Before Samoa Joe takes on MJF for the AEW world championship in the main event of Dynamite: Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night (8 p.m., TBS), he took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski.
(Edited for clarity and length)
Q: You were kind of at a crossroads in your career a few years ago with injury, and being used as a commentator. Having gone through that uncertainty, does that make you appreciate where you are again now? Ring of Honor Television champion, just on one of the biggest shows in wrestling history at All In and main eventing in a world title match at Grand Slam?
A: I think with life experiences as such, an amount of appreciation comes anytime you get close to maybe being forced to hang it up before possibly you want to when you incur an injury like that (concussion) that could sideline you potentially for your career. You definitely cherish the wins a little bit more, especially at this stage of my career. I think it’s only made me a little bit more brazen, excited about what’s possible going forward.
Q: Does it mean something to you to be back in a viable world championship feud?
A: It’s unusual. I think when you look at the breadth of my career, to me I’m never surprised. This is what you set out to do. These are the expectations I put on myself. I’ve been counted out. I think I’m on my third one now, legitimately as far as it’s done, over with. As long as we keep moving forward, keep finding ways to entertain fans, I’ll be out here doing my thing with the same expectations. Not surprised at all we are where we are.
Q: Knowing how often fans reference the meme and the push of MJF at NXT Brooklyn II in 2016, did it feel like something you guys had to get to at some point in AEW?
A: I don’t think we necessarily had to get to it through that meme or avenue because I think he’s a very talented individual, much like myself. I think we have an innate ability to go out and pick a fight no matter what the circumstances are. It obviously was something that stuck out in a lot of peoples’ minds. I knew for a lot of people it was a funny iconic moment. Why fight the flow?
Q: What do you remember about that day filming that moment? Was it someone’s idea to push him or spontaneous?
A: I always feel like if you’re gonna take up screen time at least be somewhat interesting. We were walking down the hallway. He was maybe doing too good of a job trying to clear things out. I put him up into the wall. I think after everyone kind of took a look at it and had a hilarious chuckle and it ended up sticking around and staying.
I think it was close to live where we had a little bit of a delay because we were running (video) packages and stuff like that. By the time it got to the truck it was gonna be broadcast pretty shortly afterward and they were all about it.
Q: Do you feel like you are the perfect person for MJF to be working with right now where he’s gone babyface and you need that true perfect heel that everyone is afraid of to balance him off?
A: I think he’s at a point in his career now where he needs to find out how he stacks up against the most terrifying and most inopportune situations and I think I present that to him. We’ll see how he does.
Q: What did it mean for you and CM Punk to add some extra quality chapters to your feud and potentially culminate in one of the biggest shows ever?
A: A tremendous amount. I’ve always enjoyed the many minutes I’ve spent in the ring with Punk and to be able to revisit that at this point in our careers was a big thing for us both personally. It was good to get back in there and scrap around with him a bit and entertain a ton of people in the process.
Q: What have your interactions with Punk been like personally and do you feel like there are things about him that are misunderstood or misportrayed?
A: I’d imagine there are tons of things that are misunderstood or portrayed about him. Now, what those things are it’s who’s representing in what way. I can’t really give you a blanket statement as far as what those things are. For the most part, our relationship has been very, especially for these years, has been very non-wrestling related. It’s just been extraneous stuff outside of the world of wrestling and talking about life stuff.
Q: You were in the middle of everything that happened backstage at All In. Have the reports and things that you heard been accurate? Is there anything you’d want to set a record straight on? And what was going through your mind when you’re thinking ‘Hey, I got to get a match in the ring after this.’
A: For the most part, I haven’t read what’s been portrayed. There’s been so much said. I’m not the one to go out there and try to debunk everything. I know we had the initial incident. Everybody rallied. Everybody got together. Got their heads together and lined up and got ready to do the show and we went out there and we did the show.
That really was the focus at that point in time. We got a massive show to do and we got fans out there rabid to see that happen. So it’s important that we step up and do it and it’s important that we did and I was proud to be a part of that.
Q: Was it as intense as it sounded in that moment?
A: That’s up to whoever perceived it. I’m used to that environment. Those things don’t seem very intense to me, but it could be something crazy intense to someone else. I wasn’t really affected by the moment. I was more focused on getting the show back on track and getting us going because it was bell time
Q: The close to Dynamite last week just had this super intense segment at the end. Where do you go for that moment of that intensity where it’s all over your face, your eyes and there is just that believability?
A: There is no substitute for life experience, I guess. I can detail a bunch of horrible things I’ve ever been through or seen. Just drawing a lot of being in weird situations and having to get to that mental extreme to make sure you get out of those situations.
Q: The experiences you’ve had acting so far, the praise you’ve gotten for it, has that scratched that itch even more to see what else is out there for you?
A: I’m always looking to explore what else I can do in the world or media and beyond. I’m ecstatic. I’m over the moon people have enjoyed what people have done thus far. I just look forward to delivering more entertainment to more people every chance I get.
Q: You teamed with Bray Wyatt for a little bit in 2017. What do you remember about Windham Rotunda and do you have a Bray Wyatt story personally?
A: Ton and tons of Bray stories. I really think the thing that you will find universally with Windham was he was the type of person, when he walked in a room, it instantly brightened up. Once you’re his brother, you’re his brother for life and he’ll show up for whatever you need him to show up for. If you called and said, ‘I need you down here,’ lo and behold, a couple hours later you’ll see him pulling up in the driveway.
And just the family itself, between Mike and Bo and his sister Mika they were all very involved in the business at certain points and time. Everybody has a tremendous amount of respect and love for them. I think if anything, the hurt was felt a little bit extra deep because of how many people were connected to both Windham and his family. To see him gone now, it just doesn’t seem real. I miss him every day.
Q: What would it mean for you to beat MJF and take everything from him, especially with the history you have with Adam Cole from NXT?
A: This is very much about examples being to be made. I made an example of Adam Cole. I’m looking forward to making an example of MJF in front of his friends and family. I think it’s the best place to make an example where the people who care about him the most will see. I’m looking forward to going in there, walking him down, crushing him completely and taking all the big championships. Maybe having a big celebration afterward, maybe grab a slice. I don’t know.
Q: With the success the company’s had so far this summer to the Punk incident, has there been a feeling that the veterans have had to step up? We have seen it with Bryan Danielson. We have seen it with Jon Moxley. Do you feel like you are in that group of people who needs to lead a little bit now?
A: I think saying the veterans stepping up it doesn’t give enough credit to legitimately everybody. Everybody understands that there is a huge opportunity right now to shift things and shift their position up that card. There’s more time. There’s more time for everybody now. Everybody knows that. As a company as a whole, as a locker room, you’re seeing a lot of people looking to step up and really up their game and be the best performer they can be and make their way up in AEW.
The veterans stepping up, that’s just not a surprise. When you look at the people you’re talking about that’s an automatic. What is really important is that you see the same thing from any talent in AEW just doing what they can to show up ready to rock and roll. It’s a company-wide effort, which it needs to be.