Things were looking up for Joe E. Legend in the year 2000. With his former tag team partner Edge and former stablemate Christian launching themselves into superstardom with their memorable ladder matches, the indie veteran must have had high hopes for his career when he signed a coveted WWF contract.
An on-screen reunion with his buddies E&C wasn’t in the cards, though, so Joe had to strike out on his own and make an impact with an original gimmick. A few disagreements with WWF Creative later, and Legend was introduced to the world as Just Joe — not the perfect gimmick, but one that just went to show you that when life gives you lemons, half-heartedly pelt an undercard wrestler with them and blame it on another undercard wrestler so they’ll wrestle each other on your promotion’s C show.
Before his inauspicious debut in the company, Legend had a number of ideas for characters he could play in the WWF. For instance, he pitched a gimmick that would see him cut his hair short and chastise the audience for being immoral, then feud with The Godfather. Vince didn’t go for it at first, but then he had Stevie Richards do the exact same thing with Right to Censor. If a WWE writer ever blatantly stole a wrestler’s idea like that these days, Brodus Clay would probably induct him into his Hall of Pain.
Another of Joe E’s ideas was to be a cult leader of sorts who would claim he was “just the messenger.” Creative seized on this and put it on TV, except instead of being a cult leader, he was now just some guy who spread rumors and said, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
At least he didn’t propose going on a “winning streak”; he might have ended up with Mideon’s gimmick.
Joe’s whole gimmick was to be a glorified plot device, instigating trouble between random wrestlers to set up matches on Sunday Night Heat, because back in 2000, even the C show needed a storyline explanation for each match. This, of course, was before WWE produced eight hours of in-ring TV a week.
Every week, Joe would spread some rumor or another between wrestlers backstage so they would challenge one another to a match, which would somehow get booked and put in the ring within half an hour.
The best thing that can be said about Just Joe’s backstage segments is that his performances were often realistic – painfully realistic. When’s the last time you heard anyone on TV stammer like this? I mean, it would also have been realistic to show Mumbly Joe here brushing his teeth once in a while, but that wouldn’t have made for good TV, either.
The one thing the sport of professional wrestling was missing, apparently, was a wrestler who not only tried to avoid direct confrontation at all costs, but who also almost always succeeded at it. Not that there’s anything wrong with a chickens**t heel in wrestling — as long as there’s a payoff that sees him get beaten down in glorious fashion. Not so with Just Joe, who rarely saw action at all in the ring.
Just Joe was forgettable seemingly by design, starting with his name. He wasn’t GI Joe…
…or Samoa Joe…
…or even Samoan Joe.
He was Just Joe. Now, even the name “Just Joe” would at least have been original, but the way he was presented was so inconsistent that most of the time he wasn’t even “Just” Joe but, well, just Joe.
Don’t think this is nitpicking; there’s an important difference between Just Joe and just Joe. Capitalization matters. Why, take a look at this innocuous sentence with perfect capitalization:
I helped my uncle Jack off a horse.
Now imagine that sentence without the proper capital letter. *nudge nudge* You see where I’m going with this, right? You’ll end up with:
i helped my uncle Jack off a horse.
“I” should always be capitalized, and you’ll look silly if it isn’t, you goof!
So which was it, Joe, or Just Joe? The ring announcers kept introducing him as “Just Joe.” The entrance graphics always said, “Joe.” The announcers would waffle back and forth between “Joe” and “Just Joe,” and so did the other wrestlers. Nobody seemed to know what precisely his official name was, which wasn’t exactly a show of confidence for Joe on the WWF’s part.
Nor did anyone get the feeling that the WWF saw any potential in Joe based on his Titantron (which, for the record, called him, “Joe, just Joe”).
Not only did it consist almost entirely of still images, but all of said still images were of him just talking backstage.
Even David Flair got some posing in for his infamous Titantron.
The speech bubbles in his Titantron video (which may have been created on an early version of Powerpoint) didn’t even line up with his mouth!
His ring gear was pretty shabby, too, looking as if it he had swiped a spare singlet from Mini Vader’s bags.
But it’s not fair to judge Just Joe by his in-ring presentation when the bulk of his WWF career was spent in tedious backstage skits, into which, again, Joe always put forth a Herculean effort. I don’t mean the mythological Hercules, of course, but Hercules Hernandez, who cared so much for his job by 1992 that he sold Sid Justice’s offense thusly:
When Joe apologized to the wrestlers for barging in, it was almost as if he wasn’t acting at all but genuinely did not want to be there, his dream of a career in the big time having been crumpled and discarded like a one-dollar bill… but more on that later.
Just Joe’s reign of terror backstage would claim victim after victim, pitting the likes of Kai En Tai against Sgt. Slaughter over the superiority of the Japanese educational system…
…Chaz & D’Lo Brown against T&A over Albert’s chest hair and Test’s inability to tell a wristlock from a wristwatch (Gorilla Monsoon was apparently a member of Lo Down)…
…Lo Down again, this time against Al Snow over his mannequin head…
…and Perry Saturn against Gangrel over the vampire’s alleged “cross-eyed freak” comments.
The only other way to have this kind of puppetmaster-like control over these superstars would have been to buy up their action figures from the bargain bins at Wal-Mart.
Normally, Joe would spread some made-up gossip about what “the boys in the back” were saying. Once, however, Joe stumbled upon some *real* heat between wrestlers, catching Mideon calling Dean Malenko as useless as a crumpled-up dollar bill. No, let me rephrase that: He called his crumpled-up dollar bill as useless as Dean Malenko. Now there’s an expression that needs to be brought back!
Example: “The WWE App and Dean Malenko are a lot alike: they’re both useless!”
“Man, these Raw guest stars are useless… just like Dean Malenko!”
Or: “Economists fear that if the value of the euro continues to drop, it will soon be as useless as Dean Malenko.”
When Joe confronted Dean about his name being used as shorthand for “technically worth a dollar but still unable to buy a Snickers with,” the ladies’ man (note to self: induct Dean Malenko, ladies’ man) would have none of it, challenging Joe to a match, which, as an ambiguously contracted WWF talent, Joe was obligated to accept. Maybe. Nobody really knew whether he even worked for the company or not.
It figured that the one time Joe was telling the truth, no one believed him. It’s like that time on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo when Freddy promised not to blame Red Herring, and it turned out to be the one time Red Herring really was behind the mystery. Or, it’s like the boy who cried wolf. Whichever one you find more relatable.
Whatever the case, Dean finally taught the conniving Joe a lesson by pinning his shoulders to the mat with a roll-up.
Undeterred by his technically-sound defeat at the hands and butt of Malenko, Joe finally got his moment in the spotlight, meddling in the main storyline at the time, the Hunter-Stephanie-Kurt love triangle.
Triple H threatened that if Joe was screwing him around, it would be the last thing he would ever do. He was screwing him around, and it was pretty much the last thing he ever did, but that may have been just a coincidence.
After an uneventful few months of working with the Mean Street Posse, teaming with Funaki on Heat and Jakked, and jobbing to the Brooklyn Brawler, Just Joe parted ways with the WWF in January 2001.
I’m not going to sit here behind my computer and call Joe E. Legend’s tenure in the Federation dreadful. No, not when “miserable” was the actual word he used. I can’t blame Joe; if I’d been stuck with this crappy rumor-monger gimmick, I’d have shot the messenger myself.