Ring Of Honor's 14th Anniversary PPV airs this Friday, and Wrestling Inc will be bringing you full live coverage of the show. Ahead of the PPV, I spoke with former ROH World Champion Adam Cole about his ROH career, PWG return, WWE tryouts, his love of Onnit and much more.
* * *
ROH has a big PPV coming up this Friday, and you're in the headline match, a world title match with Jay Lethal and Kyle O'Reilly. After all you've been through lately, how does it feel to be in that spot?
"Man, it feels fantastic. You bring up the injury, I remember watching a tape of Triple H coming back from his quad injury and him saying 'I just hope the people care when I come back, I hope people didn't forget about me,' and I remember thinking 'How could people forget about you? You're Triple H.' To a smaller extent, I had those exact same fears. I hope I'm as good as I was, I hope the people care, I hope I'm not tentative in the ring, I hope I can get back where I was in Ring of Honor. I was very focused and driven, but those insecurities are there when you're forced to sit at home and watch everybody do what you love, you rehab meticulously to come back. Headlining this show for the title, it's cool man, it's the culmination of an up-and-down 2015 that I had. It'll be a good start to my 2016."
How do you deal with ring rust? You missed about 6 months, right?
"Yeah, about five and a half months. Fortunately for me, I had some really good dance partners when I first came back. I was able to have some fun and exciting matches with some of the best pro wrestlers in the world. My first match back was against AJ Styles in Philly. There were some reports that ROH didn't know if I'd be able to do that show, and that was true. My doctor actually had to clear me the day before. That's why AJ was announced to go against a mystery opponent. To be fair, I had not been in the ring at all in five months. Because AJ is so good and so talented, I was able to have a really exciting match with him. Because the guys in Ring of Honor are so top notch, I didn't have too much of an issue. Other than the nerves that were there and that pressure we put on ourselves all the time, I was pretty lucky and didn't have many ring rust issues."
I hope Cheeseburger was your backup in case you weren't cleared.
"(laughs) We may never know!"
We've seen a lot of crazy transactions in wrestling lately, with Styles and Nakamura heading to WWE. What do you make of that?
"Right now is probably one of the craziest times in wrestling. I go back as far as the guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. When they made their way to the WWE, a lot of people were blown away that not only they made it to WWE, but became main event guys in WWE. The casual fans' perception out of what they want as a pro wrestler. Now more than ever, they care if you've traveled the world, if you have an international reputation. To see these fans get so excited about Styles and Nakamura going to the WWE is cool. It's a game changer for the industry. Some of your indy favorites, the crowds become more vocal about wanting to see those guys. Everything is constantly on edge. Whose contract is up? Who's going to go where? Even me as a wrestler, it's really exciting, so I know it must be exciting to fans."
Speaking of that, you just lost one of your partners, Mike Bennett, to TNA. Did you see that move coming, and what's the transition like going solo after being flocked by three of your buddies?
"I'm actually just getting started with the riding solo thing. There's not much of an adjustment as the actual performances go. Even with Kingdom, we'd do tag team matches every now and then, but I generally was the singles guy. To see Mike and Maria go to TNA, that wasn't really something any of us saw coming. I maybe knew they were leaving a week before it was announced to the public, so it was very last minute, but I'm very happy for those guys. If they feel that's where they should go and that's where they excel, then it's where they should go because they're both extremely talented and they have the chance to shine in TNA. The Kingdom is a very real friendship, and we very much want one another to succeed. They have my full support."
You've had this great feud with Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly. How has it been having that kind of a dance partner coming off of your injury, and someone you're familiar with....and then be put in a title match on top of that?
"Me and Kyle go as far back as 2009. I started in 2008, and Kyle started maybe a year before that and we were two young, independent guys trying to make a name for ourselves, and we'd met each other when we were opponents for a pre-show for Gabe Sapolsky's Dragon Gate USA. It was our first match that got a lot of attention for the both of us. Just a little six minute match that Philadelphia took a liking to. Then we started getting booked for Dragon Gate and Evolve, then started doing matches in Ring of Honor when ROH wanted to sign us but wasn't sure what they wanted to do with us. They put us together as a tag team, and the tag team really worked, fast forward and we're one of the feature matches at Final Battle, it's crazy how much me and Kyle have stayed together in our careers, but I think there's a reason for that, like you mention how Kyle and I are just so good against one another or teaming. Kyle O'Reilly made me a better performer, I like to think that I've made him a better performer. I think we'll be doing this dance for quite some time. It'll be cool for the fans to see where we end up."
A thing I love about ROH is if they want to book a triple threat match, you don't need a convoluted excuse to do it. It's 'these guys are the two top contenders because they've earned it.' Something else I think has been cool is the relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. How do you think that will work for both companies moving forward?
"NJPW is definitely the number two wrestling promotion in the world. Based on the Wrestle Kingdom event and the events they run throughout Japan. The relationship has been huge for us, and I think has helped them as well. As far as getting more American attention on NJPW, which is very much deserved, has been cool for us and cool for them. The relationship is stronger than ever and exciting to see where it's going to go. ROH is running shows in Korakuen hall that are sold out, it's really excting. I think stuff's going to continue to get better."
You don't often see two high profile companies work together in that manner, especially when both were on national TV at the time. How did you feel about the Destination America deal. It seemed like they were right foot in, right foot out with wrestling.
"I took Destination America for what it was - an opportunity to get more eyes on our product. If ten people hadn't watched ROH, checked it out on DA, then when it wasn't available there anymore still decided to follow ROH, that was a win. There wasn't a lot of risk or any financial issues getting on DA where we were at a chance for a loss. It was a free opportunity to expose ourselves to a broader audience, which we were able to do for a short amount of time. I can't speak for everybody, but I'm thankful we had the chance to be on Destination America to show our stuff, because the more people who see ROH, the better. I feel any time anybody sees ROH that they feel disappointed spending an hour watching the show. We're still strong. Not being on DA doesn't hurt whatsoever. The new stuff on Comet is pretty cool, we're still on syndication across the country, our live events are still doing great. Destination America was a cool bonus to showcase what we do to a broader audience."
Sinclair also allows you all to put ROH TV up the Thursday after it airs on the website. Another big change for ROH is that they're allowing their talent to work PWG shows now. What was your big comeback like?
"It's up there top 3 moments of my wrestling. PWG is and always has been near and dear to my heart. I owe PWG a lot for me starting to get over with that audience. PWG was a company that gave me the ball that said I would be the guy and be a heel and do my thing in the ring. That was before ROH gave me that chance. So trying new things and experimenting with new things and getting used to wrestling in a main event scenario was huge for my career. Those crowds are some of the best crowds in the world. I've been able to wrestle all over the world and that little building in Reseda is defintely my favorite. Nobody having any idea, doing it the way we did it, completely unannounced, and getting to hear that reaction -- on the outside I was playing that tough guy, 'I'm back,' but on the inside I was reacting the way the fans were, I was so happy to be back. PWG is so special to me."
What reason were you given for not being allowed to work there before, and how were you told you could again?
"They were just starting this exclusive contract where they didn't want people working anywhere but ROH in the United States and Canada. The big reason that I wasn't permitted to work PWG is that I was the first guniea pig for these exclusive contracts. I had no real leverage in the ROH contract that was offered to me. Even though I couldn't work anywhere I else, I was compensated and I was happy about the contract that I signed. Part of that deal was that I could no longer work PWG. As these contracts grew, so have the descriptions within the contracts. As more guys get these exclusive contracts, the contracts change. This led to the Young Bucks getting contracted exclusive to ROH and they were able to get PWG in their contract, and it opened up the flood gates for more guys to work for PWG. I think ROH saw the benefit of letting their guys work for PWG. If NXT is a hot program, ROH will always do well, because they're the little engine that could. As long as ROH is doing well, PWG will do well, because they're the company fighting from underneath. ROH really recognizes how important PWG is to the independent wrestling landscape and around the world, and I think finally saw the benefit of us going over to work for PWG. I'm really happy about it, PWG is happy for it, ROH is happy for it. Speaking of relationships, I think this one will be just as good."
Do you think the 'little engine that could' mentality is why PWG doesn't run bigger venues?
"I think certainly. There's also a realization of having a formula and knowing it sticks. If I show someone who isn't sure if they want to get into pro wrestling that little six minute preview that PWG puts out, they'd go 'Oh my God, this is amazing, what is this?' They don't even look at it as pro wrestling. The crowd's right on top of the guys, they're sticking with a formula that works, so I understand PWG being in the position where they don't want to run a pay-per-view, or even run a bigger venue because they're afraid they're going to lose that spark they have in Reseda, and I don't blame them. I don't think PWG has any aspirations of growing into the number one company in the United States or competing with Ring of Honor. I think they're content with being who they are, and I'm thankful for companies like that because sometimes when you stay where you're comfortable great things continue to happen."
Are we going to get Jessamyn Duke to do some pro wrestling? I've been nagging her for years!
"I know! I've talked to her before about if she wants to get into it. She seems to have her heart set on continuing to fight, but I've even offered to train her if she wants to get involved and have a match or two. I guess we can hope and wait for that day."
Is there anything about your WWE tryouts you wish you could have changed?
"Actually, no. Looking at how my whole career went, I'm thankful I got my chance when I did. I had a tryout when I was like 19 and totally not prepared. I was 170 pounds with homemade gear. At that point I realized how far I had to go to even get looked at. Then when I was 22 or 23, I was much more prepared and that second tryout went way better. Still, it was a thing for me where I knew I needed to continue to grow as a performer and a man, how I looked, how I carried myself, the experiences I needed to have. I look at myself now and I'm thankful I didn't get signed at 23 years old because of the experiences I've had. I definitely believe everything happens for a reason and I learned a lot from that and it was positive."
Do you follow NXT?
"I do. I have a lot of friends, but I think I would regardless because I enjoy the product."
Ring of Honor has to be seen as competition to NXT. You all are running a lot of the same towns on the same weekends. What are your thoughts on that?
"I don't know. I think there's less competition than maybe the fans think. I think it's fun to fantisize about the idea of NXT and ROH butting heads and seeing which one will do better, especially with WWE looking at ROH guys to hire. I think NXT and Triple H are so focused on what they can do to be the best product, and I know ROH is too. I think it's awesome and it creates an environment of 'who's going to show up where?,' 'who's going to run where?' NXT ran the Turner Ballroom in Milwaukee, which is an ROH venue. It's cool, it's exciting. ROH isn't threatened. We're comfortable where we stand in the wrestling world and our roster is stronger than ever. I think it creates a cool competitive edge for everybody to make sure we're bringing our A game. If NXT is doing one of their network specials and ROH has a PPV coming up, we're like 'We're going to make this better than the NXT show.' That's our mindset, and that's cool."
Do you think there will ever be a joint ROH/PWG show?
"Oh man. If you were to ask me a year ago, no way. The way things have been going, never say never. I definitely think it's possible. Especially if Ring of Honor wanted to make its way to the west coast, it's apparent PWG owns that territory. I think with this working relationship it's definitely possible to see a lot of ROH guys vs. PWG guys on a ROH/PWG joint show. I think the fans would dig it, I think it'd be awesome. Never say never."
There were some reports that there was some jealousy backstage regarding the Young Bucks and the money they got from their deal. Did you see any of that?
"The truth is, the Young Bucks play the characters they do on ROH TV, but they're probably two of the most beloved guys in the ROH locker room. That certainly was not the case from anything I saw. Most people think the Young Bucks got what they deserved. They're one of the hottest acts in wrestling, so any money they got they deserved. They're good guys and they back it up. No jealousy from anything that I saw. The Young Bucks are like going to see your favorite band or movie. Their entrance song, their entrance, their attitudes. The whole thing is a spectacle. The moves are just a small part of what the Young Bucks act is. There's a good reason they're as popular as they are. It's not the moves. There are people in wrestling who can do the moves the Young Bucks do, but the reason the Young Bucks are so captivating and so awesome is the total package they bring. When the Bucks wrestle, the curtain is sold out."
For our readers and listeners who may not be familiar or up to date with ROH, what can you tell them about this show?
"If you're an old school fan and looking to get back into it, or someone who hasn't watched wrestling, ROH is like a rock concert rollercoaster ride. You will see combinations of every form of wrestling you enjoy. Some of the best high flying, hardest hitting, characters, storytelling, we have some of the hottest girls. Ring of Honor has it all. And most importantly, we have some of the most passionate fans in the world and it really resonates through the television screen. Ring of Honor is one in a million, a company that focuses on the in-ring competition and telling stories in the ring. The action in that three hours on PPV will be as exciting as anything you've seen on a wrestling show, I promise you. Anybody who orders that PPV will not walk away disappointed."
Definitely check out Adam Cole's Pro Wrestling Tee's Page. He's also a big supporter of Onnit, so go check out Onnit.com/Wrestling and save ten percent. That's all Adam does. He doesn't train or workout, he just takes Onnit.
"(laughs) I'm a big supporter of Onnit. A lot of Alpha Brain and T+, that's it!"
You can listen to the full interview above, or in the player below. You can also download audio of the interview directly at this link. If you want to subscribe to our audio channel, you can do so through iTunes as well as our RSS feed, which you can use this to subscribe through any podcast app. If you enjoy the interview, please rate us on iTunes!