Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of The Modern Era: #23 – Samoa Joe

Real nameJoe Seanoa
AliasesKing Joe
HometownLos Angeles, California
DebutedSeptember, 1999
Titles HeldBallpark Brawl Natural Heavyweight; NWA International Tag Team (with Keiji Sakoda); PWA Pure Wrestling; ROH Pure; ROH World; TNA World; TNA World Tag Team; TNA X-Division (3x); TWE Heavyweight; UPW Heavyweight; UPW No Holds Barred (2x); UIWA Tag Team (2x)
Other AccomplishmentsWinner of 2006 EWF Xtreme 8 tournament; Winner of 2004 IWA-Mid South Revolution Strong Style tournament; Ranked #4 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated on the PWI 500 list in 2006; Winner of PWI Feud of the Year award for 2007 (vs. Kurt Angle); Winner of PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year award in 2006; Recipient of 5 star match rating by Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2004 (vs. CM Punk – October 16, 2004); Recipient of 5 star match rating by Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2005 (2x, vs. AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels – September 11, 2005 and vs. Kenta Kobashi – October 1, 2005); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Brawler Award for 2005 and 2006; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year award for 2005 (vs. Kenta Kobashi – October 1, 2005); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award in 2005; TNA Triple Crown Champion; Winner of 2005 TNA Super X Cup Tournament; Winner of 2007 TNA Turkey Bowl match; Winner of 2008 TNA King of the Mountain match

“Joe’s gonna kill you! Joe’s gonna kill you!”

That is the classic battle cry Samoa Joe’s fans belt out when they know it’s time for their hero Joe to get to business. Samoa Joe, 29, has seen a lot and performed for a lot of people. He is no stranger to performing as at the tender age of five years old he and his family’s Polynesian dance troupe performed as part of the 1984 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. From there Joe fine-tuned himself into a talented athlete and was a top high school football star and a California State Junior Judo Champion.

But it was in 1999 when Joe began wrestling that he found his calling in life. He trained out in California and was a star pupil in the then-WWF developmental affiliate Ultimate Pro Wrestling, where he worked with fellow future star John Cena, among others.

Through 2001 and 2002 he split his time between California indies like UPW and Pro Wrestling Guerrila and as Japan’s ZERO-ONE promotion, picking up various championships and continually honing his craft.

Don’t let the name Samoa Joe fool you; he isn’t some barefooted, hardheaded caricature. This guy is the real deal.

But it was in 2002 when he joined Ring of Honor as Christopher Daniels’ hired assassin as part of the “The Prophecy.” He quickly rose through the rank and file of ROH, and punched his ticket into Ring of Honor lore on March 22, 2003 when he defeated Xavier for the ROH Heavyweight Championship.

Joe embarked on star-making and record-breaking title reign, elevating the ROH Championship into a legitimate World Championship along the way. He defeated and defended against all of Ring of Honor’s top stars and legends, perhaps most notably his three defenses against CM Punk that earned virtually universal praise from wrestling fans and analysts worldwide. Finally after a twenty-one month championship reign, he dropped the belt to Austin Aries on December 26, 2004. Even in defeat Joe was cemented as a legend among Ring of Honor lore.

He rebounded quickly and soon picked up the ROH Pure Championship and held it for over three months in 2005. In October 2005, Joe had a once-in-a-lifetime match against Japanese legend Kenta Kobashi that earned many critics “Match of the Year” for 2005.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2005 Joe also began working concurrently at TNA Wrestling. He debuted at the Slammiversary PPV in June 2005 to much fanfare from commentator Mike Tenay. Joe quickly destroyed the TNA X-Division, racking up an impressive undefeated streak en route to challenging for the X-Division championship in a three-way dance against AJ Styles and champion Christopher Daniels at the “Unbreakable” PPV in September 2005. Styles won the X-Championship, but Joe was not pinned and thus kept his undefeated streak alive.

Through 2006 Joe continued to divide his time between Ring of Honor and TNA, playing much different characters and carrying much different agendas. In Ring of Honor, he acted as one of ROH’s biggest defenders in their wild and heated inter-promotional war against Combat Zone Wrestling. He also continued to put on five-star quality matches against opponents like “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima.

Over in TNA, Joe, Styles and Daniels revolutionized the X-Division through the first part of 2006. They put on truly amazing and entertaining matches between all three combinations. Along the way he dropped the X-Title to Daniels in a three-way Ultimate X match at “Destination X” in March 2006, without getting pinned once again and thus kept his undefeated streak alive. Joe won the X title back from Daniels in April, but dropped it a couple of months later in another three-way bout, this time with Senshi pinning Sonjay Dutt, allowing Joe’s streak to continue. Joe then spent the rest of 2006 climbing the ranks of TNA, working with the heavyweight main event talent like Sting, Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner.

By the fall of 2006, Joe finally reached superstar status when he began clashing with new TNA arrival Kurt Angle. The pair butted heads through the fall until their first match-up at “Genesis” in November 2006. Angle won their first meeting, ending Joe’s eighteen month undefeated streak. The rivalry was TNA’s hottest ever and it showed in pay per view buy rates. Joe picked up the victory in their rematch the next month at “Turning Point.” Angle finally won this first chapter of their epic feud with a 3-2 Iron Man win at “Final Resolution” in January.

Also early in January 2007, Joe announced to Ring of Honor that after March 4 he would no longer be a full-time active member of the roster. The Ring of Honor cards through January and February were billed as part of the “Samoa Joe Farewell Tour.” His final match as part of the full-time roster was a victory over long-time ROH rival Homicide.

Joe then concentrated fully on his TNA requirements, as he was now considered a legitimate main event level star for TNA. Joe picked up his second X-division Championship on the July 12 Impact and went on to be a part of the “Match of Champions” at Victory Road. He teamed with TNA World Champion Angle to beat Team 3-D to win the TNA Tag Team Championships. From there Joe and Angle renewed their feud as they fought over all of the company’s belts. At Hard Justice in August, Joe lost his X-Title and both Tag belts to Angle, and faded into the background for a while feuding with guys like Christian Cage and Robert Roode.

Joe then formed an uneasy alliance with Kevin Nash, who mentored Joe in the ways of being a true main event superstar. In the main event of Turning Point in December 2007, Joe was supposed to team with The Outsiders against The Angle Alliance, but Scott Hall no-showed and Joe cut an impassioned live promo bemoaning the old guard and calling for a new guard of talent to emerge. Joe spent the first part of 2008 teaming with Nash, Christian Cage and others against Kurt Angle and his Alliance.

It all built to the next chapter in the Joe and Angle rivalry, a Six Sides of Steel cage match between the two men for the TNA World Championship at LockDown in April 2008. The build for this match was fantastic, as it showed both men in legitimate training footage preparing for the match MMA-style. It was the best build for a match the company had done in years. And finally Joe’s dream came true, as he beat Angle clean in the middle of ring to become TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Joe went on to defend the belt against a variety of opponents like Scott Steiner, Kaz, Booker T, Christian Cage and Kurt Angle throughout the spring and summer of 2008.

Along the way as Joe was Champion he remained in an uneasy alliance with Kevin Nash. Ultimately, to the surprise of no one, Nash finally turned on Joe during his World Title defense against Sting at Bound For Glory IV, causing him to lose his belt. Joe, along with old rival and friend, AJ Styles, began a youth movement in TNA against Nash, Angle, Sting, Steiner and Booker T, who called themselves “The Main Event Mafia.”

Currently Joe and AJ, along with Rhino and Team 3-D, are leading the “TNA Frontline” against The Mafia in a war that has been carrying the company since the fall of 2008.

Samoa Joe is one of the new-age look of wrestlers who doesn’t look like the muscle bound monsters of the ‘80s and ‘90s. He is a naturally gifted athlete who moves and flies like a cruiserweight yet has all the power and strength that allows him to put on heavyweight main event clashes. He is one of the most consistent performers in the ring and can put on top quality matches with a variety of opponents, big or small, fast or slow. His Ring of Honor matches with CM Punk and Kenta Kobashi are stuff of legend and his rivalry with Kurt Angle in TNA is what the company should use as a template on how to book all of their feuds.

He is vastly underrated on the microphone and his physical appearance often deters new fans from buying into Joe’s talents and mystique. But make no mistake about it; Joe is one of the absolute best in-ring performers the industry has seen in a long time. He has the support of legends like Bruno Sammartino the respect of his modern day peers.

Samoa Joe is one of the main reasons that Ring of Honor is where it is today, and he is one of the few legitimately unique talents that TNA is properly showcasing on a national stage. His unique charisma, undeniable in-ring talent and overall “it” factor makes Joe one of the most engaging performers of the twenty-first century.

He’s already won over virtually every fan who’s seen him compete in the ring, and he’s not even 30 years old. It’s kind of scary where he could end up and what this guy could do in the future as he continues to evolve and work with world-class talent.

Don’t let the name Samoa Joe fool you; he isn’t some barefooted, hardheaded caricature. This guy is the real deal.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.

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