It’s the biggest week of Adam Cole’s career as a professional wrestler and one that he has been waiting for his entire life. And while there’s always the bumps and bruises that come with the business, there’s one other thing he’s dealing with right now.
“I’m battling a little bit of a cold,” explained Cole. “It’s part of the craziness. It could be worse. I could have the chickenpox or something. I’m living on DayQuil.”
You can bet that a simple cold won’t slow down the NXT champion, especially during this huge week that began with Wednesday night’s edition of NXT television — airing live weekly on the USA Network — where he defeated Dominic Dijakovic in a physical ladder match.
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Next up are two showcase events this weekend. On Saturday night is NXT TakeOver: WarGames (streaming live on the WWE Network at 7 p.m. ET) where he, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish — together known as Undisputed Era — will face the team of Dijakovic, Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee and a partner to be named in a WarGames match: two rings surrounded by a steel cage where anything goes.
Follow that up on Sunday with WWE Survivor Series (streaming live on the WWE Network at 7 p.m. ET) where he will defend his NXT Championship against the winner of a Triple Threat match between Pete Dunne, Killian Dane, and Damian Priest the night before at TakeOver.
Making all of this even larger in scale is that this marks the first time the NXT brand will be a part of the annual Survivor Series event and talent from the black and gold brand will be in a variety of matches on the show including the Team NXT vs. Team “Raw” vs. Team “SmackDown” 5-on-5-on-5 elimination match.
It’s all part of a push to grow the NXT brand and Cole is front and center in that effort. It’s been a hectic few weeks for him that began with him receiving a last-minute notice that he was needed for “SmackDown” where he scored a big win against Daniel Bryan in an awesome showcase match. There was also another outstanding match against Seth Rollins on “Raw” followed by his numerous appearances on “Raw” and “SmackDown” alongside other NXT superstars for surprise attacks.
The 30-year-old Cole is championing a very important time for the NXT brand. He’s not only enjoying the moment but thriving in it. Earlier this week, WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque raved about him.
“I can’t say enough good things about Adam Cole,” said Levesque. “Consummate pro. Represents well. Well-spoken. Smart. He has it all. He’s a sponge for the business. He wants to know everything and more. He’s a leader.”
On Thursday, Sporting News spoke with Cole about his big week, how he is approaching it both mentally and physically, what these last few hectic weeks have been like for him, and how important this has all been for NXT.
SPORTING NEWS: I have some friends who were at Full Sail University for Wednesday night’s NXT show who alerted me to something. Did you notice that when you left the NXT championship on the ring apron at the end of the show that Drew McIntyre tried to steal it?
ADAM COLE: No, I did not notice that.
SN: (Referee) Drake (Wuertz) stopped him.
AC: That’s news to me. That punk. What happened was I just went through a brutal ladder match and all this chaos starting happening so I tried to escape not even realizing … Of course Drew McIntyre tried to grab the NXT championship. Drew, that is mine now. You can leave that alone and never touch it again. Thank you.
SN: How do you feel the day after the ladder match?
AC: Sore. I’ve been in quite a few ladder matches and ladder matches are one of those where you can’t really avoid how your body is going to feel the next day. Your body is just not meant to fall on ladders. So, obviously, it’s brutal and excruciating. Then again, thinking about this week and going, “Man, I had a ladder match last night!” In a few days, I have War Games, then I’m going to defend my NXT championship on Sunday at Survivor Series so I have to immediately, in my brain, tell myself nope, you’re not sore. Nope, you feel great. You’ve got a lot more work to do. That’s kind of where my mind is at right now.
SN: You mentioned this week and your three big matches. How do you prepare both mentally and physically for a week like this with three big matches and all of them being different?
AC: As far as physically, for me, it’s something that — and I know this sounds like such a generic answer — it’s going to be hard on a weekend like this but making sure I get as much rest as possible and also doing a lot of stretching and yoga to keep my body warm and loose and the blood flowing. Taking ibuprofen if I need to. Mentally, all I do is remind myself that when I look at this week and I think about how crazy the past few weeks have been and I see how important this week is not only for me but for NXT the brand, it has 9-year-old me so excited that I’m being put in this situation. To be in a high profile main event on NXT television on USA, then going to War Games with a huge War Games match and then, for the first time ever, defending the NXT championship at Survivor Series, this is why I got into pro wrestling. To be put into situations like this where I can be an important, featured guy. Again, as tough as it’s going to be physically, I have a feeling that I’m going to look back on these past few days and say wow, I’m really proud of that. That’s kind of my mindset going in.
SN: This is arguably the biggest week of your career and this could be one of those weeks that you could look back on many years from now and think that was an incredible week in my career. Knowing that, is that something you allow yourself to think about now and the big picture or do you try to focus on the moment?
AC: So, for me, especially with something like this, based on how physically demanding the week is going to be, I absolutely have that big picture mentality. I’m thinking, again, even before the ladder match, I’m thinking about War Games, I’m thinking about defending the title at Survivor Series. I’m able to think about all three, now the two left. Definitely, to me, reminding myself of how important the week is and how I’ll look back on it as hopefully something very special. I use that as complete motivation. I don’t have nerves about it. I’m not like “oh god, I hope it goes well”. I’m going in with a ton of confidence, feeling ready to go, feeling ready to be put in this spot. Again, it really helps me prepare and get as ready for this as possible.
SN: When did you find out about the match at Survivor Series and were you surprised that got added?
AC: I found out about the match at Survivor Series officially when it got announced. For a minute, when I was playing through stuff in my head, I’m thinking as NXT is invading “Raw” and “SmackDown”, maybe I’ll be on Team NXT if they have a “Raw” versus “SmackDown” versus NXT match. And then to seeing the teams form, (I thought to myself) “Okay, maybe I’m not involved in this.” Then hearing some rumblings that maybe I’m defending the championship because the Universal title and the WWE title are on the line. So, finding that out had me even more excited. As much as I would have loved to be on Team NXT and as exciting as that is, the fact that the NXT championship is right there with the Universal title and the WWE title as far as being defended on that show is perfect. And it again solidifies the NXT championship as one of the most prestigious in WWE today. Very, very excited for this.
SN: Go back several weeks and once we found out that NXT was going to be a part of Survivor Series along with “Raw” and “SmackDown”, was there any thought in your mind that it was going to be the three champions in a match — yourself, Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar?
AC: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely I was thinking that was a possibility, especially based on the matches that were coming together and knowing what they’ve done in the past. I thought oh man, I’m going to end up in the ring with two of the biggest and baddest men in WWE and that will be a real test for me.
SN: You mentioned how big of a week this is not only for yourself but for NXT as the brand continues to grow. Can you explain what it’s like for NXT to be on this platform, especially when it comes to Survivor Series, and what it means for the NXT locker room?
AC: I truly think, and NXT has done a lot of cool things, all the TakeOver events that have been really special, NXT finally moving to live on the USA Network. But I personally feel like with these past few weeks and leading up to this event, this is the biggest moment in NXT’s history. We’re right there alongside “Raw”, right there alongside “SmackDown,” and getting to go every week for these past few weeks to “Raw” and “SmackDown,” the vibe and the energy in the building, even at NXT, is different. People are so excited at all these possibilities and all these different matches which, in turn, has just raised NXT’s stock in a lot of people’s minds. Again, I’ve said this before, I’m incredibly proud of what NXT does and what we bring to the table. So to have all of these potential new fans getting to see us and watch us compete against “Raw” and “SmackDown” guys, it’s been great. It really is, to me, the most important weekend in NXT’s history.
SN: You’ve gone through a chaotic few weeks including the last minute call to go to “SmackDown” a few weeks back. Explain what it’s like from the time you get the call to where you get to the building and are on live TV minutes later.
AC: Again, incredibly hectic. I remember I was up and walking around. I was very much still in chill mode. I had woke up late that morning. I had just eaten. I was kind of relaxing. I was getting ready to hop into the shower. Really, just a very chill day and then I got that text message about needing to go to an airport to get on a plane in an hour-and-a-half. Then I’m rushing around, packing my bag together, getting the address for the airport an hour before it was supposed to take off and I’m 55 minutes from the airport so the drive was really hectic. Again, just leading up from riding on that plane and thinking what the heck is going on? What are we going to do? Then quickly driving to the venue and walking in there as Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar are finishing up in the ring and finding out I have an hour before I go out and make my debut on “SmackDown” against a guy I respect so much in Daniel Bryan. I’d say the blessing of that scenario is it happened so fast that I had no time to be nervous. It was impossible. There was too much going on to have time to think about “oh gosh, what could go wrong, I hope it goes well. Oh boy, this is a really big night for me!” I didn’t have time to think about any of that. I just had to do it. It was like I was on autopilot almost. Emotionally, I crashed after the match and was like wow, it’s really cool I got to do that.
SN: How do you balance the stress of a day and a moment like that but, at the same time, trying to enjoy this great opportunity you’re getting?
AC: Sure. In that specific scenario, again, that was a time where I gave myself time to reflect and enjoy what had just happened in the hotel that night. I remember just sitting there and being like “oh my god, that was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do in my entire career. What a cool night.” As far as enjoying it… and I did a little too when I was in there, I was able to enjoy the moment as it was happening. Sometimes there’s so much going on that you’re just laser-focused and feel like OK, this is my job tonight. This is what I have to do and that’s what you focus on. Then there are sometimes when you’re in there and you’re able to take a second and go wow, this is really cool and I was able to do that night on “SmackDown.” It is a hard balance. It’s a hard one to find but the longer you do this job and the longer you have this profession, you’re able to find ways to make sure that you enjoy what you’re doing while staying really focused on the task.
SN: I wanted to mention your appearance on “Backstage” and that was the night it was revealed that CM Punk was joining the show. I noticed that your reaction to that was instantly going air guitar.
AC: (laughs) I’m so glad you brought this up because I’d be happy to explain what was going through my mind at this point.
SN: Please do.
AC: When his music hit, I swear, I had no idea that he was coming out. Absolutely no idea. So when they played his music, my brain did not go CM Punk is going to walk through the door. I thought they played his song, like, just because and all of us were going to say goodbye into the camera as CM Punk’s theme was playing. So I was like oh, okay, that’s an interesting choice. They’re playing “Cult of Personality.” So I randomly think of Kyle O’Reilly going to air guitar. Then he walks through the door and I’m like oh, whoa! CM Punk is actually here. By no means, and I think people take it this way, by no means was it oh cool, CM Punk is back and I’m going to do an air guitar. In my brain, they’re just playing his song. I’m like okay, sweet, still not thinking that he’s going to walk through the door. So, a very, very funny moment and I’m glad they captured the air guitar a little bit on camera.
SN: As someone who grew up as a fan of CM Punk’s, what was it like being a part of that moment and having him back? I know he’s not back with WWE but having him back talking about WWE on that show.
AC: Yeah, it was really cool. I’ve said countless times that CM Punk was a huge influence on me, especially in his early independent career, I remember watching him and being so captivated by him, more so than even people within WWE. His promo ability just blew me away, the way he carried himself. Just a massive fan of his because I take a lot of pride in delivering the importance of believability in promos and interviews. CM Punk was a guy that I studied big time. So, to be able to be there for his moment and get to chat with him for a little bit was really cool.
SN: One of the interesting things with NXT right now is that there are a variety of directions that the various storylines can go and have already been set up. Take for example yourself versus Tommaso Ciampa or Johnny Gargano when he comes back from injury or Matt Riddle. What’s it like as a performer in the position you’re in right now to be in the middle of that and have so many options that all make sense?
AC: Exactly what you said. I love it too. It’s so exciting when there’s so many options that people would be satisfied with or happy with but you’re not quite sure where it’s going to go. To me, that’s what makes a really exciting wrestling show. When you’ve got a champion and you’ve got multiple challengers, that’s always the best. Not only the best for the fans but, as the champion, it puts me in such a cool scenario where there’s so many different opponents I can have and so many different situations I can be put in so it keeps everything fresh and exciting. It’s great and I think NXT has done a tremendous job of really lining up quite a few great challenges for me in the future.