During his time with NXT, Adam Cole was the face of the company, holding the NXT Championship longer than anyone in the brand’s history. Cole joined the WWE in 2017 and spent four years there, having five-star matches with the likes of Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, and Kyle O’Reilly.

But according to William Regal, Cole was brought into WWE before 2017 and told to go make a bigger name for himself on the independents before landing with the Black and Gold brand.

“Adam Cole did a tryout at one point when he was 24,” Regal highlighted, during the first episode of the Gentleman Villain podcast. “This was a call on Triple H and it was a smart call because I said and everybody else around, all the crew, everybody involved in this said this lad’s as pro as it gets, he’s got everything going for him. Triple H made that call which may sound a bit harsh at the time, but if you ask Adam now, he’ll tell you a different story. He said and told me personally, ‘Leave him out there [away from WWE],’ he was already working for Ring of Honor and doing all this stuff with PWG.

[Triple H said] ‘Leave him out there because in two years, the experience he’ll get out there will make him 10x better than what he already is, if not, more than that. He said, ‘Keep an eye on him and if he ever needs anything, let us know.’ I would’ve done that for him if I had heard he was down on his luck or something … He said, ‘Keep an eye on him, and then when the times right and we book the right spot, we’ll bring him right in. Instead of coming in and finding a spot for him, we’ll bring him right in.’

Cole would end up becoming the second NXT Triple Crown Champion, winning multiple Male Competitor of the Year awards and Rivalry of the Year awards. Before leaving for AEW, Cole lost to Kyle O’Reilly at NXT TakeOver 36, his last appearance on NXT.

“I think there’s very few people in history that can say they came into a hot promotion on top and left on top when he left, for four years that Adam Cole,” Regal said. “You try putting that together, to be a featured player from the day you walk into the day you walk out. Adam walked in from day one on top and left on top and never had a down period. That’s an incredible run and a call by [Triple] H, being far smarter than me.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Gentleman Villain with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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