The second that Samoa Joe won the Fatal-Five-Way match at Extreme Rules the mood changed. Sports entertainment felt a little more real. In the weeks that followed Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar took WWE fans down a road that they don’t always have the pleasure of going down.
That road; doesn’t feel like the build to a typical WWE main event. It’s much more intense than a cage match, even more than Hell in a Cell. The reason it feels different is because the WWE has booked a big time prizefight. Lesnar vs Joe feels like something much closer to something the UFC would do than a product the WWE would produce in 2017.
June 5: To start the build Samoa Joe attacked Paul Heyman after the two exchanged in a viciously intense promo in the middle of the ring. After the verbal barbs ended, Joe choked Heyman out with the Coquina Clutch rear naked choke.
June 12: The following week is when the high intensity, went through the roof. In the opening segment on Brock Lesnar returned to Raw for the first time in months. Heyman called out Samoa Joe. Joe answered the call quickly bringing the two warriors nose to nose in the center of the ring for the first time. The exchange was intense, and at the perfect moment Joe engaged Brock hitting him and getting the advantage. Brock would fight back and take some heat back before the locker room emptied and pulled the two apart. The battle wasn’t over, as Brock and Joe broke free several times before Joe finally exited up the ramp. Now Joe isn’t just a challenger, he has been established as a credible threat.
June 26: Samoa Joe confronts Paul Heyman backstage before Brock Lesnar arrives at the building. Once in the ring later that evening, Paul announces Brock Lesnar, and the Champion walks onto the stage to head to the ring. Before Lesnar even makes it to the ramp, Samoa Joe blindsides him and puts him in the Coquina Clutch. Lesnar fights Joe off but can’t break the hold. Finally, the hold is broken when The Revival along with Karl Anderson intervene and separate the two monsters.
Later on, Paul Heyman cut a backstage promo on Samoa Joe. Paul acknowledges the danger Joe presents to his champion, but claims the match will still end with an F5.
July 3: Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe are sequestered to separate areas of the arena. The two are shown on camera at the same time via split screen. Lesnar and Joe were able to hurl threats back and forth. Samoa Joe came across in the segment as someone hungry to make the most of his opportunity that has been 20 years in the making. Lesnar on the right of the screen, looked calm, cool and relaxed. He laughed Joe off as if to say, ‘I’ve been in the ring with the best and beaten them all, you’re no different’. Eventually Joe would get frustrated and leave his location looking for Brock all over the arena. Joe would eventually find Brock, but would be unable to capitalize due to Kurt Angle and other officials blocking his path to the Beast Incarnate. As Joe snarled and pushed to get to Brock, Lesnar laughed with Heyman, continuing to instigate Joe. The setup with the split screen for this segment felt much more UFC than WWE. The UFC consitently uses split screens to feature two fighters before a big event. The segment works because it allows the combatants to get their personality across.
As the timeline illustrates, Bock Lesnar vs Samoa Joe is not just another wrestling match. There is no formula for the build to this epic encounter. This is a fight between two credible opponents for the top prize in the WWE. No matter the outcome at Great Balls Of Fire, this feud established Samoa Joe as a top level threat capable of competing with anyone in the company.