Samoa Joe is on a mission, and that is to live up to the “Destroyer” monicker he has been given.

Every where he’s gone in professional wrestling, he’s held gold. He’s held 10 championships in TNA and was the first two-time NXT Champion in history among other accolades.

I spoke with Samoa Joe on Monday afternoon. He called in from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before Monday Night Raw, less than two weeks from WrestleMania 33 in Orlando.

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This year is expected to be the first WrestleMania for the 37-year-old, and it will be in the backyard of NXT, where Samoa Joe ran roughshod for well over the past year.

Joe talked about putting the roster on notice and helping put NXT on the map as an equal to WWE’s flagship shows.

We’re not too far off from WrestleMania. How’s the atmosphere around the locker room?

Samoa Joe: “The atmosphere is charged up. Any time you get to this point in the year this close to WrestleMania, everybody is going to be putting up their ‘A’ game and things are getting enthusiastic here. That’s the best way to describe it around here.”

I was talking with D-von (Dudley) last year about this time and he was telling me how everybody kind of gets themselves in a little better shape and betters themselves during this is build up. Is this what everyone works for?

SJ: “Yea, everything ramps up. I think it’s obviously its the biggest show of the year and everybody wants to make that lasting impression and it’s a show where you can make your mark in the annals of history. And I think that everybody wants to make their mark when it comes to the annals of history.”

This is going to be your first WrestleMania it looks like. How exciting is that for you?

SJ: “I think any time you’re dealing with your first ever WrestleMania it’s equal parts thrilling and equal parts a lot of pressure to go out there and perform and deliver at the highest level. Pressure and performance have never been an issue with me. But with WrestleMania kinda being right around the corner, yea I can say I feel a little bit (of pressure).”

You called out Sami Zayn almost immediately when coming up, saying you’re not going to be the type of guy who is just happy to be in WWE. It’s not official yet but you guys are on a collision course. Is this your chance to back those words up?

SJ: “There’s always a chance. I think that will materialize in the coming next few weeks we’ll kind of reveal what path I might have. If there’s a clash, I have no qualms about that. Sami, he’s a great competitor, but like I said, to me, he seems like a man who is kind of happy to be a part of the process and I’m here to take over the process so I think maybe philosophically we differ in those terms.”

How perfectly does the “Destroyer” monicker fit you?

SJ: “I think it’s very, very perfect. I was kind of tasked with a mission, and whenever I’ve been given a mission at any point in my career I’ve fulfilled it. Right now, my mission is to run through the WWE roster, wreck as many people as possible in the most efficient fashion. Me being called the ‘Destroyer’ is a monicker I seek to live up to.”

What you did to Seth Rollins your first night on Raw, was that a matter of you putting the rest of the roster on notice?

SJ: “Absolutely. Seth is declaring himself ‘The Man’ and ‘The Architect’ and I found a flaw in the blue print. (He) was a victim of that flaw. That’s the big thing. Whenever you show up anywhere and you’re looking to make a statement, you walk into the yard, you find the biggest guy in the yard and you sock him in the mouth. Seth happened to be that guy at the time.”

You proved you’re a force to be reckoned with while in NXT. What can you say about your time there?

SJ: “My time in NXT... I look back on it fondly. Any time you’re given the opportunity to literally launch and bring into predominance the third brand within the WWE umbrella of the WWE universe, I think it’s a great honor and very telling that I was entrusted with that mission. And NXT has done that. It’s transcended from a developmental territory to NXT Takeovers being sold out in every major arena that they run in. So being a part of that evolution and being a part of that emergence of NXT is something I’ll fondly look back on in my career for years to come.”

Your runs against Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura were some of the best matches NXT has ever seen. How proud are you of the work you put in with those guys?

SJ: “Tremendously. Obviously (despite) whatever differences manifested our having those matches. Finn Balor is somebody I’ve known for over a decade, Shinsuke Nakamure is somebody I’ve known for over a decade and had a hand in their emergence as global superstars. So to come full circle and face them at NXT in front of jam-packed arenas, there’s kind of a special twinge of satisfaction that goes with that.”

You look at guys like that, and then there’s you, A.J. Styles, and now you’re seeing it with Bobby Roode and Austin Aries, guys who have been in this business a very long time before coming into WWE. I guess, what’s it like seeing all of you guys now coming to this part of your career where you’re at the highest level?

SJ: “It’s no surprise to me. It’s funny because it’s surreal how often I hear fans are surprised that in 2017 who would have thought, which is often a term that I hear used whenever you use any of those names in conjunction with WWE. It is definitely no surprise. The cream rises to the top. The very best of this business will find their way to the biggest stage and seeing all those guys now come to WWE just proves that theory and it’s awesome to see everybody up here with me.”

Now that you’re here and you’ve accomplished quite a bit in NXT and now on the main roster, what is the goal for you?

SJ: “The goal is gold. I think that goal has never really changed. I’ve been a champion everywhere I have gone and WWE will be no different. I will be a champion here. I will capture as much gold as humanly possible. That’s my mission right now.”

What can we expect from Samoa Joe going forward?

SJ: “I like to give people the formula. I will show up, I will wreck somebody’s shop, I will walk away and I will show up again and kind of rinse, dry and repeat. There’s nothing really complicated about what I do. Expectations shouldn’t be anything different from that. I’m here. I’ve made my statements and now it’s time to deliver. So here we go.”

Awesome. Thank you Joe and good luck the rest of the way. I’m looking forward to WrestleMania and seeing you out there.

SJ: “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

jrusso@acpress.com

Twitter: @ACPress_Russo

I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July of 2013

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