When Samoa Joe made his way to the ring at NXT TakeOver 36, he hadn’t wrestled for nearly 2 years. He became a successful colour commentator for RAW until he was released by WWE in April 2021. In June, he was re-signed after Triple H was reportedly unhappy with his release and expressed immediate interest in his return. Joe made his return on the June 15 episode of NXT as the enforcer of NXT’s General Manager William Regal, with the condition not to compete as an active wrestler.
Despite his position as enforcer, throughout the next few weeks, Joe feuded with NXT Champion Karrion Kross, leading to a title match between them, where Joe defeated Kross to win the NXT Championship. Cleared to compete, ready and hungry to come back, Joe made us forget that two years had happened since his last match. After becoming the first-ever 2-time NXT Champion, Samoa Joe broke another record in NXT, becoming the first-ever 3-time NXT Champion.
SteelChair Wrestling Magazine had the chance to take part in an international media call with Samoa Joe a few days after NXT TakeOver 36 about becoming the first-ever 3-time NXT Champion, his new role as a talent scout, being the face of the “new” NXT,” some possible contenders for the title, and what the future may hold for him.
On becoming the first 3-time NXT Champion
“To be a three-time champion, it’s obviously just another checkmark in the many unusual hard marks on my career but I will say this, when it comes to NXT, as you’re dealing with people who are kind of bursting onto the scene, who are coming into the room, who are kind of developing and becoming these amazing superstars that people come to know and love for years to come, so it’s always incredibly exciting to kind of be around that environment because it’s one of the special moments in several Superstars careers to be around. That happens and, with NXT, I get to see that and it’s really nice.”
On where he ranks this win in his WWE resume
“Pretty high, and for a lot of the reasons that I listed earlier. NXT has kind of become a favourite place of mine in the span of my career and it was because of a lot of the experiences that I had here while I was here. Taking the breadth of my career and trying to rank the moments, it’s pretty impossible. There’s been so many and they’ve been so great and doing that would kind of be a disservice to all of them. But I will say this it ranks among the very top.”
On this win compared to the first and second ones
“To the previously championships, obviously they’ve been a tremendous amount to me because I’m in there with two men that I’ve garnered a tremendous amount of respect for, that have been involved heavily in my life and career for quite a long time. Those will always hold a very very special place in my heart. What stands out about this one is this kind of caps off a new era for NXT, this makes a touchstone for the future of a company that everybody’s wondering what the future is going to be. I’m very, very happy to be on the vanguard of this because it’s going to be an exciting new time and it’s something I’m very much looking forward to.”
On being the focal point of the “new” NXT
“I’m overjoyed at the opportunity. I think NXT obviously is a vitally important part of the WWE Universe and the WWE developmental system. To kind of be at the forefront of it, of so many athletes, especially when you’re talking about younger hungrier athletes who are looking to make their splash on the world, it means a lot to me and it’s always been a cool experience.”
On possible challengers, Kyle O’Reilly, Pete Dunne, LA Knight, Tommaso Ciampa, Walter, Ridge Holland…
“I don’t mind, all there at once. We talk about everybody that showed up and were in that ring with me. You don’t lose with any of those options. To kind of like pare it down to one, I think it’d be pretty ridiculous. I mean one of them stands out and comes to the forefront, you’re gonna have a good match. I’m not too worried about challenges this question has been asked ad nauseam, leading up to this and afterwards, and I realize why. People want that definite statement of who’s gonna come to get it but that’s not a statement for me to make. That’s a statement for the other superstars to make, so when the time is right and if they’re ready, we’re gonna get it on.”
(This Tuesday on NXT, NXT General Manager William Regal announced Tommaso Ciampa, LA Knight, Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly would compete next week to determine the new #1 contender, see below)
“At this point, there are no dream matches, it’s all reality matches. I’m on the cusp of it right now. Ciampa is right here, he’s ready. Pete Dunne’s ready, Walter’s ready, Roderick Strong’s ready. Dream matches are something that you hope will happen one day, these are all going to go down, it’s inevitable. You can tell just by the level of competition in NXT. The guys want to prove themselves. When I walk through the locker room, it’s a bunch of dudes kind of was sitting there and just rubbing their hands and licking their chops way too much for my liking because they understand the opportunity that’s in front of them and they’re ready to take advantage of it. I’m ready too so it should be a lot of fun.”
“A guy like Kyle O’Reilly, I think he’s a guy who’s starting to kind of burst forth and come into his own. Tommaso Ciampa, he’s an undeniable face and figurehead in NXT and I think this is a guy who is more than happy to jump and want to grab the reigns and take over the course of the future of NXT. Pete Dunne, he’s just a mean bad individual and he wants to take things by force. Far be it for me for dissuading them from doing, so it’s a good attitude to have in NXT.”
On Walter referring to him as an idol
“The respect is absolutely mutual. In fact, I can guarantee it is on my end and I think the respect is from kind of understanding and having a similar path in this industry. When you start on the independents, it’s funny, it’s almost a reverse of when you come to a bigger company. Whereas you stick out like a sore thumb, you’re the bigger guy, everybody else is usually a bit smaller, usually a little bit more cruise, with at least when I was coming up with my anecdotal experience, not par for the course. It forces you as a bigger guy to be a little bit more agile, to be able to blend and to keep up with the lighter weight wrestlers and, at the same time, still be you, not try to transform yourself into a more giant version of what they’re able to do so.”
“Walter has been able to adapt and do that. Walter can work any style with anybody and still remain Walter and I think if that was my influence on him, then I’m happy for it because he does such a wonderful job with it. The guy’s big, he’s brutal, he goes in there, he mauls his opponents. When you see a Walter match, you look forward to the mauling, which makes him tremendously special. When I see that, I gotta admit it brings a spot on my face, it’s always a joy to watch. If we ever end up across from each other in the ring, it’ll be a whole lot of bears and to tell the villagers to run because it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
On the differences between his NXT runs
“The biggest one is we’re not doing as many shows for obvious reasons, so a little less active obviously. I would love it to be a little bit more active, safety permitting. Just completely different faces, even when I came back to NXT the first two times, there were still a lot of familiar faces around me now. I’m genuinely dealing with a lot of people that I’ve never had a lot of experience with, the majority of the roster is a little bit younger, a little bit newer, just kind of coming into their own, so it is kind of a newer environment for me this summer.”
On the importance of William Regal in his return to NXT
“When we talk about William Regal, going to my career personally, he’s been tremendously involved throughout every stage of my career since I met him. When I first broke into the business until now, William Regal was one of the parties that is largely responsible for the reason that I’m in WWE, on his tireless recommendations after years of saying, “this is the guy.” William Regal is a major component both personally and professionally in my life. I’m one of the hundreds of superstars who are his proteges, are given guidance, who are really looked after and cared for by William. This man genuinely cares about this business, he genuinely cares about the people in this business. When I really look back and I see how much time he puts into an effort, he puts into just giving feedback to younger wrestlers coming up and learning, it’s really something, especially for a man who really owes nothing to nobody. He still manages to find the time. I’ll always be thankful for that.”
On becoming a talent scout
“Essentially, it kind of was something it was thought about and planned for a long time but it was based on the fact that I kind of was already doing it for quite a while for several different companies I worked for. It’s no secret, in our industry, when you find somebody who’s dependable, who’s awesome, who’s able to deliver and do well, it is natural that you want to pass on that person’s number, pass on a good word for that person. The more of those people you surround yourself with, generally, you become a more successful person because you’re in a successful company and you’re with people who are just as dedicated to what you do as you are and it felt natural because it was something that had been occurring my entire career and it’s been something that I’ve benefited from, just people that worked with me and said, ‘Hey this guy’s solid and this guy’s awesome and he can come and add something to what we do here.’ It’s a tradition passed on to me by William Regal and it’s one that I’m happy to continue to carry on into the future.”
On all his roles, wrestler, commentator, talent scout, producer…
“I’m actively doing all those things and will continue to do so into the future. It was funny when Triple H didn’t touch on it, they asked me what would you say Joe’s job description is and the fact of the matter is I do so much it wouldn’t fit on a business card. It’s a lot of different hats but it’s a lot of areas that I have experience in and it’s utilitarian in some aspects but, at the same time, that’s why I’m doing it because they know they can put me into a spot where they need something done, at least halfway decently and I’ll get the job done. It’s all those things, from mentoring people to training to sometimes maybe producing a segment to flying out to the wiles of wherever and finding our next Superstar. My remit within the company has expanded drastically and, for me, it’s a fun and new exciting challenge.”
NXT UK airs every week on BT Sport on Friday night on television and each Thursday online via the WWE Network at 8 PM BST. NXT TakeOver 36 is available on-demand on the WWE Network.
Special thanks to Alex Sutton – All pics and videos courtesy of WWE