From his first comments after winning the AEW World championship at Worlds End two weeks ago, it was clear Samoa Joe was seeking the lead the promotion away from the chaos & drama it had become synonymous with over the past year and a half.
It wasn’t going to be easy. The Dec. 30 PPV and the post-event media scrum where Joe discussed his enthusiasm for a “new era” where somewhat overshadowed with insinuations of sexual misconduct behind the scenes at AEW. And this week, AEW owner Tony Khan has again made himself (and WWE’s Jinder Mahal) the talk of social media in an attempt to defend/promote his product.
But in a well-timed interview with Sports Illustrated, Joe again tries to get fans to focus on what happens in the ring and on-screen rather than on rumor podcasts and X/Twitter:
“I understand the world of professional wrestling. I’ve seen things work at a very high level, and I understand the type of people backstage that it takes for that to happen. I try to be that person.
“As champion, you’re the standard-bearer. I’m more than happy to take up that mantle. I really want to make a focus of getting the fans’ attention back on the conflict in the ring, and a lot of the petty stuff needs to melt away. Let’s get back to entertaining people.”
The 44 year old “wrestling lifer” has been with Ring of Honor, TNA/Impact, WWE, and elsewhere on the way to AEW, and says that everywhere he’s been he’s sought “to enrich that company”. For his current employer, he believes that involves getting people focused on kayfabe beefs rather than behind-the-scenes ones:
“My goal is to have really great matchups with extraordinary individuals, which we have in spades on this roster, and give fans a reason to tune in. Something is about to go down, and it’s going to be violent. That’s the vision I have for my reign, and I’m looking forward to executing it.”
Seems he might start that with a HOOK match that will suddenly have more attention on it than it might have before his boss’ angry tweets, but beyond that Joe talks about wanting to face Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, Swerve Strickland & Hangman Page. Outside the current roster, the champ was asked about New Japan’s current Ace (and potential free agent) Kazuchika Okada:
“He can come get it, too. That’s for anyone. If someone feels like they want it, then show up–and we’ll see what you’ve got. But if you come up lame, I will laugh in your face.”
I don’t know if Joe will be successful in getting the petty stuff to melt away at AEW. But I’m gonna enjoy watching him execute his violent plan.
Check out SI’s write-up of their interview with Samoa Joe here.