New NXT Champion Samoa Joe was on the Sam Roberts podcast recently, and among the topics of conversation was one about why Joe was allowed to keep the name he had used on the independent circuit for his entire career, rather than adopting a new WWE-created name, as former indie stars like Asuka (Kana), Hideo Itami (Kenta Kobayashi) and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) did when they were signed. It should be noted that since Joe debuted in NXT in early 2015, several other independent stars have been allowed to keep their ring names when coming to WWE, including AJ Styles, Austin Aries, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
“My lawyer is dope. Yeah, but I’m really super over and awesome, so that helps. I think the biggest thing really is when they looked at the situation, which was very unique that I was coming into, and AJ [Styles]’s much the same way. It’s very unique where we have decade-plus careers and decade-plus name recognition behind us that it’s more of a benefit to keep us as we are, so I think that’s the biggest thing. And for branding purposes and all that, I understand their business acumen behind trying to change somebody’s name. But, at the same time, do we want to start moving stuff a couple of months down the line or start moving stuff on night one? And that was a motivating factor, too. I mean, it was financially smart and it was creatively smart, so I think that was the biggest thing that went into it.”
You can listen to Joe’s entire interview on the Sam Roberts podcast right here.