Samoa Joe: Violence and Vindication

Not necessity, not desire – no, the love of power is the demon of men. Let them have everything – health, food, a place to live, entertainment – they are and remain unhappy and low-spirited: for the demon waits and waits and will be satisfied.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

For years and years, destiny has waited. Through it all, it has been here, anticipating the fruits of labor long-deserved. What once would have beheld an eager, frustrated youth longing for the juices of said fruit to run, extracted from a bite, the chase was savored by his older self. To him, the plot was akin to a lion playing with its food.

After decades in professional wrestling, that destiny came in the form of Samoa Joe. He’s seen and done things that would make for many interesting stories to tell. Some hilarious, some crazy, some frightening, and some too crazy to believe. Yet, gaze upon his face and witness his performances – he remains calm. Even in his anger, there’s a centered levity beneath the twitching of his face and the venom in his words.

YouTube: Ring of Honor Wrestling

In the 2000s and 2010s, he was forged in the fires of madness born in the independent scene. Partaking in violent, brutal matches that stand in legend alongside the likes of Necro Butcher, Low-Ki, Jay Briscoe, and Kenta Kobashi in places like Ring of Honor and IWA: Mid-South. As time went on though, he also had mat classics alongside AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Brock Lesnar, Finn Balor, Sting, and Kurt Angle. 

Every drop of blood and sweat has led him from one place to the next. While frustration sept through from time to time, he took his time. It’s what saw him become a top champion across promotions such as ROH, TNA, WWE (well, most notably NXT), and recently AEW, as of December 30’s Worlds End event.

As a long-time fan, my fist shakes in pride at typing this. I grew up watching this Samoan in TNA against my earlier childhood favorites, I watched him become a member of the WWE roster and have immortal promos while being trusted to work with people the company thought highly of at the time. That feeling one gets when they see someone make it to WWE or AEW? I felt that. I got to feel that before I’d know it again. 

Few times would I root for the bad guy or a formidable opponent, but when Joe was on television, I craved the violence and carnage. I’m a peaceful guy, but I love seeing the kind of menace that wrestlers like Samoa Joe can bring. 

Once he got to WWE, even when I was an intermittent fan, I rooted for him. His main roster feuds with Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Brock Lesnar,  and most notably AJ Styles were among some of my favorites. And yes, I still pop at that pre-Elimination Chamber promo where he eviscerated everyone in the ring while denying the fans a chance to start a “What?!” chant. You know the one – it’s share on social media so, so often.

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Of course, how Joe’s time in WWE went still leaves me sour. I hoped he’d have more top championship reigns besides the NXT and United States Championships. I wanted a WWE, Intercontinental, and Universal title reign. I wanted him to stay healthy and off of the commentary table (which he was damn good at, by the way). I wanted his time there to not be remembered by the rain poncho or the injury that saw him relinquish his final and all-too-brief NXT Championship run. Seriously, the dude relinquished it the next week and became a trainer before being released in 2021. Throughout all of that – all of it, he remained professional. He was humble through it when he had the option and right not to. 

And…that increases my respect for Samoa Joe even more. His name and legacy thus far outweigh the title reigns, yet no matter where he stands on the morality scale, it’s hard to root against him. 

With the year he’s had, this is destiny made manifest, which he has touted during the final stretch of the year. So, let’s see how he started 2023 to where he is now.

While holding the ROH World Television Championship since 2022, he allied with Wardlow,, with an inevitable betrayal seeing him become the TNT Champion. In holding the former belt, he defended against many competitors, from Juice Robinson to Dalton Castle, but my absolute favorite was the emotional struggle against Mark Briscoe at Supercard of Honor in 2023. With the latter gold, Joe defended against the aforementioned Wardlow, AR Fox, and Darby Allin before losing it back to Wardlow.

Then, history would be revisited.

Fans of the 2000s Ring of Honor would be satiated as his legendary, momentous rivalry with CM Punk would be revisited during the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. Joe, having each match in their past either end in a win or a draw, had finally met defeat by the polarizing Straight-Edge superstar. 

In the following months, Samoa Joe haunted and tormented Punk in pursuit of the AEW Real World’s Championship until at least, their rivalry would conclude at Wembley Stadium in London, as fate would have it. 

A Match of the Year contender in its own right, their closure proved to be a wondrous end. While Punk’s controversies and whatnot saw him fired from AEW, Joe got this moment. Regardless of the details of the backstage drama surrounding the event, he has this. No one can take this from him. Samoa Joe had his Wembley moment.

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Moving on the best he could, Samoa Joe set his sights on a man he once pushed aside in NXT – Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Initially failing his first outing with the AEW World Champ, Joe would relinquish his long-running ROH World Television Championship after successful defenses against Shane Taylor and Keith Lee. 

The reason? He wanted a rematch with MJF. A simple rematch.

With the presence of The Devil, an individual stealing MJF’s Devil mask from All Out 2022, Joe sensed this desperation and offered his services in protecting Friedman for the simple exchange of a title opportunity in the future. Initially rebuffing Joe, Friedman was forced to oblige with the behemoth. Being that the champ’s best friend Adam Cole was out of action, a temporary friend would have to do.

This alliance seemed solid at first, with Joe even assisting in finding out who the Devil and his masked assortment of goons would be. Detective-moa Joe was on the case.

On December 27th, the pair were scheduled to take on two of the Devil’s masked men until Joe (feigning a backstage attack-related injury) revealed he had been on their side all along – only so he could win the World Championship.

That weekend, at Worlds End, Joe and MJF would fight and fight as Adam Cole watched on his crutches. Despite everything he had to give, even with his injuries, Maxwell could not fight anymore, passing out under the immense and terrible weight of Joe’s Coquina Clutch.

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And so, destiny was fulfilled. All those years wearing a white towel on his shoulders and half-black shorts, the Samoan Submission Machine was finally paid off in full. Patience, calculations, and intellect brought him to where others had failed this year: Bryan Danielson, Kenny Omega, Jay White, Ethan Page, Adam Cole, and the many others who fell to Friedman did not have this boon that Joe waited so long for. The numbers game, the toll of the title reign, the intellect, the wisdom,  the strength, and the lack of remorse in using them all propelled Samoa Joe to seal the deal. 

With Samoa Joe as champion, comes a deal with Warner Bros Games, a role in the upcoming Suicide Squad game voicing King Shark, and the live-action portrayal of Sweet Tooth, courtesy of Peacock’s adaptation of the Sony PlayStation classic Twisted Metal. All of these years, and Samoa Joe is at the top. As he should be.

I quoted the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche at the beginning of this article, so I found it fitting to paraphrase another quote by him that suits Samoa Joe’s journey.

The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason, he wants gold and glory, as the most dangerous plaything.