Samoa Joe is one of the most decorated and respected professional wrestlers on the planet. Since his arrival on the WWE’s main roster after a successful two-year run in NXT, the star has been involved in several major storylines and this Sunday at “Backlash” will face off against longtime rival Roman Reigns.
Yahoo Sports spoke with Joe about his recent return from injury, his unique build to the match against Reigns, and about why he doesn’t need any validation from anyone at this point in his career.
In addition to discussing his wrestling accolades and future, Joe opened up about how we can and should better protect our youth online and often times think before we tweet.
Yahoo Sports: Since you’ve been back you’ve had to juggle a lot of different things. The Intercontinental title match at the “Greatest Royal Rumble,” your match this weekend with Roman Reigns at “Backlash,” and you’ve already laid a challenge down for the WWE championship. Has that been difficult?
Samoa Joe: Honestly I think I kind of brought it on myself. If anything I feel like I like to be ambitious. It is difficult in and of itself but it’s nothing that I wouldn’t have asked for.
Is it almost a sense of validation then that even after a few months away, you’re still in the main event picture?
To say that it would be validation would imply that I was seeking it and I wasn’t. I’ve always been aware of what I’ve been able to do and my ability to bring interest to a match and make people want to tune in and see. To find myself in this position now isn’t a surprise or anything that I felt was unexpected or unappreciated. It’s something that I knew I was always able to do. To go out there and be one of the main guys and be ambitious, it’s all part of the game now and now is the time for me to do it. I have the platform and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability.
Your match against Roman is unique in the sense that you’ve been around for so long, with different promotions, and took some time to get to WWE, while Roman is viewed by fans as this guy who is being force-fed to the top and handed everything. They’re treating you like the face and him like the heel, what’s that like for you?
I don’t think it’s anything I didn’t expect. I’m not out there lying to anybody. I’m out there telling the truth. You may not like the way I deliver the truth, you may take umbrage with the way I handle most of my conflicts, but that’s the way I do business. If we’re in a fight, we’re in a fight all of the time. It doesn’t stop just because the cameras are off. I’m going to come at you however I can. Roman knows how I play this game and its nothing he or the fans shouldn’t expect. It shocks me that people are still shocked that I behave this way.
When I spoke to Seth Rollins before the “Greatest Royal Rumble,” he specifically mentioned having you in the match made it more dangerous. Is that a word that sums up Samoa Joe, it is what you try and do every time you pick up a microphone or step into the ring?
Yes. I pretty much telegraph my intentions and then people are surprised when I act on them. There’s always infinitely more danger when I enter a situation because I will do whatever it takes to secure victory. It’s a real simple formula and I’ve always kind of prescribed to it so, Seth Rollins is absolutely right. If there’s a situation and I’m in it to, it’s definitely more dangerous.
Coming to “Smackdown Live,” you’re getting to play the role you fit perfectly as the “monster heel.” Who are you looking at for potential matches down the road?
You look up and down that roster and it’s a laundry list of a lot big-time matchups and a lot of first-time matchups. It starts with A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. Then it’s Randy Orton, it’s Rusev. I’ll fight both of The Bludgeon Brothers at the same time. You look at that locker room and you’d be hard pressed to find a match you wouldn’t want to see me in.
A few weeks ago you went on Twitter and spoke out against negativity that you see on the platform. Is that something you’re actively looking to fight against? Do you think we can change or is that kind of reaction just the way the world is now?
Every morning I wake up with my social media rife with hate, racism, etc. I can only shake my head when I realize at some point your going to have to explain those statements to people in your life that actually care.
— Samoa Joe (@SamoaJoe) April 22, 2018
I think a lot of people interpreted that in a fashion that I was really sad and took offense, but in reality, I didn’t take any offense at all. I’m a big believer in the idea that one of the greatest advantages we have here in the United States is freedom of expression and freedom of speech. You should be able to say whatever you want and I firmly believe that.
At the same time, when I see this negativity that is perpetuated online and is catalogued, saved and stored, and you see these young people making these mistakes now that later on in life they’re going to have to explain to people that care, whether it be a future employer, a family member, a grandchild. How do you want your legacy to be remembered? Do you want to be the old, angry racist grandpa or where you a kind, sharing, loving person. There’s going to be a digital catalogue of if you were that person or not and most likely that’s what they’re going to refer to. My thing is I can’t believe how many people are willfully going out there and making these mistakes now and it can haunt them forever.
We saw that in the NFL draft with Josh Allen.
Absolutely. It’s something I don’t think we think about enough, especially with our children, today. Being aware of their digital identity, being aware of what they’re exposed to. I think that’s just one more thing as human beings that we need to be aware of and keep the discussion open about. That’s what it’s really about, keeping the discussion open. I’m not admonishing people or telling people they’re doing anything wrong. What I’m saying is we’ve got to talk about it because it’s a real thing and it’s going to affect a lot of people.
You’re a big gamer, what are you playing at the moment?
I’ve been hijacked by “BattleTech.” It’s a turn-based strategy game on PC but I only have a few days before we start our next international job so that’s taking up most of my time.
A lot of people are playing “Fortnite,” do you or anyone else in the locker room play?
I play some “Fortnite” sometimes when I get home, I jump into a few games here and there, but it’s not my big thing. I think PUBG [Player Unknown’s BattleGround] is pretty popular, I know a few guys who are really into that, I play a little more of that than I do “Fortnite.” Trust me though, a lot of gamers in our locker room so they’re all up on the good stuff.
You also have a new “Transformers” cartoon out recently. Did you get to work in person with Mark Hamill and Ron Perlman?
We had to do a lot of recording in off-site studios and stuff, but a lot of the readings and the dialogue, getting to work with those dudes was cool, especially Mark Hamill. When you look at his work in animation he’s awesome. He’s a different level.
Was this your first time doing voice acting?
No, I have done a bit, mainly with video games. I did the Telltale “Game of Thrones” series. I voiced some stuff for “DotA” and will have some stuff coming up for them. It’s definitely a side hobby and it’s something I enjoy doing if I get the opportunity.
A photo of you wearing D.R.E.A.M. clothing circulated around the internet recently and they support mental health awareness. Is that a cause you try and champion frequently?
The clothing line was started by a friend of mine and it’s one of those things that I feel we need to get out there in the discussion. I know [WWE announcer] Mauro Ranallo is a big outspoken advocate and if you see his special on Showtime, it’s a real eye-opening piece. It’s something that I think the world needs to be talking about more so we can come to understand it better so it’s something that I’d love to see out there more in the international discussion.
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