Samoa Joe, not Kevin Owens, should be the top face on Raw

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Samoa Joe, not Kevin Owens, should be the top face on Raw

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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Alongside Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe is currently embroiled in a feud against Seth Rollins, Buddy Murphy and the AOP. In a rivalry that initially began as an engine to propel Owens up the babyface ranks following a tepid face turn, Joe was inserted into the feud to provide reinforcement the uneven odds enjoyed by Rollins’ faction. However, Joe–who required a face turn of his own–has seemingly usurped Owens’ in importance, creating a unique, volatile dynamic that WWE would be wise to explore.

Samoa Joe is one of the best in-ring technicians and promos under the WWE banner.  However, despite his imposing figure and microphone prowess, the “Samoan Submission Machine” is often overshadowed by superstars WWE considers more marketable.

But regardless of where he falls on the card, Samoa Joe routinely makes the best of the opportunities he’s provided. When asked to play second fiddle to Owens in Monday Night Raw’s foremost non-title feud, Samoa Joe responded by cutting scathing promos brimming with pointed insults. Where Owens comes off as borderline maniacal, relying on volume to engender crowd support, Samoa Joe exhibits a calculated, quick witted nature that is both endearing and entertaining.

And if we’re being honest, the Owens-Rollins feud would fall flat without Samoa Joe’s involvement.

While Rollins’ heel turn has been nothing short of masterful, WWE presents Owens as a cheap imitation of the antihero babyface depicted by the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk. Everything Owens has done since his face turn, from confronting those in perceived authoritative positions to his adoption of the Stone Cold Stunner, feels artificial and forced, leading to relative fan apathy.  Sure, Owens will get a crowd reaction every now and then, but it feels like a cheap, diluted imitation of the Attitude Era.

Furthermore, despite making a career out of underhanded tactics and cheap barbs, Samoa Joe suddenly looks like a sympathetic character. As an announcer, Samoa Joe was disconnected from the product before being forcibly removed from his hiatus. The trio of Rollins and  AOP assaulted a man who voluntarily retreated to the background, waiting for him to let his guard down before battering him into submission. It was an engrossing, provocative bit of booking that deserves attention, though WWE leadership seems content on moving forward with Owens as the face of the feud.

But it’s about time WWE pulls the trigger on a WWE Championship run for one of its most reliable, underappreciated stars. Samoa Joe has proven himself to be a multidimensional performer, capable of portraying either a menacing face or detestable heel. He can trade blows with the heaviest of heavyweights and keep pace with the most elusive cruiserweights.  He’s a jack-of-all-trades waiting to scale the proverbial mountain and commence a memorable run atop the company. And unlike Owens, his anger doesn’t feel manufactured.

Samoa Joe was one of the first superstars that WWE presented as a near-equal to the invincibility of Brock Lesnar. When Joe trapped Lesnar in the Coquina Clutch, it appeared that WWE had created a star. Joe looked like someone capable of carrying a brand, the middle man in between the insulation WWE affords its UFC-affiliated stars and the remainder of the roster. Dream matches such as Samoa Joe vs. Drew McIntyre, Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe vs. Keith Lee are enough to seduce even the weariest of wrestling fans.

With that said, we’ve watched promising character arcs get shuffled down the card once they no longer served WWE’s immediate purpose. Let’s hope Samoa Joe doesn’t succumb to the same creative apathy.