Adam Cole was part of what wrestling fans called the Wednesday Night Wars, which saw AEW Dynamite go head to head with WWE’s NXT on television.
By the end of that, AEW dominated in the ratings and WWE moved NXT to Tuesday nights to avoid the direct competition.
However, one man that starred on NXT television was Adam Cole, and his segments were typically the highest rated of the night for that particular show, often rivaling or beating AEW.
Now, Adam Cole is in AEW, signing with the company after his WWE contract expired.
Since coming to AEW, Cole has become one of its top stars and has the privilege now of not only working with his real-life girlfriend Britt Baker, but also reuniting with old friends in The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, and bringing some of his NXT friends with him to AEW in Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish.
Adam Cole took the time to talk to Monsters & Critics about his arrival in AEW, what made him decide to leave WWE for its rival competitor, how his career parallels with close friend Kyle O’Reilly, his love for Twitch streaming, and what it is like to work with Britt Baker on a national television series.
Monsters & Critics: When you debuted in AEW, it was a big surprise. Most people knew you were coming, but you and Bryan Danielson debuted on the same night. Everyone was expecting Bryan, and you came out first. What was your reaction when you heard that arena full of people just go completely nuts when you walked out onto the stage?
Adam Cole: So I never like to say stuff like this, because I always have high hopes. And you always have that goal of wanting to have even more epic or memorable moments throughout your career. But one of my favorite things that I feel like pro wrestling captures so well is genuine surprises. And that, to me, was the most awesome, genuine surprise that I’ve ever been involved in. So it was, to this day, the most special moment of my career.
Because I know there was a lot of speculation about what I was going to do, where I was going to go. But then, obviously, Bryan Danielson was at the forefront of like, ‘oh, wait is Bryan Danielson really going to show up at AEW?’ to the point where a lot of people were really expecting him to show. So, to kind of swerve everybody, they had me come out first. It was such a cool moment.
For me, I wouldn’t have changed anything about that night. Really anything about that weekend. But I like the fact that I flew into a different city the night before. And then I got picked up and driven to the show while the show was going on. And I was hidden in a trailer all day to the point where a ton of the locker room didn’t even know I was there.
It was really, really special. To me. It was awesome to be there to be involved in that really big moment with Bryan.
M&C: One thing I like about AEW – and I talked to Tony Khan about this – he says that when they bring in big stars like you, like CM Punk, they like to mix you guys up immediately with the homegrown stars – young guys like Jungleboy, Darby Allen, I know Orange Cassidy has been around for a while, but people like MJF. Jungleboy. Darby Allen, MJF – they’re under 25. So mixing you guys up immediately with them seems to be a good way to build for the future.
What do you see when you come in and you’re able to work on a level playing field with young guys as opposed to like, say the WWE, where they bring in the young guys, and they job them out for a year or two before they do anything?
Cole: So that was one of the really appealing things to me about AEW when I was kind of deciding what I wanted to do with my career going forward. Especially because I remember being a young guy and working in working for companies like Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and all these really cool places where I got to work with some really awesome veterans who helped me a ton and taught me a lot.
And again, same thing; we’d want to go out and have a match that was 20, 30, 40 minutes sometimes. And that was so important to my growth and development to where by the time I was, you know 28 or 29, I feel like I was so much further ahead because I got the chance to work with guys with that experience and with that knowledge.
So getting to come in and working with guys again, like you said, under 25 years old, which is so insane to say, guys like Jungleboy. Can’t wait to work with guys like MJF and Darby Allen and Sammy Guevara and stuff like that.
But yeah, I mean, these guys are hungry. They’re motivated. They’re a huge part of AEW’s success because I think, not only have a lot of these fans attached themselves to them, but they also recognize these guys are not even close to being in the prime of their career.
So yeah, some of my favorite moments in matches have been working with the younger guys within AEW – specifically working with Jungleboy was really cool because he’s going to be an absolute monster two or three years from now.
M&C: The first time I ever saw you was in Ring of Honor and if I remember right, you and Kyle O’Reilly were a tag team at the time. You guys kind of went your separate ways, did the TV title, both won world titles, both with the WWE, and now you’re both in AEW as the veterans.
What’s that journey been like for you guys from right there when Ring of Honor was first going national on TV on HD net. You guys were a tag team trying to get over. And now you guys are the veterans back together at AEW. What’s that journey been like over the past – what it’s been, 12 years now?
Cole: Yeah, it’s really surreal to think about. Because Kyle O’Reilly is even more important to my career than I think is publicly discussed a lot of times. I had been wrestling for one year, at the time. So it was 2009, debuted in 2008, and in 2009, I had a Dragon Gate USA pre-show match in the infamous ECW Arena in Philadelphia to do this dark match before this pay-per-view went on.
And it was me – this unknown Adam Cole kid – and Kyle O’Reilly, also an unknown, independent wrestler, and the two of us wrestled each other. And it was like the first match that I ever had to gain any sort of internet buzz. It’s the first match I ever had where a crowd was fully invested for that entire, long, six minutes of a match that we had. But it was vital to us, and we were put on YouTube. It helped us, You know, get eyes on us from an upstart promotion called Evolve. It helped us get started and get recognized somewhat by Ring of Honor.
So literally, when I say I’ve been attached at the hip to Kyle O’Reilly for my entire career, that’s not like a cute thing to say – it literally has happened. Whether it’s been us as a team, us as opponents, whether it’s in Japan, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Ring of Honor, or NXT, we’ve always been in the same promotion and in some capacity working with each other. So even for that three months that I was in AEW and Kyle wasn’t there, that was the longest period of time since 2009, I’ve not been in the same company as Kyle, which is crazy to think about.
When I do think about our journey together, whether it be Ring of Honor where both of us were so incredibly nervous, I’m so thankful that we had each other to share that pressure, share that excitement, share that nervousness with. I think Kyle helped me a ton as far as my in-ring work and my mechanics and things like that. And I like to think I helped Kyle a lot when it came to promos, and camera work and stuff like that. So we really, really accentuated and made each other better.
And then we shared that exact same pressure when we debuted in NXT together, it was the exact same thing. So it’s been really, really cool to kind of watch him grow up. Because as I watched him grow up in the wrestling industry, it almost feels like I’m looking in a mirror in a lot of ways because our journey has been so so similar.
So it’s been great. It’s, it’s awesome.
M&C: You know, you mentioned looking at the younger stars as one of the reasons that brought you to AEW, but I would also think that your Twitch streaming was another thing since Tony Khan encourages you guys to have your presence outside of the company.
How important was it for you to be able to create your place on Twitch, where you have a huge following? I watched the first Twitch stream after you debuted in AEW, and you were just awestruck by how large you’re following became over the next few days, people liking, subscribing, donating. It seemed to mean a lot to you.
Cole: It did. It did, and the Twitch stream does mean a lot to me. You know it was it’s so interesting. So I’ve been very passionate about the gaming world, and when I say the gaming world I mean I’m so fascinated by game development and videogames storytelling and artistic direction and things like that. I’ve always been very fascinated by it. And for me, it’s something I really enjoy to pass the time.
So Twitch streaming was something I kind of picked up, out of the blue actually, when the pandemic started. I had been talking about wanting to do it for over a year. But you know, because of how busy my schedule was, I’m like, I’m not going to be able to teach myself how to do this, I have no idea where to start.
And then obviously, when we were all, you know, locked in our homes, and waiting this thing out, I was like, I have no excuse anymore. I gotta teach myself how to do it. So when I started Twitch streaming, it initially, again, was something I was like, Oh, this will be cool, I’ll get to be a little bit more involved in the gaming world. And hopefully, I’ll meet some people within it. And this just sounds like a really, really fun time.
Little did I know that it would become such a passion project for me. Like there are so many members of the community on Twitch, who I know, it’s such a positive influence for so many people. It feels really good. For example, if someone gets a job promotion, and they come into the Twitch stream, and they’re like, guys, I got this awesome job promotion. And we all celebrate that, we’re all, you know, telling them congratulations, and how awesome that is. And that really does mean a lot to a lot of people.
So it became something that I was just not willing to give up. It was something that I love too much and enjoy too much. And I know that there is a world that exists where you are able to put your heart and soul into pro wrestling. And then you’re also able to put your heart and soul into something else. And in my case, it’s Twitch streaming.
So yeah, it’s been incredible. It’s been very humbling. It’s awesome to see how many people have, you know, not only come back but then completely invested in what I’m doing on Twitch. And like I said, it’s similar to wrestling, I’m very excited to see where the Twitch channel goes, you know, a year or two years from now. So I love it. I love it to death.
And to answer your question, it was very, very important in my decision making as far as what I was going to do,
M&C: You know, professional wrestlers’ careers – unless you’re Terry Funk – are kind of limited to a certain amount of time, and then it’s time to move on. You mentioned that you want to be a Twitch streamer into your 60s, I think you said once.
My wife, she saw you on TV, and she’s like, wow, you know, he’s a real arrogant jerk. I’m like, come here, and I sat in front of the computer, and I turn on the Twitch stream. And she’s like, that’s not the same person. Tell me a little bit about how you’re able to go into the wrestling ring and be so completely different.
On Twitch, I assume that is the real you. But yet you’re able to go out there and put a character in that ring that is a great heel. You’re a Shawn Michaels level heel from the 90s.
Cole: Thank you.
M&C: I mean, you’re someone who the fans love, but you can make them boo you hardcore. How are you able to turn that on as soon as you walk out of that curtain?
Cole: So that’s always something I’ve been fascinated with. And I’ve tried to answer this question as best as I possibly can. I look through my life as a whole, and I think it starts back as early as I remember.
My father loved James Bond movies. I mean, we watched all of them over and over and over again. And I remember as a kid, just being so fascinated with the James Bond villains. I remember thinking like, how much presence they had. And I, of course, I’m a kid, so I didn’t understand. But I remember just being captivated by them when they would speak. So I think in some ways, that was something that attracted me.
And then when I fell in love with pro wrestling, somewhere along the way, I really dove into loving pro wrestling promos, and thinking like, oh, man, you know, when CM Punk said this when Mick Foley said this, it makes me feel the exact same way as it does when I see a really cool entrance or when I see a really cool false finish in a wrestling match. Like, it gets me so fired up because I think it’s so cool creatively.
So I knew very early on that I wanted things like promos and my character to be just as important, if not more important, than the mechanical wrestling stuff. Of course, I’m going to focus a ton on that as well. But I knew I wanted to put just as much energy into that aspect as well. So for me at the end of the day, you know, I knew I wanted to play a character which is kind of wrapped up from all these different guys that I really liked.
And I want to be the person who I would look at as a kid or I would look at as a young wrestling fan and go, Oh, man, this guy is such a slimeball. Oh, this guy’s such a scumbag. Oh, he’s so arrogant. And at the end of the day, I just I’m able to,
I’ve been very lucky in being able to turn that switch on and off fairly easily. Like, I’m not someone when I’m backstage, who needs to like, you know, be by myself for 20 minutes and start, you know, talking as this character, or becoming that character. I’m able to walk through the curtain and just become Adam Cole, for that little bit. So I don’t know, I guess I’m lucky in a lot of ways.
And then also at the same time, it’s just, those are the characters I really, really looked up to.
M&C: When I was putting these questions together, I was gonna ask you what it was like to be working in the same company as Britt Baker. But since that time, she’s walked out to the ring, and she’s joined you by your side. What’s it like being in the ring working angles with Britt after all this time?
Cole: It is so so cool, man. It’s funny, there was a like, three-month period where I stopped working for Ring of Honor. And I worked some independent shows leading up to my debut at NXT. Me and Britt got to do a couple of mixed tag matches then. And we would be on the same shows together.
And then obviously, I went to NXT. And just working with her that little bit, obviously was really, really fun.
But the coolest thing to me, aside from the fact of getting to just work in the same company as she is getting to see, front row and center, her development. Because I remember teaming with her back then, she was like a year and a half, two years into wrestling. And she was very talented then, such a hard worker, you know, I knew she was going to be really special.
But to see Dr. Britt Baker DMD now versus the person that I teamed with years ago is so awesome. It’s so cool to be able to share a ring with her because pro wrestling means the world to me. And I know pro wrestling means the world to Britt, to be able to stand inside of a ring in an arena full of people and to look over at her and think, oh man, we’ve talked about wanting to do this forever.
And now it’s happening. It is beyond surreal. And then as a whole, it’s incredible, just working in the same company as her for the sake of – you know, before she would have a match or she would cut a promo. And she would come to the back and she would find a corner of the arena. And she would FaceTime me and we would talk, and FaceTime is a wonderful tool. But to be able to be there behind the curtain when she comes back and give her a hug and talk about what she did and how great it was or stuff that we want to work on together.
It’s awesome. It’s amazing. So it doesn’t get any better than getting to work alongside your partner. When that thing that you’re working on happens to be your passion for us.
M&C: You know, I watched her in AEW since she started there, and I wasn’t sold on her in the beginning when she was a babyface. But once she found her character, she exploded. And when CM Punk came out and told MJP that ‘Britt Baker’s replaced you on the four pillars.’
You know, obviously, they’re both there. I mean, it’s really five pillars because she is the face of women’s wrestling in AEW. I’m amazed at her progression just from the time she debuted in AEW.
Cole: It’s just it’s been amazing, man. So, the best thing to me is her journey in a lot of ways – it was seen by a lot more people – but both of our journeys were so similar. I was booked as a babyface very early on, and it never gelled with me.
It was like never something that I caught onto, never something I understood. And then, all of a sudden, when I started being able to cut heel promos and wrestle as a heel, then you know, my name started getting out there more and I started getting traction and popularity on the independents.
So, it’s so crazy to me that Britt’s journey has been the exact same. You know, she was a babyface, she was fine mechanically. She’s learning on national television. And then, all of a sudden, Britt gets to really show her creativity and what she can bring to the table.
And now, like you said, one of, if not the top women’s wrestler in the entire world. So it’s been really, really cool to watch that journey. It is because we both have a very similar one.
M&C: Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Last but not least, what do you see for yourself over the next few years in AEW?
Cole: Very excited at the prospect and the idea of all the different things that I can do here in AEW. I think, since I debuted, five or six months ago at this point, I’ve been very busy. And I’ve been doing a lot of different stuff, whether it be working with the younger guys, or working alongside the Young Bucks, reuniting with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, teaming up with Britt Baker for the first time, there are so many different things that have been happening for me.
And that just makes me so excited at the future. I’ve said before with the roster that AEW has, I minimum have five years of stuff to do without it feeling boring, and with all of it feeling fresh.
The roster is just stacked with the idea of working with a guy like Bryan Danielson again, working with CM Punk for the first time, working with Kenny Omega, working with the Young Bucks, Bobby Fish, and Kyle, working more with Britt, working more with the young guys like Darby and Sammy or MJF.
The possibilities are literally endless. And that, to me is the most exciting thing about AEW. The company has grown tremendously in a little over two years.
Two years from now, I think the worlds not going to be ready for what AEW is going to bring to the table.