WWE's Adam Cole on Facing Off With Pat McAfee at NXT 'TakeOver XXX'

Adam Cole
Q&A
WWE

The tension between WWE’s Adam Cole and NFL player turned analyst Pat McAfee has fully bubbled over. Things escalated quickly when McAfee appeared on the August 5 episode of NXT. Much like he did days prior on his radio show, the punter pushed the buttons of Cole leading to a pull apart. 

McAfee made sure to deliver a trademark kick to Cole’s head before getting sent out of the building. A punctuation mark that sent shockwaves and became the talk of the wrestling world.  Exec Paul “Triple H” Levesque appeared on ESPN’s Get Up the next morning to set the stage for a showdown at the TakeOver XXX event as part of SummerSlam weekend. 

With the lines of reality blurred, the audience is invested to see where this one goes. On the heels of the match announcement, we sat down with Cole to talk about preparing for this outside rival from the gridiron. 

It has been a crazy couple of days. You’ve always been usually a calm and cool guy, but Pat really set you off on his show. What are your thoughts on the reaction you received since it all went down? 

Adam Cole: It was a mixed bag. There were some people who reached out with comments like, “Hey, that guy deserved it. He had it coming. He was pushing your buttons for that entire interview. The fact that you took time out from seeing your family to do his show, and he chose to disrespect you like that.I would have done the same thing.” Some people would have said they would have slapped him in the mouth. Trust me, I wanted to. Of course, there have been others who I have never heard from before or spoken to before, they had come at me asking how I could act that way. Saying it was disrespectful. That has been the story of this whole thing. There are people who are on Pat’s side and people on my side. 

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The people who come from the pro wrestling world or fans of pro wrestling one hundred percent know where I was coming from. The thing with me and Pat has always been an issue. It’s someone I never got along with. It goes so much deeper than that altercation we had. It’s his whole demeanor and attitude in general. From the first day he walked into NXT and started doing stuff on the kickoff shows and all of that. He acts like he owns the place. Immediately. That’s what bothered me and others. He seemed incredibly comfortable for someone who was a guest. That offended me, and I think other people as well. 

Adam Cole

WWE

This is pro wrestling, so you have people questioning if what they saw was legit. Now all this physicality and war of words has evolved into a match. 

I was at the forefront of wanting it to happen, especially for a guy like Pat who said multiple times he would love the chance to enter the ring. He trained a little bit here and there. He is seriously confident he can go out there and have this killer wrestling match. NXT is filled with the greatest pro wrestlers in the entire world. Guys who have been doing this for over a decade. A guy like me who has come off being the longest-reigning champion of all-time and having the run I did. Emotions aside, I guess I can appreciate the ambition of him thinking he is going to be able to do this. I pretty much am going to make him realize he was not near ready to step into the ring with me. As far as I’m concerned it will be the first and last time he wrestles in NXT. I love having the match. I can’t wait. 

You’ve set the bar so high when it comes to your TakeOver matches, but this is a different challenge and opponent. What’s your approach here? 

The approach is totally different. Truth be told every time I wrestle and perform, I want people to enjoy it. I want them to have a great time watching an Adam Cole match. I’ve never had a match like the one I’m having with Pat. Where the sole mission is to make sure he doesn’t come back. He gets this one chance because he set me off at the right place, right time. It’sTakeOver XXX, which is a massive event. There is a locker room full of guys who would kill to be on this show. Some of them are not going to be on this show because Pat McAfee is taking their spot. When you say that out loud, that is crazy. My main goal is to make him regret this decision. He is offensive to me. Offensive to our locker room. I’m excited to move past this. I can’t wait for TakeOver, but I’m excited to put this behind me. 

After so long having the NXT championship, what has not having the title done to you mentally? 

It’s really weird. For so long being NXT champion, to this day it’s probably the proudest moment of my career. To be able to say I was the longest-reigning NXT champion. When you look at the past champions, it’s the best of the best. That championship was important and special to me. Transitioning to wondering what I have to do to get back there and being champion. It’s definitely a battle. For so long I would say in interviews I was the best NXT has to offer. With the championship, nobody can argue that. So it’s not the greatest feeling to have right now. I’m still proud of the run I had. It would be cool to be a two-time NXT champion. I want to get back to it.

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 You were a champ as NXT was building this new foundation on USA Network. There is the competition of AEW, where your girlfriend Britt Baker is doing amazing things. Do numbers affect you going into these shows each week? Does it add more fuel to the fire?

I think a lot of people know I’m very good friends with a lot of those guys. I’m dating Britt. I’m very friendly with a lot of people there. Even though we do have this competition on Wednesdays. When we’re focused on our show, we’re focused on our show. We’re not thinking about what they're doing. At least I don’t. I’m not sure what anyone else is doing. I don’t have the ability to multitask mentally like that and think about what the other show is doing. I worry about what I’m doing and how to make my segment, my match, my whatever it is the best it possibly can be. Talking to them, I can tell you they feel the same way. They want to make the best show possible. 

What can be done for NXT to come out on top? 

Going forward, I think it’s to continue to highlight our strengths. I think finding ways to have really exciting matches and angles and interviews. Finding ways to constantly try new things and see what sticks and what doesn’t stick and evolving the television show. They’re both fairly new television shows. I know NXT has been around quite some time pre everything that has been going on. But as far as being on USA, it's still new. I just think the brand is continuing to grow, and we have to continue to find different and interesting ways to tell stories. We have a great crew of talent, males and females who are some of the best in the world. As long as they’re highlighted, NXT will continue growing. I’m confident in that. 

Undisputed Era

WWE

You want to be NXT champion for a second time, but you’ve accomplished so much already. Is there a bigger want now to challenge yourself elsewhere on Raw or SmackDown

To say I never want to Raw or SmackDown would be an absolute lie. I think someday it would be cool to try my talents over there. At the same time, one of my favorite parts of NXT aside from the fact I really do believe in the show is being involved in something on the upswing and something that’s growing. I remember when I was in Ring of Honor. There was a really cool thing that was happening where Ring of Honor was blowing up a little bit. We were selling out the Hammerstein Ballroom and forming a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was so exciting to be part of a group you feel is really blossoming into something special.

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 I feel like NXT is really blossoming into something special. Selfishly, I don’t want to miss out on that. I’m really enjoying my time here and feel there is more for me to do. I feel like there is more for the Undisputed Era to do. As a group, we have been a dominant force in NXT. ’m in no rush to leave NXT. At the same time do I think the Undisputed Era would be effective on Raw and SmackDown? Absolutely. 

You’re a veteran in the NXT locker room. Is there anyone you’ve helped behind the scenes and you’re particularly proud of? 

One guy who I really helped out early on and seeing him blossom. I feel he has only scratched the surface of what he is capable of. Isaiah Scott, Shane Strickland on the independents. He was a guy who I met right as he started training because I was living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was also from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So it was cool there was someone else there that was training to be a wrestler. I was wrestling in CZW at this point. I remember meeting him and coming to the school and training. I’ve seen him work all across the Northeast and other states and then all over the world. 

To see him  grow in NXT has been so amazing. I by no means am his trainer, but I have been there for him and helped him any time he had questions about anything. I think he is so talented and skilled. One of those guys that a year or two from now, you can really see him have stellar match after stellar match with all the top dogs of NXT. People are going to realize even more how talented he really is. I’m excited to see him come into his own and have a real great run. 

Adam Cole

WWE

You’ve been called this era’s Shawn Michaels. How do you funnel these comparisons? 

To me, there is no bigger compliment that someone could possibly say. Someone can say there are comparisons to Adam Cole and Shawn Michaels. It’s mind-blowing to me, especially when I’m thinking about nine-year-old me. Our entire generation can share this opinion that Shawn Michaels is the greatest pro wrestler of all-time to ever do it. He is the absolute best. So any time people make these comparisons, it’s incredibly humbling. 

It is stressful because you get in your own head that you have to have this perfect match. The best match on the show every night. I have to live up to this expectation. I used to really feel that way. Shawn will agree with you on this as I would say. Now more than anything I’m focused on being the first Adam Cole and not the second Shawn Michaels. It motivates me even more and be the best version of myself. But you can’t ask for a better compliment. 

WWE NXT, Wednesdays, 8/7c, USA Network 

NXT TakeOver, August 22, 7/6c, WWE Network