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Reliving A Title Run #10: Samoa Joe As TNA World Heavyweight Champion In ’08

At Slammiversary 2005, Samoa Joe made his long awaited debut in NWA-TNA. After years of dominating talent in Ring of Honor, Joe brought his talent to a national stage and left off where he started in ROH. It wouldn’t take long for him to win the NWA-TNA X-Division Championship, but after a short while, Joe started to set his sights on the main prize. He would want the NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

Joe would get his first NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Championship shot at Destination X on March 11th, 2007. Christian Cage, the champion at the time, was able to reverse a choke hold and pinned Joe to retain the championship. Joe would get another shot at Slammiversary in June, but his hated rival Kurt Angle won the championship.

Joe continued his quest for the championship but continued to come up short when he lost to Kurt Angle at Hard Justice in a match where all the titles they held were on the line. It wouldn’t be until April 2008 before Samoa Joe got a TNA World Heavyweight Championship shot against Kurt Angle.

The title shot came at TNA Lockdown where Samoa Joe would have Kurt Angle all to himself inside a steel cage. If Joe were to lose the match, he would be forced to retire from wrestling. Usually, when there is a stipulation such as that for a match, it becomes obvious as to who will win the match. The same happened here as Joe was able to defeat Angle and won his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Joe would successfully defend the championship against Kurt on the Impact right after Lockdown.

At Sacrifice 2008, Joe was supposed to defend against Kurt Angle and Scott Steiner. Steiner had gotten involved in the feud by hitting Angle with a pipe during the rematch. However, Angle would be taken out of the match with an injury and Kaz would take his place. Joe retained the title by pinning Steiner with the Muscle Buster.

The following month would see Joe defending the championship in the King of the Mountain match, which was a staple of the Slammiversary pay per view. Joe would successfully defend the championship against challengers Rhino, Robert Roode, Christian Cage and Booker T. Kevin Nash, a previous opponent to Samoa Joe, was the special enforcer for the match.

Nash played a part in costing Booker T the championship after Booker nailed Nash with the championship and was promptly powerbombed off the ladder. Booker called Joe out for not being a real champion and wanted a singles match. Considering Joe is a fighting champion, he gave Booker a title shot at Victory Road in July 2008. They had a confrontation during the July 10th, 2008 edition of Impact where Sting came out to reveal he would watch the match taking place in Booker’s hometown of Houston, Texas.

The showdown at Victory Road 2008 was rather underwhelming. Joe simply destroyed Booker throughout the match which would see referees and Booker’s plead with the champ to stop the beating on the hometown challenger (who was the heel). Sting ends up coming out to the ring and talks to Joe. The champ doesn’t listen, so Sting hits him with the baseball bat. Booker covers Joe and Sharmell counts the pin fall to give Booker the unofficial win.

The issues between Samoa Joe and Booker T would be settled the following month, though. At the July 24th edition of Impact there was a contract signing for a match between Joe and Booker at Hard Justice. At the contract signing, the lights went out and Samoa Joe was laid out. It was teased that Sting had come out and nailed the champion with a baseball bat. The focus has never really been on a Sting/Booker feud, it seems. The tease involving Sting continued the following week. Samoa Joe beat Booker up in a cage while Kevin Nash stood in front of the door. After Nash carried Sharmell to the backstage area, Booker was able to use a baseball bat on Joe once again.

At Hard Justice, Samoa Joe would get his hands on Booker T inside a steel cage that had weapons inside of it. Booker has had possession of the TNA World Championship since Victory Road, by the way. Samoa Joe was able to win the cage match when the lights went out and Joe had a guitar in his hand. He proceeded to hit Booker with the guitar and won the match. So, to go along with Sting’s heel turn, Joe has Jeff Jarrett on his side, apparently.

Samoa Joe had not one, not two but three challengers to deal with heading into No Surrender. However, he still had issues unresolved with Sting and even his mentor Kevin Nash. Joe would cost Nash a match with Kurt Angle where the winner would be part of a four way match at No Surrender. Joe was starting to consider Nash a fraud. On the September 4th edition of Impact Sting would hit Joe with a baseball bat and hit a Scorpion Death Drop to add fuel to their feud that has been going on for a few months.

On September 11th Samoa Joe defeated three opponents and Kevin Nash believed that he had taught Joe all he could leading into the four way match at No Surrender. However, Booker T wasn’t able to make the show due to extremely poor weather. At No Surrender, Jeff Jarrett came back to TNA and would hit Angle over the head with a guitar allowing Joe to win the match.

So, Joe has made it as champion to the biggest show in TNA history. But, who will be the man to challenge Samoa Joe for the championship? On the September 18th edition of Impact Joe cut an intense promo against Sting for not bleeding for the company and instead being at his mansion having a tea party while Joe and others tour and work their asses off for the company. It was actually a really good promo to promote this feud.

Sting made it very apparent to Samoa Joe that their issues are because Sting feels disrespected by Joe and the other young talent in TNA. They would have a contract signing on the October 9th edition of Impact. A stipulation for the showdown at Bound For Glory was added and it was that their would not be a rematch between Sting and Samoa Joe. Joe would headbutt Sting and they had a massive brawl before their showdown at Bound For Glory.

For the third straight year, Sting was able to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sting had a lot of help from Kevin Nash, who turned on Samoa Joe by hitting him with a baseball bat to allow Sting to win the championship. This marked the end to Joe’s first and only TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign.

What made Samoa Joe so great in the beginning was his involvement in the X-Division. Being able to work with guys who were smaller than him help Joe a great deal and allowed him to put on some memorable matches in TNA history. His popularity skyrocketed and he was pushed into the main event scene. That started off with a rough patch when he lost to Kurt Angle when Angle first came to TNA and even failed at his first title defense. For a guy who was presented as a beast in the X-Division he was brought back to earth when he became a heavyweight.

They finally give Samoa Joe the ball at Lockdown 2008 but I feel like it was spoiled with the stipulation that if Joe lost he would be gone from TNA. It seems like every single time that stipulation is used the person never loses and it just spoils the match. Yeah, it may have been a great match, but the storyline leading into it wasn’t that great and took away from it.

Now, Joe’s feud with Booker T was never that interesting to me. Booker was made to look very weak in his hometown and it seemed like it was more of a way to promote the eventual showdown between Joe and Sting. In my opinion, there was only two interesting feuds for Joe during this run and it involved Angle and Sting.

The feud with Sting, more so when they were close to Bound For Glory was done very nicely. Joe’s promo after No Surrender calling Sting out for not doing anything for TNA was done really well and I’m inclined to think that there was some true feelings being echoed in that promo by Joe. The build for the feud held my interest and the outcome should’ve been different.

It’s a big mach for Samoa Joe and the future of TNA and he loses to Sting. Yeah, there was a screw job and that gave Joe a new feud, but I would’ve liked for Joe to win there. Besides, the Main Event Mafia involving Sting didn’t even last all that long. When will Vince Russo realize that a heel Sting just never works?

The title reign for Samoa Joe has to be considered an underwhelming one. There failed to be consistent strong challengers for Joe’s reign and they took the belt off Joe without giving him much of a chance to succeed. It shouldn’t be all that surprising that Joe has not been the top champion in TNA since.

What are you memories of Samoa Joe’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign? Did you enjoy it or did it leave a lot to be desired for you? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

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