Samoa Joe Explains Why He Had to Relinquish the WWE NXT Championship Last Year

Samoa Joe made his long-awaited in-ring return last August at NXT TakeOver 36, defeating Karrion Kross to become the first three-time NXT Champion in company history. Unfortunately, his reign with the title only lasted three weeks as he had to relinquish the gold on Sept. 12 days before NXT’s relaunch as NXT 2.0. He said in a statement at the time, “Recently, WWE Medical informed me that due to certain injuries they would like to have me step away for a brief, but still indeterminate amount of time,” and hinted that he would return shortly to fight for the championship once again. However, Joe was released by the company in January (his second release within a year).

Joe explained while serving as a guest host on Busted Open Radio on Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 after winning the NXT title and was forced to relinquish it. Tommaso Ciampa won the title two days later on NXT 2.0’s first episode, then dropped it to Bron Breakker at New Year’s Evil on Jan. 4.

Samoa Joe on Busted open says testing positive for Covid is the reason why he had to relinquish the NXT title last year.

“By then, Vince [McMahon] wanted to go in a different direction with NXT and he wanted to have the new opening with NXT 2.0 be with a bang and I agreed with him. I said, ‘If that’s the case, this is probably what’s best for what your vision is for this product.’ I went behind the scenes and started working with talent on a one-to-one basis, pulling guys individually in open gyms, working with them, and focusing on these new tremendous prospects [that] were brought in and people that were hungry to learn and excited about this newfound opportunity,” Joe said (h/t Fightful). “It was invigorating for me. When you’re working with younger talent that are hungry and want to succeed on a high level, it amps up your own spirit. I was delving into that heavily. Working with Matt Bloom on revising things, training techniques, and evaluating what we were doing already and seeing if we could do it better. That was really the end of my tenure at WWE.”

Following his initial release in April 2021, he was brought back over the summer to work primarily as a coach and recruiter for the WWE Performance Center. He initially returned to television to work as an enforcer for William Regal (who was also let go in January) and gradually started feuding with Kross (let go in November).


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