Adam Cole’s WWE contract has already expired and the man is currently working an extension to put over Kyle O’ Reilly at the next NXT Takeover event. Despite some people having the belief that this is no big deal and that Adam Cole appeals only to “diehard marks”, he is the person who has defined the last 4 years of NXT. If you can’t understand the importance he has had to the brand, no wonder you don’t see this as a big deal at all.
What Cole does next is a very interesting question. He obviously has four options but in advance, I can’t tell you what the right decision would be. It’s not as cut and dry as some people will make it seem. With that being said though, here’s a breakdown of what we could potentially see in the near future.
Cole remains in the WWE system. NXT has been good to Cole with him winning literally everything there is to win, being the second NXT Triple Crown Champion, Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner and winning over half a dozen NXT end of year awards. It’s a safe place for him to remain. He can earn a lot of money and most of all, he’s in the good books with the key people running NXT. Cole can play it safe and re-sign with NXT but with everything that’s happened in the last few months, isn’t that itself a gamble? NXT is now once again (mostly due to shame) being seen as a developmental system internally and no longer a third brand. That would imply that NXT contracts won’t be as big money any more and the goal would be for people to get moved up to Raw/Smackdown. If that’s the case, how will Cole fair?
A tremendous wrestler, Adam Cole has some shortcomings that WWE’s main roster will be unable to look past. Cole doesn’t have the height WWE looks for and that normally results in a painful mixed bag of a call up (see Black, Ricochet or a dozen others). He’s also just witnessed the single most protected NXT Champion get called up and immediately be scheduled to go on a losing streak. On top of that, it’s abundantly clear that even if you are successful, you have zero job security (see Bray Wyatt or most of the other 50+ wrestlers WWE has released in the past 2 years). If Cole re-signs with the juggernaut that is WWE, he can continue to make a living but could get easily lost in the shuffle.
Cole moves to AEW. A lot of people think this is the obvious move. For sure, Cole has a very good friendship with a lot of the EVPs in AEW, his in-ring style suits AEW a lot more and arguably it is the hotter product to where he currently is. We also can’t ignore that Baker, who is on fire right now, is Cole’s partner and in a great position in AEW. There’s something to be said about being able to be on the road with your partner and not having to navigate an entire country to get a day together when touring is fully back. Cole has been to quite a few events for talent with AEW as a result of these relationships and didn’t receive any pushback from the company when WWE tried to embarrass Baker by having her on screen during an event without her knowledge.
Even though this all seems like all signs are pointing to Cole moving to AEW, there’s some risks here too. Cole is a main event guy but jumping to AEW means he is joining a sea of main eventers. There are a lot of people vying for the same position in AEW right now and between the big names like Omega, Jericho, MJF, Moxley, Page and potentially Punk and Danielson – that would give Cole a huge uphill battle to establish himself as a main event player within. He could look at the TNT title picture for sure but every name I left off my “big name” list is currently in that picture too. Cole might be happy just having interesting matchups in front of a hot crowd and if he is, more power to him but a move to AEW isn’t as clear cut as it might seem. As talented as he is, he again could easily get lost in the shuffle.
Cole moves to Impact. This to me is somehow both the most interesting and most boring option at the same time. Impact could be a fantastic fit for Cole. He would certainly feel like a bigger fish in a smaller pond, could credibly arrive and be in the upper card/main event and he could still enjoy crossover matches with AEW stars/occasional NJPW match ups. This may appeal to Cole more than the other options as the money would still have to be quite good for him to arrive at Impact and he’d have significantly less pressure to fight for his spot. Arguably, if he were to sign for Impact it might make sense for him to be the person thrust into the main event and be the one to take the Impact title off Omega. Cole could cross the line to Impact, make a decent salary and be less at risk of being lost. A lot less challenging, a lot of new match ups for tv but likely, less rewarding for Cole in the long run. Personally, I don’t see this as too likely even if there is potential.
Cole returns to ROH. This is the ultimate wildcard option. Adam Cole has nothing left to accomplish in ROH from an accolade standpoint. He’s won everything there is to win, he’s carried the company on his back for prolonged periods as the champion and he fought tooth and nail to maintain its relevance. With that being said, a return to ROH would be the last thing most people think of. We know ROH must be offering decent contracts if they were reaching out to CM Punk in recent years and with the company really pushing to get their name back out there, Adam Cole might be the free agent to bring in to do this. For Cole, this would be what I’d call the Nick Aldis move of betting on yourself. Returning to the promotion that made you and banking on yourself to elevate the promotion back up to being seen as a real competitor in the North American scene. This would be the most challenging of all the choices but if ROH was able to claw its way back into being seen as one of the big 3 companies again, that could be Cole’s legacy in the long run. Like the Impact option, I don’t see this being as likely as the first two choices he has but if Adam Cole wanted to really bank on himself, this is an option like no other.
Ultimately, we’ll find out what decision Cole makes in just a few weeks as it is heavily rumoured that this extension to put over O’Reilly will result in Cole not having a no-compete clause anymore in his contract. Whether he stays put in WWE or moves externally, pretty much any decision he makes is going to be a gamble that will make some vocal minority of the fanbase livid.
For me, the guy has spent 4 years being the sole reason why NXT was a product worth my time and attention. Personally, while I think I would enjoy him most in AEW, I don’t care where he winds up so long as he’s happy. After breaking his body and literally signing an extension to wrap the feud he’s currently in, he’s earned that right to go where he pleases and have some support. Regardless of what happens this month, I expect Cole to either decisively go over O’Reilly to signal he’s staying put or go out with a bang…or in his case, a boom.
Where do you think Cole’s best option is? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up with your thoughts over on Twitter @IEZephyr.