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Samoa Joe shouldn’t be just another guy

It certainly was by no fault of his own, but WWE’s usage of Joe on his first night in the RAW ring was questionable.

I’m so tired of writing the same thing over and over again, so I’m going to cut through the weeds and get right past this first point quickly. I hate WWE’s nonchalant attitude towards novelty. Watching Samoa Joe actually engage in a wrestling match with Roman Reigns last night on RAW was nauseating, because it’s yet another pairing that isn’t sacred.

Folks, that could easily be a major WrestleMania match, but instead it’s thrown on TV as if WWE has competition and is trying to upstage Eric Bischoff. It may come as news to Vince McMahon, but he won the war. He’s told us this fact about 80,000 times over the past 15 years. So why does he have to try and win a ratings battle every week? I understand big RAW shows, but this one already had an advertised appearance from Bill Goldberg.

Samoa Joe debuted eight days ago, and already he’s been put in a main event match with Roman Reigns. He absolutely deserves that spot, but he also deserves better than what he received last night. He wasn’t buried, he wasn’t undercut, but a bout with Roman Reigns and Joe should get some kind of build. It’s too big a one-on-one contest to just hand to the fans so quickly, especially when WWE loves to run every program it has into the ground. Here’s a fresh match, one that can be TEASED but not actually done - building anticipation for it down the road - but instead we get 12 minutes and a distraction finish.

One positive is it makes Samoa Joe a player in the eyes of the fans who never watched TNA, Ring of Honor, or NXT. Those people now know he matters, in the same way Finn Balor arrived on the scene on the first post-draft RAW show. However, for some reason, this one feels different, because I never expected a Balor/Reigns program in the short term. Here, you have the dominant heel, the new full-time Brock Lesnar, and we’ve already seen him in the ring with the “Big Dog.” Doesn’t that just feel like it should be special?

Maybe Balor should have been as well, but there’s a gigantic difference between Balor/Reigns and Joe/Reigns.

The stakes.

That match was for an opportunity to face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam, with the brand new Universal Championship as the prize. Last night’s match was for absolutely nothing. It was just a wrestling exhibition. It was a good one, one we wanted to see, but there was no purpose past the main event of THAT show. And, in the end, it was about Braun Strowman-Roman Reigns, not Samoa Joe-Roman Reigns. If it ends up a three-way at FastLane, so be it, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The match was solid, Joe was outstanding, and the crowd got into it, but let’s talk briefly about the finish. Media members were just tripping all over each other to pat WWE on the back for giving Joe a strong first night in the ring. There are some real bootlickers out there, who never say anything negative, but in this case, I don’t think they were lying to themselves. I honestly think they believe Samoa Joe came off like a superstar last night.

They’re not wrong, right up until the climax was almost identical to Bayley’s against Nia Jax. If you don’t think Bay left Portland better off than she arrived, it’s mainly because WWE promoted a Championship rematch and then we saw her get beaten up for 75% of a match, before she made a comeback and lost because she was distracted.

There was zero reason to include Nia yet.

If you’re advertising a “big” title rematch, put the challenger over on her final appearance before the match. Just put her in there with any other woman, sans Sasha (I know that list is awfully small) and give her a win. Then, if you want Charlotte to try and attack her, great. Or, let Charlotte try, and have Bayley outsmart her. Nia will be a part of the Mania angle, but here she just confused the situation and left everyone wondering what the hell Bayley’s role is.

That sounds awfully similar to Joe ending up in the middle of Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman.

Joe assaulted Roman during the entrance and beat him half to death, then after the break, the bell rang and it was as if both men were on an even playing field again.

The point of Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns was to give the newcomer a rub and to continue the Strowman push leading into the PPV. That’s perfectly fine, but allow me to present an alternate method for accomplishing both. Go ahead and announce Joe and Roman, but never actually ring the bell or do much with them. Roman gets attacked during his entrance, but it’s by Strowman, not by Joe. The latter can then casually walk down the ramp and help in the assault, or he can just stand by and watch Braun do all the work.

The key here is to tease Joe’s debut in the ring, but not actually provide it. Save it, make people want it, but make sure he’s involved enough to satiate the audience. He could have just attacked Reigns, out comes Foley and a fleet of security, and they force him out. Then have Strowman come out and pick the bones. Whatever you do, just don’t do the match. There are so many ways to avoid a bell-to-bell confrontation between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns, but instead, WWE just went ahead and did it.

Samoa Joe should not be treated as if he’s just another guy. He’s got too much upside, has shown too much ability from a charisma perspective - matching his superb ring work - and he’s generally a bad ass on camera. You’ve got all the opportunity in the world to create the next Brock Lesnar with Joe, or you can create the next Rusev (another guy who could and should be in the main event scene).

Some will write me or tweet me and say, “What do you want? They called him up and he’s in the main event? What will make you happy? That was awesome.” I believe I’ll be in the minority with this position, but I’m willing to stand there alone if need be. I’m thrilled Joe is where he deserves to be. He’s going to be such a good thing for WWE over the next few years. He’s tremendous. But that’s not the question, and it’s not the argument.

What I want, and I don’t think this is too much to ask, is for WWE to recognize how to make someone an attraction. Samoa Joe “injured” Seth Rollins in week one, then cut a promo last night gloating about it and promising to do the same to others. That’s fantastic stuff. So, let him attack Roman, but don’t put him in the ring with Roman. By the way, that’s not even mentioning the problems with making Joe a heel by having him in a match with the most unpopular babyface in recent memory.

Reigns vs. Joe DEMANDS the big stage. That’s why it was a good, but not great night for Joe. He didn’t look like a chump. But, he could have been protected a bit more. Make people go to the WWE Network to see this guy wrestle for the first time. Promote the hell out of it and make it count. Last night was not a failure, but it spoiled another “first” in a very reactionary, unnatural way. Just slow the hell down. Savor every bite. It’s potentially huge.

We don’t have to get to the finish line right now. Allow us to take the damn ride. After all, no other cars are even on the track. Even the NFL machine is in the pits right now. Be the shiny pace car. That’s all you have to do.

I don’t want “more” with Joe. I want patience with Joe. I want intelligence with Joe. I want him to make Lesnar less necessary for WWE. Here’s a full-time guy who isn’t going to win a title and disappear for four months.

Brock is an amazing entertainer, and his presence is unreal.

Joe can be that guy, not just “a guy,” for Vince McMahon every single week.

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