Samoa Joe, who was among numerous former WWE superstars recently released by the company, made his return to WWE programming in a new role on Tuesday (June 15) night.
Joe appeared on the latest episode of NXT, returning to the brand in an enforcer role for general manager William Regal.
The appearance came one day after PWInsider.com reported the two-time former NXT Champion had accepted a role to work exclusively with the WWE NXT brand overseen by WWE legend and current executive Paul 'Triple H' Levesque, who was reportedly "not happy" about his release and "snatched him back" as soon as possible.
Joe, a former World Champion in Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, was among several notable superstars included in the first round of releases on April 15.
The company issued the following statement on its official website at the time of the releases:
"WWE has come to terms on the release of Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Tucker, Kalisto, Bo Dallas and Wesley Blake as of today April 15, 2021.
"We wish them the best in all of their future endeavors."
Fightful.com's Sean Ross Sapp reports John Laurinaitis, WWE's head of talent relations, "has been making the calls to talent and citing budget cuts as the reason for the WWE releases," according to sources.
The news came days after Joe was inexplicably taken off the RAW broadcast team, having contributed as a color commentator since 2019 while recovering from an in-ring injury.
WWE would later announce two additional rounds of releases beginning with NXT competitors Alexander Wolfe, Jessamyn Duke, Vanessa Borne, Kavita Devi, Skyler Story and Ezra Judge, as well referees Drake Wuertz and Jake Clemons, on May 19; and a second round including Braun Strowman, Aleister Black, Lana, Murphy, Ruby Riott and Santana Garrett on June 2.
NXT's TakeOver: In Your House pay-per-view teased the departure of general manager Regal amid "so much bedlam" on Sunday (June 13) night, which sparked speculation that Joe would be his replacement amid reports of his return to the company.
Joe had previously served as the foil to Regal during his initial run with the NXT brand, which was acknowledged in his return promo and new alliance with the legendary English wrestler.
Joe signed with WWE in 2015 and immediately emerged as a top competitor on the then-developmental NXT brand, becoming the first person to win the NXT Championship twice in 2016, before debuting on RAW in 2017.