As one of TNA's veterans, Samoa Joe reflects a changing description of a "TNA veteran." The label once applied only to former Attitude Era/Monday Night Wars stars landing in TNA at the tail-end of their careers. Now, Joe represents a different TNA Creative era with more emphasis on wrestling action and competent booking.
That's reflected in the Bound for Glory Series this year, which Joe said "actually makes sense" during a conference call with the wrestling media on Wednesday. Joe said last year's edition "had some ridiculous scenarios."
Joe said this year's version has also allowed him to "do what he does best" - showcase good pro wrestling. Part of that has been what Joe called a good structure to the tournament that focuses on each wrestler facing each other and emphasis on more points being accumulated via submission.
Joe said he thinks the BFG Series still has room for improvement next year. Joe said he would like to see TNA fans vote for who participates in the Series and perhaps have a tournament night with multiple matches to test wrestlers's endurance.
During the conference call, Joe laughed off an example of him being under-utilized during the previous TNA Creative regime - the kidnapping angle in 2010. Joe tongue-in-cheek said that's a figment of everyone's imagination. "I don't even remember that going down," Joe said dryly.
It's different for Joe in 2012 when he's been allowed to "make more noise" in TNA. Although he says he doesn't know what's planned for his character over the next few months - calling TNA's Creative system a dynamic situation - Joe said he senses a resurgence for his character in an environment where he can succeed.
One other motivation for Joe is being able to adapt his wrestling style as MMA continues to grow in the U.S. Joe said MMA's presence "has to impact how pro wrestlers apply their craft." Joe said he has been an advocate of implementing changes to TNA's wrestling style during a "real experimental time right now." He said the better pro wrestlers will be able to adapt and grow as performers.
Related to MMA, Joe said he expects there will be some blow-back when King Mo debuts in TNA, as there would be when any non-wrestler joins a wrestling company. However, he sees positive developments when King Mo joins TNA.
"King Mo seems pretty dedicated to learning the craft," Joe said. "I'm more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what he can do. Think it will be interesting to see what he brings."
One of the other big themes during the interview was the rise of Joe along with other independent wrestling stand-outs such as current TNA World Hvt. champion Austin Aries, current WWE champion C.M. Punk, and recent WWE World Hvt. champion Daniel Bryan.
Joe said they all knew at a "very early time in our careers" they had "exceptional gifts" for what they do in pro wrestling. Joe said they all expanded on that in their own ways.
One way Joe expanded on his independent career was re-tooling his offense, noting there are much bigger wrestlers on national TV to where he couldn't suplex everyone in sight. "Stylistically, not all techniques can be applied to all wrestlers," Joe said, emphasizing that when independent wrestlers make the transition to TV, they have to re-work their offense. "A lot of offense was re-tooled to be able to execute on anyone," Joe said about his changes.
Asked if there is a key to the next wave of independent stars reaching national TV, Joe said a lot of it has to do with timing - not some sort of phenomenon - and when WWE and TNA are looking for talent. "The talent is out there, but they have to put in the work to get recognized," Joe said.
Could the next wave of talent fill slots in TNA's X Division? It's a possibility based on how Joe views the X Division. Asked if the Division can reach the heights it once enjoyed, Joe said, "As of right now, no. It needs re-tooling." Without naming names, Joe said new X Division stars being implemented are "exceptional," though, and he looks forward to seeing what they put together.
One question mark for incoming talent is pay. Asked if contract status and negotiations is talked about in the TNA locker room, Joe said, "Yeah, but it's also the nature of the business." Joe said contract talks is "just wrestling" and how the business works. He said not everyone leaves TNA on the best of terms, but, for the most part, "relations here are pretty good." Joe said there's always an "open door to come back in the future," which has been the case with someone like Sonjay Dutt, who will be in an X Division Title match on the No Surrender PPV on Sunday.
As for how long Joe plans to continue wrestling, Joe said it's an old wrestling cliche, but he plans to keep wrestling until he is "advised" not to continue wrestling. "I'll continue as long as I'm a top competitor in the game," Joe said, noting that he's "over-due" for the TNA World Title.
Joe said he enjoys being The Man and he hopes to be that in the near future, especially if he wins the Bound for Glory Series and advances to the TNA PPV main event at Bound for Glory. Joe's first title reign came four years ago after he defeated Kurt Angle at Lockdown and Joe says he's looking for a second chance after growing as a wrestler through repetition, time, and experience.
Part of that growth has been TNA re-emphasizing his "no non-sense, speak-with-my-fists" character, which he believes it he key to his connection with the audience. On his relationship with the fans, Joe said, his character's main selling point is being "real honest, with no real pretense." He said it's "refreshing to some people."
One market where Joe says it "clicks" is with the U.K. fans, who Joe said "like to watch and appreciate a good ass-kicking" with a "healthy appetite for some violence."
Joe hopes TNA re-emphasizing his style of wrestling will catapult him back into the TNA World Title picture. This is especially true if he can win the BFG Series at No Surrender on Sunday, which happens to be an unofficial "tournament night" with the semi-finals and finals on the same night.
With four more years of experience in his back-pocket and a stream of bizarre storylines behind him, it's back to ass-kicking time for Joe, who could be the next top babyface for TNA if the timing and circumstances line up.