Despite not having held it in nearly nine months, Adam Cole and the NXT Championship remain synonymous with each other. This Wednesday on WWE NXT, he’ll have the chance to make history and get the belt back for a second time, becoming one of only four men to do so.
It will be no easy feat, however, as will need to beat current champion Finn Balor to accomplish the task. The two have traded victories over the years while fighting for the NXT Championship and their rivalry was recently rekindled when Cole blasted Balor with a surprise superkick at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Moments later, Cole laid out his Undisputed Era stablemate Kyle O’Reilly, leaving the entire NXT Universe in complete shock. In the weeks that followed, he doubled down by battering O’Reilly once more, as well as fellow stablemate Roderick Strong, severing his ties with both men in the process.
Going forward, it will be all about Adam Cole and no one else. With O’Reilly out injured for the foreseeable future, he’s firmly focused on regaining what he felt he should have never lost and reminding the whole world why he belongs in the spotlight at all times.
In this exclusive interview with Daily DDT, the longest-reigning NXT Champion discusses his upcoming outing with Balor, why he alone is the Undisputed Era, why his height doesn’t matter, opponents he still wants to face, and more.
Adam Cole discusses facing Finn Balor for the NXT Championship
Wednesday night will mark the rubber match between Balor and Cole. Their initial encounter on the December 18, 2019 episode of NXT ended in a win for Cole, while Balor emerged victorious in the rematch on the September 8, 2020 Super Tuesday show to become a two-time NXT champion.
The stakes will be higher than ever in this encounter, especially with the WrestleMania weekend TakeOver special on the horizon. Cole is well aware of the hype surrounding the bout and is certain it will be nothing short of a competitive and exciting affair, complete with a win for himself.
“I saw some advertising for this particular match and they’re calling it megastar vs. megastar,” Cole said. “To many people, there’s no argument that the two greatest NXT Champions in the history of NXT are Adam Cole and Finn Balor, so this is huge. Obviously, there’s a lot of different factors going on as well. I’ve been making a lot of noise lately, trying to do everything that I can to show the world that I will do whatever it takes to be the NXT Champion, whether that hurts people’s feelings or not. In my eyes, I’m more focused and driven than ever to regain the NXT Championship.”
Cole previously captured the NXT title from Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver: XXV in June 2019. He went on to have the longest reign in the history of the prestigious prize at 403 days before dropping it to then-NXT North American Champion Keith Lee in a double-championship match at The Great American Bash 2020.
He admitted that, with the strap in his sights once again, he feels some pressure to top his first reign, assuming he wins the belt. However, he’s also feeling more confident than he ever has and is ready to regain his spot at the helm of the black-and-gold brand.
“One of the scariest things, not only about pro wrestling but anything, is the unknown,” Cole said. “When I first became NXT champion, that was such an unknown thing to me. Main-eventing show after show and wrestling the A-list of pro wrestlers all across the globe. I understand the pressure that comes with holding that championship. Having been there for as long as I was there, that fear of the unknown is gone.”
Adam Cole explains why he turned on Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong
Cole has been adamant in recent weeks that he was Undisputed Era all along and that O’Reilly and Strong were just riding his coattails. His brutal attacks on both men indicate that he’s not interested in remaining friends with either of them and that he’s only looking out for himself from here on out.
When asked about whether Undisputed Era is dead or not, Cole mentioned that it will live on for as long as he wants it to, even if it means flying solo.
“I’ve said before that Adam Cole is and always will be the Undisputed Era,” Cole said. “In my mind, there is no Undisputed Era without Adam Cole. I think a lot of people think, ‘Does this mean the Undisputed Era is dead?’ In my opinion, the Undisputed Era is dead when Adam Cole says it’s dead. Maybe I have some issues with some guys who were in that group before, guys who fought beside me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s over. To me, Undisputed Era is my baby. It always has been, and when I want it to be dead and buried, it will be dead and buried.”
Undisputed Era ran rampant over the NXT roster for nearly four years, dating back to their debut as a unit at TakeOver: Brooklyn III in August 2017. Cole, O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish added Strong to their ranks the subsequent spring and secured several titles in the years that followed.
As he has already alluded to on NXT, Cole booting O’Reilly from the group stemmed from the latter’s failures against Balor. He then saw O’Reilly forming a friendship with “The Prince” and allowing him to align with Undisputed Era as the last straw.
“I was running into an issue where I think everyone knew I was the leader of that group,” Cole said. “Kyle O’Reilly was challenging for the NXT Championship multiple times. He failed multiple times. I was already frustrated with Kyle, but he took it to another level when he decided to, when he couldn’t win the NXT Championship, his solution was to attempt to invite Finn Balor into the Undisputed Era, like the proper sidekick that Kyle O’Reilly is.
“He can’t win the big one, so let’s have the big one fight beside me,” Cole explained. “That’s not how it works. That’s never how it worked. Undisputed Era was designed for me to win the NXT Championship, and it accomplished that. When I felt like we were falling off that track and not going in the right direction, I absolutely felt like it was the right time.”
Fans fantasized about Undisputed Era one day moving to either Raw or SmackDown together, but now those dreams have been dashed thanks to Cole’s heinous actions. The former NXT champion would have loved for the stable to go on forever had they not failed him.
At this point, his sole goal is getting the NXT Championship back in his possession and putting to rest the debate of who the greatest NXT Champion of all-time truly is.
“In a perfect world, I wish so badly that Kyle, Roddy and Bobby, and with Bobby, truth be told I don’t know really where he stands, as far as the other two, I wish badly they could have fought by my side for the rest of my career,” Cole said. “I loved my time with Kyle and Roddy and Bobby and I loved the fact we were this well-oiled machine that was designed to make me the most dominant force in NXT at the time. If that meant me going to Raw or going to SmackDown and accomplishing some other things, too, that would also be awesome. I have said before that NXT has a really, really special place in my heart. Truth be told, I feel like I have a lot left to accomplish here, as crazy as that sounds, I really, really do. I love being part of this crew, I love being a part of this group. “
Adam Cole feels he’s in his element as a heel and doesn’t let criticism regarding his size bother him
Before betraying his brethren in Undisputed Era, Cole was portrayed as a fan favorite in NXT, albeit for a very brief period. He had been positioned as a top heel for his first three years on the black-and-gold brand and excelled in the role, but it was also refreshing to see him embrace the audience for a change.
Anyone who follows Cole on the UpUpDownDown gaming channel knows that he’s extremely likable, but inside the squared circle, he feels at most in his element when he’s a heel.
“Creatively, it’s a different experience,” Cole said. “To me, and I have said this before, when you’re in a position of being someone the audience is behind and really likes, it’s such a different mindset. It’s just a different mindset than what people have called the old Adam Cole or the true Adam Cole. My approach to wrestling is different. My approach to my interviews is different. My approach to my matches is different. I think, generally speaking, if you look at my 13-year career, I think I am the most in my element in the role I’m in now and the most comfortable in where I am now. I do like the challenge and the different aspect of getting to show different sides of my character and almost have a different persona in many ways, but to me, I’m at my most valuable when I’m doing what I’m doing right now.”
Regardless of whether he’s a heel or a face, it’s hard to argue that Cole is a star in every sense of the word. He’s proven his worth as a top-tier talent throughout his time in NXT and has earned many supporters behind-the-scenes.
Road Dogg is among those who are high on Cole’s potential and went so far as to say on Corey Graves’ After the Bell podcast last June that he would Universal champion right now if he were Karrion Kross’s size. Although fans interpreted the WWE Hall of Famer’s comments as him hinting at his size ultimately holding him back on the main roster, Cole feels history has indicated otherwise and admits he isn’t bothered by the criticism.
“The size argument to me, especially since I’ve been doing it for so long, it no longer matters to me,” Cole said. “From the moment I started training and wrestling on the independents, people had made comments about me being on the smaller side. It’s something that I’ve just battled with and dealt with my entire career. The awesome thing has been, and it’s just based on past experience, pretty much every single company I’ve gone into, I’ve excelled and been their champion and hold that championship for a really long time. The fans have taken to me and things like that, so from that sense as far as internally, it doesn’t affect me at all.”
Cole added that seeing other people pave the way, such as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, has given him more motivation and focus knowing he too can achieve similar success at that level. He also feels he’s already in that spot with NXT being the undeniable third brand of WWE.
Adam Cole talks NXT on Tuesdays, his future on the brand, and matches he still wants to have
While speaking about the growth of NXT and its rumored move to Tuesdays, Cole mentioned that it doesn’t matter to him what night the show ends up. He’ll continue to perform at the highest level and entertain the masses, regardless.
“Personally, truth be told, I’ve heard rumors about that, but I actually honest to God know nothing about it,” Cole said. “But at the end of the day, and this is the truth, whether it’s on Monday nights for Adam Cole or it’s on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, we can go through every single day of the week, to me, it makes zero difference. As long I’m getting to do what I love to do and perform and show the world what I’m all about, that’s all that matters to me.”
It’s rare a Superstar spends as much time in NXT as Cole has, especially when they’re as polished and as main roster-ready, as he is. Two other exceptions are Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, both of whom have gone on the record in the past saying that they have no interest in ever going to Raw or SmackDown.
Cole is an interesting case in that while he isn’t opposed to moving to either show and actually would enjoy the opportunity at some point, he isn’t in a rush to leave NXT any time soon because of how at home he feels on the brand.
“If I were to tell you I don’t want to have a WrestleMania moment someday, I would be lying to your face,” he said. “I’d be absolutely lying, so of course, I want that chance someday. The idea of going over and wrestling a bunch of new people at Raw and a bunch of new people at SmackDown is very exciting. However, deep to my core, I by no means am in any rush or in any sort of way, ‘Oh, man, I got to get to Raw or I got to get to SmackDown.’ I love my time in NXT, and if that means I’m here for years to come, I’m very, very happy about that. I love the brand, I believe in the brand, I want to be here when the brand grows and becomes something even bigger than it already is. It’s something that’s been a part of me for four years now and something I’m very proud of.”
Beyond becoming NXT Champion again, there are several more things Cole aims to accomplish on NXT and many more matches he wants to have. It may seem like Cole has faced everyone on the roster (already having clashed with Gargano, Ciampa, Balor, and Velveteen Dream countless times), there are still plenty of people he has yet to collide with one-on-one.
Currently, Isiah “Swerve” Scott leads his list of desired opponents because of their similar backgrounds, as well as Drew McIntyre because of how his debut came against him four years ago. The two never had a formal feud before McIntyre’s abrupt exit from NXT.
“NXT-wise, I would really like to face off with Shane Strickland. Isaiah Scott is his name on NXT,” he said. “I’ve known him for a very, very long time. I was involved in some of his early training. I didn’t train him, I just helped him go to the school he wanted to go to. He’s the only other person who’s from where I was born and raised and not only ended up becoming a pro wrestler but ending up in WWE, which is really cool.”
“When I first came into NXT, I attacked Drew,” Cole continued. “We had one match, which wasn’t on NXT television or wasn’t on a TakeOver or anything like that and I feel like we scratched the surface. That was the only time I’ve ever stepped in the ring with him and seeing all that he’s done and accomplished, all that I’ve accomplished, people still fantasize about that idea because, again, my debut was me attacking Drew.”
As far as SmackDown is concerned, Cole expressed interest in one day waging war with Roman Reigns because of the clash of characters and how great their in-ring chemistry would likely be. He also named NXT newcomer Blake Christian as someone he’d enjoy going up against down the road.
“I do think [Reigns is] firing on all cylinders right now,” he said. “I think he has been for a while. He’s incredible in a ton of ways and I do think, especially in front of a crowd, we can have a special match together. As far as someone who’s not in WWE, there’s so many people who are hired now. I’m going to say one who I’m hoping counts because he hasn’t had a match but he did recently get hired: Blake Christian. He was an independent guy for a while and I’ve seen some of his stuff and he’s a very, very talented young man. He’s super young, super innovative, and for a guy like him, a realm like NXT is perfect. He’s a guy I’d love to face off with.”
Catch Adam Cole challenge Finn Balor for the NXT Championship this Wednesday on WWE NXT at 8/7c on USA Network.