Samoa Joe Relinquished NXT Title After Positive COVID Test, Vince McMahon Changing NXT Direction

Samoa Joe won the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver 36, defeating Karrion Kross to become the first-ever three-time champion.

Joe never defended the belt, relinquishing the title on September 12 as NXT rebranded to NXT 2.0. Joe would continue to work behind the scenes at NXT and the WWE Performance Center as a talent scout and coach.

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Speaking on Busted Open Radio, Joe explained his decision to drop the NXT Championship and the end of his NXT run.

"I popped for COVID. It was the weekend, my wife was making stew and I couldn't smell it. She said, 'Wow, doesn't that smell great.' I said, 'No.' I tested positive on Saturday. By then, Vince 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 were brought in and people that were hungry to learn and excited about this newfound opportunity. 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," he said.

Joe was released by WWE on January 6, 2022. He was originally released in April 2021 after working as an announcer on WWE Raw, but was re-signed in June, joining NXT.

Joe is currently a free agent.

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