In a surprising tweet, Samoa Joe announced his departure from TNA Wrestling:
I have decided to part ways with @ImpactWrestling. My very best to them moving forward, and my eternal thanks to the fans.
— Samoa Joe (@SamoaJoe) February 17, 2015
Joe made his debut in TNA in 2005 as a major independent acquisition, formerly the top star of Ring of Honor. Original speculation and rumour was that Samoa Joe would be signing with the WWE along with CM Punk and that the Umaga gimmick worked by Eddie “Jamal” Fatu was going to be his. Instead of working through the WWE development, Samoa Joe made an immediate impact in TNA.
After close to 10 years with the company, Joe has done absolutely everything possible in TNA Wrestling. He’s one of the most decorated champions of all time, winning the X Championship five times, Tag championship twice, the defunct Television championship and the TNA World heavyweight championship. He has main evented pay per views and along with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels participated in the only Wrestling Observer five star match in TNA history on September 11, 2005. Joe has been a good guy, bad guy and everything in between.
It’s because of this that his departure makes a lot of sense. At 35 years old there’s an expectation to just stick around for the rest of your career and hope to move on to something else but it’s also a perfect age to get the last decade or so of your career miles complete. Joe has looked more energized as a member of the BDC than he has in years in the company but that isn’t saying much. TNA Wrestling hasn’t looked ready to commit to Samoa Joe as a main event player in quite a long time. Part of the reason seems to be a fluctuating weight that could be a part of an injury problem. Any time Joe returns to the company from an injury his weight is down and he looks energized and his old self. A couple months go by and Joe usually puts on some weight and suddenly his matches start slowing down. There has been a couple of times in his TNA career where Joe didn’t look like a guy moving at 100%. I don’t think that’s really his fault but the limitations caused by numerous injuries. Nobody can give 100% like the Samoan Suplex Machine but when injuries hamper you, it leads to everything looking less than desired.
The first question anyone would ask is if he’s going to head to the WWE. While his friend CM Punk is no longer there, there’s still a lot of old friends like Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins up at the top of the card. It has always been a dream of WWE fans to see Samoa Joe in the company but I don’t see that as his next direction at all. Joe has said in interviews that the WWE schedule never would have worked for him based on how close he likes to be to his family. Unless something has changed in that regard I don’t see him trying out. There’s also the issue of the WWE likely trying to re-invent him and having him work in NXT despite being a major name in the business and the health/weight problems I’ve already discussed. WWE doesn’t seem to make much sense.
I’ll toss the possibility out there of Mixed Martial Arts and say it all depends on if Joe is serious and if he drops a lot of weight. I could definitely see him on The Ultimate Fighter but at 35 it’s a risk. Plus if he wanted to go that way I’d bet Lashley would have already hooked him up with contacts to Bellator MMA. I’m likely over speculating.
The more likely scenario has Joe following in the footsteps of the original face of TNA: AJ Styles. Styles left TNA and went ahead to work in New Japan Pro Wrestling and all over the world, becoming the most coveted free agent on the market. By working the independents, Japan and Ring of Honor, Styles kept himself profitable, healthy and fresh. His work in Bullet Club and New Japan has kept him a top name in the company without sacrificing an inch of his dignity by signing a low-ball offer from WWE. If Samoa Joe gets himself in shape he can work ROH, PWG, NJPW, Mexico and more and stay a top draw in the business. There’s plenty of places for him to work and still be a top draw and more importantly, give him time off the road whenever he wants to keep in shape. I know it sounds like I’m harping on his size so much (What’s a Joe gonna do, he’s Samoan!) but Joe has had size issues in the past. The size isn’t about what looks good for a wrestler but for his health. Ever since he took that stupid stair bump at Bound For Glory against Sting he’s never been able to keep his weight down like he used to. If Joe wants to make money on the independents, he’s gonna need to stay in shape. Last thing he needs to do is go down the path of Chris Hero physically. It would wreck him as a financial draw in the long term.
While TNA might seem like they are losing another big name, it wasn’t a big name they had any plans to utilize beyond reminding people of the great matches Joe and Angle used to have a near decade ago. It never really felt like he had any direction and by cutting the BDC down by a member they can do a better job focusing it on MVP, Kenny King, Low-Ki and Eric Young. Strength might be in numbers but focusing those numbers to a better digit helps keep it tight. There’s always the possibility of bringing back Homicide for the BDC if they needed an extra member. Joe was one of the best paid talents in the company and letting him go could make room for someone fresh like the soon to debut Drew Galloway or the company looking into bringing AJ Styles back for a special event. When Alberto El Patron wraps up in Ring of Honor he might have some available time between AAA and Lucha Underground to come in as well. While one could say TNA missed the boat on not using him in a bigger capacity against the likes of Lashley and Roode, I think a release like this says everything we need to hear on whether Joe was ready to do something like another top run. If Joe was ready to commit, he wouldn’t be announcing his departure on Twitter. And TNA needs guys ready and willing to fight for their new direction.
It’s interesting to see who was once one of the biggest names in North American independent wrestling history finally become a free agent, not so long after the same happened to a man he was often tied to in CM Punk. If anything, I look forward to Punk and Joe sitting in Colt Cabana’s studio apartment and laughing about the good old days. This should be good for Joe, good for TNA and ultimately good for professional wrestling.
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