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Current NXT champion Samoa Joe has been part of WWE’s NXT promotion for a full year now.
As Joe noted Friday on Twitter, it’s just Year One of rebuilding one of the top wrestlers in the industry from the post-Monday Night Wars era.
Joe came to NXT after a decade in TNA, where he peaked in 2008, then spent the next seven years drifting in and out of importance and factions. He was no longer the Samoa Joe who long-time Ring of Honor and PWG fans knew as the biggest attraction on the independent scene.
Fast-forward to May 20, 2015 when Joe debuted at “NXT Takeover: Unstoppable.” The main event was Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Title. After Owens beat down Zayn, Joe crashed the ring to assert himself as the new top dog at NXT.
It was Step 1 in rebuilding Joe, who was also pioneering a new way of WWE utilizing talent. No longer was WWE only using talent who were locked into deals with the company. Joe ushered in an era of wrestlers working for NXT and the independents, creating a tiered contract system.
Now, Joe is locked into a deal with WWE, making him a valuable asset for the company’s long-term plans if he stays healthy. Half-way into Joe’s run, WWE executive/wrestler Triple H noted what the mission was.
In a December 2015 conference call, Hunter pointed out that Joe had been “reinvigorated” in NXT. He said they “flipped the switch and went back in time” with Joe and his passion for the NXT brand came through.
Two months earlier, Joe and Finn Balor won the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Cup as a tag team. The seeds were planted for what would become the top NXT feud of 2016.
In a surprise, Joe won the NXT Title from Balor at an NXT live show in April. This followed a series of brutal main event title matches on NXT Takeover specials.
The climax is in two weeks when Joe and Balor meet in the first-ever NXT steel cage match at the next “Takeover” special on June 8.
Joe has always been a pioneer, so it’s only fitting that he’s part of another “first-ever” for the NXT brand. One year later, WWE and Joe have collectively rebuilt his character as the monster powerhouse who developed an underground following in ROH/PWG and became a significant part of TNA’s rise in the mid-2000s.
A decade later, and one year into his NXT run, Joe is returning to form. Will Year 2 include a similar ascent on the main WWE roster?
Year 1 pic.twitter.com/zASbwjPXk7
— Samoa Joe (@SamoaJoe) May 20, 2016