In this exclusive interview, TNA Wrestling’s Samoa Joe talks to Guru Magazine about wrestling criticism, international expansion, and managing his hard-hitting style!
A couple of weeks ago, a world-first happened here in the UK.
You may not have heard about it at the time, but at London’s Wembley Arena in late January, one of the world’s largest professional wrestling organisations, TNA Wrestling, filmed its flagship television show Impact in front of a record crowd.
What’s that you say – professional wrestling?
Yes, I know it’s not a typical subject matter here at Guru Magazine – but a not-very-well-kept secret about me is that I have been a fan of the sport (or ‘sports entertainment’ as it’s more commonly referred to these days), for over 20 years – and have spent each and every one of those years fending off well-meaning jibes, comments and criticism from my friends and peers – which has only increased as I have gotten older and haven’t “grown out of it”.
Watching professional wrestling continues to be a huge passion of mine, and in a future issue of Guru, I will be looking to explore the Science Behind Wrestling – refuting some of the preconceptions that exist about the industry and explaining why, to me and many others around the globe, there is no greater art-form on the planet. And yes, before you say it, I’m well aware that the outcomes are predetermined!
To do this, I’m going to talk with some of the most-respected names in the world of professional wrestling, and recently I had the opportunity to interview Samoa Joe – a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion whose hard-hitting style has earned him plaudits from fans around the world and an international reputation as one of the very best in the business today.
Having wrestled for over a decade for organisations including Japan’s Pro Wrestling Zero1 and Pro Wrestling Noah, as well as Ring of Honor in the United States, Joe has been a mainstay for TNA Wrestling since 2005, during which time he has held all major championships for the organisation, including the prestigious World Heavyweight Title.
Here’s what the man himself had to say:
GURU MAGAZINE: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Going all the way back to the beginning, why did you decide to become a wrestler in the first place?
SAMOA JOE: It was an odd set of circumstances. I’d called a gym wanting to work out – I’d done judo for a long time, and I called in and ju-jitsu was a kind of a hot thing at the time. The trainer at the gym [encouraged me to] try the pro wrestling school there; I did and it was fun and I took to it.
It started out as a ‘wacky hobby’ that I didn’t think much of and I wasn’t aspiring to much at the time, but within the span of a couple of years, I found myself in Japan working full-time, and I then realised: this is a great living, this is a lot of fun, and I enjoy what I’m doing, so I became a pro wrestler.
GURU MAGAZINE: Wrestling gets quite a lot of criticism in the mainstream media. Do you feel that, as a professional wrestler, you have to frequently defend what you do for a living?
SAMOA JOE:Obviously during the ‘Attitude era’ [regarded as the industry’s most popular period, when in the late 1990s anti-heroes such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock reigned supreme] and even now we have pushed the borders on controversial topics and we do all kinds of things that the general populus may not like … but you’d be hard pressed to watch most TV nowadays and not find the same thing.
Is [wrestling] the greatest moral compass and example of how to live your life? Absolutely not, because we solve almost everything through violence! But at the same time, if you’re looking at it that seriously, then I think you’re missing the plot.
GURU MAGAZINE: You have a very hard-hitting style. Have you had to adapt this style when moving from promotion to promotion around the world?
SAMOA JOE: Not really. I think when companies hire me they know what they are hiring, and they get me for that reason. I think the biggest change that I’ve made is that I make an effort not to do things that some people may not be able to defend themselves against – but that’s more along the lines of professional courtesy. There hasn’t been much adaptation whatsoever for me to be honest – they hired me to be a hard-hitting, no-nonsense ass-kicker and that’s what I tend to be!”
GURU MAGAZINE: You currently, of course, wrestle for TNA Wrestling, which has just completed this historic UK tour. Where do you think the company will be in five years time?
SAMOA JOE: I think five years from now, TNA will still be doing well and thriving, and will have more of an international presence around the world. For all of the criticism that people like to levy against the company – I’ve heard “it’ll be dead in five years, six years, whatever” – every year we’ve grown, every year we’ve expanded and we’ve forged ahead into new markets – the UK, now India [with new promotion Ring Ka King], and that trend will continue. I think anybody that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves – and we’ll be more than happy to prove you wrong!
This coming Sunday, Samoa Joe teams with a face that some of our UK readers will no doubt recognise – Nick ‘Magnus’ Aldis, who formerly competed in ITV’s Gladiators show as Oblivion. The pair will challenge for the Tag Team Championships on the upcoming Against All Odds show – but does that mean that Joe’s days as a singles competitor are over?
“The proudest moment of my career so far was winning the world heavyweight championships [back in 2008]” says Joe, “for a bevy of reasons, but first and foremost that it was from an athlete [1996 Olympic Gold Medallist Kurt Angle] that is world-renowned and world class and one of the very best in the game. I look forward to replicating that success in the future”.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview and would like to see for youself what it’s all about, head on over to impactwrestling.com to watch Joe in action.
And if I still haven’t convinced you to give wrestling a try, keep an eye out for The Science Behind Wrestling – coming soon to Guru Magazine. You wouldn’t dare miss it!