As of April 17, Samoa Joe is officially a Smackdown superstar and not a moment too soon. He wasn't going anywhere on Raw. Now, maybe, he'll have a chance to win the world title. He spent months--too many--playing Triple H's hired goon. It's about time he got to stand on his own instead of taking marching orders.
In the novel Misery, author Stephen King refers to Annie Wilkes--the antagonist and psychotic serial murderer of the book--as "solid," a mass of flesh so unyielding and unforgiving that she barely seems real. That's what I think of when I see Samoa Joe swagger to the ring. The man is a monolithic idol, the type you might find carved in stone on Easter Island or at Egyptian ruins. He seems so physically and figuratively heavy, and he fights the same way: thudding punches, stiff kicks, and hard knees. It's not fancy, but it's frightening to watch.
On top of that, the man can talk up a storm. At first glance, with his mean scowl and stomping walk, Joe looks more like the strong, silent type, who speaks more with his fists than with his tongue. Au contraire; the man is eloquent. Most mic workers, even the talented ones, speak at one pitch. Paul Heyman, for example, is someone who delivers a fantastic, intense promo, but that's the only promo he can deliver whether he's in the middle of the ring or he's backstage with Renee Young. Samoa Joe has a whole range of expression. He can put on a suit and talk low and menacing. He can stand on the ramp and hurl insults. He can stand in the ring, after beating Sin Cara 2.0 within an inch of his life, and go on a rage bender.
Joe is a main event talent who, despite having classic matches in multiple promotions, has not been treated with the proper respect in WWE. And Raw's main event scene was way too crowded, overflowing with physically massive guys like Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, and Roman Reigns. It's thrilling to watch two monsters crash into each other for a PPV main event, for the same reason that King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla are fun to watch. But, with few exceptions, the best matches are the ones that have contrast to them.
It's why AJ Styles vs. Brock Lesnar was one of the best matches of 2017. And conversely, it's why Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar was fairly pedestrian. Because a monster needs to ragdoll his opponents to look scary. And when two monsters are in the ring together, on multiple occasions, the audience loses perspective on how big they truly are.
And that's why Joe's switch to Smackdown is ideal. He is now on a roster filled with smaller, athletic guys: wrestlers like AJ Styles (who he has a long history with), The Miz (who also switched to SmackDown, thankfully), Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, and Chris Jericho. Even the taller wrestlers, like Big Cass, Luke Harper, and Shinsuke Nakamura, are lean and scrappy rather than muscle-bound power grapplers. On Smackdown, with few exceptions (like Rusev, if Creative ever takes the boot off his neck), Joe will be the biggest, scariest guy in the ring at all times. It's the David vs. Goliath narrative, and one that Joe is an expert at telling, again and again, with a variety of opponents.
Samoa Joe is 39 years old. As the past several months have demonstrated, he's finally showing the wear and tear of a long, physical career. He's been durable for years, but no one stays durable; everyone, no matter how tough and how strong they are, eventually cracks.
And before that happens, in a way that's drastic and irreversible, Joe deserves a run with the WWE Championship. But Creative had better hurry. If WWE waits too much longer to give the man his moment, it might be too late.
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