Samoa Joe Interview

061026_samoa_joe_introIt was NZPWI’s privilege to speak to TNA superstar, Samoa Joe, on Wednesday morning. From the Impact Zone in Orlando, Joe took time out from the iMPACT tapings to chat with NZPWI’s Kirsty Quested.

This distinctive heavyweight made a name for himself in Ring Of Honor, where he proved that his size was no hindrance to developing a solid technical style. Since his debut in TNA in 2005, he is yet to be pinned or to submit. His skill evolved to such a level that he became one of the greatest forces to be reckoned with in TNA�s unique X-Division. Combining his size and incredible speed and versatility, Joe won the Super X-Cup tournament mere months after his TNA debut, following up with two X-Division title wins. His three-way X-Division match against Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles at Unbreakable in 2005 remains one of the most talked-about matches in recent history.

Branching out from the ranks of the X-Division, Joe has tagged with the legendary Sting, defeating the tag team of Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner, and going on to defeat Monty Brown and Rhino in a Falls Count Anywhere match at Hard Justice this year.

Most recently, Joe has clashed with former WWE star Kurt Angle, who came on board with TNA following the No Surrender pay-per-view in September. Though yet to have a match, Joe and Angle have knocked heads several times, most recently attacking each other at Bound For Glory in which they had to be separated by security.

In this candid interview, Joe talks about how much he�s looking forward to locking up with Angle inside the squared circle. He also discusses the upcoming TNA game, the differences working in TNA and Ring of Honor, and leaves no doubt as to his opinion on the never-ending comparisons between himself and WWE star, Umaga.

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Kirsty Quested:In an industry that caters for many different styles of wrestling, very few are as versatile, or have the same intensity as my guest at this time. A mainstay of both the TNA and Ring of Honor promotions, he combines great technical skill and brutality, remaining to this day, undefeated in TNA. He is the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe.

061026_samoa_joe Hi Joe, how are you?

Samoa Joe: I�m excellent, how are you?

Great, great.
First of all, congratulations on your Monster�s Ball win at Bound For Glory, that was a helluva match.

Thank you, I appreciate that. I think it went pretty well.

How�d you find it working with Runt, Raven and Abyss all in the same match?

Ah you know, it kind of panned out well for me. Those are two � well three, I guess � very violent individuals. I was fortunate to come out of it relatively unscathed.

Did it add to the atmosphere to have Jake Roberts supervising things?

A bit. Jake�s a very dark and devious individual. I think his track record speaks for itself, so� if anything, I think Jake was more of an added danger to the match, because you�re never too sure with Jake.
How did it feel to be working Bound For Glory in a large arena, was it a nice change to get out of the Impact Zone?

It was an absolutely great change taking it out of the Impact Zone. I think a lot of fans around the nation and around the world are happy to see us outside of Orlando, and want to see TNA live and in person, and I think the crowd response in Detroit was one of the best, we got out, we had ourselves a hell of a show.

Yeah for sure � well, all in all, Bound For Glory was a great pay-per-view � did you get a chance to see many of the other matches?

Yeah I did, after I got done and went back to the hotel, I was staying at the hotel and I got to see quite a bit of it. I enjoyed it, I thought the cage match was excellent. I think those guys just laid it on the line, got out there and busted their ass.

The cage match was� incredible. And here was me thinking they weren�t going to top that match from No Surrender, but� wow.

Exactly. And like I said, it�s testament to the fortitude of the four guys that were in there, those are four really great wrestlers who are willing to do whatever it takes to put on something spectacular, so I think it was good.
Just going back one pay-per-view to No Surrender, and your match with Jeff Jarrett, how�d you find having the fans at ringside?

It was fun. And they didn�t hit me, so I had no problem with them [laughs]. I think it was long overdue, I think it was something the fans wanted, and you know, we aim to please here in TNA.

Were they more or less restrained than you thought they�d be?

Uh� they were less restrained than I thought they would be. I was surprised that somebody didn�t come over and take a shot at me� but what can you expect? [laughs]
I read on your website that you were a part of the opening ceremonies at the 1984 Olympics, when you were just five. What was it you were actually doing there?

As you know, at most Olympic events they try to have international type dances and stuff like that, and of course, my parents and my family run a large Polynesian dance troupe, in Southern California, so they hired us to come out and represent the Pacific Islands in the opening ceremonies, big grandiose show, pomp and circumstance they always put on before the Games.

So basically, you know the Coliseum�s a large building, and our girls had a costume change, thinking that the dressing areas would be a little bit closer to the performing area. We didn�t account for our girls having to run from pretty much centre field in the arena, to the staging area, change and come back. So we needed to stall, basically, till they got back.

I remember my father kind of grabbing me, at five years old, by the scruff of my neck, throwing me over the drum and yelling at me, �Stall!� Which in my family, we all knew what that meant. So I kind of went out there and made my debut, and entertained the crowd while the girls made a stage change.

[incredulous]You made your debut, at five years old, improvising at the Olympic Games.

Yeah, pretty much. After that, stage fright was kind of no big deal.

Yeah, really! [laughs]
This is a really obvious question, but I have to ask it � are you looking forward to locking up with Kurt Angle?

Absolutely. I think that the fans want it. I know I do. Without a doubt, I think that Kurt and I are the two best professional wrestlers in the world right now. And I think that the world wants to know, who is the better man? So let�s find out.
Did you find out, at about the same time as everyone else, that he was coming on board with TNA?

Yeah, when the surprise announcement was made at the pay-per-view. Our office went to extensive lengths to keep it a secret �

Yeah, so I hear.

– they succeeded, and I think it was good for the company, I think it was good business. I think it was good that people didn�t know. It was nice to be surprised. It was nice to be wowed by something, so kudos to that.
How does it feel to know that you�re the first one, that TNA wants working with him?

It�s an honour. And for the fact that they believe that I can definitely put something together with him that the fans want to see. And I think it was kind of a natural choice. I think that people � they don�t want to see somebody kind of walk in and kind of trounce over four or five people and have nothing happen. They want to see the very best go at it. So I think that�s why me and Angle are put together.
Well you know there�s been a lot of talk, among fans, that Angle�s going to be the one to end your undefeated streak. How do you respond to that?

Well. There�s a lot of talk among fans. And that�s why I�m here [laughs].

061026_samoa_joe-ROHMoving on to Ring of Honor, what are you thoughts on the Match Of The Year that you had with Kenta Kobashi? Do you feel it lived up to all the hype?

I think we had a match that the fans wanted to see. I think that�s the most important thing when you go into promoting and building. Kobashi is somebody who, it was really his first time here in the US, and the first time he did anything prolific, and they looked to me again. People want to see this happen, see how it goes.

The match was about as arduous and gruelling as you get, but I wouldn�t trade it in for anything in the world. I hope, that in the near future, that he can get healthy enough to return to in-ring action and we can do it all over again.
Do you think that that�s the kind of match that would get over with a TNA audience?

It�s tough to say. I think you�re talking two very select markets. As far as an ROH crowd, a TNA crowd, I think an ROH crowd is definitely a more hardcore crowd, it�s a word-of-mouth promotion, all their fan-base is based on that, where TNA�s nationally televised, internationally televised promotion. So it�s very tough to say.
The fans were just coming unglued during that match. How do Ring of Honor fans compare to the TNA audiences?

You know, for me there�s not much difference. I mean, I enjoy the same amount of � I guess � adoration there as I do in TNA. For me, it�s really tough to say. But I appreciate all the fans that come up and support me. If anything, I think they�ve been exposed to me in different ways and in different venues.

For me, it�s kind of a personal success that I�ve been able to be utilised in two different companies, in front of two very different fan bases. As far as what they experience and what they expect, and yet still manage to be able to entertain them, I think makes most fans happy when they come and see me.

So, you don�t really have a preference for which audience you prefer working in front of.

At this point I just kind of consider them all � either Joe fans or you�re not Joe fans. That�s pretty much what it comes down to. Because I�m not any different of an entity there as I am in TNA. You�re either a Joe fan � you either love me or you hate me.

Speaking of Joe fans, and ones that do love you, a friend of mine was actually at the fan frenzy before Bound For Glory. You signed his shirt � you might remember it � it said �Samoa Joe Kills Bitches�?

Yes.

You remember that shirt?

Yes I do.

It must be fun interacting with fans who are that supportive?

Yes. Absolutely. To take the time to make something like that is, it�s really flattering. And you know, it�s amazing the creativity in some of the homespun fan missives that�ve been put out there by me, I�ve been sent websites with all sorts of fun and ridiculous facts I didn�t know about myself, which has been pretty cool, so I appreciate that.
You just mentioned, a moment ago, Kobashi�s health � how is he?

As far as I know, he�s good. I heard that they removed a � and note this is second hand information, so please don�t take it as first account of what�s going on � but I�ve heard that he�s recovering and he�s doing better, of course the doctor�s are still monitoring him, and he�s taking a well-deserved rest. Hopefully, like I said, I hope for the best, pray for the best, hope that he comes back into form, and see us two lock up again.

For sure.

I wonder if that�s probably the answer to my next question, which is who�s been your favourite Ring of Honor opponent?

You know, actually, overall I think� favourite Ring of Honor opponent� it would be guys like Homicide. Just consistently � we�ve had wars. It�s hard to discount that. Aside from that, you�ve got Brian Danielson, the current champion. You have of course my trilogy with Punk. I mean, it�s hard for me to pinpoint a favourite opponent, because I�ve had the opportunity to be in with so many great wrestlers that�

Hard to pick just one.

� yeah, it really is, and for so many different reasons, and so many different matches. I think I�m very fortunate in my career that I�ve been able to have that experience. It�s an experience a lot of people don�t get to have, going through the ranks of wrestlers.
061026_samoa_joe_2You�ve made your mark as a solid wrestler of great technical skill, in Ring of Honor and TNA, but you�ve also shown you can go hardcore � I mean, Monster�s Ball, the other night, perfect case � do you have any preference as to style?

You know, I love wrestling matches. My delving into hardcore is basically, I�m a mean sonofabitch so it kinda works out well for me, but in the interim. I love a wrestling contest, a wrestling match, I think it�s what this business was founded on, two guys going into the ring and trying to pin the other guy�s shoulders to the mat for three seconds. And that�s what I like to do. That�s my thing.

I think to me personally, too, I think most hardcore stuff � although there are some guys I have tremendous respect and get it right � I think it�s a crutch. I think it�s not what the art of professional wrestling�s all about. The art is going in there and making yourself a dangerous weapon, not using dangerous weapons.

Yeah.

And that�s what I believe in. So I definitely prefer the standard wrestling.

Is that how you�d define a technical wrestler? I�ve asked a couple of other guys, like Chris Benoit, the same question � what would define a technical wrestler � and that�s an interesting one that you just said there � make yourself a weapon, not use weapons. Would you say that�s a fairly good definition?

I think it�s an excellent definition. I think it best encapsulates the spirit of what truly being a technical wrestler is. It�s not your ability to � the amount of holds that you know � I think it�s the ability to convey the fact that� I will break your arm. Your neck. Your legs. Everything on you, much worse than any stick, chair, or baseball bat could ever hope to.

Hoo-yeah.

Actually, along those lines, are there any moves or techniques, that you use in Ring of Honor, that you�re not able to do in TNA?

For the most part, no. I�m kind of given free rein for what I do. But at the same time, also responsible for what I do. And that�s a big difference. You know, I think� what a lot of people don�t understand, about a difference between indy and televised regular wrestling, is that a lot of these guys have to support their families. And go to work the next day, and are wrestling two, three, even four or five times a week.

So, to sit there � and I hear this criticism all the time, not so much with TNA, because in TNA we�re given free reign with what we do pretty much, and we�re allowed to go out there and do what we do � but in WWE there is a certain monitor on moves, kind of an unspoken rule that they kind of frown upon being used by the wrestlers, and the reason why is because these guys have to go out four days a week, five days a week, and do this. And it�s funny, because sometimes I�ll come across indy guys, or guys who are� weekend warriors in the business� and they�ll be like �well that�s not a big deal, I took this and this and this, and I was good to go,� and at the same time I�ll look at them and go �yeah but you wrestle twice a month. So you get done, you go home, you go work your nine-to-five or whatever, but you get two weeks to heal. Tomorrow, I gotta do this all over again, in another arena, in another city, and make this happen.�

And I think it�s important for fans to take that into account. The amount of wear and tear that a lot of televised wrestlers go through. When they take on, like I said, a television wrestler�s schedule. Which is on the road, non-stop, even though TNA only films twice here in Orlando, I�m still four times a week out, working for several promotions across the country and around the world. So if I�m getting brain-bustered every night of the week, the twenty hour flight back from England to Boston to make my next show, isn�t that much more comfortable, doesn�t make me want to go back in there and take another one.

And like I said, these are things that I think a lot of fans don�t even take into account, or realise, and a lot of wrestlers who are just coming up don�t even take into account, but it�s a very real thing, so�

In TNA � getting back to my original point � in TNA, we do have free rein with what we do, but at the same time, we are responsible for what we do. So we definitely take that responsibility very seriously.
How do you look back on your Ring of Honor matches with CM Punk?

Fondly. I think that was at a time when the company needed something else to focus on, and me and CM Punk decided that we were going to make them focus on wrestling � what the company WAS about. Not a bunch of outside BS controversy caused by a very selfish individual. A very selfish, and I personally think, a very sick individual. So that�s what we set out to do. And that�s what the fans paid to see.

Given your long-standing friendship with him � have you been watching him, and how do you think he�s doing over in ECW?

I think he�s doing well for himself. I have been, and I hope he continues to do so, and I notice that he�s incorporated some of, a few things that he�s taken from me over the years, to add to his repertoire over there, and I�m more than happy for him.
Speaking of things WWE-related, you must be sick to death by now of the Umaga comparisons?

Absolutely. And especially I think � you�re from New Zealand, you have a little more acumen with Pacific Islanders�

We do.

� and I really do think it�s a ridiculous comparison, I think it�s a lazy comparison.

Very much so.

I think if it was any other racial group in the world it would even border on being racist. They way they�ve made the comparison. I think� I made reference to it in an online blog, saying that comparing me to him is comparing Bad News Allen to Samba Simba. And really, the only thing we have in common is that we�re Samoan.

So� I don�t know. It seems a little bit ridiculous, and like I said, lazy, and I think people kind of take it for granted. And at times too, the comparison, I almost take a bit of offense. �Cause I�m like � �is that what you really think?� And I know that�s the way that Samoans have been traditionally portrayed, in professional wrestling, and I don�t disparage anybody for trying that because you know, we are an island people. I mean, and as you know if you�re from New Zealand, you know the Maori face paint, the Samoan face paint is very different, he wears a more Maori-esque type of design�

He wears a moko that�s been painted on by somebody who�s seen a picture and doesn�t know what they really mean.

Exactly! And you know what� when I first saw it, that was one of the first things I thought too, but you know, that�s more of a company line in WWE, I think that�s the type of� the kind of compelling character that they want to put on television. I�m not one to disparage them for it, but�

But it�s so much of a stereotype it�s almost a caricature. But then again, that�s WWE, as you say�

� and also, I think it becomes, basically he�s an amalgamation of South Pacific islanders, he�s not even Samoan. Well, he is Samoan, but the character portrayal and stuff, what they have him doing, really kind of borders outside Samoan when it gets into the face paint and the garments and stuff like that.

And like I said, in America it�s not that big of a deal, because there just isn�t that type of education, or that type of� they don�t really invest that much time to really care about Pacific Island cultures, but in New Zealand, like where you�re from, I know that � I�d be interested to see how it�d be received, in New Zealand, you know?

It�s uh � well, especially when it comes to the representation of the moko, and Maori culture, I think that there are some who are offended. Others are � now that he�s been around for a while � just kind of laughing it off. It�s like� ignorance breeds contempt�

And I�ve sort of floated into that realm of thinking. Because I think it�s just a battle not worth fighting. Because that�s what they�re gonna do, regardless of how much you whine and complain about it. So be it, you know?

061026_samoa_joe_3Yeah. Well, moving on to something a bit more pleasant, tell us about the upcoming TNA game.

It�s looking great, in fact we have the Midway guys here, they are currently scanning the faces of all the TNA superstars, that are going to be in the game, and it�s looking fantastic. For X-Box 360 and PS3 fans, I think you�re going to be wowed by really, what I feel, and what Midway feels, is going to be their next generation benchmark title. I think the graphics and what we run at in the game plays is going to be out of this world.

As of right now, it�s still in its initial stages. We�re still building each character, we�re still basically putting down the building blocks to set up the game. So, a lot of people have been asking, what about gameplay, what about this, what about features. You know, we have features that we�re shooting for, but for the most part we�re just in the initial stages of getting the game going, and I think within the next six months we�ll have some very, very solid footage, and solid information to give players, and to give gamers around the world about the TNA game.

I�m VERY involved in the project, AJ�s VERY involved in the project, Christopher Daniels is actually going to start being very involved in the project, and we are doing our best to ensure that pro-wrestling gamers around the world are going to be delivered a game that they�re going to think is absolutely fantastic and that they�re going to enjoy.
What�s something that fans would be surprised to learn about Samoa Joe?

Um� I don�t really know anymore. I really wish I had something that would be surprising, but ah� you tell me. You tell me what a fan would be surprised to know about me. For the most part, I�m Joe, I do what I do, I go home in the afternoon, make myself some coffee, relax in the evening, and that�s about it.
If you weren�t wrestling, what would you be doing?

Umm� hm. If I wasn�t wrestling, I�d probably be working a nine-to-five, with my 2.5 kids, and living in relative obscurity.

Oookay. So when you were � you always knew you wanted to wrestle, there was just never any other option in your head? You were gonna do this � you didn�t have any other ideas?

Ah, well, actually no, it was more of a kind of self progression. I started working on Judo and Jujitsu in the gym, I was asked to try a pro-wrestling class� I did� I enjoyed it, and from then kind of stuck with it, learning as much as I could, kind of keeping it as a hobby, not really putting a tremendous amount into it, but just saying I�m enjoying myself, and this is good for me.

And then, within a few months, I was doing dark matches for WWE, then six months later I was living in Japan, and I was working for Zero-One, going back and forth, and at that point I was like, well I guess this is kind of a career now [laughs]. And I said, if it�s a career then I might as well go 100%, go full bore. And here I am.
What will Samoa Joe�s legacy be?

I�ve said this before, and I�ll say it again, when fans look back and think about Samoa Joe, hopefully they�ll think about some of the greatest matches that they�ve ever seen. That�s what I intend to deliver.

Well Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today, we really appreciate everything, it�s been an absolute pleasure talking to you.

Thank you, I appreciate it.