It was a long time coming, over two years since being promoted to be exact, but Samoa Joe, NXT‘s first-ever two-time champion, has finally won his first main roster title. On Tuesday night, the Samoan Submission Machine, after being one of three members of the SmackDown Live roster to answer R-Truth‘s United States Championship Open Challenge, pinned one of the participants, Andrade, to claim the title.
On January 30, 2017, Samoa Joe made his non-NXT, WWE debut, and immediately established himself as a destroyer. Joe, who aligned with Triple H during the King vs Kingslayer feud, decimated Seth Rollins, and that was just the beginning. In the ensuing weeks, Samoa Joe went on to pick up victories against Roman Reigns (his first main roster victory), Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho. He didn’t lose his first singles match with the company until three months later, losing to Rollins at Payback. Following the feud with Rollins, it didn’t take long for Joe to go right back to where he was before, winning matches against Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt. At Extreme Rules in May 2017, he defeated four of his former rivals, besting Wyatt, Balor, Reigns and Rollins to earn the #1 contendership at the Universal Championship. Less than five months after his WWE debut, Joe received his first world title shot. He picked up additional victories over Rollins and Reigns leading up to his title match against Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire.
While Samoa Joe didn’t win, his momentum stayed strong and he received a second shot alongside Reigns and Braun Strowman in a fatal-4-way at SummerSlam. Once again, Lesnar was victorious and it was Reigns who ate the pin. Joe moved into a program with Balor, went on to help Raw win its Survivor Series men’s match against Team SmackDown, and joined the Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) in a feud against Dean Ambrose, Jason Jordan and Rollins. From there, Joe moved into a program with Reigns over the Intercontinental Championship, but he was unable to capture the title. Samoa Joe wrestled his last match for Raw a little less than a year after his debut, picking up a victory over Rhyno on January 8, 2018. Taking some time off due to injury, Joe returned three months later, a member of the SmackDown roster.
Much like he had on Raw, Joe was shown to be a monster, but he also continued to be the guy who just couldn’t get it done. Joe got one last shot at the Intercontinental title at April’s Greatest Royal Rumble, losing in a fatal-4-way ladder match against Balor, Miz and reigning champion, Rollins. Another ladder match awaited as Joe qualified alongside seven other wrestlers to take part in the co-branded Money in the Bank ladder match. Again, Joe found himself on the losing end of things.
Samoa Joe was somewhat directionless after that, leading up to his first opportunity at the WWE Championship, against old familiar rival, AJ Styles. The two, who engaged in a personal feud where Joe criticized Styles as a husband and father, insinuating he was having a relationship with Styles’ wife, wrestled at Hell in a Cell, Super Show-Down, Crown Jewel and Starrcade. All of which were won by the reigning champion. After losing four title matches in a row, Joe moved into a feud with Jeff Hardy, mocking Hardy for his substance abuse past, and newcomer, Mustafa Ali. Joe then took part in the Royal Rumble but lost, and later went on to challenge new champion, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston, Hardy and Styles in the most recent PPV, Elimination Chamber. You guessed it, Samoa Joe fell short yet again.
That very concept of Joe not being able to get it done was brought up as Joe was interviewed following his United States title victory. But Joe addressed it in the most eloquent way possible saying what some may have viewed as him not being able to get it done, was merely that of the rest of the roster having their prayers answered. Samoa Joe made sure to let the entire locker room know that he has no trouble making them go night-night if they step up to challenge him. And while he didn’t name drop anyone in the locker room, Joe did make sure to say that he doesn’t respect those in the back and he especially doesn’t respect John Cena. Rather, his opponents will face disrespect for having the “audacity to come from the king and his crown.”
As United States Champion, R-Truth had been using a Cena-inspired gimmick, bringing back the weekly open challenges and talking about how Cena was his mentor. Truth even adopted the WWJCD mantra – “What would John Cena do?” In his first open challenge, Truth prevailed against Andrade and Mysterio, but in his second, with three challengers, even his mentor couldn’t save him.
It is possible Samoa Joe invoking Cena’s name was merely in reference to Truth’s hero worship. It’s also possible that the current U.S. champion is looking for a marquee fight against Cena, one of the greatest U.S. champions in recent memory.
Cena only held the United States Championship for 147 days over five months during his fourth reign with the belt in 2015, but in that time he defended the title 15 times. Almost every week, Cena came out with the United States Championship Open Challenge, and challengers came from everywhere. Cena defended against established stars like Kane, Ambrose, Rusev, Stardust, Rollins, Zack Ryder, Bad News Barrett, and in back-to-back weeks against Cesaro. He also defended against new stars as both Zayn and Kevin Owens made their main roster debuts while answering Cena’s open challenges. Cena’s challenges brought prestige and excitement to the title, even though lengthwise for his reign doesn’t even rank in the top-15 of all-time.
Samoa Joe vs John Cena is certainly a dream match for many as for years, these two dominated their respective companies. But what some might not know is that the two wrestlers go all the way back to Ultimate Pro Wrestling, where both Joe and Cena got their starts in the early 2000s. The two wrestled a match, which Joe has said ultimately led to WWE signing their Prototype and turning him into one of the greatest sports entertainers of all-time. That match was the first and last, up until two live shows in 2017, that Cena and Joe have wrestled in a singles contest. In the ensuing 18 years, the two friends forged separate paths, Cena in WWE, Joe in Ring of Honor and TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. Both men became champions multiple times over, both left their marks on this industry.
— WWE (@WWE) March 6, 2019
In 2015, Samoa Joe joined WWE/NXT and two years later, made his way to the main roster. Since then, a singles feud with Cena has been on everyone’s minds, including the Samoan himself.
“It’s been 18 years, 18 years ago, myself and John Cena had a match and based off that match WWE inevitably hired him, and brought him along and I went my own separate way. It’s been 18 years since me and John have been in the ring together…John, you know, early in my carer, he’s been a close personal friend and we drove a lot of miles together, and it would be an absolute pleasure to reunite in the ring and once again, smash him in the face and take everything from him.”