On a day where Shawn Michaels created plenty of news on his NXT No Mercy media call, talking about recently released stars like Mustafa Ali and Dana Brooke, explaining the absence of Gable Steveson, and even discussing the demographic preferences of WWE's Tuesday night show, the “Heartbreak Kid” was in the news for another reason: a major shout out from one of his former star pupils, Adam Cole.
Stopping by Inside The Ropes to talk about his professional wrestling career, the AEW All In main eventer discussed his time in NXT and just how much he loved working with and under his all-time favorite wrestler, Mr. Michaels.
“I know I've said this so much, but just in case, if someone doesn't know, Shawn Michaels is my favorite pro wrestler of all time. One of the things I cherished most about my time at NXT was not only having him as a mentor and someone that I learned from, but forming a relationship with him was so surreal to me. He taught me so much… My ability to listen to the live audience and adjust accordingly changed so much working under Shawn Michaels,” Adam Cole said via Wrestling Inc.
“I loved it there. I had such a wonderful, wonderful experience. I learned so much. I got to explore more of who Adam Cole was. I feel like I grew a ton as a performer… The love and respect I still have for all of them is absolutely through the roof.”
Now, for fans out of the know, Cole was a favorite of both Michaels and Paul “Triple H” Levesque during their time together in NXT, with the former Ring of Honor World Champion having spent 529 days as champion between his run with the North American Championship and the NXT World Championship. Though Vince McMahon reportedly didn't feel the same, going so far as to suggest that Cole could have his moniker adjusted and role transitioned from wrestler to manager for none other than fellow AEW transplant Keith Lee, it's clear Cole isn't hurting for it, as he's currently in the middle of AEW's top storyline and he isn't going away despite having destroyed his ankle at Grand Slam. All's well, as they say, that ends well.
Adam Cole puts over Pat McAfee for being more than a celebrity.
Elsewhere in his appearance on Inside The Ropes, Adam Cole was asked about his long-standing feud with Pat McAfee in NXT, which eventually saw the leader of the Undisputed Era work not one but two matches with the former Indianapolis Colts punter-turned-ESPN host, including a run in WarGames on a team with Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan, and Pete Dunne.
Discussing what makes McAfee special in the WWE Universe, Cole noted that, unlike other celebrities who roll through to work a match for promotional purposes, Michael Cole's future commentary partner really had a genuine love of professional wrestling, and that showed when he stepped into the ring.
“Pat, from watching years of pro wrestling, just understood certain nuances that sometimes takes a really, really long time to understand if you're someone who has not watched pro wrestling. I think between his athletic background, his gift of gab, and his love and appreciation in years and years and years of watching it … Truth be told, I knew he was gonna do really well. I knew that going in, but I was so happy to see that he exceeded everyone's expectations because I think at this point he's proven that he's darn good, especially for his experience level,” Cole said via Wrestling Inc.
“I think you see this with a lot of celebrity matches, celebrities who come from the outside and want to work a match in pro wrestling, the ones who have watched it their whole life and really, really love it, my god, you can tell a difference.”
Now granted, was McAfee always perfect when he was a member of the WWE Universe, both as a wrestler and as a commentator? No; despite his best efforts, McAfee wasn't exactly Excaliber on the microphone when it came to calling the moves wrestlers would hit in any given match. Still, the fan-like enthusiasm McAfee brought to WWE provided a sort of energy that not only captivated audiences but revitalized Cole after what felt like he was stuck in a multi-decade holding pattern due to the very specific requirements presented to him by Vince McMahon. Though his feud with McAfee is all but certainly over – unless Pat decides to give things a shot over in AEW – it's clear Cole appreciated his time working with the do-it-all media personality.