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SAMOA JOE ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE FROM RING OF HONOR

By Mike Johnson on 2007-01-31 11:50:00

It's hard to think of Ring of Honor without Samoa Joe, but come March, that's going to be a reality that ROH fans are going to have to come to terms with.

In an announcement made in the latest edition of the ROH Video Wire, it was announced that one of the most important talents to ever step into a Ring of Honor ring, Samoa Joe, would be leaving the promotion full-time in March.

In the Video Wire, Joe stated, "I'd like to start this off by saying thank you. Thank you to the Ring of Honor fans. Thank you to the Ring of Honor loyalists. For all those who helped make this grow and become what it is today and for those that will continue to help this grow and become bigger and better in the days to come. It has come to light that my tenure here in Ring of Honor will soon be coming to an end. As most of you know, a great deal of my heart, a great deal of my soul, a great of who I am as a wrestler, as a person is linked to this promotion and what I've done in it. I started out in Southern California and did my best to hone my skills, but Ring of Honor was the place where I go to display that. It was the place where I got to go out and be Joe and that's all I had to be. The past three years, three plus years, hell, damn near four now, I've called this place home. I have proudly carried its banner and I've proudly displayed my work here to all those who would see it. So, in light of that, I am making an announcement that the Samoa Joe Farewell Tour will begin on February 16th and will end in Liverpool, England. I will have my final match as a regular part of the Ring of Honor as a wrestler. I've made a lot of promises and I've said a lot of things, especially into this camera, but I promise you this, I came into this company to do a mission - to wrestle my ass off, to give my best at all times for the best fans in the world. I promise you this Ring of Honor fans, in my final run here, my final string of matches that I will leave with this promotion, I will give you my best. I will give you my greatest. I promise you. I will give you my all. Unfortunately, circumstances and time move on, and so much I. Ring of Honor's always been a promotion about new talent, new people, a new breed of wrestling. Trends aren't followed here, trends are made and now I leave the trends, the edginess, the realness of pro wrestling for those here on this roster. Ring of Honor was a huge part of my life and always will be. I hope you will join me and the rest here as I'm forced to say farewell to a company that I love. Thank you. I am Samoa Joe. I love pro wrestling and I leave it all here, in Ring of Honor."

Although not stated, the move is being made in order for Joe to dedicate his full attention to TNA and independent bookings that TNA set forth for him in the future. When asked for comment about Joe's departure this afternoon, ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky declined comment, stating, "I'd rather not discuss the matter".

In an interview conducted last week with ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky on www.PWInsiderElite.com, however, Sapolsky did comment on losing talent, noting, "Talent hits in Ring of Honor are inevitable. We're always going to lose talent, so when we do, that just thins things out a little bit, then things settle and you can construct a really good card from top to bottom. It also makes it easier on the fans. The fans are always going to panic at first when they hear a talent is leaving. When you are able to remove guys from the show, it allows others a chance to move up the card and that softens the blow. That's something that we'll do and something we've always had to do and it helps, but we're always going to lose talent. It happens to everybody - Vince McMahon lost Steve Austin, Bret Hart, The Rock, Chris Jericho, it happens to everybody. [Losing talent] is an important part of the business because if you have guys forever, it's tough for them not to get stale and the fans start to take them for granted to a point. As long as you keep finding new hungry talent that wants to improve and move up the card, it will be OK. It's just a process of the business."

Joe's importance in the growth of ROH cannot be understated. Originally scheduled for just one appearance against Low Ki at the first-ever Glory by Honor event in October 2002, Joe earned a regular slot with the company following a stellar match. By March 2003, he had won the ROH championship from Xavier, going on to carry the title for 21 months, getting a great deal of prestige and legitimacy to both the championship and the promotion in the process.

When the company was at it's weakest point in 2003 following the fallout of the Rob Feinstein situation and the departure of (as irony would have it) pulled TNA talent, Joe's series of 60 minute matches against CM Punk for the ROH title helped put the focus back on the ROH in-ring product and gave the company something to cement themselves with as they rebuilt their relationship with fans. When asked about the series last week, Sapolsky concurred that the series helped save the company from it's issues at the time.

Over time, Joe become a top draw for ROH with classic matches against Bryan Danielson, Homicide, CM Punk, Low Ki, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, The Briscoe Brothers, Austin Aries, and Kenta Kobashi, among a slew of other top names. With the departure of other names that were focal points of the company leaving either temporarily or permanently over time, Joe became the de facto "legend" of the company and was often a major factor in some of the company's top storylines, including last year's feud with Combat Zone Wrestling. Joe's most recent storyline has featured Joe challenging Pro Wrestling NOAH, leading to matches against Nigel McGuiness and Joe's first-ever singles bout against Takeshi Morishima on 2/16.

In discussing Joe's tenure with the company last week and trying to keep him fresh within storylines, Sapolsky noted, "We've had Samoa Joe now consistently with the exception of nothing more than one or two shows in a row, since October 2002. That's over 100 shows, 100 matches. He's done a lot here. The NOAH thing has helped freshen [Joe] up as now he's in a really hot feud. Honestly it was becoming tough [to keep Joe fresh]. We had the Danielson feud, which was good we got that in. He teamed with Homicide, which was a good story, against the Briscoes. He was involved in the CZW feud and it was important to have him in the CZW feud as far as credibility goes and everything. It's not like there wasn't anything to do with him; there's always something to do with a talent like Samoa Joe, but again, it's tough to keep guys fresh. a guy like Joe, you can't turn him heel. Our crowd is never going to boo him. So then, you look up and down and the roster and go, "Who does he need to work? He's had three matches against this guy, four matches against this guy, five matches against that guy." There's not a lot of fresh matches there, but the whole NOAH feud has really helped to freshen him up."

Joe will be doing a farewell tour of sorts in New York City on 2/16, Philadelphia on 2/17, Dayton, OH on 2/22, Chicago on 2/23 and ROH's doubleshot in Liverpool, Great Britain in March.

Once those dates take place, Joe's run as a full-time performer for ROH will be finished. While there is always a possibility he could return for one-off appearances in the future, without a doubt, Joe's exit closes the door on another chapter for the Ring of Honor promotion.

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