Punk, X Division, MMA, Magnus all on Samoa Joe's mind
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Samoa Joe. Photo courtesy TNA
Given that CM Punk is probably in the top three opponents all-time for Samoa Joe, it's only natural to ask the Samoan Submissiom Machine about The Best in the World.
The two warriors had an epic trilogy of matches back in 2004, when Samoa Joe was the Ring of Honor World champion. Therefore, their names have been intertwined ever since.
Samoa Joe's thoughts on the success of Punk in WWE, where he is currently the WWE World champion?
"I'm proud of him, but I'm not surprised," said Samoa Joe during a TNA conference call before the No Surrender pay-per-view. "What's the funny part. I knew what he was capable of back in the day and he's doing well now. I always appreciated him when he wrestled me, and we wanted to get back in the ring and throw it out. It's always appreciated to be thought of. Any time he wants to come down to Orlando, not a problem!"
Reading between the lines, one would assume he would love the chance to work with CM Punk again, no doubt a feud that would have hardcore fans dropping their bowls of Cheetos in anticipation.
With the ascent to the top of the profession of other Ring of Honor World champions, such as Austin Aries and Daniel Bryan (then Bryan Danielson), Samoa Joe was asked about them and Punk.
"All those people that you named knew very much at an early time in their career that they had an exceptional gift for doing what they did, and that they were going to do this well into the future," he said. "We've all kind of expanded on that in our own different ways."
His thoughts on what made them successful -- over time -- is noteworthy to today's independent workhorses.
"We were focused on a style of pro wrestling that was our own, that was a mixture of the things that we enjoyed, that we took the best of from several varying styles of professional wrestling from around the world, and we studied, and we were students of the game," he said. "Those same pro wrestlers are out there right now. I think it's just being audacious enough to go out there and just put on performances and be the star. You had a bunch of guys when I was coming up that they all wanted to be The Guy at the end of the night. They didn't want to be opening up or be midway through the card in a multi-man match. They wanted to be one-on-one, go out there and put on a show."
In short, Samoa Joe advises up-and-comers to "try to re-write the history books and get noticed."
"I think there's always been an enormous amount of talent out there on the independent ranks, it's just a matter of them hitting creatively when the companies are looking. A lot of guys don't," Samoa Joe said. "I don't think it's some kind of anomalous phenomenon that all these people are doing well; they always were dedicated to doing the very best at what they do."
Like a lot of wrestlers, he has not forgotten where he came from and considers himself a pseudo-talent scout for TNA when he is wrestling away from the company.
"I've recommended Willie Mack," Joe revealed, referring to a Southern California wrestler. "I think that he's a very talented young gentleman out ... who is, I don't want to say overlooked -- he's hard to overlook -- but maybe not looked at enough."
Don't call yourself a fan of CM Punk or Samoa Joe unless you've seen their trilogy of matches from Ring of Honor.
Recently in TNA, Samoa Joe was paired with Magnus, a young star on the rise with a fabulous look and still improving in-ring skills.
"When it comes to Magnus, I think he's a guy that hasn't reached his potential, but has definitely just realized what it could be," explained Samoa Joe. "He's becoming a very, very good pro wrestler. I think in the next few years, people will be speaking of his work very, very highly."
Since he broke in through the X Division ranks, he still keeps an eye on what is going on there.
"It's re-tooling," Joe said of the X Division. "I think the new arsenal of X Division wrestlers that are being implemented are exceptional. I really look forward to what they put together. I think some of these guys are going to break out and show the world that they're next level X Division wrestlers and do some new things."
Joe also has high hopes for King Mo (Muhammed Lawal), a mixed-martial arts star who signed with TNA in September. But he recognizes that there is some griping associated with the deal.
"You'd be hard-pressed not to get blow-back for any move that you make involving non-pro wrestling personalities coming in to the world of professional wrestling. And that's fine," he said. "King Mo, to me, he seems like a guy that's pretty dedicated in trying to hone the craft and learn what he needs to do. After kind of running into him briefly, I'm more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt."
Though Samoa Joe said he didn't know him well, he sees something there. "He's exuberent, likes to play the character in there, looks good in there and can swing. I think it'll be interesting."
Samoa Joe drops onto AJ Styles.
The MMA and pro wrestling mix, of which Samoa Joe was a bit of a pioneer with his brutal kicks especially, is natural.
MMA's presence "has to impact and change the way pro wrestlers can apply their craft," he said. "Pro wrestling is always going to have its strengths and the things that attract fans to it. I think it's a real experimental time right now."
Whether you are a factory worker exploited by a vicious foreman or a professor censored by a corrupt Dean, Joe believes that fans have always taken to him because watching his wrestling style helps them release their aggressions. "I handle situations very intensely: it's with my fists, knees and elbows, and whatever else I can put on you," Joe explained. "My relationship with the fans, I think if anything, it's a real honest one. There's no real pretense about me in about what I can do in the ring. I think that's the main selling point, if you can quantify it that way."
With people coming and going constantly from TNA -- "it's also the nature of the business" -- how long does he expect to be around?
"I hate to sound the proverbial pro wrestling cliche, but as far as my career will go, it's a little far off," he concluded. "As long as I can do it, and do it effectively, and still be a top competitor in the game, then I'll be more than happy to continue wrestling. As far as my future plans, it's always about the World Heavyweight Championship. I think I'm a little overdue, I should have multiples by now. That's what we're working on right now."
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Greg Oliver is proud of the work of SLAM! Wrestling, and can point to a February 2005 story that talked to Samoa Joe, CM Punk and Roderick Strong as proof that we've always had a pretty good handle on what's coming down the pipe: A ROH trio: Punk, Strong & Joe. Greg can be emailed at email@example.com.