Sunday night marked the end of an era. I could spread on an extra layer of cheese on this and say that the time Adam Cole blessed us with in NXT was nothing short of “Undisputed,” but I won’t, even though it definitely was. Another word seems apropos considering the circumstances of his deal with WWE coming to an end – a deal that leaves him with options aplenty. Inevitable.
Adam’s NXT run is one for the ages. In the four years since his memorable debut on the yellow brand, he provided more memories than I care to count. He had a hand in elevating NXT to its rightful place as the legitimate third brand of WWE. With an eye toward the future and a heart linked to the indies, it existed as the most exciting and unpredictable brand within that historic universe for years. It was the place a fan went to be literally attacked by captivating stories and wrestling matches that could take your breath away. Takeovers were “can’t miss” events.
He seems like the kind of human being who won’t take credit for any of these things, but we know better. Men and women with his talent are few and far between, and human beings with his heart are even rarer still. As a babyface, Adam was as likable as any in wrestling. As a heel, he was next level. Yet, that smile of his, snarky as it could be, made it nearly impossible to hate his oftentimes nasty character.
You see, those with professional wrestling in their souls – deep and rooted within themselves – can never hide it completely. It bleeds through in their movements. Whether subtle or obvious, we see it. We find it in their eyes, laser-focused yet full of joy and genuine love. Sometimes, and this is my favorite, a small smile finds a home on their faces no matter the gravity of the moment. It’s a sneak peak within their soul to the very human inside – the child within living a dream long worked for. Adam Cole is one of these special souls. If you look hard, you can see the passion consistently overflowing from within.
It’s not easy to connect with fans and carry that same connection forward for years through storyline changes, character arcs, injuries, absences, and worldwide pandemics. It takes a little something extra. Some are willing to go the extra mile, and some aren’t. It’s no indictment on one or the other, simply a preference. It never seemed like Adam struggled to keep the fans in his corner, whether face or heel, good story or not. Sure, he’s genuinely kind and decent. That goes a long way in this era. Fans respect that a great deal. For this though, I believe some special performers have an inherent trait that some others are just missing.
We gravitate to Adam Cole for the same reasons we do the same to CM Punk, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Brian Danielson, the Young Bucks, and so many more. We see the rebel heart and dedicated soul of independent wrestling intertwined within them regardless of place of employment or name change. We show up for what they do in the ring, but we stay for what they have inside. They carry us with them as they live their dream and by doing so, they feel like one of us as much as we feel like one of them. That connection cannot be manufactured. It simply is or isn’t.
As Adam walks into the sunset leaving NXT in his rearview mirror, I’m left appreciating an incredibly rewarding four years. Championship reigns to remember. Feuds I will never forget. Smiles that will last a lifetime. None of us know what kind of NXT we are about to get in the weeks and months to come. That’s not on Adam, merely a coincidence of timing, but it adds to the nuance of his departure all the same. I hope he can walk away at peace with the knowledge that he left an impact that will be impossible to replicate.
I don’t know what he will do next. It’s certainly safe to say that he will have many options and offers galore. If it’s a promotion to the WWE main roster, I don’t doubt in his drive or ability to find the same success he’s leaving behind. If he decides to swim in the Elite waters of Jacksonville, Florida, there will be no shortage of sharks awaiting his arrival. Then again, I don’t think men who have cheated death carry any fear for monsters of the sea anyway. Beyond that, the field still remains strong in a booming age of professional wrestling. He could do a lot, or he could do a little, or he could mix it up as he sees fit. It’s a crazy world, and a perfect one for the professional wrestler who just loves this shit, plain and simple.
More than anything though, no matter what Adam chooses, I wish him all the happiness in the world. Only he knows what that looks like. Only he can walk that road. Only he knows what it truly important to him and his loved ones. Respect that and follow him. That’s what we do.
At just 32 years old, it would seem he has an eternity left in this business. A young man he is. Yet, an eternity also smolders behind him, full of magical moments created and accomplishments unmatched. Nothing in this world is promised, and that reality is even more profound in professional wrestling. Paychecks are cashed with sacrifice every loop and every match. As many smiles that endure within dreams come true, as many or more fade with time. Adam’s seems as strong as ever. It’s almost as if it’s inevitable.
Perhaps the key to happiness in this thing of ours is balance. He’s certainly found some semblance of that with his life outside of the ring. Evidence of this is easy to find. Perhaps one of the most well-known wrestlers to use Twitch with great success, Adam (TheCHUGS) regularly can be found sharing stories, answering questions, delivering his trademark smiles, and pursuing video game victory with his fans and friends. I can’t recommend tuning in and sharing in his joy enough. It’s a contagious thing – impossible to not walk away smiling.
Oftentimes, I like to end pieces like this with a simple thank you followed by a hook of some kind. This one feels different though. As easy as a hook would be, inevitable stands alone. If you’ve followed the career of Adam Cole for a year or for a decade, you know this to be true. That’s why, as sad as I am to see him go, I have endless faith that he’ll find his way to the top somewhere new soon enough. Because that’s what he does. That’s what inevitable people do.
So instead of an over-emotional send off, as I am prone to, I’ll let this feature trail off in a way befitting the one and only. There is a song by Henry Jamison (feat. Darlingside) called “The Parting Glass,” that I like very much, and I feel it extra appropriate to share a few lines from it on Adam’s last night in the NXT he helped to build.
“A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all”