As of this writing, Samoa Joe is the NXT Champion in his first reign. Although NXT is considered the developmental training ground for future WWE superstars, Joe is already a 16-year veteran of the professional wrestling industry, and has more than a few major accomplishments under his belt outside of the WWE Universe. Joe started training to become a wrestler in 1999 and made his pro debut the next year. It didn’t take long before Joe was one of the most respected names in independent wrestling, as he gradually proved his dominance in Ring of Honor, Total Nonstop Action, and a number of major Japanese promotions.
Samoa Joe finally made his full-time debut in the WWE Universe at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. Barely over one year into his tenure in WWE, Joe is already a major champion receiving a great deal of online buzz, but there are still plenty of things WWE isn’t going to tell you about The Samoan Submission Specialist. Joe spent over a decade dominating the wrestling world, but WWE is famously ignorant of anything happening outside of their rings. Keep reading if you’d like to learn 15 facts about Samoa Joe WWE doesn’t want you to know.
15. He Comes From A Family Of Dancers
Professional wrestling has a long history of tough wrestlers proudly representing Samoa, and the majority of those Samoan superstars have been related to one another. Samoa Joe isn’t part of the extended family of wrestling Samoans, but he does come from a successful family of entertainment-based athletes. Joe was born Nuufolau Seanoa to a family of world-class dancers. Joe’s family formed a Polynesian dance troupe internationally known as Tiare Productions. When Joe was only 5 years old, he joined his family in a dance that served as part of the 1984 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Joe looked back on his time in the dance group as nerve-wracking, and thanks his family for never pressuring him to stay in the group when his interests started to veer away from dancing.
14. He Was A Mortgage Broker
Although he decided he wasn’t meant to be a dancer early on in life, Joe didn’t immediately toss away his dancing shoes for wrestling boots, either. For several years, Joe entertained the decidedly out of character career option of being a mortgage broker. No offense to the mortgage brokers of the world, but it’s hard to picture a man who gets chants about how he’ll kill his opponents in a suit and tie guiding people through the benefits of affordable housing. Proving the life of a mortgage broker might not have been for him, Joe spent his nights off hanging out at UFC training sessions, and the transition from mortgage broker to professional wrestler was soon under way. Joe never ended up in UFC or doing MMA, but he did make some famous friends we’ll cover later in the list.
13. He Was Trained By William Regal
Like most great wrestlers, Joe has no dearth of trainers. His first and most important trainers were Cincinnati Red and Johnny Hemp, and included amongst his many teachers is William Regal. After learning the basics, Joe attended a training dojo associated with the Japanese promotion Zero-One, and then was invited to a dojo ran by Regal. Joe never disparaged his earliest trainers, but claimed that it wasn’t until he trained with Regal that he truly understood the business and what it was fans wanted out of a match. Regal has earned a reputation as one of the greatest trainers on the planet today and wrestlers like Joe prove why. Now that they’re working together in NXT, fans probably wouldn’t mind a teacher-student battle happening somewhere down the line should Regal decide to step back in the ring.
12. He Wrestled Essa Rios On Jakked
Fans probably think Samoa Joe’s shocking debut at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable was his first entrance into the WWE Universe, but like a number of future superstars before him, Joe actually made an appearance on a WWE b-show over a decade before his “debut.” Joe faced Essa Rios on an episode of Jakked in March of 2001. The match was essentially a squash for Rios, with Joe barely getting in any offense and losing to the WWE Lightweight Champion in short order. He also had weird blonde hair. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the match looking back on it, but Joe was clearly a long way away from the imposing monster he would eventually come. As a matter of fact, he was so inexperienced he was already making some enemies in the business…
11. Jim Ross Told Him To Quit
After his minor appearance on Jakked, Joe was told he wasn’t ready for television and was sent to one of WWE’s developmental promotions. Joe was moderately successful at the promotion, but officials still didn’t see much promise in him. WWE Hall of Fame announcer and talent scout Jim Ross actually went so far as to tell Joe that he simply wasn’t what WWE was looking for in terms of talent, and told him he should start thinking about his other options. WWE executive Bruce Prichard agreed, telling Joe he wasn’t cut out for the business in general. Joe used their words not to discourage him, but to inspire him to prove them wrong. Years later, JR admitted that Joe turned into a superstar worthy of a WWE contract, but maintained Joe needed to grow a whole lot before he was ready.
10. He’s A King In Japan
The next step on Joe’s journey and training as a professional wrestler came in the Land of the Rising Sun, where he wrestled for Zero-One. Joe wrestled at the majority of Zero-One’s major shows from 2001 to 2002 facing noteworthy opponents such as Take Michinoku and former ECW World Champions Steve Corino and Masato Tanaka. Joe was a decently popular wrestler gaining traction in the company at the time, but he was unhappy with the fact they were asking him to be more gimmicky and less of a serious wrestler. Before long, Zero-One started to bill him as King Joe, teaming him with a variety of Samoan savage type characters. By the end of the year, Joe would return to America and take a new promotion by storm.
9. He Was ROH World Champion For Years
In late 2002, Joe joined the fledgling promotion Ring of Honor. Joe impressed ROH officials so much in his first match he was immediately signed to a long-term contract and plans to push him as the centerpiece of the promotion were fast formed. Five months after his debut with the company, Joe won the ROH World Championship. In fact, Joe was the one who legitimized the ROH Championship as a World title by defending it in London, England against The Zebra Kid. The Zebra Kid was one of only 29 opponents Joe would face to defend his title, which he successfully managed to do for a record 645 days. Austin Aries finally felled Joe for the title in December of 2004, but Joe’s ascent up the world of wrestling was in no way stalled by the loss.
8. He Was Undefeated In TNA
Six months after Joe lost the ROH World Championship, he made his debut for Total Nonstop Action wrestling in June of 2005. Joe was immediately pushed as an unstoppable monster, and maintained his dominance for an incredible 18 months during which he was undefeated in singles competition. Joe occasionally didn’t win matches with three or more competitors, but he never actually tapped out or had his shoulders pinned to the mat for a full year and a half after his debut. Some of the major superstars Joe defeated during his incredible winning streak include AJ Styles, Sabu, Scott Steiner, and Jeff Jarrett. No undefeated streak lasts forever, but Joe at least was able to have his ended in a respectable way, against a worthy opponent…
7. He Had Classics With Kurt Angle
During his time in ROH and TNA, Joe proved he could outwrestle the best technical athletes in sports entertainment and overpower the most outstanding cruiserweight superstars of the future. However, there was one challenge that stood before him he couldn’t take down: an Olympic Gold freakin’ Medalist. Angle debuted with TNA in September of 2006, and immediately he began having trouble with the dominant and undefeated Samoa Joe. Angle faced Joe in one of his first TNA matches and successfully ended Joe’s 18-month winning streak by making him tap to the Ankle Lock at Genesis 2006. The two would maintain their feud for years, with Joe finally getting his revenge when he defeated Angle for the TNA World Championship at Lockdown 2008.
6. He Had Legendary Matches With A.J. Styles
Joe’s matches with Angle are almost uniformly fantastic, but even before he started wrestling for the TNA World Championship, he was regularly stealing the show. The unquestionable highlight of the first few years of TNA was AJ Styles, and his matches with Samoa Joe were a huge part of what built both men’s reputation throughout the wrestling world. Styles and Joe were joined by Christopher Daniels for a series of triple-threat matches, which in particular are generally considered the greatest matches TNA ever produced. The main event of Unbreakable saw the three compete in an Ultimate X match for the X Division Championship which is the only TNA match to receive a 5-star rating from wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer. Plenty of other fans consider it the best match in company history, as well.
5. Wrestling Fans Think He’s Outstanding
While titles and winning streaks are impressive and helped Samoa Joe create his reputation with fans, Joe has also earned a great deal of critical respect and achievements that help prove his status as a future hall of famer. Most notably, in 2005 Joe was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Joe earned the accolade on the strength of his aforementioned matches with Styles, Daniels, and others. In doing so, Joe became the first wrestler to win this award while working for either TNA or ROH, as the award usually was given to Japanese wrestlers or major American stars like Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. Joe was also voted the Best Brawler that same year, and nabbed the Match of the Year award as well for his ROH battle with Kenta Kobashi.
4. He’s A Tag Team Specialist
The NXT Championship is Samoa Joe’s first in the WWE Universe, which probably means WWE will push him as a solo superstar for the rest of his career. This might end up for the best, but it ignores the fact Joe has a great deal of experience in the tag team realm as well. Fans no doubt remember just recently he won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament with Finn Bálor, but Joe has been doing battle in the tag team ranks for just as long as he’s been a solo star. At the start of his career in Zero-One, Joe won the NWA International Tag Team titles with Keiji Sakoda, and has won both the TNA and Japanese GHC Tag Team Championships with Magnus. Joe also technically won the TNA World Tag Team titles with Kurt Angle, but chose to defend them by himself. Nonetheless, he’s shown his dominance doesn’t slow down if he’s saddled with a partner.
3. He Distracted Game Show Contestants
Samoa Joe is a big and tough wrestler who has no time for nonsense or silly gimmicks, but that hardly precludes him from fun of any variety. In 2006, Joe appeared on the British import game show Distraction alongside fellow TNA/ROH superstars Kazarian and Curry Man/Christopher Daniels. The show saw contestants attempting to answer simple trivia questions while facing extreme diversions, in this case having the crap beaten out of them by professional wrestlers. Joe ripped his poor victim’s helmet off while giving him an onslaught so severe he forgot what prime numbers were. The segment was simple and fun publicity for wrestling, but since he was promoting a company other than WWE, it’s unlikely they’ll remind us Joe once showed his softer side.
2. He Trains With Team Punishment
Most professional wrestlers are tough, but UFC and MMA fighters take things to the next level by suffering real beatings and fighting twice as hard without ever backing down. Samoa Joe proves he’s tougher than the average wrestler by regularly training in a variety of martial arts including jiu-jitsu, judo, and Muay Thai, and he does his training with some of the most well-known MMA fighters in history. Joe has been seen sparring with members of Tito Ortiz’s Team Punishment, including Kendall Grove and Tito himself. Joe has been friends with Tito for years and continues to show up in his locker room during pre-fight interviews.
1. He’s An Avid Gamer
Plenty of wrestling fans these days are calling themselves massive video game fans, and Samoa Joe is just one of many to join the fold. It may be hard to imagine the imposing submission specialist sitting down with his friends and playing games, but he actually enjoys doing just that so deeply he has his own channel on the video game streaming site Twitch. Joe’s Twitch handle was SamoaJoeGames, but unfortunately for any fans hoping to play with him or just watch him talk about Metal Gear, his profile has been offline for several years now. It’s more likely that the WWE schedule stopped him than any particular corporate mandate, but the fact the stream is dead means they can’t profit from Joe’s gaming, so they won’t have any reason to mention it on TV.