For the first time since winning the NXT Championship at TakeOver 36, Samoa Joe spoke with The Bump panelists about his historic reign. Going from being released to rehired, Joe has come a long way, and now, that payoff has been sweetened with gold.

“You know, it always feels good to be a champion. I mean, what more can be said about it?” Samoa Joe said proudly with the NXT Championship on his shoulder. “To be a champion within the bounds of NXT is even more kind of a special pleasure for me because, obviously, NXT holds a special place in my heart. It was my introduction to the WWE Universe. What it represents and what it stands for, the change that is coming soon to NXT, it all makes it very exciting to be here and, especially, to be champ.”

This week on NXT, Joe made it clear in his sit down interview that he wants to be known as the standard-bearer in NXT. With that said, he’s got a lot of targets, especially ones from the newer generation. Today, Joe mentioned that he welcomes all challengers and looks forward to helping younger stars hone their craft against someone like himself.

“You know, I’m a firm believer that steel sharpens steel, and if we want our young Superstars to be at the caliber that we hope they will be in the future, then they need to be around men like me,” Joe boldly stated. “They need to have a goal and they need an opportunity to test themselves against the best, and I represent that. That is about redefining the legacy of a champion.

“In WWE, for far too long, I’ve looked around at our champions and I’ve seen the Jurassic measures, myself included, they’ve taken to secure those championships. Well, this is going to be different. This is going to be me, standing in the middle of the ring with this gold on my shoulder, openly welcoming anybody who wants to come and try to take it from me.”

Now that he’s starting his third reign, Joe says his victory over Karrion Kross holds more significance than his past two achievements with the title. The reason is that despite all the injuries and timeouts he’s had in the past, Joe proves time and time again that he’s still got it as an in-ring performer. Making history as the first man to hold the NXT Championship for a third time only adds to that ladder of success.

“It felt different in the sense that coming back, the expectations of coming off an injury, the expectations of being back in the ring and whether you can still pull off the big win, I mean, those are all kind of pressing concerns,” Joe mentioned. “We preserve, and we stuck it out, and we stand here with gold on our shoulder, and that’s good enough for me.”

While many would call Joe’s conquest at TakeOver 36 a full-circle moment, he would prefer it to be called anything but that.

“A full-circle [moment] would denote that I was finished with my work and that it’s been completed and formed together. And, I’m not,” Joe announced. “We’re still on a line and it’s heading up. It’s not full-circle; we’re just getting started.”

Throughout his interview, fans sent in questions. One fan asked Joe if his training regime has changed now that he’s about to put his title on the line against more youthful up-and-coming talents.

“Obviously. When you’re dealing with NXT athletes, you’re dealing with peak athletes. You’re dealing with young guys who are incredibly hungry,” Joe said. “That makes for some dangerous competitors. Yeah, it does change my mindset. You know, obviously, we’ve got to be a little bit more smarter and more defensive-minded, and put the offense where it needs to be and use it at its maximum effectiveness.”

You can watch Samoa Joe’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.