TNA World Heavyweight Title: Sting vs. Samoa Joe ©
Oct. 12, 2008
TNA Bound for Glory 2008
VOW Secret Santa Introduction & Background

Reviewed by Aaron Taube (VOW Author Page / @aptaube)

Gifted by Andrew Sinclair (VOW Author Page / @AMSinclair97)

Pro wrestling is a little bit like life in that you can rewind the past over and over, examine it from every angle, and still not get to the bottom of what really happened or why.

In some ways it’s a little bit more lifelike than life, in the sense that in the search for a kernel of objective truth, pro wrestling fans must make sense of an in-ring performance that seamlessly blends fiction and reality and an industry culture that — even today — prizes secrecy and misdirection.

The 2008 Bound for Glory main event title match between Sting and Samoa Joe occurred during a roughly five-year stretch when I was paying virtually zero attention to pro wrestling. When I returned to the scene in late 2011, the indie darlings I’d worshipped as an adolescent had ascended to the big stage of the WWE main event scene. 

But if Bryan Danielson and C.M. Punk were headlining basketball arenas, whatever happened, I asked, to Samoa Joe? The big-boy wrecking machine had captured my teenage imagination by pairing explosive strikes and slams with an unflappably cool demeanor, and yet he hadn’t joined his contemporaries in making the leap from Basketball City to basketball arenas.

The answer, I was told by those in the know, could be found in this match, against Sting at TNA’s Bound for Glory 2008 event

As rumor had it, Joe was never the same after launching himself at full speed from a Sears Centre luxury box toward his opponent standing in the aisleway below. The aborted attack ended with Joe crotching himself on a handrail and splattering onto the arena concrete. The resulting injury, I was told, had ruined the explosiveness that made Joe special, undermined his fitness, and washed out the superstar aura that had lit up the hotel ballrooms and convention halls I’d seen him in years prior.

And yet, when I went to review this match in December 2023, there was no conclusive evidence that an actual injury had ever occurred. A glance at Joe’s Cagematch page reveals that he went right back to work, wrestling four matches for TNA that same month. There’s no mention of an injury in the next week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, either. And, in a long and slightly convoluted 2021 Twitter thread, the man himself says he was not injured, did not miss a day of work, and actually quite enjoyed misleading the people he met in person who assumed the spill had changed the trajectory of his career.

Still, close observers of Joe’s career maintain there was a marked shift in his performances around this time. He moved less quickly, cut out more dangerous moves from his arsenal, and certainly did not achieve the same level of critical acclaim or business prominence throughout the rest of his TNA run. As regular listeners of The Flagship Podcast are often reminded, professional wrestlers are professional liars, after all.

So, what actually happened to Samoa Joe in the years between Bound for Glory 2008 and his recent renaissance in AEW? Was he really injured beyond repair? Or did he simply make a conscious decision to tone down his style for his long-term health? Or maybe he was demotivated by TNA’s boneheaded creative plans or lack of upward trajectory? Did he just get slower as he aged? Or was it some combination of all the above?

A closer inspection of the match yields no concrete answers. Certainly, the pace slows down in the minutes following the champion’s dramatic leaping splat. But was Joe recovering from a real-life injury, or merely slowing things down to accommodate a co-performer who was just a few months shy of his 50th birthday? When Joe leans over with hands on his knees as Sting recovers from a slam late in the match, it’s unclear whether he’s preparing for one last push through career-altering pain or merely portraying the ultimate predator, lying in wait for his prey. When he grimaces while flexing for the crowd, is it Joe Seanoa’s pain we’re witnessing, or Samoa Joe’s?

Maybe Samoa Joe knows the answers to these questions, and maybe he doesn’t. Certainly, there are things that happen in all our lives that lie just beyond explanation. Why couldn’t we get that big promotion? How could we be betrayed by such a close friend? Did that ex really love us, or were we just being worked? Sometimes things happen, and there’s no way we’ll ever fully understand why. 

And don’t get me started on the Kevin Nash run-in that ends the match.