Samoa Joe took to social media on Sunday evening to announce that, effective immediately, he would be relinquishing the NXT Championship. Joe won the title back at NXT TakeOver 36 by defeating Karrion Kross, becoming the first man to ever hold NXT's top prize three times while competing in a wrestling ring for the first time since injuries put him on the shelf back in early 2020. He explained that undisclosed injuries were the cause of his decision, saying, "upon my recent return my goals were very simple — I sought to ensure the respect and integrity due to both NXT and its championship. I sought to ensure that everybody understood that the needs of one individual will never outstrip the sum of the brand. Today I find myself having to stand on those principles."
"Recently, WWE Medical informed me that due to certain injuries they would like to have me step away for a brief, but still indeterminate amount of time," Joe continued before alluding to the upcoming changes the NXT brand will be going through (beginning with this week's episode) and that the new era deserves to have a fighting champion. He then indicated that when he returns he'll attempt to win the championship once again.
This marks the third time that the NXT Championship has been relinquished due to the reigning champion suffering an injury. Tommaso Ciampa saw his 2018-19 run brought to an abrupt end after he was forced to undergo neck surgery. Last year saw Kross win the championship from Keith Lee at NXT TakeOver XXX, only for him to forfeit the title four days later due to suffering a separated shoulder during the match with Lee.
On top of his return to the NXT brand, Joe has also begun working in WWE's recruiting department. He was present with the other WWE Performance Center trainers at the WWE Las Vegas Tryouts last month during SummerSlam weekend.
"It was always a process," Joe said during a recent interview with TalkSport. "It's hard to give a real official timestamp on it because you got to understand with concussions, it's not like 'hey it's mended, you're good.' And people keep applying this kind of black and white, cleared/uncleared status to it. But really, even when you're cleared, it's still monitoring you. There's still check-ups, there's still tests and so if there's any differential, even after recovery is deemed, then it's 'no, no, no. We're going to slow you up, bring you back in.' And that's what it was for me, I was taking that time. I was taking every single chance to have a healthy recovery and come back at 100 percent. Not 60, no 70, not workable, but come back healthy enough where I felt comfortable coming back and going 100 percent.
"Because I think if you come back too soon and you don't give your body and your mind a proper chance to heal, you inevitably get more injuries and that's the cycle I got into towards the end of my last run with WWE. I needed to break that cycle. I needed to take the time to make a full recovery," he continued. "There was a date I was cleared, but then with observation, they were like 'OK, let's take a bit of time. You're still cleared, but we still want to make sure you're OK.' So it's not this black and white process that everyone thinks it is, and it shouldn't be. It should not be. That was the frustrating thing for me when people were talking about the injury like it's a yes or a no. When it comes to brain injuries, it should never be that."