With WWE's NXT brand on an intense tour of Japan and Australia before returning Stateside immediately for more shows, it seemed somewhat inevitable that with wrestling nine shows in 12 days on multiple continents, some NXT Superstars would not escape unscathed.
It appears as though one of NXT's top names might have picked up a knock on the tour, and it could hardly have come at a worse time for that particular wrestler.
Former two-time NXT Champion Samoa Joe appeared at Thursday's NXT live event in Riverside, California and told the crowd that he was not medically cleared to compete in that evening's main event. He stayed at ringside for said match as NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger beat Bobby Roode and Andrade "Cien" Almas, according to Wrestling Inc.
Samoa Joe's last match prior to that was at an NXT live event in Sydney, Australia on December 13. He partnered with Roode and "The Drifter" Elias Samson in a losing effort against Nakamura, Dillinger, and Buddy Murphy. The match apparently included few high-impact moves and featured a lot of stalling and crowd work, perhaps pointing to weary wrestlers nervous of getting injured after such a punishing schedule.That match was initially supposed to be a four-way main event pitting Joe, Nakamura, Roode, and Dillinger against each other. The crowd booed as NXT made the announcement that the contest would instead be a six-man tag match, while some reports suggested the crowd derailed the match at times in a show of displeasure.
Samoa Joe has featured in major matches throughout the tour, including two NXT Championship matches which were taped for NXT episodes on the WWE Network. First, Joe lost the championship back to Nakamura in the King of Strong Style's stomping ground of Osaka, Japan. The pair faced off in a rematch inside a steel cage in Melbourne, Australia, on December 8. Nakamura also won that contest, which aired on this week's episode of NXT.On December 10 in Newcastle, Nakamura, Dillinger, and Murphy beat Joe, Roode, and Samson. However, reports suggested that "The Samoan Submission Machine" Samoa Joe and Nakamura did not get very physically involved in that match, suggesting they might have been banged up after their hard-hitting NXT title encounters.
Two days later, in a match on the Gold Coast, Nakamura teamed up with TM61 to defeat Joe and The Revival. Again, Joe didn't get too involved in the contest, with TM61 and The Revival working most of the match and Roode and Dillinger getting involved at points.
The exact nature of Joe's potential injury is not clear. If he is indeed on the shelf, it is terrible timing for the veteran NXT Superstar.Rumors have flown around suggesting that the WWE main roster is about to come calling for Joe. After over a year and a half in NXT, during which time he was perennially in the main event scene and had two runs with the promotion's championship, he has little left to accomplish in the WWE's feeder system.
Reports suggest that Samoa Joe might debut in the Royal Rumble match, an occasion on which several NXT talents have made their main roster bow over the last few years. since Joe's been a featured attraction in practically every wrestling company for which he's appeared, there's every chance that Joe might quickly enter the WWE world championship scene soon after going to SmackDown Live or Raw.
If he does make the jump in the near future, there's a little symmetry between Joe and the last NXT Champion to make the move to the main roster. Finn Balor's last NXT contest was a steel cage title match loss to Samoa Joe.
[Featured Image by WWE]