By John Napolitano
It seems The Destroyer has really found his footing and has been hitting his stride as of late on Monday Night Raw.
Since joining the main roster in January earlier this year, Samoa Joe has quietly flown under the radar as a legitimate badass, putting on quality contests without true direction. Based on his reputation alone, The Samoan Submission Machine brought a lot to WWE’s flagship show, but up until recently he was not connecting with the fan base as the true fearsome fighter he is. A healthy scratch from “The Ultimate Thrill Ride,” WrestleMania XXXIII, Joe’s impact on the main roster was hardly spiking the Richter scale two months into his run. He engaged in a mini-feud with Sami Zayn just prior to The Show of Shows, but those flames fizzled before the rivalry could even ignite. His program with Seth Rollins served a purpose in the grander scheme of Rollins seeking retribution against Triple H, but it was far from his best work, and he came across as an afterthought.
It was not until his historic victory at Extreme Rules against the likes of Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor and Roman Reigns in a No. 1 Contender Fatal Five-Way match that Joe’s powerful potential poked through. Winning the right to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at Great Balls of Fire was the spark that Joe needed to explode into the spotlight. The week-to-week build to Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar was some of the most engaging television WWE had produced in years and the perfect wake-up call to the post-WrestleMania lull in which they found themselves. Say what you will about their eventual encounter, but it was refreshingly physical, Joe was able to bring more out of Lesnar than many past challengers and he walked out of Dallas a bona fide star. With a full head of steam, Joe is on his way to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to headline SummerSlam against Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title. Regardless of who has their hand raised when the lights go out and the cameras turn off, here are five must-see feuds for Samoa Joe after SummerSlam.
5. Dean Ambrose
Samoa Joe vs. Dean Ambrose may not tickle the fancies of many members of the WWE Universe, but a rivalry with the Lunatic Fringe would be an all-important stepping-stone on Joe’s path to superstardom. Ambrose is a key fixture in WWE and someone who works well with just about anyone. It appears that Ambrose’s near and distant future will involve Seth Rollins and a possible S.H.I.E.L.D. reunion, but a rivalry of this tier does not need to go down just yet. In fact, these two would probably fair better in a feud that portrays Joe as a loose-cannon tweener and Ambrose as a hated heel. Their current trajectories do not appear to be nearing anytime soon, but when they do, physicality will follow.
4. Jason Jordan
The prodigal son, Jason Jordan, has all of the tools to be a huge name in WWE. Obviously, he needs more reps on the microphone in order for his personality to come through, but I envision a not so distant day where Jason Jordan will be a perennial main eventer. His amateur background, pure athleticism and silky-smooth in-ring work make him the perfect dance partner for Samoa Joe. This rivalry would definitely benefit Jordan more than Joe, but the matches that these two could produce would be bell-to-bell classics. This feud would have all of the makings to put Jordan on the map and show everyone that despite his size and destructive nature, Joe can put on masterful wrestling matches as well.
3. Roman Reigns
If what we have seen from Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns so far this summer is any indication of what they are capable of in a full-fledged rivalry, then sign me up. One could argue that both Reigns and Joe are at the peak of their careers, and the idea of them exchanging blows back-and-forth, week in and week out is a wrestling fan’s dream. These two studs are better than anyone at connecting with the WWE Universe and drawing emotion from the viewer with their matches. If either Reigns or Joe win the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam, it is more than likely that we see this feud unfold into the early months of autumn. This prospective program could culminate at Hell in a Cell, where these gladiators could put on one damn good match. The promos that they exchange would be ratings gold, as Joe has proven to be one of the best talkers in the company, and Reigns garners a riotous reaction with every word he utters. I am not a gambling man, but I bet that the WWE Universe will witness this feud immediately after SummerSlam.
2. John Cena
With WWE gobbling up as much great talent as they have over the last four or five years, dream matches have been harder and harder to come by. John Cena vs. Samoa Joe is one of the few big-ticket matches left. Cena and Joe, similar to Cena and Styles, have ruled in separate dojos for the last decade. Now under one roof, it is time to find out just who is the better brawler. Cena’s being a free agent allows him the freedom to jump back and forth between Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live in order to check off his final bucket list items in the twilight of his career. A rivalry with Samoa Joe could be a late, but deserving, addition to the laundry list of John Cena’s greatest rivals. Their matches would be epic, their promos would be compelling and Joe could squeeze out more untapped creative juices from the 16-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion. These two titans have been destined to do battle for years now, and they will go down in history when they do.
1. Kurt Angle
The most must-see feud for Samoa Joe following SummerSlam involves the current General Manager of Monday Night Raw and his long-time rival: Kurt Angle. Never in a WWE ring have these two men gone to war, but their decade-old battles from TNA are the stuff of legend. In fact, Kurt Angle made his TNA debut in 2006 in a brush-up with then NWA Champion Samoa Joe. Angle and Joe will forever be connected by the brutality they brought about in the IMPACT Zone; their styles mesh perfectly, and they can both still perform at the top of their game. With Kurt Angle being an authority figure and Samoa Joe being an uncaring gunslinger, the story is absolutely there for these gladiators to clash again. Almost like a reversed Austin-McMahon program, Joe and Angle could light up Monday Night Raw’s ratings with a babyface authority figure and a heel employee aiming to ruin each other’s lives. If Kurt Angle is going to return to in-ring action, WWE ought to consider pairing him up with one of his greatest rivals one more time on an even grander stage. Book it!