It took nearly three months, but WWE is finally doing something of significance with Samoa Joe. The concern, though, is whether or not it is actually going to matter.
Joe is set to face Seth Rollins at Payback next week in what will really be his first WWE match with some meaning behind it. Since debuting on the main roster the night after the Royal Rumble, Joe has essentially been playing the waiting game. WWE sort of threw him a bone, immediately involving him in the Rollins-Triple H storyline leading into WrestleMania. Given those two were the focus, though, Joe was left without a program where he could be a primary figure.
It has resulted in Joe having a handful of matches on Raw and one PPV match, but all of which were thrown together without much more purpose than keeping Joe busy and in the public eye. In the aftermath of WrestleMania, Triple H is out of the picture for now, which naturally allowed Joe to fill the spot opposite Rollins and actually get something going.
That is all well and good, but again, is it actually going to matter? Is the program going to matter, and is Joe going to matter? For that to be the case, Joe needs to defeat Rollins. Not only does he need to win, but he needs to do so decisively. Otherwise, what are we even doing?
The purpose of concern stems from a habit WWE has exhibited in the past. Sometimes, it seems as if WWE has this idea that time is not an issue, that time doesn’t have its effects. So even if WWE has certain intentions in mind, it thinks it has all the time in the world to accomplish them.
Surprise, surprise, this is not the case.
Like anything else, pro wrestling is filled with expiration dates. At the very least, things will fall flat and lose their full effect over time. Fans lose interest and move on. Characters and programs lose their charm and significance. It is the natural flow of creativity and entertainment.
It’s true, though, some things last longer than others. Some things last far longer, in fact. Luckily for WWE, Joe is one of those special cases with an extended expiration date. If another character debuted in WWE without the aura and legacy of Joe and was put on this same path, they’d be long gone by now. No one would care at this point.
That said, WWE is starting to run out of time with Joe. At nearly three months and no major accomplishments aside from (accidentally) injuring Rollins, fans need a reason to care.
Joe is special. Not many in wrestling come around like him. Joe has the unique distinction of being capable of an elite level of credibility. His status as a modern-day legend combined with his look and highly impressive abilities in the ring make Joe part of a special class of guys who WWE could make something really special out of. If given enough time with quality booking, Joe is the kind of guy who could have a blockbuster feud with the likes of Brock Lesnar and, even more impressive, be a believable adversary.
If WWE has big plans for Joe, the time to start is now. Not later.
That is not to say it is impossible to do something with Joe later. If Joe loses to Rollins at Payback and goes onto something else, hope is not lost. But every strike against him just makes it that much harder in the future. This is even more so the case because of how slow Joe’s start has gotten off to.
The momentum he had from debuting is long gone. So if Joe does not get a big boost of momentum now, after being mostly flat these last few months, he can only sink from there.
You can see it in WWE even now. An act comes in, WWE shows no initiative in getting momentum going, and down the line once WWE decides to try something out finally, nobody cares. Just look at how American Alpha has been doing on SmackDown since their debut. Even becoming tag team champions could not help them after falling so flat in the beginning. You can say similar things for Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows on Raw, and essentially the cruiserweight division as a whole.
Rollins is a big name, a fan favorite, and has a lot of momentum coming out of WrestleMania. Will he lose some of that? Yes. But the gains made by Joe and the potential it opens up for him going forward far outweigh the losses to Rollins.
Rollins is already established. Rollins has credibility on the main roster. Joe does not, and he needs it pretty quick here. Joe can be a lot of great things for WWE and its roster; he can be a major piece of the roster as one of its best heels and most intimidating monsters. But he can only become that if WWE gives fans a reason to care before they are no longer willing to.