Ring of Honor superstar Adam Cole recently participated in an exclusive interview with PWMania.com. A multi-time champion in various companies, Cole discusses AJ Styles, how he started in pro wrestling, his experiences in ROH and CZW, working in front of different crowds, how Matt Hardy has influenced his career and much more. Below is the interview.
AJ Styles is currently in his mid to late 30s. Do you think, at his age, that he still brings something to Ring of Honor?
Absolutely. And that actually reminds me of the way ECW guys used to joke about how Jerry Lynn never aged. Watching AJ do the things he does, I think the same could be said about him. He’s just as good as he was 10 years ago. I’m sure his body’s a little beat up, but he’s still a huge asset to Ring of Honor.
How’d you decide to get into pro wrestling in the first place?
My parents split when I was young and I was one of those kids that was trying to find a hobby. I was into karate and I looked up to my instructor. I would come in early and stay late almost every day. One day I came in early and I saw my instructor running on the treadmill watching a taped RAW from the night before and it had Stone Cold and Kane putting Paul Bearer in a sewer. And he asked me if I watched wrestling and I was like “Yeah, I watch it all the time.” But in reality, I never watched it before. I just wanted to fit in with this guy by telling him I was a huge wrestling fan. So, after that, he let me borrow Wrestlemania 15. I watched that tape and I was hooked after watching Stone Cold vs The Rock. After that, I became a huge fan and any wrestling I could get my hands on, I watched. And as they say, the rest is history.
You’ve wrestled in ROH, CZW, PWG and a bunch of other indies. What are some of the key differences in working in those companies and how do you adjust accordingly when working from company to company?
I always make sure to adjust to my environment. PWG’s fans are loyal and they want to be a part of the show just as much as the wrestlers are. But they’re not there to sabotage the show. They are there to have a great time. When they see something they like, they go wild. They’re into all styles of wrestling and they’re very supportive.
CZW, on the other hand, they’re a little harder to impress. They’ve seen a lot of wrestling and when they see something they like, they’ll love you forever and they’ll support you. But if you give them something they don’t like, they’ll be the first ones in line to let you know they didn’t like it. So, I actually feel blessed that I started in CZW, because they’re the hardest crowd in wrestling. They force you to step your game up, because if you don’t, the head games will get to you.
ROH has kind of the same thing, but on a different scale. But the fans are still supportive, especially when they get a good show. 2014 has been a great year for ROH and with each show, the fans have been more wilder and interactive. As long as you give the ROH fans what they want, they’ll give us what we want.
Speaking of CZW, have you ever been on the receiving end of a negative fan reaction?
I actually have a great story for you. There was a series of 3 matches I did with BLK Jeez, back then known as Sabian. They were getting ready to put the CZW Junior Heavyweight Championship on me, but they wanted to do a series of matches first. So, our first match was a 15 min time limit draw. The following show was a 20 min time limit draw. At the third show, they announced a no time limit stipulation. At the time, Jeez was hated as a heel. They booed him all the way through during his matches. And I was still very green and trying to get my feet wet. The fans appreciated me, but I wasn’t over.
So, this 20 minute time limit draw happens and the fans have already decided that they do not want to see this third match. They’re booing before the bell rings and right when the bell rings. They’re chanting “End this sh*t” and “Boring.” And one thing I thought was funny was that they were sarcastically getting into the false finishes. The crowd would count along with the ref and over exaggerate their “Ohhh” after each false finishes. At the time, I was thinking “Am I gonna freak out or deal with it?” And then I thought, “You know what, I’ll deal with it, they’re having their fun and this is a story I can tell for the future.”
So, how did you earn their trust back after that?
I asked DJ Hyde if I could turn heel because I was working as a heel down in some Maryland independents. He gave me the OK because I knew I could bring more to the table as a heel. I wasn’t a hardcore guy or a strong style guy. I also wanted a chance to talk. So that whole package worked out for me. I won the Best of the Best 10 tournament and that was what started my feud with Sami Callihan. Sami and I were two polar opposites, because Sami was a guy who would compete in deathmatches and here I am with a pretty girl and a spray tan and stuff like that. I owe Sami a lot of credit for making my character work.
Would you ever compete in a Cage of Death match?
I’d say never say never. Right now, I’d say no, though. I think it would have to be the right feud, angle, opponent and build and the direction afterwards.
You’re only 25, yet you’ve built up quite a resume for yourself. Do you think there’s anything left for you to accomplish on the indies?
I definitely do. And it’s not about just winning belts. ROH is at the best year we’ve had in a long time. The way we’re growing and the stuff we got going on behind the scenes; it’s awesome to be at the forefront. I’m at the position where I am part of the leaders of the pack.
I also had a great time at NJPW and I’d love to go back there at some point. So there’s definitely a lot of stuff I’d like to accomplish.
You tried out at a WWE camp in 2013. Can you describe the atmosphere there?
It’s very military style, as it should be. Everyone there is respectful and you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in there. There’s 3 different rings and you’re doing a lot of different workout drills to keep you going and making sure you’re in shape and making sure you want it. If you want to be a part of the WWE, you’re going to show it. It’s grueling, but it’s a great time and forces you to face challenges.
Do you ever hope to make it back there at some point in your career?
Certainly someday. Someone who says they don’t want to have a Wrestlemania moment is kidding themselves. But also, I am 100 percent focused on making ROH as big as possible and I am also trying to develop a great relationship with NJPW. The independents have done so much for me, so I have to do everything I can to give back. It’s a great job.
How has working for Matt Hardy helped your career?
Matt Hardy came into ROH with open arms. Matt came into ROH ready to learn. He said “Hey guys, I’m here to help you as much as I can.” Plus he knows that ROH and WWE’s styles are different, so he brings a different perspective to the locker room. Wrestling’s in his blood. He was so helpful in guiding me as a villain and presenting myself a certain way. I can’t say enough good things about Matt Hardy.
Even though he’s been a mentor to young guys like you, why do you think some fans still do not like him?
Matt has the “WWE stigma” that’s a tough pill for our fans to swallow. They’ll pick on Matt because of his so-called weight problem and incidents in years back. It’s a classic scenario of fans finding everything they don’t like and then attacking him for it. They had already made up their minds that they wouldn’t give Matt a chance. But the last couple shows that Matt has worked on for ROH, the fans have started to appreciate him. So we’ll see what it’s like the next time Matt comes around ROH.
What’s next for Adam Cole?
I try not to set any super long or short term goals for myself because doing that in wrestling is setting yourself up for failure. There’s some things in wrestling you can’t control, like which belt you want to win or what company you want to work for. But what I can control is getting up everyday and giving the best of what I got as a wrestler. As long as I keep doing that, good things will happen.
Thanks again for your time, Adam. PWMania wishes you the best!
Follow Adam Cole on Twitter @AdamColePro
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