After over six months away following a brutal combination concussion/head injury suffered at Forbidden Door, Adam Cole is officially back in AEW, and fans of the promotion couldn’t be more excited. Gone are the days of comparing his initial AEW run to his NXT prime, or worse, folks throwing around the “Fatam Cole” nickname, and in its place is a collection of fans who are genuinely excited to see the leader of the Undisputed Era back in an AEW ring, which was far from a guarantee considering some of the reporting about the severity of his concussion issues.
But in professional wrestling, a performer is only as good as their last feud, and the glow surrounding Cole will eventually dim if he doesn’t settle into a top-tier feud in the not-too-distant future. Fortunately, Cole has 34 professional matches in AEW under his resume, and he’s built up a few feuds over that tenure, too. If Tony Khan wants to maximize Cole’s return, these three feuds would be a very good start.
"I will not take it for granted and I will be at the very top of @AEW."
Adam Cole is back, bay bay 💥 pic.twitter.com/MQ5oTpW46k
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) January 18, 2023
3. “Hangman” Adam Page
“Hangman” Adam Page and Adam Cole do not like each other. Despite being members of both Bullet Club and The Elite – albeit at different times – they’ve been feuding in AEW pretty much since the latter became #AllElite, including at Forbidden Door, where Page and Cole took place in the same four-way match to decide on the IWGP Heavyweight Champion alongside then-champion “Switchblade” Jay White and current champ Kazuchika Okada.
Now granted, there are some minor issues with rekindling a Page-Cole feud in AEW; Page is more or less a babyface now in AEW following his feud with John Moxley – which may or may not still be ongoing – and Cole’s initial promo back was definitely a babyface promo. While two babyfaces can certainly feud and have in AEW and basically every other promotion too, putting the two performers back into the ring together certainly wouldn’t be the worst imaginable feud, especially if it got AEW Games fans an Evil Uno-Cole match in the leadup to the big event.
2. Kyle O’Reilly
If Khan wants to go big with Cole’s return, there isn’t a bigger feud available to him than Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly, a rivalry that’s been going on strong for almost 15 years.
How would such a feud be feasible, as O’Reilly isn’t currently back following his own string of injuries? Well, if O’Reilly does have a return date in mind, even one that is months away, AEW could simply work Cole back into in-ring action with babyface matches on television, Serpentico one week, Brian Pillman Jr. the next, etc, until he’s fully comfortable working longer and more intense matches. Khan could then start to hint at the return of O’Reilly – or not, both work – before having him interfere with a finish or, better yet, pull a Sammy Guevara and attack Cole in the Serpentico costume.
Would it be a tad confusing to have Cole and O’Reilly go from attacking the Young Bucks – with Bobby Fish – in the ring ahead of the AEW World Trios Tournament to bitter rivals once more? Yes. Would fans particularly care if it meant getting yet another Cole-O’Reilly feud on shows and Pay-Per-Views moving forward? No, I do not think they would one bit.
1. The Elite
If the “Hangman” is too obvious and O’Reilly is too far away – or jumping the gun on a down-the-line storyline – then the easiest, most satisfying feud possible for Cole’s return to AEW would be pitting him as the babyface foil to The Elite, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks.
Sure, Cole and Omega left things on good terms before the latter left the promotion for three-quarters of a year to have surgery on his various alignments, but considering how he treated Nick and Matt Jackson during their most recent AEW interactions, it’s pretty safe to say a lot of love has been lost between the two camps. Factor in the presence of the IWGP United States Championship, which Omega won off of Will Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom 17 but has yet to be challenged for in NJPW or AEW. The idea of putting Cole in a feud with The Elite, potentially in the same way Frankie Kazarian was “The Elite Hunter” when “The Best Bout Machine” was running around every promotion imaginable in the pursuit of collecting all of the belts, would make for a fun way to bring the former NXT standout back into the promotion, give him meaningful matches with wins over A-list stars like Nick Jackson, and eventually join up with The Elite or challenge them properly with O’Reilly and Fish back by his side.