Samoa Joe is 44 years old and has been in pro wrestling since 1999. He’s held championships and main evented cards just about everywhere — from Ring of Honor to TNA to WWE to Japan to now AEW.
On Dec. 30, Joe defeated MJF to win the AEW world championship, making him one of the few to hold top titles in AEW, NXT, ROH and TNA. The Orange County, California native has also been busy outside wrestling. He plays Sweet Tooth in the streaming series Twisted Metal and is set to voice the character King Shark in the next Suicide Squad video game.
Samoa Joe will defend the AEW title for the first time Wednesday on AEW Dynamite against Hook, the 24-year-old rising star and son of former ECW and WWE star (and AEW commentator) Taz. Joe opens up about winning the belt after so many years in the industry, beating MJF, the match with Hook, what happened with CM Punk and Jack Perry at Wembley Stadium last August during the All In pay-per-view show and more.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Marc Raimondi: How does it sound, Joe? AEW world champion Samoa Joe.
Samoa Joe: It sounds right. It just rolls off the tongue. Good. It feels pleasurable to let it pass your lips.
MR: You have been a champion in many places. What does being the AEW world champion mean to you at this stage of your career?
SJ: It’s to be the standard bearer of one of the most exciting companies in the industry right now. I’ve said this several times. AEW is a touchstone for the world of wrestling. We don’t limit ourselves to a small, little corner of the wrestling universe. We will go out there. We will fight your champions from any other promotion. And this provides a unique opportunity for me to expand on that championship legacy.
MR: You’ve been a pretty busy guy outside the ring. You were recently in Twisted Metal, the video-game adaptation into the TV series. And you’ll also be voicing King Shark in the Suicide Squad video game, which is pretty cool. How did you get them? What’s that like? How is it different from wrestling?
SJ: Twisted Metal came about from a good friend from way back when: Carter Swan. He is a producer at PlayStation Pictures. They were in pre-production for Twisted Metal. He was actively searching for [someone to play the] Sweet Tooth [character]. He thought back to the days of sitting on the couch with another buddy of ours (Hollywood producer), Jeff Katz, watching pay-per-views. And he goes, ‘Ah, I should give Joe a call.’ So, he called me kind of out of the blue. And we screen-tested — it was a hit. Next thing you know, I’m in an ice cream truck, donning the mask, and having a lot of fun.
MR: You won the championship a few weeks ago against MJF. It was an interesting situation that you guys were in because it’s a huge pay-per-view main event, but everyone knows that MJF is injured going in, right? The match was great, but you have a guy who can’t do things with his shoulder, which is kind of important. How do you deal with that situation?
SJ: To his credit, you go out there, and it’s ‘go’ time despite all the physical shortcomings he had going into that match. He knew he had to go out there and perform, and he gave it his best go. You can’t think your way around many of these things at this level. Guys have to go out there and grin and bear it, and credit to Max. He was one of those individuals on that night.
MR: You have a big match coming up on Wednesday against Hook, and it got controversial last week with some stuff on X with [AEW owner] Tony Khan [posting about WWE’s] Jinder Mahal. What happened there?
SJ: I don’t know. That had nothing to do with me. I mean, that’s just really a cute little debate. I’m glad everybody’s chimed in on it. But on paper, Hook sounds like the perfect challenger. I mean, he’s 29-1. He’s got the stats, but let’s see if he’s got the heart. And I think that’s what this match is really about. We’ve set a new standard for who will get the championship shots around here. And it’s gonna bring up a lot of discussion and disagreements. So, I more than welcome this opening chapter. And as for Hook, I mean, he’s a tremendous young athlete. When you look at this guy, you look at a guy with limitless potential. He has the pedigree. We will take him in and find out what he’s made of.
MR: Tell me about this new championship protocol, and do you have a hit list? Do you have a list of names you want to face and defend that AEW world title against?
SJ: That’s the beautiful part about being the champion. They’re all coming for you. They all show up at the doorstep and try to take what’s yours. And that’s the environment that I’m welcoming. It’s one that I’m propagating. Let’s just get the pipeline of the real challenges up to the champ and stop all the extraneous games and silly stuff. Let’s put on some matches and see who is the best in the world.
MR: You have been at the top of every promotion that you’ve been in, Ring of Honor or TNA, main events in WWE, Japan. There was a period where I think critics — maybe people in certain promotions — said, ‘Joe is maybe a little bit older, maybe he’s kind of past it, we’ll bring him in as a coach. Maybe he won’t make the main roster.’ To be here in 2024 as a world champion of a major promotion, what does that mean to you?
SJ: It proves to me that there’s always been two sets of perspectives. There’s been the world’s perspective, and there’s been mine. And mine has been right every time. I think many people just don’t have the confidence and wherewithal to bet on themselves, to understand the lot that you’ve been dealt and understand it’s not good enough, and that you’re gonna make your own. And it’s been legitimately the hallmark of my career. Nobody ever wanted me until I showed up on their doorstep. It’s no different here, and it’ll be no different in the future, and I’m very comfortable with that. Being at this point where I’m at right now in my career and being a world champion, to me, it was expected. And so, whenever I hear people say that they’re surprised or, ‘You’ve shut up the naysayers,’ why were you listening to them in the first place?
MR: What I find odd about pro wrestling right now is when AEW started, there was a honeymoon period where it’s like, ‘Yes, there is a number two promotion in the United States again, that is gonna be great for the athletes.’ Because there are more options, which means more money for everyone. The products always get better. If history is any indication, it will be better for the fans if there’s competition. And it has been better for the fans. Yet there just seems to be a lot of negativity.
SJ: Because online fandom isn’t about sharing an experience with somebody. It’s about being right. It’s about having a point of view and then finding every tidbit or morsel to support that point of view and hammering away against the other people who may have an opposing point of view. It’s a different type of fandom that I think people don’t recognize, and it’s not really about the product, the fighters, or people in general. It’s just about beating this other person at the other end of the Twitter handle, or whatever it may be. That’s really what it boils down to. I best sum it up this way. I’ve never heard somebody say, ‘Man, I really changed a lot of people’s minds with that tweet.’
MR: You go way back with MMA. Please share your best Tito Ortiz story from training with Team Punishment back in Huntington Beach, California.
SJ: I wish I could. A lot of that stuff shouldn’t be talked about. Mostly just pranks and stuff. You need a lot of backstory to understand why it was a prank. But always funny times, having cops getting called in the locker room. Maybe a coach or two getting arrested, but not really. Stuff like that. ‘Hey, last night, we got this report, heard you did something weird.’ And, of course, police will come in, maybe grab said coach, walk him outside, and finally, he’ll get it, ‘Oh, you guys are messing with me.’
MR: Best John Cena story from the UPW independent wrestling days in Southern California.
SJ: People think that the freestyling started in WWE, but all that started back in the day, on road trips up to Northern California and John going on freestyle raps for hours at a time. I mean, just going off. We’d have whatever evening mix, the drive time mix that would be on, and we’d be driving up to San Francisco, and John would just be killing it. The brother can rap.
MR: You got a shout-out recently by DJ Whoo Kid. He was backstage at Wembley Stadium and saw the incident before your match against CM Punk (which led to his firing from AEW) at All In. What happened with CM Punk and Jack Perry?
SJ: There was a little bit of an incident. We got it broken up. We went out there and wrestled, man. That’s the gist of it. Everybody wants it to be a lot more than what it is, but that’s what it was. And to speak any more on it would be pointless unless you’re trying to get a scorecard and stuff — but trust me, it wasn’t that type of a fight.
MR: It wasn’t a big deal?
SJ: Not to me. I’ve seen fights break out. Stuff happens. But again, that’s me. I’ve been in these situations, I’ve seen that. I’ll find it funny when people are like, ‘Oh, Joe’s cool with it.’ I mean, nah man, it was a high-stress situation. Sure. But I mean, it’s one I’ve seen happen many times. We get it squashed out. We had a show to do. We had [81,035] fans waiting out there. And that was my focus, because that’s what it was about at that moment. We’re about to go out and have the best night of our lives.
MR: Many people were saying you were the voice of reason.
SJ: Hey, listen, we all understood that there was something to be done. There was a mission ahead of us and everybody just got focused. And hey, if I was a part of that, cool. But my intention was to get out there and get this show on the road.