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Samoa Joe & The Art of the Heel in 2017

Samoa Joe was the topic of some serious scrutiny for his heel antics on social media this past week after news broke that Seth Rollins suffered a knee injury during their brawl on Monday Night Raw.

And it may not be why you think.

Sure, there were fans that were legitimately mad at Samoa Joe for once again injuring “The Crossfit Jesus”, but the scrutiny came from a couple of tweets sent out by The Samoan Submission Machine.



These tweets were immediately analyzed by wrestling fans as being a part of a storyline injury for Seth Rollins. While I can understand their natural skepticism for Joe immediately playing up his role in the injury, there were multiple confirmed reports stating that Rollins was visiting with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

What wrestling fans often fail to understand is the way WWE now uses social media to advance character development. Not only that, but a wrestler using a LEGITIMATE injury that he caused to his opponent to gain heat is far from groundbreaking.

Social media has changed the game in an unmeasurable amount of ways. The way Samoa Joe was able to cultivate pure hatred for the unfortunate injury to Rollins is art in its simplest form.

The Art of the Heel in 2017 isn’t what it was just a mere 5 years ago; let alone 10!

In fact, this isn’t the first time a heel has used a real life injury that they caused to generate heat. It has happened quite often throughout wrestling history. Here’s Exhibit A:


Now whether Greg Valentine really broke the leg of Wahoo McDaniel or not is completely irrelevant to this particular point. The point is the heat generated by the act.

Greg Valentine was brought into Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the late 1970s. He was the son of the legendary Johnny Valentine & the bookers wanted to establish Greg as their new top heel.

On June 11, 1977, the man who would later be known as “The Hammer”, defeated Wahoo McDaniel for the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship, breaking his leg in the process.

To continue the angle, Valentine started to wear a t-shirt that said, “I BROKE WAHOO’S LEG” on the front. This t-shirt took on a life of it’s own and is still worn by wrestling fans & other professional wrestlers to this day.

OWEN 3:16

This example is more akin to what Samoa Joe was trying to accomplish with his tweets.

In 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin was on fire; steadily climbing to the top of the WWE ladder until he met Owen Hart at SummerSlam in an Intercontinental Championship match. This was a night that altered Austin’s life forever.

During the match, an ill-fated piledriver by Owen Hart broke Austin’s neck. Somehow, Stone Cold was still able to finish the match and win the Intercontinental Championship. Almost immediately, WWE capitalized on the injury by creating a catchphrase & t-shirt to generate heat for Owen.

Luckily for Austin, he was able to return to the ring in a few months and reclaim the Intercontinental Championship at Survivor Series 1997.

This entire controversial story, stemming from a life altering injury to Stone Cold, allowed Owen Hart to sell more t-shirts & become the most hated man on the WWE roster.


Wrestling fans can be an interesting niche of fans. This example may be the most recent outside of our main topic of discussion. In 2015, WWE Champion Seth Rollins & United States Champion John Cena were headed towards a showdown at SummerSlam in Brooklyn, New York when a brutal injury took place.

During a one-on-one contest on Raw, Seth Rollins decimated John Cena’ nose with a brutal jumping knee! Cena instantly hit the ground & it was not pretty. This injury caused critics to vilify Rollins for his “reckless” style, including some controversial comments from Bret “Hitman” Hart:

“He’s lucky, really lucky, that he didn’t kill John Cena right in the middle of the ring.” 

Maybe Bret was being a little too dramatic?

Either way, Rollins put one of SummerSlam’s major attractions in jeopardy. However, WWE took this as an opportunity to not only market merchandise aimed at John Cena detractors, but also allowed Rollins to brag about the injury constantly to build heat towards the match.

Classic heel antics by Rollins built him enough momentum to overcome the odds against Cena at SummerSlam 2015 and become a double champion. He was truly at the top of his game & his momentum was undeniable.

Unfortunately, Rollins would suffer his first knee injury on November 4, 2015 at a WWE Live Event in Ireland, sidling The Architect until his return on May 22nd 2016 at WWE Extreme Rules.


Samoa Joe reacted INSTANTLY to the news of Seth Rollins’ injury on Twitter. While I’m not sure if he was instructed to do so or he did so on his own, it really doesn’t matter. It was brilliant. This is what a heel does in 2017. Social media is still in the infant stages. The possibilities are endless!

The most diehard of WWE fans are on Twitter reacting to every little thing; including yours truly.

When the news broke, I saw people questioning the validity of the injury, being furious with Samoa Joe & panicking that Rollins could be missing another WrestleMania. A wave of emotion hit Twitter like we rarely see.

That’s art, ladies & gentlemen.

Jay Alletto

About Jay Alletto

Jay Alletto is the owner of PWPNation.com!

He’s interviewed many notable names in pro wrestling including: ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, Lex Luger, Diamond Dallas Page, Maria Kanellis & more.