Nothing can last forever. Not even Samoa Joe’s tenure in Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH).
Perhaps the single greatest wrestler ROH has ever seen is on his farewell tour with the company, set to culminate on March 4 in the United Kingdom.
As a fan of ROH since August 2005, I cannot personally attest to having seen Samoa Joe during his best years with the Northeast’s most popular independent wrestling promotion. I did not see his incredible run with the ROH World Title that lasted from March 22, 2003 to Dec. 26, 2004, when he lost the belt to Austin Aries. And I was not a fan during the trilogy between Samoa Joe and CM Punk, who is perhaps the only ROH legend that even compares in significance to Samoa Joe – though I did view those amazing bouts recently on video and can understand why they are so highly praised.
And while Punk now bides his time in World Wrestling Entertainment on its ECW brand, Samoa Joe has catapulted almost into the main event picture with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, the promotion essentially responsible for Samoa Joe deciding to end his tenure with ROH.
During the August 2005 event called “Night of the Grudges II,” which was my first live experience with ROH, Samoa Joe put the now-defunct PURE Title on the line against “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels. Since both competitors were already in TNA and I had seen both of them in action, this provided a comfort zone for me while viewing a different promotion for the first time. And just like they did during their matches in TNA, Samoa Joe and Daniels proved why they are two of the top talents the professional wrestling business has to offer today.
Throughout the months that followed that event, Joe played a variety of different roles with ROH, and his status with the company as a legend was already decided. He faced off against Japanese star Kenta Kobashi in a match many credited as the Match of the Year. He became a factor in the CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling) vs. ROH war that played out for about six months during 2006. And he went on the hunt to become ROH’s first two-time ROH World Title holder, but came up short in perhaps his last shot at the belt against the new face of ROH, Homicide, on Jan. 27 in Edison, N.J.
Samoa Joe is not permanently removing himself from ROH. He is, instead, taking his name off of the active roster. That means there’s a solid chance that Samoa Joe will still make appearances with the company. They will not be frequent and will simply be spot appearances if they ever do occur. But there is the prospect that fans will get to see Samoa Joe at least one more time in an ROH ring.
As I said before, it is believed TNA is heavily behind Samoa Joe’s decision to leave ROH. With him getting a strong push, currently on the edge of being a true main event player, TNA wants him completely focused on its promotion and doesn’t want him to be involved in the storylines of other companies, at least according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider and Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer.
While this may come off as a bit selfish to disheartened ROH fans, it must be understood that TNA comes first for these wrestlers. With more money and more exposure in TNA, wrestlers have too much on the line to avoid the company’s request to leave an independent federation. And with so much invested in Samoa Joe, TNA has the right to want him all to itself.
Samoa Joe is being groomed as a future NWA Heavyweight Champion and that will likely come much sooner than later. TNA doesn’t want to take any chances with him, especially since he has not exactly been injury-free throughout his career. Getting him off of the ROH active roster is one way to ensure TNA gets the best possible Samoa Joe it can. Fans don’t have to like it, but they must accept and respect that part of the business.
What this does, however, is allow more time and roster space for the other budding stars of ROH to display their talents. Wrestlers like Delirious, Roderick Strong, Brent Albright, Jack Evans, Jimmy Rave and Chris Hero have room to move up on the depth chart with the absence of Samoa Joe, who consistently participated in top matches on ROH’s cards. Maybe one of them can step up and become another legend of ROH.
Besides, there have always been big stars that eventually had to leave ROH. And even if they were never as big as Samoa Joe – outside of CM Punk – ROH always managed to find a way to put out a quality product every single night.
Samoa Joe is irreplaceable, but his farewell tour does not mean the demise of ROH. If anything, it’s the beginning of a new era – for the promotion and Samoa Joe.