Samoa Joe. The Anoa’i family, which originates from American Samoa, has left their marks in the history books of professional wrestling. Members of the bloodline range from past legends like Yokozuna, The Wild Samoans, and Rikishi to today’s stars like Roman Reigns, The Usos, and Solo Sikoa and even honorary member The Rock.
Often confused as an Anoa’i family member due to his similar background, Samoa Joe has no relation to the family and is a first-generation wrestler.
Joe, the real-life Nuufolau Joel Seanoa, was raised in Orange County, California, and lived mainly in Huntington Beach; he also spent his childhood time in ʻEwa Beach, Hawaii. His family owned a Polynesian dance troupe in the U.S. called Tiare Productions.
At the age of five, Seanoa appeared in the opening of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In high school, he became a California State Junior Judo Champion and played football. Before becoming an international wrestling star, Seanoa worked as a mortgage broker.
Samoa Joe – Becoming The DestroyerSeanoa described himself as a very casual fan of wrestling while growing up. However, while searching for an MMA gym to join to get in shape, he stumbled across the UIWA West Coast Dojo and begin his journey towards becoming Samoa Joe.
After the MMA class, a pro wrestling class was starting up, which Joe’s trainer John Del La O suggested he try out. The future multi-time world champion was instantly hooked. Joe would train primarily under Cincinnati Red alongside Johnny Hemp and John Delayo before becoming the first graduate of the UIWA West Coast Dojo.
After only three months of training, Joe would make his in-ring debut in December 1999 in a match against “Uncle” Jess Hansen. Joe would begin to come into his own against his former trainer Red.
“I began working against Red a lot. It seemed wherever Red was booked, they always asked him to bring an opponent, and he usually brought me because A) He was very familiar with what I could do and B) He knew I could take a hell of a beating and would not complain.”
– Samoa Joe, in an interview with SoCalUNCENSORED
Joe’s match with Red would get him noticed by former WWF developmental affiliate Ultimate Pro Wrestling. Upon signing with UPW, Joe would feud with friend John Cena and appear on WWF Jakked against Essa Rios. Within six months, Joe would capture the UPW No Holds Barred Championship and would later become the longest reigning UPW Heavyweight Champion ever.
In June 2001, Joe would make his way to Japan, debuting for Pro Wrestling ZERO1 and training extensively at the Fujiwara Gumi under the submission wrestling master Yoshiaki Fujiwara. He’d also begin wrestling for the southern California-based PWG, where he’d feud with Super Dragon.
Samoa Joe – Champion of HonorSamoa Joe joined the east coast-based Ring of Honor ROH in 2022, making his debut at Glory by Honor as Christopher Daniels’ hired assassin. Originally Joe was booked for only one match against Daniels’ rival Low Ki; Joe would impress ROH fans with his martial arts strong style of wrestling, leading to ROH booking him full-time.
Samoa Joe would defeat Xavier on March 22, 2003, to become the ROH World Champion. Joe would hold the title for 21 months, cementing himself as the longest-reigning ROH World Champion.
He would become a face of the company any elevate the title with high-profile matches against the likes of Daniels, CM Punk, and AJ Styles. His second in a trilogy of title defenses against Punk became the first American match in seven years to receive a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. The reign would end at 2004’s Final Battle at the hands of Austin Aries.
Joe would rebound from this loss in May 2005 by defeating his on-screen protégé Jay Lethal to become ROH’s fifth Pure Champion. He would hold the title for three months, losing it to Nigel McGuinness at Dragon Gate Invasion.
Joe Vs. Kobashi
As ROH’s top star, Joe was selected to wrestle Japanese superstar Kenta Kobashi in a pair of matches during a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to the U.S. The two would face off in both a singles and tag-team match, the one-on-one bout earning another 5-star rating from Meltzer as well as Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s award for match of the year.
Joe was chosen to represent ROH in their war against Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) in a five-on-five match at Death before Dishonor IV. The Samoan Submission Machine helped ROH dominate the match before being attacked by teammate Bryan Danielson.
Joe would once again find himself in the ROH world title picture, coming up short in a series of matches against Danielson, including a 60-miinute draw, with the final being a cage match. He’d next feud with Takeshi Morishima of the Pro Wrestling NOAH promotion.
On January 31, 2007, Joe announced he’d no longer be a full-time ROH competitor after March 4. He’d compete in a “Samoa Joe Farewell Tour” leading up to that date, culminating with a win against Homicide on his final night.
The former ROH World Champion would make a one-night return at 2008’s Rising Above event to take on Tyler Black, the future Seth Rollins.
Samoa Joe – Making an ImpactOn June 14, 2005, Joe was revealed to have signed with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). He’d debut five days later at Slammiversary, defeating Sonjay Dutt and being officially given his “Samoan Submission Machine” moniker and beginning an 18-month winning streak.
Joe entered the Christopher Daniels Invitational Super X Cup, winning the finals at Sacrifice against AJ Styles with an aid from Daniels. As a result, Daniels was forced to defend his title against both Joe and Styles in a triple threat match. This match would be remembered by TNA fans for years to come, being dubbed as the promotion’s one and only 5-star match. Although he didn’t win the match, Joe remained undefeated as Styles pinned Daniels.
Joe would sideline Daniels with a level-3 concussion induced by his Muscle Buster finisher. This prompted Styles to challenge Joe to a title match at Turning Point. Joe would emerge victorious and capture his first of many championships in TNA.
Daniels and Joe would come to blows in a championship match at Final Resolution; the bout concluded when Styles threw in the towel for Daniels to prevent Joe from injuring him further. The three would once again face off in a triple threat Ultimate X match at Destination X.
Joe’s undefeated streak would continue to defeat the very best TNA had to offer, including Sabu, Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Abyss, and Raven.
At 2006’s Genesis pay-per-view, Joe would face off with the newly arrived Kurt Angle, suffering his first loss to the Olympic gold medalist. The two would trade wins over each other throughout 2006 and 2007. At Destination X 2007, Joe would unsuccessfully challenge Christian Cage for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
At Victory Road, Joe and Angle would defeat Team 3D for the TNA Tag Team Championships. Joe, while also holding the X Division Championship, would challenge Angle for his TNA World Championship and IWGP World Championship with all the gold on the line; Joe would, however, lose the match and his titles.
Samoa Joe, who at the time was legitimately upset with TNA management and strongly considered not resigning with the promotion, would feud with Kevin Nash. Joe would form an alliance with Nash and Cage to go against Angle’s faction, the Angle Alliance.
After taking out the faction, Joe would defeat Angle at Lockdown 2008 to win his first TNA World Championship and become the promotion’s third Triple Crown Champion. He’d defend the title successfully against the likes of Steiner, Kaz, and Booker T on his way to surpassing Angle as the longest reigning TNA World Champion.
In his nearly decade-long run with the company, Joe would become a Grand Slam Champion and have memorable matches with the likes of Magnus, Chris Sabin, and Christian Cage on top of his previously mentioned bouts.
Samoa Joe – The Right Hand of DestructionAfter departing TNA and making a few return appearances for ROH, Joe signed with WWE. He’d debut at the conclusion of NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable to confront Kevin Owens.
His first TakeOver match would come at TakeOver: Brooklyn when The Destroyer would defeat Baron Corbin. Joe would next team with Finn Balor to win the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic tournament before turning heel and feuding with the likes of Balor, Sami Zayn, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Joe’s feud with Nakamura would see him become the brand’s first two-time NXT Champion before unsurprisingly being moved to WWE’s main roster.
On the January 30th, 2017, episode of Raw, Joe made his debut, attacking Seth Rollins from behind and aligning himself with Triple H as his Destroyer.
On the WWE’s main roster, Joe would unsuccessfully challenge for both the WWE Championship and the Universal Championship on several occasions. His only taste of main roster gold came in the form of two United States Championships.
Contending for Multiple Titles
Raw and Smackdown offered Joe fresh opponents like Brock Lesnar, The Shield, Rey Mysterio, and Kofi Kingston, on top of the opportunity to mix it up with familiar foes like AJ Styles.
Unfortunately, much of Joe’s tenure on the main roster would be spent on the sidelines due to recurring injuries. After a stint at the commentary booth, Joe was released by the WWE on April 15, 2021.
Two months later, and Triple H would go out of his way to get Joe back under contract for the NXT brand.
Joe returned as the enforcer of NXT GM William Regal before quickly returning to active competition. The Samoan Submission Machine defeated Karrion Kross to become the first and only three-time NXT Champion at TakeOver 36.
Before Joe could defend the title once, it was announced he’d relinquish the title on September 12, 2021, due to an unspecified injury. It would later be revealed that Joe had tested positive for COVID-19, although the change more than likely came from Vince McMahon as NXT began to transition into the NXT 2.0 era. After not appearing on television for months, Joe was again released on January 6, 2022.
Samoa Joe – All EliteOn April 1, 2022, Joe returned to ROH, which had recently been purchased by All Elite Wrestling co-founder and president Tony Khan. At Supercard of Honor XV, Joe came to the aid of ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham and Lee Moriarty as Sonjay Dutt and Jay Lethal were attacking them.
Joe would make his AEW debut on the April 6 episode of Dynamite, defeating Max Caster of The Acclaimed to qualify for the upcoming Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. One week later on, Dynamite and Joe would defeat Minoru Suzuki to become ROH World TV Champion.
With a destined ROH World TV Championship defense against his former protégée Lethal, a first-round matchup with a mystery joker entrant in the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament, and a slew of mouth-watering dream matches on the horizon; the 22-year veteran is not showing any signs of slowing down.