Adam Cole recently made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III flanked by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. He made his intentions clear by laying a beat down on newly crowned champion, Drew McIntyre. I recently wrote about Cole’s connection with O’Reilly for the PWSA. I wasn’t always a fan of Cole though. His first run in Ring of Honor was kind of bland following that match with his ex-Future Shock partner. Don’t get me wrong it was decent, but he was just a standard babyface. They gave him the ROH TV title, but nothing about that reign really stood out. It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 when he posted a promo about being in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s prestigious Battle of Los Angeles tournament that I started to change my mind. I was moderately aware that Cole wrestled heel in Combat Zone Wrestling earlier in his career, but this was the first time I saw the smug, arrogant prick that he’s so good at portraying.
Cole had been wrestling in PWG since the end of 2011, but never as a singles competitor. He was always in tag-team matches with his Future Shock partner, Kyle O’Reilly. This tournament would be the first time he wrestled solo in front of a PWG crowd and they can be notoriously smarky. His first round opponent, El Generico, wasn’t going to make things any easier for him either.
The match is a great showcase of how different Cole is as a heel. He’s not above breaking the rules and he’s incredibly cocky. He jumps Generico while he’s being introduced and any time that he goes for his standard offense, Cole is able to shut him down. This is how Cole ultimately wins the match. When Generico goes into his finishing sequence Cole is able catch him in a small package and kept him down for the three-count.
After what many would consider an upset against the generic luchador Cole advanced to Night 2 of the tournament to take on a former tag partner, Eddie Edwards. This one starts off with Cole getting in some stretches before locking up with Eddie. Cole even gets the crowd to clap “We Will Rock You” before changing it to “Suck My Dick”. Cole absorbs a decent amount of punishment in the match before he’s able to hit one of his finishers, Florida Key (it’s a German-Suplex where the opponent’s arms are crossed).
Cole’s next opponent would be someone he had a lengthy and bitter rivalry with in Combat Zone Wrestling, Sami Callihan. The match starts with the two of them yelling insults at each other before Sami charges Cole and starts kicking the hell out of him in the corner. Cole takes more punishment from Sami’s lightning quick, high impact offense. Eventually Sami makes a mistake and Cole works on Sami’s leg for a bit before locking in a figure-four leglock. It’s too much for Sami and he taps out.
For Cole’s last opponent he would have to break the unbreakable by going head to head with Michael Elgin. Cole doesn’t seem to be as cocky as the contest starts since he knows Elgin won’t be an easy win. The match quickly makes its way outside and they fight through the crowd. Both men use every move that brought them to the final, but Cole is able to get the win by hitting a Destroyer, a pair of superkicks, and Florida Key in rapid succession.
After being presented with the trophy Cole calls out PWG champion, Kevin Steen. Cole eventually kicks Steen low and clocks him with the PWG belt. He takes his trophy and Steen’s belt and leaves. This would set up the main event of the las PWG show 2012, Mystery Vortex.
Steen and Cole would collide in a Guerrilla Warfare match, which means that there are no rules. Both men made creative use of the stipulation. Once Cole hits the ring he tries to lay out Steen again with the championship belt. Steen avoids it and mauls Cole at ringside and crotches him on all four corners of the ring. He follows this up by powerbombing Cole on all four sides of the ring apron. Amazingly Cole would battle back from this onslaught. Trash cans, ladders, chairs, and thumbtacks would all be introduced. Somehow Cole would withstand Steen’s onslaught and win the PWG title.
With Cole capturing the PWG championship he would start a reign of terror that lasted over a year. He turned away challenges from Sami Callihan, Drake Younger, Kevin Steen, Johnny Gargano, and many others. He would eventually start a faction with The Young Bucks and, surprisingly, Kevin Steen. They would refer to themselves as the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling. Cole would eventually be dethroned by his shadow, Kyle O’Reilly.
I personally love this run a lot. The matches are generally really good and you want to see someone eventually dethrone Cole the longer the title reign lasted. It’s not that it was boring; it’s just that he was a little shit. The crowd was always excited to see him, but they also hated his actions which is a tough thing for modern day heels to do. They’re either boring (see Corbin, Baron) or they pander to the crowd too much and they may as well be faces at that point (see Owens, Kevin). This run went a long way in cementing his credibility with fans It also helped start a heel run in Ring of Honor that led to him being the only person to win ROH’s World title on three occasions. During this time he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Bullet Club. His NXT debut may not have been much of a surprise, but the way they did it was. He’s immediately looked at as a major player and there isn’t that awkward face run when indie guys first show up. He’s way better as a heel and it’ll be fun to see how a new audience reacts to him, bay-bay.