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   Fri, April 11, 2008



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COMMENT





Samoa Joe locked on winning TNA title
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling


Samoa Joe takes over from host Jeremy Borash to deliver a message. Photo courtesy TNAwrestling.com

Sunday night's fourth annual TNA Lockdown event once again features a card compromised entirely of matches inside the six sides of steel cage, many with additional gimmicks added. With fans having already witnessed over two hours of rage in the cage, the question is, how will TNA champion Kurt Angle and challenger Samoa Joe keep the audiences attention when they square off in the main event?

"That is the million-dollar question. I am lukewarm to a lot of extraneous stipulations put into matches, especially on pay per view. TNA has a talented enough roster that they never needed those types of stipulations to go out and entertain fans," Joe responded to SLAM! Wrestling during a conference call to promote the event. "But Lockdown is a concept pay per view and is something new. When it comes to new things you have to give it a try and go. When you have that many cage matches on a show it is a challenge to keep that cage in play and make it something fantastic."

Joe's opponent has stated recently that he plans to go a more "realistic" mixed martial arts style battle, complete with the possibility of wrestling barefoot. Joe, on the other hand intends to just do what he does best.

"Kurt is a fantastic grandstanding individual," he admitted. "At the end of the day, I am a pro wrestler. Regardless of what Kurt's stipulations are or what he wants to do, the bottom line is I am going to go in there and win a professional wrestling match. I know he has been lobbying for all sorts of stipulations but hopefully TNA will see it is not necessary. I will take the belt in any style he chooses."

Joe did acknowledge that going a different style has risks as well.

"Absolutely it is a concern because we cater to wrestling fans. But you have to take a risk if you want to try something new. I know both of us want to try something different. I know I have enough crossover know-how of the two sports that I think we can make it work," he said, adding that he thinks that they will top their previous classics. "I have had more of a chance to work with Kurt than our previous encounters, and have learned his style and how he moves in the ring. It is always an advantage to know someone well going into the match. The downside is that we have put out solid efforts before that, there is a lot of expectation to top what you did before. I think it is very possible that we will do that this weekend, in fact I think it is absolutely going to happen. I think we will definitely expand on the boundaries on pro wrestling in this match, try some new things, and make a good go of it. I am probably going to walk out of there with a lot of scrapes, bumps, cuts and bruises but if it is worth it if the product comes out right."

Joe has also said that if he does not beat Angle for the title, he will leave TNA. The question was posed, what will Joe do if he doesn't win?

"I am thinking about hiring myself out as a sparring partner for people around my neighborhood. I've heard that Starbucks has a really good pension plan. I don't really have a plan because I don't plan for failure," he said, before adding what it would mean to finally win the belt. "At this point in my career, if there is one word to sum it up it is opportunity. It is the opportunity to show that we can make a Samoa Joe championship run work in a major national company, and to go out and show what I've got."

One of the advantages of working for TNA is talent's availability for independent wrestling events. Joe made several appearances in Canada last year, and hopes he can return as champion. SLAM! Wrestling asked Joe about working indy dates.

"The right answer I am supposed to say is that they are all a joy, but the real answer is it is case by case. A majority of the indy bookings I do go on are still a lot of fun, because [it is] the grassroots of pro wrestling, and where the most hardcore fans are is at indy shows. It is refreshing to go back to that environment, I came up in it and it feels comfortable. It is a fun deal to go back to. The shots I have done up in Canada, it has been a tremendous response and a really great time, and I really look forward to those. But you also get the horrible shows in the middle of nowhere where you are staying in a bad hotel, but that comes with the territory."

Many of the media involved in the call asked Joe about mixed martial arts and its influence on professional wrestling, an influence that Joe says while not evident now will definitely have an impact over time.

"That is a very complicated question that I have put a lot of thought into it. I think over time it will have a tremendous shaping effect on all aspects of combat sport, not just pro wrestling. It is a mixed bag. I think soon MMA will eclipse boxing and a lot of other sports and be the dominant combat sport in the world.

TNA is both loved and loathed by critics, who feel that with such a loaded roster of talent, the creative end is lacking. Another criticism is the addition of "established" stars like Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Booker T and others, at times pushing them ahead of TNA homegrown talent.

"Guys like Kurt Angle, Christian, and Booker T have a name and following that is much bigger than myself. I have a great hardcore audience from Ring of Honor but in the end TNA is about expanding its fanbase and attracting new fans to the product. I feel that I have always been positioned well in the company where people show up for the established talent but stay for me. I have never been worried about where I have been at in the company."

At Turning Point 2007, Joe cut a passionate, scathing promo when Scott Hall no-showed the event, making pointed remarks towards "superstars" padding their pensions while the true talent in TNA busts their asses every night. The promo was loved by fans for its honesty but caused friction between Joe and partner Kevin Nash. Joe candidly discussed both Hall and Nash.

"Kevin and I didn't see eye and eye on a lot of things at first and there wasn't that established respect between us. But in the last four or five months things have really come together and I respect him a hell of a lot more than when I first met him. I think very highly of him. He has a mind that is far more cerebral than most people I have ever met. He is a great person and a great asset to the business. If Scott was ready to go, and be productive and contributive which is all I ask of anybody I work with in TNA, then I would be more than receptive to it. Scott Hall is responsible for some of the most memorable moments in wrestling and has drawn a lot of money, and if there is some way we can recapture that and capitalize on it as a positive for everybody, then why not?"


Samoa Joe responds to TNA champ Kurt Angle on the April 10th Impact.
Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Mike Mastrandrea's TNA Impact Photo Gallery (Air date, April 10, 2008)
TNA goes into Lockdown hot off the heels of Wrestlemania weekend, where the company ran three events, including a live IMPACT that drew a disappointing 1.0. Joe admitted his own disappointment with the rating but had positive things to say about the weekend overall.

"Anything less than excellent is always a little disappointing to me, it's my own personal standards. But it is hard to gauge these things, if we had the end-all answer to what would draw a consistent rating we wouldn't be asking this question. You can blame it on a lot of factors but we are going to keep trying it till we get it. I liked (the weekend), it was a good vibe and atmosphere. For wrestling fans at that time it was a wrestling mecca with all three companies doing their finest and putting out their finest. I was really happy for the weekend and it was a lot of fun for me personally."

Joe confirmed reports that he is presently in contract negotiations with TNA, but that it will not affect his performance this weekend.

"The contractual status of TNA and I is at an impass. I am coming close to the end date of my contract with them, and we are just working on a lot of details. It is a long drawn-out process as we both want to get the best out of it. With all of the changes in schedule and additions of house shows it has been hard to get all of the parties involved together to hammer it out. Hopefully it will be over with soon. It isn't a factor in my performance because even though we are in a contract situation, the bottom line it is still me out there and my work, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in my work. Regardless of what is going on behind the scenes, when I get in the ring that doesn't matter. I take pride in what I do, it is really not a factor at all."

Joe admits that right now he is happy in TNA, and hopes the contract negotiations are successful and TNA can continue to grow with him as one of its stars.

"We are extending a little bit and trying some new things and definitely getting some of the younger TNA talent profiled. I like the way things are going right now and I think within this coming year most fans will hopefully agree with me."

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