Samoa Joe hasn't wrestled since February 2020, but that will change at NXT TakeOver 36 on August 22 when he faces Karrion Kross for the NXT Championship.
Joe has been sidelined with concussion issues for over a year, but has remained on television as a Raw announcer and assistant to William Regal in NXT.
Speaking on WWE After The Bell, Joe described the process of returning to the ring.
"I kept it simple. It was just getting healthy. A lot of times, people have a tendency to overcomplicate their problems and make them worse and adding to them by adding extra pressure. My focus was simply to just get healthy. No other expectations to put on it, no expectations to return to the ring. No expectations other than getting back to where I should be and getting my brain healthy and my body healthy. That was my main focus. I told people around me that was my approach. See how my body came along, see how I felt, be careful with it, take extra time, and really concentrate on getting better. That was my main focus and what helped me. (I wasn't) thinking about 'man, will I ever be back in the ring?' A lot of it was having the hindsight and seeing others I knew going through similar struggles and gathering the wealth of knowledge and taking the doctors advice and asking a lot of questions from others who have dealt with it throughout their career and making the best health decision for me," said Joe. "Once we got through that process and got comfortable with that, we started concentrating on getting back in the ring and finding the best ways and opportunity. During that entire time, I like to keep busy and I'm never one to shirk away from work. When the opportunity came to do commentary and to do a panel or other things, I jumped at the chance."
When asked how scared he was during his time away and if doubt crept in that a return would happen, Joe said he did have those concerns but was going to approach things the right way.
"It was a much worse type of injury than I had dealt with before. It scared me, it scared a lot of people I cared about. It became very easy to make that the focus as far as what I wanted to do when I came back. Inevitably, it all hinged on making sure I was alright and feeling good and when I came back to the ring, I didn't want to come back in a 70% or 60% capacity. I wanted to make sure I could come back and give the best I could to the fans. I do play my cards close to my chest, but that's just the belief I have," he said.
Joe said that he didn't put much out there regarding his condition as he didn't want to bring his problems or worries to anyone else.
"It's obviously good to be back and be an active competitor again. I like the circumstances. Coming back to NXT and fighting for the championship kinda feels right, seems right. I'm looking forward to getting back in the ring in front of the WWE universe," he said. "Karrion Kross, without a doubt, an extremely dominating force. He's run through everyone put in front of him. He's been an absolute beast of a champion. Hits hard, throws harder. I'm going to beat the brakes off him. I'm gonna put all the hands on him. It's going to be a lot of pummeling and strikes to the head and around the face. I'll do my best to not wear out my right foot when I'm whipping his ass with it. There has been some trauma, I'm dealing with a Conor [McGregor] situation. Hopefully, it won't be too big of a deal. We're gonna have some fun and set some things right."
Should Joe defeat Kross, he would be a three-time NXT Champion.
When asked if this is a new lease on life for him, Joe replied, "Nah, it's not a new lease. To say it's a new lease would mean at some point I thought it was over. To be honest, I never did. If it's anything, it's just a reminder. A reminder for the world that there are still horrible, terrible things out there and they want to take everything you have."
Kross choked out Joe, who was serving as the special guest referee, following Kross' title defense over Johnny Gargano on the July 13 episode of NXT. Last Tuesday, Joe was searching for Kross when it was revealed Kross had taken out Regal.
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