AEW star Adam Cole was on a recent episode of the Talk Is Jericho podcast where he and Chris Jericho discussed Cole’s WWE career. Since Cole has left NXT, the brand has undergone a complete shift in direction to a more developmental brand in the form of NXT 2.0. Cole gave his thoughts on NXT 2.0 and discussed if AEW beating NXT in the Wednesday Night War played a factor in the shift in direction.
“This is all me guessing. I think, for sure, that played a part in it, absolutely. And I also understand the thought process of, because there were so many guys in NXT who were presented a certain way, and then they would go to RAW or SmackDown and it was a complete total change,” Cole pointed out. “I also see the standpoint if I am Vince McMahon and him looking at NXT as this breeding ground for guys on RAW or SmackDown. He kind of wants his hands in it a little bit more, and he wants bigger guys and stuff like that.
“Not saying that everyone’s going to be big, but more guys who are geared to be ready to go for RAW and SmackDown, so I understand that because when I was there at NXT, it was treated as a third brand. We got on television because of it. We had that big Survivor Series month, which was really cool, and it was the more athletic pro wrestling, storytelling pro wrestling style. I think them going back to this, certainly AEW has to play a factor. In my mind, it just has to, but I do think, even more importantly, it’s to make sure that they don’t have to change a thing about guys when they’re in NXT, at least that’s what it seems like to me.”
Jericho then gave his thoughts on why he thinks NXT made the shift to NXT 2.0. He noted how quickly the perception of NXT and AEW quickly changed when the two went head to head.
“What I think it is, and once again, I can say this just from observing, is that NXT was put on Wednesday nights, obviously that’s to combat AEW, and we’ll wipe out this ‘pissant’ little company right away. Problem is they had no idea what they were dealing with,” Jericho said. “It really backfired on them. NXT was so cool.
“You guys would go do your weekend shows and get three times the reaction in a sold out arena than the pay-per-view would get. So then when they put NXT up against AEW, it really hurt the brand to where you lost the cool factor, and AEW was the cool one. NXT just got steamrolled, and I think, as a result, Vince kind of holds a grudge against NXT. You had the chance to beat AEW, and you didn’t. Now I’m going to take over, and I’m going to do it my way.”
Jericho then recalled his time in WWE where he was working with NXT talents. He revealed which two former NXT Champions he pitched to Vince McMahon to bring up to the main roster.
“I remember going to Japan and working with Finn Balor and with, the next year, Shinsuke Nakamura, and they were both in NXT at the time,” Jericho recalled. “Both times, I came back to the states went right to RAW, and I had a meeting with Vince. I’m like, ‘Dude, get this Finn Balor here.’ The next year, ‘Get this Nakamura here.’ He’s like, ‘Does he speak English?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, he speaks English, and he’s like Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson. His personality is amazing, such a star.’ Once again, I’m working in the WWE main roster.
“This is not a cut down to anybody, but why do you have these guys? Because, at the time, they’re kind of in the lower league, minor league, third division. Bring them up here, but a lot of guys didn’t want to come up here because they’re happy being there and doing all the stuff that you guys were doing.”
There have been a number of NXT talents and former NXT Champions who have been called up and failed to reach the heights they did before. Cole talked about what it meant for him, as a locker room leader, to see talents not reach the same level of potential on the main roster that they showed in NXT.
“A big thing for me, because a lot of these guys would still come around and hang out, and to me, it came down to if they were happy or not,” Cole explained, “There were some guys, they would go up and maybe if they didn’t do exactly what they did in NXT, but they were making more money, and they were having a great time and all that stuff.
“So at that point, if you’re happy, then I’m happy. But for people who had a run in NXT and then stuff completely changed on RAW or SmackDown and they were bummed about it, of course that bummed me out for them. But I think over time, they’ve learned to adapt. They’ve learned that maybe it might start out this way, but then eventually, stuff will change for me, and I hope that’s the case for a lot of those guys. I hope that RAW and SmackDown is going to turn into everything they ever wanted, so only time will tell.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.