Adam Cole shocked the world when he debuted in AEW after quite a few rumors had been circulating that he would be premiering with the company just last year. But before he would make that debut, Adam Cole had quite the career leading up to that point, and although that is a glaring understatement, I feel it needs mentioning here, in what is a retrospective look back at some of the key matches he had along the way to the position he now holds in AEW.
He started in the industry back in 2008 and since then has made pivotal stops in ROH, NJPW, PWG and of course his four years in NXT, where he was able to also have marquee matches on the main roster of WWE—some of which are listed here.
The story arc here, represented in this list of matches, shows an indie wrestling king’s journey to what I believe is the pinnacle of his dominance now that he is in AEW, and what follows for him now within that company, will be his greatest achievement. These matches got him there. Join us as we take a look.
8. Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules Match at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia
Aleister Black, of course now known as Malakai Black, also made the exodus out of WWE and into AEW, and it has been since his very own debut that he has been showcased in quite the positive light. A definitive fan favorite, he too is shining on the AEW platform.
It was in this match though that styles clashed and in that epic way that often helps shine a light on both wrestlers instead of just one. Frame for frame, this one also shows Cole’s ability to tell a physical story right.
7. Adam Cole vs. Seth Rollins in an NXT Title Match on Raw – Nov. 4, 2019
It was in this match that the NXT title was being contested between the first person to ever hold the NXT title and the current champ. The match showed not only their differences, but also just how similar they are to each other.
Rollins is still pound for pound, one of the best technical wrestlers left in WWE, and this match was a beauty to have been given and on the main roster of WWE, which often isn’t the case these days, sadly to say. That is until Rollins and/or Kevin Owens or AJ Styles get into the ring.
6. AJ Styles vs. Adam Cole at the All-Star Extravaganza VI in 2014
And speaking of AJ Styles…he and Cole have made a lot of the same stops, and it’s glorious to see old matches like these pop up. Again, their differences outweigh their similarities, but the match is just another perfect example of how despite how conceited his in-ring character may be, he always lets his opponent shine, no matter how great he himself looks by match’s end.
5. Adam Cole vs. Lio Rush at Road to Best in the World: Night 3 in 2016
Another AEW co-worker in Lio Rush. This match has the energy of a pinball machine set on self play and repeat. Lio Rush matches will do that to you and if you blink, you missed like a dozen epic moves. This match doesn’t disappoint in that department, and Cole not only holds his own, but he adds his own tempo to the dynamite speed that is Rush’s very own repertoire, which makes for an interesting match to watch.
4. Adam Cole vs. Daniel Bryan in an NXT Championship Match on SmackDown – November 1st 2019
It was yet another opportunity for Cole to shine on the main roster in WWE while in NXT, and against one of the greatest to ever do it in Daniel Bryan at the time, now Bryan Danielson in AEW. A treat for sure.
3.. Bobby Fish vs. Adam Cole & for the ROH World Championship at the Manhattan Mayhem event in 2017
Perhaps the names of Bobby Fish, Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong will go down synonymously in the history books of professional wrestling, and that’s for very good reason. But what should be remembered are the countless times these names battled it out on the indie circuit as they rose through the ranks in an unforgiving and difficult industry—one they dominated in and still dominate in.
2. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole III – Prime Target on NXT – Aug. 17th, 2021
It was on his way out of WWE/NXT that Cole left the NXT audience with one of the greatest feuds we’d ever seen him showcased in. The three matches with Kyle O’Reilly were indeed epic, but that final battle they had at Prime Target was a treat.
Very reminiscent of the infamous 3 Stages of Hell match between Steve Austin and Triple H, this was a 2 out of 3 falls match that delivered on all counts. Cole lost to O’Reilly on his way out of the company and well on his way to the next chapter of quite the career.
1. Adam Cole vs. Jungle Boy – AEW Dynamite on 9/29/21
And it was in AEW that he started a feud with none other than one of the 4 pillars of AEW, Jungle Boy, and the match not only showed us a new beginning for Adam Cole, but it set the tone of what was to come and what is to come for this phenomenal athlete and storyteller, in one Adam Cole, Bay! Bay!
Looking forward to seeing what happens with Cole next…hopefully an AEW World Title match…and who knows what’s to come of the Super Elite? Dissention amongst the ranks, maybe? Perhaps. Looks like Cole is up to something sinister, and all that means is more epic matches on the way…matches just like these listed here.
Of course these matches listed here don’t encompass all that he has done, as his ROH title defense against Will Ospreay at Destruction In Hiroshima in 2016 and countless other battles with the likes of Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and even Keith Lee and Matt Riddle definitely deserve to be on a list such as this, so consider them extremely honorable mentions, as they’re all epic matches for sure.