Samoa Joe – WWE’s Heel We Can Believe In – by Mike Sanchez

It was a week ago when I wrote that Samoa Joe’s win to become number one contender was a welcome surprise for me. This past week on Raw, the buzz was how Brock would be on the show and likely at the start of the programme so as to not clash with other TV events, and try and hook the audience in. In the UK, where I live, Raw usually starts about 1am depending on time zones or if our clocks have gone forwards or back – daylight saving time and all that. Anyway, I deliberately stayed up to catch the start of Raw and then record the rest.

I was happy to see Brock and Paul Heyman kick off proceedings and I listened to Heyman cut another great promo only to be interrupted by Samoa Joe. It was at that point I stood up, ready to head on up to bed as the predictable, WWE way of things would be to have Joe either stare at Brock from the top of the ramp or cut his own promo from there.

Joe walked down the ramp. I sat down again.

Joe got in the ring. I watched with interest. This doesn’t usually happen, I thought. Joe’s the heel in this storyline, even if Brock does grate some WWE fans up the wrong way, he’s the guy getting the biggest cheers. Joe as a heel should be cowardly and chickenshit. That’s what WWE does with heels, isn’t it?

Then Joe launched himself at Brock and I loved it.

The brawl that followed was great. Really entertaining, tough and predictably broken up by the locker room after the local security were thrown across the ring. Once the two men were separated, the crowd were buying it, they wanted to see both men released to carry on. The brawl and breakup has been used many times over the years, but if done right – as it was on Monday – then it’s an effective weapon in getting both and angle and performers over with the audience. That wasn’t what impressed me most, though. What impressed me was that Samoa Joe didn’t run away. He didn’t back down. He went for Brock.

There’s been a lot written about heels in modern day wrestling, or more specifically, the lack of real heels. I’m not talking about the stereotypical bad guys of yesteryear – all dressed in black who hardly spoke and when they did, talked trash about the host city or town for cheap heat. I’m talking about heels who are bad-asses. Rough, tough beat-you-up-at-any-opportunity heels. Heels who wouldn’t run away. Heels who would face the good guy/girl no matter what and wouldn’t back down. If they portray a mean and tough character, then they should act like one.

Kevin Owens showed this when he feuded with John Cena. He’d attack him at any opportunity and was always ready for a fight. When he teamed up with Jericho (as great as that was), his character lost a little of that fire and began walking away from challenges, ducking fights to the fury of the crowd. I get that. I understand it, but Owens, to me at least, isn’t that type of guy. He’d beat you up, no matter who you were.

Samoa Joe’s fight with Lesnar harked back to the early 2000’s run of heel Triple H. He just kicked the crap out of you and rarely backed down. That persona in a heel is different to the chicken one. That persona is of a guy that’s serious about why he’s there. Nobody is going to stop him in getting what he wants. He had an intense hatred for his opponent, so much so that he’s willing to put his body on the line to prove that point and take every chance he can get to whoop ass.

The heel that will do anything to get into a fight puts the good guy and the crowd on edge. Who knows what they’ll do next? They’re calculating, devious and just plain nasty. When their music hits, something is going to happen and it won’t be pretty. Joe’s attitude of not respecting Brock or his reputation is a refreshing change to what we’ve seen in recent years. Are there great heels in WWE? Of course there are. The Miz, Charlotte and Neville are some of the best at the moment, but neither really assaults their opponent at any given moment – perhaps with the exception of Neville who is fantastic and, in my mind at least, could be in the Universal Title contention.

If Joe’s momentum is to be derailed at the Great Balls of Fire PPV (ugh, I hate that name), then hopefully his showing on Raw will make his challenge more than a small storyline until Roman or Strowman take that spot. Hopefully Joe can continue on acting like the smash-mouth, brutal competitor who takes no prisoners. That makes Joe dangerous to the rest of the roster. It makes him a nuisance to the GM Kurt Angle and it makes him a talking point on Raw. What will Joe do next? Who will he go for next? What will happen if he does? It makes for interesting viewing. It makes for good TV and it builds him as a different character in WWE. Someone who goes against the grain, gives us something different and unusual. After all, isn’t that what we want as fans? Something different to keep us entertained? Is Samoa Joe the heel we can believe in?

What do you think? Is Samoa Joe a different heel to what we’re used to? Should his attitude and character be continued on after the PPV? Does it help Brock to have opponents who aren’t afraid of him? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

Oh and here’s that awesome brawl from Raw in case you want to see it one more time.