The former NXT Champion worked for promotions including Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling in the first 15 years of his career, but his only televised WWE appearance during that time came in February 2001 when he lost against Essa Rios on an episode of Jakked.
Joe told Sean Ross Sapp that he has constantly had to overcome doubters and prove himself at every new company he has competed in, and it was no different when he joined WWE.
“Vince vehemently opposed me being in WWE. He didn’t know me, wasn’t familiar with me, but now we have a great relationship and everything is working fine.”
Roman Reigns' long-term rival also mentioned that lots of people “went to bat” in an attempt to convince WWE’s decision-makers to sign him, but it took “years and years” for him to be offered a deal.
Why did Vince McMahon not want to sign Samoa Joe?
Although Samoa Joe did not go into details about Vince McMahon’s lack of interest in signing him, WWE producer Bruce Prichard revealed on his ‘Something To Wrestle With’ podcast in 2016 that the WWE chairman did not like Joe’s body type.
"I’ll tell you why he wasn’t considered. It was because they thought he was a fat Samoan. He looked out of shape – he wasn’t the body type that Vince liked and they felt that it wouldn’t work."
Thankfully for Joe, he appears to have won over McMahon and the rest of WWE’s creative team, as he has featured prominently in meaningful storylines ever since he joined the main roster in January 2017.