Hello there TNA/Impact fans! My name is Robert Gunier and I am ecstatic to have been given this rare opportunity where I can write about something I am so passionate about. I plan to give you, the diehard wrestling fans, what you want! I have to admit that the majority of my knowledge is centered around WWE's history, but I was once a dedicated viewer of TNA/Impact and have once again been familiarizing myself with the brand. And what a brand it has become, too!
For my first article, I'd like to revisit Samoa Joe's early days in TNA and also analyze his seemingly “unexpected” departure from the company.
When I was a young chap (probably around ten or eleven-years-old), there came a day that I stumbled upon the “Fox Sports Network” and was introduced to the magic of Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. Up until that point I had only ever been exposed to the post-Attitude Era of World Wrestling Entertainment, and I will admit, it was an ignorant bliss that I am proud to have discontinued so early on in life. Not that WWE wasn't providing entertaining matches or story lines at that time, they absolutely were! But ever since the unpredictable and raunchy days of the Attitude Era have passed, some would arguably say that WWE hasn't delivered.
So there I sat, staring at the television set, mesmerized as this AJ Styles character (soon to be recognized as my hometown hero) effortlessly put on a wrestling clinic each week, perplexed as that oh-so-familiar painted face of Sting sought for justice, and covering my ears as this Jeff Jarrett guy ranted about how superior he was to everyone else. TNA/Impact wrestling was providing a televised alternative to WWE programming that stimulated a completely different audience. The independent scene fans. The fans who wanted fluid wrestling at a pace that consistently holds excitement.
Soon after the “Fox Sports Network” discontinued airing TNA/Impact and they had resorted to solely posting their episodes online, a Ring of Honor legend by the name of Samoa Joe made his debut in TNA/Impact Wrestling and forever shook the foundation of the company with his arrival. Joe would go on to be undefeated in TNA for eighteen months, having unparalleled matches with the likes of Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Sabu, Christian Cage, Jeff Jarrett, and so many more. A handful of these confrontations will forever be in the record books as some of the greatest matches of our time (especially Daniels vs. Styles vs. Samoa Joe at Unbreakable 2005). That is how damn good of a performer Joe was and still strives to be!
Joe would eventually suffer his first loss to a debuting Kurt Angle at Genesis 2006, setting up one of the greatest rivalries I have ever personally watched as a lifelong fan. With every following battle between Angle and Joe, you could tell that both men wanted to outshine their previous performance and maintain suspense for the entire audience. I sit here nearly shaking with excitement as I reminisce on the 30-minute Ironman match that was billed as their final confrontation (of course we would see many more in the decade to follow).
For your sake, my dear readers, I won't continue to elaborate on the extensive successes of Samoa Joe (such as his 5 unforgettable reigns as X-Divsion Champion, or his status as essentially being one of the founders of the X-Division, or his dominant reign as one of TNA's greatest World Champions of all time, or his show stealing feuds that forced the spotlight to dim on main event matches). Joe has done it all in Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling and I am honestly relieved that he is leaving his incomparable legacy to rest as opposed to sitting stagnant in the uninteresting angles and mistreatment of the vicious character he once was.
That raises my final question: is anyone genuinely shocked Joe finally departed from TNA? They've been abusing his world-class wrestling skills with ridiculous, uninspired gimmicks and always halt plans when it seems his character is re-capturing some credibility (remember his chase for the X-Division title late last year? I was hyped for this 'rebirth' of sorts that Joe was hinting at.) This mistreatment could possibly tarnish his early, historic matches for the young wrestling fans who have yet to bare witness to such excellence. That may be the biggest crime of all.
So what is next for Joe? Perhaps a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment? Perhaps a return to the Ring of Honor? Perhaps a retirement from the industry as a whole and instead spending time with his family? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain – Joe remains one of Professional Wrestling's hottest free agents. His age may be a concern (36 in wrestling years is ancient status), but his ability is undeniable. He, along with very few others, became the indefinite face of TNA/Impact Wrestling for nearly a decade and I can only hope he's given his rightful main event treatment wherever he plans to commit.
Written By: Robert J. Gunier