Samoa Joe isn’t your average big-time professional wrestler. Listed at 6’2″ and 282 pounds, he lacks the physique so commonly found across the WWE. But talent comes in many packages, and the veteran wrestler doesn’t let appearance stop him from terrorizing opponents both big and small in rings across the country. With his unique skill set, not to mention uncanny strength and endurance, Samoa Joe is currently lighting up the wrestling world as a permanent fixture in the WWE.
Samoa Joe is a top contender for the Universal Championship, currently held by Brock Lesnar. Expect the California-based veteran wrestler to be part of the conversation as WWE SummerSlam approaches.
Here are 14 things you may not know about WWE sensation Samoa Joe:
1. Samoa Joe’s real name is Nuufolau Joel Seanoa. He is of Samoan-American descent and grew up in Orange County, California. He is currently married to Jessica Samoa, his wife since 2007.
2. Seanoa is 37 years old and has a rather large stature for a WWE wrestler. He is 6’2” and weighs 282 pounds, and has publicly struggled with his weight and weight-related injuries in the past. In 2015, he stunned the social media world after posting a tweet that featured a picture of himself looking much more trim and muscular than ever before.
3. Seanoa comes from a family of dancers, and his parents founded a Polynesian dance troupe in the United States called Tiare Productions, which is the largest such group in America. As a young child, he performed with the group, singing, dancing and playing the drums on tours around the world.
4. He performed as a dancer with his family during the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, California. Joe has performance in his blood, which may explain why he is so comfortable in front of the camera in the WWE.
5. Before becoming a professional wrestler, Seanoa was actually a mortgage broker, lining up potential home and business buyers with available lenders. After a few years in the field, he decided to follow his true passion of wrestling.
6. As a kid, Seanoa went to many wrestling shows with his father, who was a huge fan. He credits his father with getting him involved with wrestling. Seanoa especially liked watching wrestling specials from Japan, since Japanese techniques seemed more in line with his background in judo.
7. At the beginning of his career, Joe held the Ring of Honor World Championship for 21 months, the longest stretch in the promotion’s history. Between March of 2003 and December of 2004, he participated in 29 heavyweight fights, before eventually handing over the crown to Austin Aries.
8. Joe appeared on Distraction, a British gameshow that challenged contestants to answer basic questions while being severely distracted. His contestant managed to answer one question right while being thrown around the mat.
9. Seanoa was a Junior Judo State Champion in California as a child. That training informs his wrestling, which is also heavily influenced by MMA. These days Joe trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and Muay-Thai at his hometown boxing studio in California and often incorporates MMA moves into his matches.
10. Samoa Joe’s history with TNA Wrestling was marked by a three-way feud with Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles that produced some of the greatest matches of the era. One of particular note was the main event in the 2005 Unbreakable pay-per-view, Joe’s first TNA title shot. The three-way match, in which Styles pinned Daniels for the win, is considered by many to be one of the promotion’s best ever.
11. Joe debuted with NXT in May of 2015 and in the ring against Kevin Owens a month later. Entering the WWE’s developmental promotion, he had been wrestling for 15 years. In April the following year, Joe knocked off Finn Balor to win his first NXT championship, which he held for 121 days before Shinsuke Nakamura took it. Joe won it back three months later, becoming NXT’s first two-time champion.
12. Besides his official ring name, Samoa Joe has numerous nicknames, including “The Champ” (a nod to his Ring of Honor reign), “The Samoan Submission Machine,” “Submission Specialist” and “The Destroyer.”
13. Samoa Joe’s latest finishing move is the Coquina Clutch, which is his take on the popular sleeper hold. In MMA it is more commonly referred to as the “rear-naked choke.” This finisher replaces the legendary muscle buster.
14. Outside of wrestling, Joe is a huge fan of video games. In a 2005 TNA Wrestling interview, he explained the “tremendous” gaming rivalry he and fellow wrestler AJ Styles have built together. Joe also voiced The Beast in the video game Game of Thrones.
Sydney Cantor is a Content Intern at CBS Local.