 2018 - 2020; uses while teaming with Bo Dallas)
Championships and accomplishments
- Florida Championship Wrestling
- World Wrestling Entertainment
|Daniel Bryan • Darren Young • David Otunga • Heath Slater • Justin Gabriel • Michael Tarver • Skip Sheffield • Wade Barrett|
|Alex Riley • Eli Cottonwood • Husky Harris • Kaval • Lucky Cannon • Michael McGillicutty • Percy Watson • Titus O'Neil|
|AJ Lee • Aksana • Jamie Keyes • Kaitlyn • Maxine • Naomi Night|
|Brodus Clay • Byron Saxton • Conor O'Brian • Derrick Bateman • Jacob Novak • Johnny Curtis|
|Byron Saxton • Conor O'Brian • Darren Young • Jacob Novak • Lucky Cannon • Titus O'Neil • Derrick Bateman|
|CM Punk • David Otunga • Husky Harris • Mason Ryan • Michael McGillicutty • Skip Sheffield • Daniel Bryan • Darren Young • Heath Slater • John Cena • Justin Gabriel • Michael Tarver • Wade Barrett|