Samoa Joe doesn't like rumors. Especially when they smell like racism.
The truth has always been a capricious element of professional wrestling —misinformation can be as useful as it is harmless. But there's one rumor that has been attached to Samoa Joe since the George W. Bush administration and it's time to officially put it in the grave.
Mixing it up with names like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe spent the early 2000s making himself a premier attraction on independent circuits. As his brand grew, Joe would eventually sign with TNA in 2005, however, an internet wrestling legend says he was in discussions with WWE to portray their monster Samoan heel, Umaga.
"It absolutely, positively, couldn't be any more false," said Joe in an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com on Thursday. "We never talked, like... What people didn't get is, they couldn't talk to me legally. I think I still had two years on my contract, I wasn't going anywhere. So, it's funny, I think people thought you could just walk away from a deal at that time. You couldn't. We never talked, I was never even brought up to be Umaga."
The late Eddie Fatu (brother to Rikishi) signed on as Umaga. Fatu got his start in WWE as Jamal in Eric Bischoff's hyper-destructive 3-Minute Warning in 2002. After debuting to attack Ric Flair in 2006, Umaga began a dominant undefeated streak that would be eventually extinguished by John Cena in early 2007.
Even though Joe was never in the mix to be Umaga, he was distinctly aware of the rumor. While Fatu worked as Umaga, Joe said he still had trouble shaking the association, despite being having his own unique persona.
"I thought it was mad racist, cause it was like, I had just come on TNA and I was Samoa Joe, and it was like this prominently featured Samoan character, and then it was like, oh, well this is WWE's answer to Samoa Joe, right? No. You wouldn't do that if it was any other... Right? It was mad racist to me," said Joe.
To Joe, being blindly, yet routinely, connected to a Samoan WWE character was not only lazy but ignorant.0comments
"Why would you come up with that comparative, because he's like... we weren't even the same character! We weren't even remotely anything like each other. But the fact that I was Samoan and he was Samoan, we were the same character. And I was like, what...what are you talking...? That's the comparison you draw?"
WWE officially put the Umaga character on the shelf in 2009, but Samoa Joe would have to wait until 2015 to sign a full-time WWE deal. After two stints as NXT Champion, Joe made his WWE main roster debut in January 2017. Ever since he's been in rotation with WWE biggest names and the trend will continue at this Sunday's Backlash where he takes on Eddie Fatu's cousin, Roman Reigns.