Samoa Joe’s new WWE role was discussed long before his release

The idea of Samoa Joe one day returning to NXT and taking on a backstage role was discussed long before his WWE release and eventual re-signing.

Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE executive vice president for global talent strategy and development, saw something in Joe even from the time he signed with WWE and NXT in 2015. He believed Joe had a future in talent development and as a scout for the company. It’s the role Joe now holds along with on-screen enforcer for NXT general manager William Regal.

“It was something that we were already talking about anyways,” Levesque told The Post while promoting WWE’s return to New York City for “SmackDown” at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 10. “And what people tend to focus on, because it’s the visual, is the in front of the camera, the character side of it. But what Joe and I have been talking about for a long period of time, before COVID, probably from the time he started in WWE in general [is] that’s he’s a very smart guy that’s very business-oriented, has a level head, and all those things. And [we discussed,] ‘What is the future like and how can he help build the future,’ and he was enamored with the other side of the business and what we do.”

Joe said on the “Out of Character” podcast with Ryan Satin that Levesque called him a few hours after he was released from the company in April and asked the former NXT champion to give him some time to “work out a package.” Levesque, who heads NXT, said the idea of bringing Joe back in his new role was talked about “internally’ prior to the release happening. Joe, who also spent time on the “Monday Night Raw” commentary team, hasn’t been cleared to wrestle since suffering a concussion on a WWE commercial shoot in early 2020.

“It wasn’t like he got let go from one part of the company and the other part of the company [hired him],” Levesque said. “It’s all one big company. Everybody knows what everybody’s doing. … There was an opportunity for him to transition, no different than you would say, ‘Well, he was released from this pitching contract and started managing the team and became a coach.’ It’s a similar situation.”

Two months later, Joe returned to NXT television as Regal’s enforcer who, according to a storyline, can only get physical with talent when provoked. However, Joe said on the podcast he’s “absolutely” working toward a potential in-ring return. Levesque also sees a lot of potential for what he can bring to WWE outside the ropes.

“There was an opportunity for him to leave one realm and come into the other, but in coming into the other it sort of connected the dots for him to still do something in-ring from a preference standpoint — no different than I do, [or] other performers who have other jobs as well,” Levesque said. “It’s a piece of it, but the bigger component is the talent-development component that he’ll be a big part of. I’m really, really excited about that because again, at this stage of my career, it’s all about developing the next generations of superstars.”

Joe’s release came as part of numerous rounds of cuts by WWE this year to its wrestling talent roster and office and creative staff. The frequency and the release of recognizable names such as Braun Strowman, Lana, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mickie James and Aleister Black have raised eyebrows. Approximately 40 wrestlers have been released from WWE in 2021. Levesque said the scale-back is “just business.”

“Coming out of COVID and a pandemic and everything else, all companies are having to make difficult decisions and we were no different,” he said. “It’s a part of what we do and it happens on a regular basis, all companies have to do it. It’s not the most pleasant part of what you do, but it is what it is.”

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