Samoa Joe on Resuming an In-Ring Career: ‘My Fire Still Burns’

One year after a freak concussion, Samoa Joe isn’t content to spend the rest of his career behind the broadcast table.
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Samoa Joe is enjoying his work as part of the Monday Night Raw broadcast team, but he is treating his time away from the ring as only temporary.

“I don’t think my in-ring career is done,” Joe says. “I have some really strong goals I look forward to pursuing in the near future.”

Joe last wrestled more than a year ago in an eight-man tag during the Feb. 10, 2020 edition of Raw. At that point, things began to unravel. He was concussed during a WWE commercial shoot, which he noted was not long after a prior concussion, and then came a 30-day suspension for violating the company’s wellness policy. A year later, Joe stressed that returning to full health remains his top priority.

“It’s all about taking the best and healthiest approach to my recovery,” Joe says. “When it comes to concussions, the amount of knowledge and science that has evolved over the past decade has been incredible. I’d suffered one on TV, and then one shortly thereafter. For my health and safety, WWE pulled me back, and I was all on board.

“There have also been some holdups with the pandemic, in terms of medical availability of certain specialists and facilities, so that’s played a large factor in the timing. But like I said, WWE medical is doing their very best for me to have the healthiest return possible.”

Since last April, Joe (41-year-old Nuufolau Joel Seanoa) has been a weekly presence on commentary for Raw. He joins a distinguished list of former in-ring villains to don a WWE headset, and he brings an unmistakable authority and legitimacy to each week’s broadcast.

“I didn’t know if I’d be any good,” Joe says. “But I got the opportunity to be the voice of Raw, something I’ve loved so long in my life. It’s a rare opportunity afforded to very few people. When those opportunities come up, you have to seize them.

“This wasn’t something I sat at home and dreamed about. I definitely didn’t go in with any expectations, but I decided to give it a shot. Most things in my life that I’ve found that I’m good at, I’ve stumbled upon them by accident. It’s been going well so far, and I look forward to only getting better.”

Joe’s transition into broadcasting has also led to new opportunities, most recently as the host of WWE’s new series Grit & Glory. The three-part online video series, which debuted last week, features interviews with Big E, Rhea Ripley and Edge.

“These three took very varied approaches to becoming WWE superstars,” Joe says. “They came up in very different generations, and we’ll learn about their struggles, the ones that a lot of people might not think are a part of pursuing their dream.”

Having dedicated the past 22 years of his life to pro wrestling, Joe possesses a unique appreciation for their stories.

“If anybody’s had a varied experience when it comes to a journey to get to the WWE, it’s me,” Joe says. “When it came to putting the series together, everybody agreed that we’d need different superstars from different generations and different walks of life, and that I was the one that could best relate to their struggles along the way.

“I want to give insight to the world on how tough it can be to ascend to WWE, and then find success here. That translates to outside WWE. I think a lot of people will find similarities from struggles in their own life, and the series highlights those stories.”

Joe is entering his sixth year with WWE. He has enjoyed a number of memorable moments, including two runs as NXT champion and a pair of reigns as United States champion. His fierce promos and rugged, physical style inside the ring were a welcomed addition to WWE after he spent his career perfecting the craft on multiple different sets of wrestling canvas across the world.

“I came up in several different types of companies that all had different types of approaches to the art form,” Joe says. “That’s helped form who I am today.”

Over the past two decades, Joe has built a legendary highlight reel, even if most of it exists outside the WWE Network. Joe was a staple of TNA/Impact Wrestling for nearly a decade, and his work was renowned in 2003 and ’04 as Ring of Honor champion. His trilogy of matches with CM Punk from ’04 helped set a new standard for the industry, establishing both performers as two of the best in the world. Those matches even set a prototype for the Kenny Omega–Kazuchika Okada trilogy that took place over a decade later in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Yet, despite an anthology of outstanding matches, Joe is not content with the legacy he has built.

“It’s tricky,” reflects Joe. “At this point in my life, I’ve learned to be happy, but I don’t think I’ll ever be content. That’s a blessing and a curse. I’m glad that people are aware of my accomplishments, but my fire still burns.”

Last summer, a return to the ring against Seth Rollins was briefly teased—then almost immediately dropped. Even with a secure spot on the broadcasting team, there is no doubt for Joe that his in-ring career will resume. Despite the success in the broadcast booth, as well as on Grit & Glory, Joe steadfastly believes that he has more to prove.

“I’m enjoying the broadcast booth, but there are still things I want to accomplish in the ring,” Joe says. “We’ll see, maybe a return to the ring is right around the corner.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.