Adam Cole talks Undisputed ERA rumors, EVOLVE and why he deserves an NXT Title rematch
They say heavy is the head that wears the crown, but so is the one who dons the peaked cap. For Adam Cole, the uncontested general of Undisputed ERA, that message is, well, undisputed. This Friday, May 10, The Panama City Playboy will lace up his bootstraps to battle at EVOLVE 127 where he’ll compete in a non-title match against ever-bumptious EVOLVE Champion Austin Theory at the Monaghan Knights of Columbus Hall in Livonia, Mich. From there, Cole embarks on a second night of action at EVOLVE 128 on Saturday, May 11, inside the historic Southside Turners in Indianapolis, where he takes on longtime rival AR Fox in singles competition.
While he appears more than ready for battle, the leader of Undisputed ERA has other things on his mind that could surely contribute to some level of uneasiness. For one, there’s the fallout of NXT TakeOver: New York. Although Johnny Gargano emerged from their 2-out-of-3 Falls classic as NXT Champion, Cole scored the first pinfall — which, according to the inaugural NXT North American Champion, is enough to warrant a rematch. Then there’s the matter of Matt Riddle, who has spent the past few weeks meddling in The Undisputed ERA’s affairs and now will face Cole this Wednesday. Speaking of the black-and-gold comrades, the reports of dissension among Undisputed ERA members are also weighing heavy on Cole’s mind. The rumor mill has been running overtime following incidents like those which transpired on the May 1 edition of NXT, when Roderick Strong seemingly walked away from the group after an unpleasant exchange backstage with Cole.
As the weight continues to build, Cole unpacked his thoughts on all topics at hands, including EVOLVE and his plans to “embarrass" Austin Theory, taking Johnny Gargano’s coveted prize, rolling over Matt Riddle and his allegiance to The Undisputed ERA.
WWE.COM: Big week coming up, between your match against Matt Riddle and your return to EVOLVE. Let’s start with Riddle, who’s been involved in your affairs as of late. What are your thoughts heading into Wednesday’s battle?
ADAM COLE: I pride myself on telling the truth. The truth is Matt Riddle is an incredibly talented guy. He’s laid back, though, to a fault. He decided to make some comments, thinking that he’s getting under my skin, and he succeeded; in turn, we’re having this match this week on NXT TV. He’s going to pay for that. I’m very aware of how talented and skilled the guy is, but if he thinks our match is going to be a walk in the park, he’s got a totally different thing coming.
I’ve morphed and changed since coming to NXT – I recognize that. There was a phase where without question, I felt like every time I walked into that locker room, I was the best, I had nothing to prove, and I was on top of the world. I still think that I’m the best, but now I’m more focused than ever on making sure every single person in that locker room recognizes that as well. I’m angrier, I’m more focused and more determined to make sure that I become the NXT Champion as soon as possible. If Matt Riddle is in my way, I’m just going to have to hurt Matt Riddle in the process. We’re going to have a fight, and I can tell you this much: Matt Riddle is not going to leave that match the same as he did coming in.
"If [Austin] Theory thinks he’s even close to being in the caliber
of an Adam Cole, at this point in his career, I’m going to show him
how wrong he is when we get in the ring together."
WWE.COM: Looking ahead to this weekend, what does it mean to step back in the ring at EVOLVE?
ADAM COLE: Since joining NXT, to be able to come back and do some independent shows, specifically EVOLVE, has been really cool for me. For people who haven’t been following my entire career, the independents are where my heart is, where I got my start, and where I made a name for myself. They gave me the ability to travel overseas and do a lot of really incredible things. More importantly, the two guys that I’m getting to step into the ring with [this weekend] are two of the most talented guys on the independents.
Austin Theory is a guy I haven’t really faced before, but he’s just a bundle of talent. He’s got a big mouth, but he’s got talent. As for AR Fox, I think I first wrestled him in 2009 at CZW. He was a rival of mine when I first started making a name for myself as the CZW Junior Heavyweight Champion. We had some really competitive matches, so I’m excited to get the chance to step in the ring with him again, considering it’s been so long. He’s gotten better, I’ve gotten better – it’s going to be a great weekend.
Another cool thing about these EVOLVE shows is that we do a meet-and-greet before both events. I’ll get a chance to meet everybody, sign some autographs and take some pictures. That last time I was at EVOLVE, I got the chance to meet hundreds of fans, and it was so awesome to chat with them and see how long they’ve been following me. Promotions like EVOLVE have these fanbases that are so passionate about wrestling. People who are fans of mine know that I eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. To get to come to these events and meet these people and see these guys from these rosters, who are working their tails off, honing their game, getting better every time I see them, it’s very cool. I have a connection and will always have a connection to the independents. EVOLVE is one of the hottest promotions in the United States, and I’m excited to come back.
WWE.COM: Since you mentioned that he’s “got a big mouth,” what’s your take on Austin Theory? He’s been busy throwing jabs at you in recent weeks.
COLE: I understand what Austin Theory is doing. Even in a weird kind of way, I respect it because I was Austin Theory before. I was young, brash, arrogant and on top of the world, and I felt like I was already in my prime at such a young age. That’s Theory right now. He’s in amazing shape, on top of the world, the champion – he’s clicking on all cylinders. So now he’s trying to bark up the wrong tree, which is the biggest issue here. He’s running his mouth because he feels like he can. He hasn’t been in a situation yet where he’s had to face me in the ring before. So, pretty much I’m going to embarrass Austin Theory.
We’re going to have a great match, because I know how incredibly talented he is, and I know it’s going to be competitive. But, if Theory thinks he’s even close to being in the caliber of an Adam Cole, at this point in his career, I’m going to show him how wrong he is when we get in the ring together.
WWE.COM: Speaking of competition and incredible talent, you and Johnny Gargano delivered an all-time classic at NXT TakeOver: New York. What was it like battling under such high stakes?
COLE: With the exception of the outcome, it was special for sure. Brooklyn, specifically, is very near and dear to my heart. It’s where I made my debut in NXT, so to be able to finally get that NXT Championship match at a TakeOver was really cool. Gargano is another guy that I’ve had a long and storied history with. We got the chance for the first time to wrestle each other at arguably the biggest NXT event that we’ve ever had, and I think we had more eyes on us than ever before. Me and Johnny brought our energy, but those fans brought their energy, too. In turn, that created a really special night, making a match that I think people are going to remember for a really long time.
WWE.COM: You’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that had this match been a standard contest, instead of a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match, you’d be crowned champion. Where’s you mind now, as far as the match’s aftermath?
COLE: I’m a guy who tries not to harp on the negatives too much, but I can’t help but focus on the fact that if Johnny and I had any match other than a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match, I would be the NXT Champion. I pinned him first, I did it by myself and in about 15 minutes. The reason why I’m talking about the match like I am is because Johnny knows deep down that when we have our rematch, which we will, that he’s not going to be champion anymore. Johnny, to me, was lucky that it was 2-out-of-3 Falls. He was thrown into a lucky situation. A guy like Gargano was never meant to be the NXT Champion. I was born to be the NXT Champion. Of course, it was frustrating not to leave that night, the biggest TakeOver of all time, as the champion, but sometimes lightning strikes. Sometimes, if you take enough shots, you make the shot. The next time we wrestle for the NXT Championship, I’m going to be the one that leaves with the NXT Title. That’s all I’m focused on.
WWE.COM: There have been rumors running as of late about possible dissension in The Undisputed ERA — specifically recent rifts with Roderick Strong. What’s your response to such rumors?
COLE: Yeah, that’s a touchy subject for me. I don’t really know where Roderick is at the moment; we haven’t really talked a ton. We’ve had some time apart, but I’ll tell you this much regarding The Undisputed ERA and people questioning the position of this group: In my opinion — and I stand by this — without question, Adam Cole has been and will always be the leader. Sometimes there is some rift, friction and questions that goes on in a family.
"I fight for two things: myself and
The Undisputed ERA."
WWE.COM: Is this family about to experience a divorce?
COLE: Let me put it to you this way: When you have brothers, you cannot change the fact that that person is your brother. Sometimes you fight, argue or choose to not have any relationship with a brother anymore. Sometimes you work through it and your relationship grows stronger. I stand by the fact that The Undisputed ERA is not just a wrestling faction, we’re a brotherhood. We’re guys who’ve known each other since our careers started. We’ve traveled up and down the road together, we’ve shared plenty of important moments. So whether we’re able to work through this is another question that I don’t know if I can answer, but I know where I stand on The Undisputed ERA. I know how I feel about The Undisputed ERA. If this brotherhood is as strong as I think it is, we’ll pull through and prove that we come back stronger than ever.
WWE.COM: Since the ERA debuted on NXT, you’ve managed to elevate the term “Undisputed” from a phrase to a movement. What would you attribute to the winning recipe behind the Undisputed ERA formula?
COLE: When The Undisputed ERA formed, we had a tagline that has turned into a mantra for us: “Shock the system.” When we came to WWE, it was very important for us to make as much of an impact as we possibly could. When you have a group of all likeminded individuals — who feel the same way, have the same goals and have the same passion — that’s when stuff gets dangerous for everybody else. I’m very aware that Adam Cole, as an individual, is a dangerous, skilled competitor. Kyle O’Reilly, same thing. Bobby Fish, same thing. Roderick Strong, same thing. But when it’s the four of us together, nobody can mess with us. When the four of us are all on, that’s when we succeed. I think a big reason why The Undisputed ERA has been so successful is that we all have our individual goals, and we all have goals as a group; we’re just as focused on the collective goals as the individual ones. I fight for two things: myself and The Undisputed ERA. I know those guys feel the same exact way.
We said before that we want to run NXT, [and] that goal hasn’t changed. We’re in the process of making that happen. We’re not going to stop until we make that happen.
WWE.COM: So that 2019 promise of championships all around is still undisputed?
COLE: Absolutely, without question. Speed bumps happen, like TakeOver: New York, when it was my time to become NXT Champion and it didn’t happen. But the year is still young and there are a lot of things that we could do to make sure that goal becomes a reality. That goal very much stands, and that is our mentality. By the end of the year – and I’ve said it before and will say it again – I promise that all of us will have championship gold in NXT.