Current AEW Champion Considered Retirement Before Joining Company

All Elite Wrestling has given a new lease on life to many of its veteran stars' careers. Former WWE midcard acts like Claudio Castagnoli and Athena currently reign with Ring of Honor gold, while Malakai Black and Buddy Matthews are regularly featured on weekly programming. The same can be said about Samoa Joe, a well-travelled independent sensation who spent seven years in WWE. During his tenure there, Joe dominated NXT, reigning with the company's top prize on three separate occasions. His main roster run also saw success, as he main-evented numerous pay-per-views against the likes of Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar.

That said, the tail end of Joe's WWE experience featured less highlights. Injuries forced him into a commentary position, and he was unceremoniously released from the company in April 2021. Joe would be re-signed just two months later, going back to NXT to serve as the enforcer to then-General Manager William Regal. Just six months after returning to the company, Joe was released again.

Speaking to Renee Paquette on The Sessions, Joe revealed that he seriously considered retirement before AEW came knocking.

"I was legitimately thinking about hanging it up for health reasons," Joe said (h/t Fightful). "[I was] still coming off the concussion and still dealing with the very end effects of that and getting back in the ring healthy and transitioning back to a physical state where I can do something for a good period of time and not want to pass out."

Joe's injuries piled up in early 2020, forcing him to transition to the announce table. Even though the situation was out of his control, Joe noted that he needed the time away from the ring.

"I basically caught two concussions very close together," Joe said. "I did take a year off to do commentary, which helped me tremendously and I do not regret taking that time. I wouldn't change it for anything. That allowed me to get healthy and get my mind back together and get back into a place where I felt confident even doing anything physical."

If not for his time away from physicality, Joe doubts that he'd still be wrestling today.

"I realize that if I were to rush that and done that, I probably, inevitably, would not have returned to the ring at all," Joe continued. "I am happy I handled that well, despite wanting to get after it."

Joe currently reigns as the AEW TNT Champion, a title he reclaimed this past Wednesday on AEW Dynamite.