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By Mike Johnson on 2019-10-07 12:28:00

The following interview was conducted the morning of 10/2 at the WWE Performance Center.

Mike Johnson: Mike Johnson here with the reigning and defending WWE NXT champion, Adam Cole. So let's get this out of the way, a bit of a bandage on the hand. So obviously, we saw what happened at the end of TV last week, but it looked like maybe it had been a lingering injury here too. So what happened and how will this affect you working in there and going forward?

Adam Cole: Yeah, so unfortunately again, my wrist is fractured. It's not ideal, not the ideal situation. But with tonight's debut two hours on the USA Network, again big championship match with Matt Riddle, there's no way I'm going to miss it. So I'm going to make sure this thing is good and taped up and taken care of the right way. But yeah, the show must go on. So we got to go and have a great title match tonight.

Mike Johnson: So I've been covering your career and writing about you literally since you were training in the Combat Zone Dojo in God knows where in New Jersey. Reflect on what all this means to you to be in this position, to have WWE from the second you walked in, be a top guy here, to being the champion to main event TakeOvers and now be one of the flagship talents for NXT on the USA Network where the entire brand's being raised to be equal in importance to Raw and SmackDown. You will always be that first NXT champion. You're always going to be that trivia answer. What does that mean to you as the kid from the Northeast who just wanted to wrestle?

Adam Cole: I'm glad you brought that up because sometimes I don't think I do enough reflecting because so much stuff happened so fast all the time. But specifically with this move to USA, I'm thinking about how I worked for 10 years all over the world through the States, Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico, wherever, all up and down the independence to finally end up here, like you said, as the flagship guy with NXT's move to officially becoming a third brand officially moving to the USA Network. It's huge. It's a lot of pressure, but it's a pressure that I'm used to. It's a pressure that I enjoy and yeah, I'm very honored.

Mike Johnson: All right, so there was an official announcement. When was the locker room aware this was going to become a reality? How has the locker room changed? Even working the Florida loops and the smaller shows that are there to help people get better, how has all this changed the energy across the board?

Adam Cole: Yeah, so first of all, when we found out, we technically officially found out when the world found out. We had an idea that something was happening the day before, but nothing was officially set in stone. So when all the fans and everybody across the world found out, that was when we were like, "Okay, this is happening." So it felt like it happened overnight. But yeah, as far as the move to television, obviously, like I was saying, it's a lot more pressure. Guys who've never worked on television before, but guys who are very proud of what the NXT brand is, having this new added pressure of working live television every week just adds a different energy in the locker room. It's more tense, but it's more exciting, but it's something that our group's ready for.

Mike Johnson  So you mentioned your group, obviously you, Bobby Fish, Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong have been around in some form or fashion together backstage and onscreen for a long time. Talk about the chemistry of the group and was it just hand in a glove? Did it take a while to find that chemistry? You guys have been good rivals in different places. You've also been great partners. Talk about creating Undisputed Era because it's become one of the cornerstones of this brand.

Adam Cole: Yeah, no. It fits so easily and I think that's a big reason that it's worked so well. For anybody who's followed my career, I've known Bobby, Kyle and Roddy for 10 years. I was in Kyle O'Reilly's wedding. I was at Rodrick Strong's wedding. We travel together. We talk every single day. So the connection is very real. The friendship is very real. I think that's why it's worked so well and I think that's why the fans have connected to us so well because they can tell that it's a real friendship. They can also tell that we're having a blast because I am and I know those guys are too. So it's been so much fun.

Mike Johnson: Okay, so for the average run of NXT, the expectation of the audience is at some point, a talent is going to get pulled to go to Raw SmackDown. Internally, when you came here at some point that had to be on your checklist. How does that checklist change now with NXT being on the same platform?

Adam Cole: Yeah, it's absolutely changed. Especially even before the television deal was announced, there was a certain connection I built with NXT and this entire process and the relationship that this brand has with the people within it. With this move to television though, it just further solidifies like, man, I want to be a part of the growth or the boom of NXT. To know the potential now for where this show could go, where NXT the brand could go, it's something that I'm glad I'm a part of now and I hope I'm a part of for a really long time.

Mike Johnson: So there's no such thing as a perfect pro wrestling match, but I think if NXT had anything that came close or came within millimeters of perfection, it would be the matches that you've had with Johnny Gargano. Reflect on that rivalry and what it meant to you and what you learned from it, what you weaned from it and how do you think it'll hold up when we talk about the legacy of your career when it's all said and done.

Adam Cole: Yeah, it was huge. I've known Johnny, again as far as knowing somebody, I've known Johnny for 10 years on the independent scene. And really in NXT, we hadn't really touched whatsoever. This match together as a last minute because Champa needed to leave and I needed a big match for WrestleMania weekend. So for it to come about that way was really cool because we knew we had magic at that point. We said, "Hey, we finally got the chance to show everybody in the back, show all the fans that they'd been missing out on Adam Cole versus Johnny Gargano." I'm very proud of that trilogy. I do think it's something that NXT fans are going to remember for a really, really long time. It's a testament to how good Johnny is and yeah, I would love to get back to it at some point.

Mike Johnson: So you've always had this knack for a certain way of wrestling that people will compare to Shawn Michaels at times. You get to work here with Shawn at The Performance Center. What's it like sitting under that learning tree?

Adam Cole: It's priceless. When I think back to nine-year-old me getting the chance to pick the brain of Shawn Michaels, it's still crazy, especially because he puts just as much effort into being a coach to a certain amount of us as he did to being a wrestler. He cares so much about making the most out of our careers about what's best for us and it's surreal. Again, the mind that he has is unlike anybody I've ever talked to or ever met. He's very much into this new school style, which makes it a lot of fun.

Mike Johnson: Does that seem weird to you?

Adam Cole: It does, yeah, yeah, because you're so used to, again, when you're so used to doing wrestling a certain way, sometimes it's hard for people to adjust to the way that wrestling is in 2019. So it's very cool that Shawn is super into what we're doing. He loves NXT. He loves this brand and it's been a blast learning from him.

Mike Johnson: So we mentioned the goal checklist changing. You're the top star of the brand as it goes on the USA Network. How do you keep yourself from getting complacent to going, "All right, I nailed this?" What do you do to keep yourself fresh, keep yourself hungry and define new goals?

Adam Cole: Well, it's again, it's the mentality of it's one thing to get to the top of the mountain, but it's a whole other thing to have a run on the top of the mountain that people remember forever. Being the NXT champion is not something I take lightly. It's something that I take a lot of pride in and again, just making sure that my time with this championship is the best spent time possible is what's most important to me. I know Roddy feels the same way about the North American championship. Bobby and Kyle feel the same way about the tag championships. So we're very much understanding of the position that we're in right now. We don't want to take that lightly.

Mike Johnson: All right. Last question, you're facing Matt Riddle. Thoughts on him and his excursion into pro wrestling and his evolution as a performer? What can fans expect out of that match?

Adam Cole: Matt Riddle is one of the most, he's like a prodigy, which I know that word gets thrown around a lot, but it's just his skill and his ability so early on in his career, he's still fairly new to this and he's so, so good, so crisp, has a connection with the audience. He's the guy that I have great chemistry with. To me, it's the perfect match up with the first two hour live on USA to have Adam Cole versus Matt Riddle. You're going to get Takeover quality. It's going to be NXT, which to me is the best pro wrestling on the planet. So yeah, fans can expect a really exciting contest tonight.

Mike Johnson: All right. So what's your final message for fans who are excited about this new era of competition and pro wrestling in general?

Adam Cole: For fans who have followed us previous to this move to the USA Network, I promise you NXT is not going to change what it is. NXT is going to continue to deliver the most exciting pro wrestling on the planet, and for people who haven't checked out NXT, now is a better time, more than ever, to come and check us out. I promise when you check out this show, that you'll want to watch it week after week after week and I hope you do.

Mike Johnson: All right. Adam thank you for your time.

Adam Cole:Thank you.

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