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Interview with Samoa Joe
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SAMOA JOE is one of the top independent wrestlers in America. He first began to be noticed by fans for his work with the west coast based Ultimate Pro Wrestling promotion. Northeast fans know him has the longest reining heavyweight champion of the Ring Of Honor promotion, having held the title 21-plus months before recently losing to Austin Aries. This is a career length interview, done hours before Joe would wrestle Roderick Strong on a Full Impact Pro show in Tampa, Florida on January 8th.

 

Alan Wojcik: At an early age you had your first brush with fame when your families Samoan dance troupe were part of the 1984 summer Olympic Games opening games. What was that like to be on an international stage at age five?

 

Samoa Joe: It was nerve racking and I lived in that atmosphere growing up. You have to take it with a grain of salt. For me there isn’t a comparison to wrestling. There is an initial rush going out there but it’s been the same no matter the venue.

 

AW: Was there ever family pressure to remain in the family business when you decided to begin training for professional wrestling?

 

Samoa Joe: I never got any pressure to stay. I have always been in the family business and as long as I am happy with my choices so are they.

 

AW: Was there one thing that made you become a professional wrestler and was there any aspect of the training you were surprised by?

 

Samoa Joe: There wasn’t a moment that made wrestling a life dream it sort of happened. I began to train in the afternoons and really enjoyed it. Nothing really shocked me about wrestling training; I trained is sport judo all my life.

 

Scoot Andrews: Court Bauer doesn’t return phone calls.

 

Samoa Joe: And is a motherfucker according to Scoot Andrews. For the most part I knew there would be a pain factor in training so I was ready for that.

 

AW: Most interviews you have done have asked you how you got the name Samoa Joe, I am wondering if you had to create a character in training what was it or were you always going to use the Samoa Joe name?

 

Samoa Joe: I was too busy learning to wrestle to create a gimmick or come up with catch phrases. From my experience lots of times the crowd will dictate your character and will define your persona. The way you work in the ring, your attitude you use in wrestling and the locker room will create the character they see. I have always been Joe and Samoa Joe and he comes across when I get in the ring.

 

AW: Besides your initial training you got to train in the Zero-One dojo and a WWE dojo run by William Regal. How did they differ and what did you learn from each?

 

Samoa Joe: The dojo Regal ran in California was definitely an eye opener. I think when guys start out as wrestlers they think they have a good idea of what it’s all about and what the business entails. After training with Regal I realized I had no idea what the business was about, what the fans wanted and how to even put together a wrestling match. It was a discovery process that shaped me into the wrestler you see today. The Zero-One dojo was a great experience. I got to pick up some good technique training. I came back from Japan in great shape. I got to work out with Fujiarwa (sic) who helped me in learning submission wrestling.

AW: The first promotion you received name recognition is UPW. How did you come to work for UPW and what were your initial impressions of Rick Bassman?

 

Samoa Joe: UPW was just beginning to run in southern California where I had been working indy shows for several months. One night they needed someone to step in and I worked for Aaron Baker. After that Bassman asked me to be on all of their shows and I began to work with their office. It was a good experience to begin in the business. As far as Rick goes he has a good sense for finding connections for guys. We had differing views as far as management and how he handled agent assignments for matches. I didn’t find I approved the way he handled it. This came from seeing agents and talent relations in show business all my life through my family. Other then that I wish him and UPW well I think he needs to focus more on the promotion being its own entity not the feeding system it has become. Everyone is entitled to make money and UPW makes money.

 

AW: Early in your stay with the promotion you won the UPW Heavyweight title from “the Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels. What was it like two wrestle him then and now in matches through ROH and other promotions?

 

Samoa Joe: I actually wrestled him a few times on smaller shows prior to working for UPW. Because we have the same sense of humor we bonded quickly and have a good friendship. Chris has been instrumental in getting me lots of places; he pulled real hard to get in me into ROH. Chris has recommended me around the globe from Steve Corino’s PWF promotion to Japan. Anywhere I have gone it was because Chris put me over to the promoter. Wrestling him and winning the UPW title was a great experience plus it was working with a good friend.

 

AW: One of your title defenses was against “the Innovator of Violence”, your memories of wrestling Tommy Dreamer. Were you nervous working with someone of his experience level?

 

Samoa Joe: Tommy is a cool guy. I never have ever been nervous before a match no matter my opponent. Tommy came in there and worked his ass off for UPW.

 

AW: Most fans reading this know you from your work with Ring Of Honor. How did you come to work for ROH and what were you initial impressions of its creators Gabe Sapolsky and Rob Feinstein?

 

Samoa Joe: Initially it was Chris Daniels recommending me to them. I was brought in on a spilt airfare when I worked for Corino’s PWF/Zero-One since ROH was not as strong as they are now financially. Gabe and Rob were really cool guys.

 

AW: Were you a fan of their multi-point Code of Honor?

 

Samoa Joe: I thought it was something different. It was a niche thing; the fans needed something to separate it from sports entertainment. Some people call it hokey because it’s trying to make it seem like a sport. I think you need that bold image to show what ROH is all about.

 

AW: Your debut match was with one of the hardest hitting men in the business, Low Ki.

 

Samoa Joe: Low Ki is a great athlete and he is very skilled. We went out there and gave the fans a good match. It helps when you are working with someone who is athletic like Ki.

 

AW: On March 22, 2003 you began a reign as ROH World champion when you defeated Xavier. Little did you know that reign would be over twenty one months long. What was your reaction when you were told you were getting the title?

Samoa Joe: Gabe had mentioned from my first matches he liked my style and the way I portray myself in the ring and he might put the belt on me. I thought cool no problem. It was initially set up as a shorter title reign but I think as the matches progressed and the roster was juggled, Gabe said we’ll run with it a little longer. He kept saying that for months and months. Next thing we knew it was a year later and you can’t look back. I took the chance I was given and did the best I could when I was given the belt. It’s all about what you are going to do when you are given the chance. It wasn’t like great I got the belt now I am the shit it was I got the belt now make people this is important and something the fans can invest their time in watching me. I hope I made the belt more important for the men that hold it after my reign ended.

 

AW: At one point you were a member of the Group with CW Anderson and Michael Shane. How did that trio come about and talk about working with CW and Michael.

 

Samoa Joe: It was probably Gabe seeing a natural pairing between Corino and me when we worked for Zero-One. We were total goof balls with the stuff we did on Samurai TV. We would cut promos on ROH tapes that weren’t scripted in and Gabe thought why ruin the chemistry. Michael CW ended up with us and made it funnier.

 

AW: You were the last ROH opponent for Paul London who soon after as Jerry Lynn said in a MLW promo “sold his soul to sports entertainment.” Were there any special feelings in the match because of him leaving for WWE?

 

Samoa Joe: From my view it was just another match. As far as what happened afterwards that was special. Paul hasn’t gotten a fair shake in WWE yet and he is a tremendous athlete. The business had to keep going despite people leaving for the organization. The main goal was to keep Paul in one piece for his WWE debut. He got a great reception after the match for all his work in ROH.

 

AW: According to your website you defended the ROH World title thirty-one times and we won’t be talking about every single one but I would like to ask you about the ones some fans of ROH wanted to know more about. The first person I wish to ask about is former Prophecy and Da’ Hit Squad member Dan Maff.

 

Samoa Joe: That was probably the hardest night. When I got to Philadelphia I found out from Gabe that Danny’s dad passed away. I called him and rightly so he wasn’t answering his phone. But I told him in the message I left to stay home and be with his family. Low Ki and Homicide had called before me telling him to stay home and grieve. I think the whole locker room wished him the best and wouldn’t have blamed him if he didn’t make the show. Surprisingly Danny came walking into the locker room with a big smile on his face. It was heart wrenching because we all knew the pain he was feeling. He gave me a big hug and said he needed to work the match. He told me the story I think he told you when you interviewed him about one of the last conversations he had with his dad. He told me they were talking and his dad said don’t you have a show to be at? We both laughed about it as it showed how much Danny and his dad loved the business. After the math we went in the back Danny let it all out and his NY crew of Ki and Homicide were there along with the rest of the locker room. I was just glad to be there to help during his worst point in life.

 

AW: You were a partner to him in a ROH Tag Team title shot with the Briscoe Brothers at the Conclusion show in November 2003 and then defended the title against him. What’s it like to partner with and wrestle AJ Styles?

 

Samoa Joe: Teaming with AJ is great since he’s gonna go out there and wow people, all I have to do is be a cheerleader. I met him at the King of the Indies and I was impressed with his work then and now. I would love to have him as a regular partner. AJ is one of the strongest guys I have been in the ring with and always a pleasure to work with. I am sure it will continue to be fun.

 

AW: One man you defended against set you on fire at end of a match on the Reloaded show in April 2004. What’s it like to wrestle “the Notorious 187” Homicide, is he the hardest hitting person you have been in the ring with?

 

Samoa Joe: I don’t know I am still looking for the hardest hitter (laughs.) Homicide is going to give the crowd everything he can he never dials it in; he goes balls to the wall 100mph. in that aspect it’s a joy to wrestle because he will take any physical bump but he can also reel it in and make it safe for both people in the ring. He can take you to the mat and also take it to the air so you need to be ready with you’re “A” game. I can honestly say I have never escaped a match with him without getting a black eye; he has done it each and every time.

 

AW: I brought up the Prophecy but you also had run in with another ROH faction, namely the Second City Saints and their leader CM Punk.

 

Samoa Joe: Outside of American Dragon, Punk is the one person I am most comfortable in the ring with. Everything is deliberate, is fluid and he is smart on his feet. I am confident going out there we are going to have a great match. He is very cerebral and is great for making match and knowing what a crowd wants. Put that together with his skills on the mic and you got s close to a perfect wrestler as you can get.

 

AW: Your last defense was against the man who ended your reign, Generation NeXt member Austin Aires. Over the 21 months did you ever think it would have gone that long plus did you ever tell ROH you felt it was time to drop the title to someone else?

 

Samoa Joe: I have been saying that since year one Alan (laughs.) As far as the belt goes I was satisfied with the result and what we accomplished as far as reactions from the live crowd. The end result was great and the fans were pleasantly surprised plus it shocked the internet fans who read the results that said Joe lost the title. When the fans read it the match became a jawdropping event and I hope Austin has as good a reign as I did.

 

AW: As Scoot Andrews hinted to earlier you worked for Court Bauer’s MLW promotion on a show in Ft. Lauderdale. Please give your memories of working for MLW and wrestling former MLW and ECW World champion Mike Awesome.

 

Samoa Joe: I don’t know about Scoot but I had great dealings with Court. He did his best by me even when he had to cancel his end of a double shot I was doing with ROH. He put me up in a nice hotel in Florida for the day to avoid paying a huge fee for changing the return ticket. The next day I was off to Philly. I thought he had good intentions but I think he had too many people in his ear pulling him in their direction for power. That seems to be a common issue in promotions that don’t have a centralized power base. In regards to wrestling Mike Awesome I wasn’t ready stoked for the match and I made light of it before I didn’t enjoy it. He tried to take liberties with me and I wasn’t going to let happen. There was some miscommunication and some begrudging words after the match, these things happen time to time.

 

AW: This past fall you got to compete in the IWA Mid South based 2004 Ted Petty Invitational(formerly the Sweet Science Sixteen) where in one match you took on your opponent this evening Roderick Strong as well as AJ Styles and “American Dragon” Brian Danielson.

 

Samoa Joe: That was a fun tournament even though it was long. Overall the tournament went well for Ian (Rotten) and I think he got what he wanted out of it. Plus being in the finals with AJ and Dragon’s not a bad place to be. Makes for two easy evenings even though they were tough wrestling matches.

 

AW: You brought up working for Zero-One. Was there any difficulty going to Japan and adapting styles even though some of Zero-One’s matches are based in the American style?

 

Samoa Joe: It was relatively easy to move to the Japanese style since there is lots of the American style already mixed in. There is a different approach to wrestling in Japan by how it is viewed by the fans and media. Zero-One began as a work/shoot promotion so you needed to have a good martial arts background as far as jiujutsu and submission fighting. Later on it developed into a promotion with angles and goofy characters. I enjoyed my time in the promotion and I made several friendships that I have to this day.

 

AW: There was lots of internet speculation as to how your working relationship with Zero-One ended. Can you tell me any of the circumstances?

 

Samoa Joe: I can tell you all of it. They wanted to want me to wrestle barefoot, gain two hundred pounds and throw headbutts. I decided that wasn’t for me and I transferred to New Japan.

 

AW: On one of your non-ROH dates you hooked up with a masked man who was working for TNA Wrestling, the monster known as Abyss.

 

Samoa Joe: Abyss is a really talented big man who is also a good guy for a mask wearing freak. It was enjoyable and if he goes to WWE or stays in TNA I wish him the best.

 

AW: If someone opened the 2004 Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 issue they would find Samoa Joe listed at number thirty-four. Does a magazine listing do anything for your ego or bookings?

 

Samoa Joe: The only thing that helps my ego is money and it didn’t make me an extra dime. The PWI thing is a side note to show your friends but other than that I don’t think anyone puts stock into it. It may introduce new people to me and ROH.

 

AW: Who runs the Samoa Joe website and for fans that have never visited it what can they find there if they log onto it?

 

Samoa Joe: It’s run by a good friend who likes being nameless. You can find video clips, photos and hopefully soon we will have merchandise on there. I also have links to business partners like Ballsy Boxers clothing. If you want to learn more about me log on and you will also find my live journal where I talk about wrestling, day to day life and funny road stories.

 

AW: To break from wrestling talk for a moment. In reading your site I found you are a huge Korean BBQ coinsure. Is there one restaurant that you have eaten in that you would call the perfect place for that kind of food?

 

Samoa Joe: There are tons of great places in Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. But in Southern California, in Costa Mesa to be specific there is a place called Anjin that is on the corner of Bristol down the street for Southwest Plaza I highly recommend.

 

AW: You and I share a favorite TV show, the Food Network based Iron Chef. Who is your favorite Iron Chef and will you be watching the new Iron Chef America program?

Samoa Joe: I have never been asked this by any interviewer. I will give the new show a chance. My favorite Iron Chef has to be Chen Kenichi. I know mentioned off tape you like Masaharu Morimoto but I think Chen is a bad dude in the kitchen and probably could kick Morimoto’s ass in a shoot fight or a kitchen battle.

 

AW: Past or present if you could have a dream match who would be your opponent and why?

 

Samoa Joe: I really want to wrestle Genechiro Tenryu. I wasn’t a huge fan of his but I remember working for Zero-One and one night I was watching Samurai TV and they aired some classic matches against Jumbo Tsruta (sic) and Tatsumi Fujinami. Even though he always looked grumpy I got meet him in Tokyo and share a few drinks. I look forward to working him some day.

 

AW: Recently on the internet your name has been attached to being contacted by WWE. Can you answer me right here if WWE has contacted you or are you going to work for WWE or get a development deal anytime soon?

 

Samoa Joe: Nope, nope and nope. (Laughs)

 

AW: In closing what do you hope the future holds for Samoa Joe in wrestling and in life?

 

Samoa Joe: As far as wrestling I want to continue to enjoy being part of the business. I am eeking out a good living. My expectations are to keep delivering good matches and be able to justify the money I am making. I hope to be long gone before people say I have lost a step.

 

Thanks to Samoa Joe for his time. Thanks to Gabe Sapolsky of Ring of Honor www.ROHwrestling.com and Sal Hamaoui of Full Impact Pro www.fullimpactpro.com for putting me in touch with Samoa Joe. Ultimate Pro Wrestling can be reached by www.upw.com. For more information on Joe’s website log onto www.samoajoe.com and to read Joe’s journal see www.livejournal.com/users/xsweatpeax