Samoa Joe finally arrived on the WWE main roster on the night after the Royal Rumble - where he brutally attacked Seth Rollins at the behest of Triple H, leaving Rollins with an MCL tear.
With just a few days remaining until his showdown with former NXT rival Sami Zayn at Fastlane, Samoa Joe talked to Fox Sports about his transition to the main roster and his goals in 2017.
You can watch Fastlane at 8:00 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
Fox Sports: You spent more than a year in NXT and were the NXT Champion for more than 100 days. Was there ever a moment last year where you were like ‘OK, when am I finally going to get this call up to the main roster?’
Samoa Joe: “No, not really, because I was seeing NXT grow into this third brand within the realm of WWE. It needed me. We had these big events every year - Dallas, Toronto, Brooklyn - and to not have me there would definitely affect the product and definitely affect the momentum that the brand had going for it.
I also knew that when you do get that call, you want to make sure there are things in place to give you the best opportunity to succeed, whether it be on Raw or SmackDown. It’s very much about timing. I’ve been in this game for a while and I kind of realized that, you know, it’s definitely more about timing than trying to get anywhere as quickly as possible. When the timing’s right, things all fall into place, it definitely gives you a lot of momentum - which is what you want to do anytime you find yourself within the bounds of a new company or a new brand.”
Fox Sports: Do you think that’s a shared feeling throughout the NXT roster? You’ll hear a lot of fans saying ‘why haven’t they brought this guy or girl up yet…’ Is there a disconnect between the way fans are looking at call-ups and how the stars approach it themselves?
Samoa Joe: “I think it’s definitely a case-by-case basis. In my situation, like I said, I kind of have the benefit of having a little hindsight. Especially being in the business as long as I’ve been in it, and understanding having the table set and having things ready anytime you debut somewhere.
And then, other people are in a very different situation than me, so maybe they are chomping at the bit to get up there. And obviously the fans don’t care about plans, they just want to see their favorite superstar, no matter what brand they are, make their way into where they can see them each week regularly.
It’s always a benefit to have the fans kind of salivating at the thought of your debut, of you changing over brands. Like I said, in general, it’s a very case-by-case type of situation where you’ll find certain people who understand the game a little bit better, and they know that when the time is right, the time is right. You’ll find other people who are sitting there going ‘man, I just can’t wait to get up there and do what I do.’”
Fox Sports: Obviously you had a lot of experience even before coming to NXT, but what is the biggest change for a NXT star when they make the jump to the main roster?
Samoa Joe: “The biggest thing right off the bat is the schedule of the average WWE wrestler is very intensive. It’s a full-time commitment. You’re shot around the world at any given point in time, all throughout the year. You spend a lot of time on the road, so if you’re not really prepared for that kind of lifestyle, if you’re not accustomed to it and you don’t know how to navigate around not just the United States, but the planet in an efficient and sane manner, it can get kind of overwhelming.
And definitely, in WWE, it’s the heaviest schedule in the industry, period. I don’t care where you go or what company you work for - and I’ve pretty much worked for them all - WWE by far is the most brutal road schedule in the world. It takes a special kind of individual to navigate that and be able to thrive in that environment. It’s a challenge that I’ve enjoyed.”
Fox Sports: You face Sami Zayn this weekend at Fastlane, who you’ve said before is a guy ‘just happy to be here,’ unlike yourself. Where do you see yourself in six months, in a year?
Samoa Joe: “In that timeframe, if I’m not holding gold then I’m getting ready to take gold off of somebody and make it my own. I come in with the highest expectations of myself. I come in with the highest goals in mind whenever I approach anything. Seeing myself as a champion in WWE is something I’ve seen from the first day I stepped into the Universe and the realm of the company.
And it’s the reason why I’m here. I’m not here to be a contributing member or ‘live out my dream’ and just try my best. I’m here to be a champion, and I’m here to be one of the best champions in the history of the company. That’s firmly what my goals are and where my eyes are set, and that’s what I expect of myself in that timeframe.”
Fox Sports: We’re just a month away from WrestleMania now. What’s the atmosphere like backstage? Does it change backstage when you get into March and April?
Samoa Joe: “It absolutely changes. Now you’re seeing the event, the card itself, what’s going to go down that weekend, start to form and gain shape and become what it is. The environment gets more competitive.
Everybody in the locker room and everybody that goes out there night after night is looking to be on their A-game, because they want the opportunity to have the spotlight shone on them on the grandest stage, on the biggest show in our industry. Things kind of go into overdrive, and there’s very much an amped-up feeling of competitiveness and people want to go out there and show their very, very best.”
Fox Sports: You’ve come into Raw very closely tied to Triple H, who seems to share a special connection with a lot of the WWE stars who have come through NXT given his role with that brand. How important is Triple H to all of these NXT stars who are now dominating Raw?
Samoa Joe: “I think he’s a very integral part to the newer talent that is making their way to Raw and SmackDown. The biggest reason being that NXT is very much something that Triple H is very passionate about. He works those extra hours just to make sure that it has become this world-over brand unto itself instead of just kind of a quiet farm league that sits in the background. It’s definitely at the forefront of WWE.
[He’s] heading that up and working with these people week after week and seeing their development and definitely having a more personal connection with the newer talent. He’s very integral in translating the abilities and what they’re able to do, their skill sets, when they do make it to Raw or SmackDown.”