World Wrestling Entertainment
Samoa Joe on WWE release, NXT return and in-ring future
World Wrestling Entertainment

Samoa Joe on WWE release, NXT return and in-ring future

Updated Jun. 28, 2021 2:00 p.m. ET

By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst

Samoa Joe surprised the wrestling world this month by returning to NXT just two months after his WWE release.

Now, for the first time, he’s opening up about how it happened and what he thought upon being let go.

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Back in April, Joe and 10 other Superstars were released from WWE due to alleged budget cuts.

Of all the names on the list, the 42 year-old wrestling vet had to be one of the biggest shocks, given that he had always proven to be a valuable asset in the company.

From demonstrating on multiple occasions that he’s one of the best in-ring performers in the world to entertaining at the announce desk while recovering from injury, Joe never failed.

This left almost everyone who pays attention to wrestling in a state of confusion over the decision to let him go.

Wrestlers across the industry reacted by shooting their shot on social media for future matches, and most assumed Joe would be employed elsewhere as soon as he could.

In the weeks that followed, however, Joe remained silent.

Then, out of nowhere, the former NXT champion reemerged on the brand two weeks ago to assist General Manager William Regal.

Regal went on to offer his GM job to Joe as a way of establishing order on the brand, but "The Samoan Submission Machine" turned him down in lieu of an enforcer position.

Working in tandem with Regal, Joe has become a central figure on NXT TV as the brand gears up for "The Great American Bash" next month — but the big question remains.

How did his return come about?

For the answer to that, and a lot more of the story you haven’t heard yet, check out this week’s "Out of Character" with special guest Samoa Joe to hear it straight from the source.

You can also read a transcript of this portion of the interview below.

RS: What were your first thoughts after getting the call about being released? What went through your mind?

JOE: "It was weird.

"[John Laurinaitis] called me, and I thought it was a rare call from Johnny. ‘Hey, what’s up, Johnny? How you doing?’

"He told me, ‘Hey, listen. We’re going to have to release you from your contract.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ You know, like ‘… cool.’ And ‘Joe, we think the world of you, we’d love to work with you again.’

"I was like, ‘All right. No, absolutely, Johnny.’ And, honestly, I did have a bit of an understanding.

"Obviously, at the time, dealing with injuries, coming back, getting ready to get my rehabilitation going and all that stuff, we’re in a pandemic, all this other stuff, so I got it. It wasn’t unexpected.

"But at the same time, I was relatively calm about it.

"I’ve kinda been in this situation before. A younger me probably would’ve been really, really freaked out. But at this point, you just roll pivot. That’s really all there is to it when it comes to life in general. That’s kind of the mantra I’ve kept.

"So at that point, I think I was already kind of in the works on setting up the next framework for whatever else I was gonna do.

"A few hours later, I get a call from Hunter, and that all pretty much kinda changed."

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RS: It was only a few hours after the call from John Laurinaitis that you got a call from Triple H saying he was going to try bringing you back to NXT?

JOE: "Essentially.

"I sent some company farewell texts to people just saying pleasure working with you. Some genuine people that I really enjoyed working with. Just some general thanks, and I’m sure we’ll talk down the road at some point, or something like that.

"I got a text back [from Triple H], like, ‘Hey, give me a minute. I’m getting out of a meeting.’ Then we had a conversation, which was essentially like, ‘Give us a little bit of time, I’ll work out a package, and we’ll be talking soon.’ I said, ‘All right, that’s totally fine. I have no problem with that.’

"And it led to my return back to NXT."

RS: So then you really didn’t have a lot of time to even be stressed about the situation in this instance?

JOE: "I didn’t. Well, like I said, initially there wasn’t a ton of stress at the beginning. It was just more like, ‘OK, we just gotta rearrange life a little bit.’

"Which I know sounds kind of dismissive. But like I said, I’ve gone through so much chaos up to this point in my career, we’re kind of like clockwork when it comes to these type of things.

"Yeah, it was about a few hours, and I think the awkward part was this. This was kind of the funny side effect, and I’m thankful for this, is that so many people reached out to me immediately. They called me and were just like, sorry, I feel bad.

"But at the same time, it’s hard for me to genuinely accept their grief because it’s like, well, maybe it’s not that bad of a deal. But I can’t really say anything, so it’s like me kinda sitting there going, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m so … thank you. I appreciate it. No, I’ll do well. I’m eating. I’m fine. I’ll be safe.’ You know what I mean [laughing]?

"And I feel terrible, but at the same time you keep things secret for obvious reasons. So I still have to feign all this [mumbles sadly]."

RS: Dang, that’s two months you had to do that!

JOE: "Yeah, so then when it comes out, of course everybody texts me right after the debut. ‘OH YOU SOB! I cried for you!’ Oh, sorry, you know [laughs]."

RS: Given that you had just gotten released from the company, did you have any reservations about returning when Triple H said that to you?

JOE: "No, and a lot of it was that me and Triple H had spoken about this transition in-depth further.

"It wasn’t just coming back to NXT and being an enforcer and having a role on the show. Now I’m working in the talent scouting department with Canyon Ceman. A few more administrative things here and there behind the scenes.

"It’s a little a bit of a transition for me, too, into some of the other aspects of the business of WWE. It’s kind of an evolution on my journey. I’ve gone through the commentary production ranks. Now I’m working a little bit more on the behind the house type of things.

"It was a really great, cool opportunity that Hunter offered me, and you know, still a performer here within the bounds of WWE. It was a very, very nice understanding that we’ve come to, and I’m really excited about it.

"I’m really excited about some of the projects we’re going to be working on."

RS: On the talent scouting side of things, I find that cool because, obviously, you’re an indie wrestling legend. Do you stay fairly plugged in to the indies at all still?

JOE: "Yeah, I do. I always try to keep a pulse on the industry in general. Whether it just be through me looking or just kinda, my network of contacts, and just people I know.

"I keep really abreast of things and, not only that, outside of the indie wrestling world in the combat sports world and a lot of the athletic world. A lot of that world was kinda from my past, and I still have heavy connections.

"So yeah, it was a really nice fit. I’m looking forward to giving an opportunity to a lot of people that maybe wouldn’t get the look that they normally would get."

RS: Since you’ve made your return to NXT, there have been a bunch of teases for you wrestling against people. You’ve had staredowns and physicality with people already. Is a return to the ring something you’re still working toward?

JOE: "Absolutely …….. we’ll just say yes.

"We’ll leave it at that."

RS: All right. Fair enough.

We just passed the 25th anniversary of 1996 Great American Bash, where Kevin Nash powerbombed Eric Bischoff through a table off the entrance ramp. 

As someone who's now an authority figure in NXT, and you’ve got Great American Bash coming up, what are the consequences if someone were to try something similar against you at this year's event?

JOE: "Consequences. Serious word there.

"You know, I’m not too sure about consequences. 

"Because you would have to actually commit the act, and before anyone would do anything like that to me, I’m sure they would have trouble dislodging my fingers from their throat.

"So, I mean, you figure out that first part of the puzzle, you can get the rest of the answer."

RS: If you could, who among the current crop of talent in NXT are the top four guys you would like to wrestle against?

JOE: "Great question. I think Karrion Kross, Pete Dunne definitely top that list. I think a guy like WALTER – hey, people have been asking for it. I’m not blind. And it’s for good reason. The guy is a powerhouse, and people want to see some furniture moving.

"It’s not just one or two guys.

"Guys from Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly. I mean, there’s several very, very accomplished athletes in NXT.

"Bronson Reed! I know he’s always yappin’. He wants to get some. He always running his mouth. Aussies, you know, they got big mouths down there. The kangaroos got big pouches, they got big mouths. That’s Aussies for you! What can you do [laughing]?!"

RS: Well, top of my list for you is Joe vs. WALTER. I feel like the whole building would collapse on itself if that happened. That’s how awesome it would be.

JOE: "I agree with you. It will.

"Probably because I’m putting him through it."

Watch Samoa Joe enforce alongside William Regal on NXT every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network.

Ryan Satin is a WWE analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously appeared on FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he broke countless news stories as editor-in-chief.


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