“With all four of those guys, they sound completely different. They helped me on completely different levels. My two main trainers were John Dahmer and DJ Hyde. DJ Hyde mainly taught me how to be tough, I mean the beatings that he used to give the students as far as wrestling initiations go, were as tough as they come and I’m thankful for it. When I left his training, I wasn’t really afraid of anything anymore, and then on top of that DJ is very good about taking his students to other wrestling events and getting their names out there, whether it be helping set up the ring, or helping set up chairs or anything like that. It was kind of networking from a very early stage in our career. Whereas John Dahmer taught us the technique behind a lot of the wrestling. And then the multiple seminars I did with Al Snow and Les Thatcher, they really taught me the psychology of what we do. Understanding why and when you do certain things. So I’m totally thankful for all four, and they were all completely different styles of wrestling for me.”
Debuting in CZW & competing there for a number of years left you with a number of experiences. What did you walk away with from your time there?
“The biggest thing for me there was learning how to work in front of the extremely hard to please south Philadelphia fans of CZW. Forever I am thankful that I got my start in the Combat Zone, I think mainly because those fans were not going to give you anything unless they were completely blown away. So when I left CZW, it’s like every crowd that I work for now, I feel spoiled, because the fans there are just so receptive and so entertaining and really came there to enjoy pro wrestling. So as far as the CZW fans go, they are really hard to please and really hard to impress. But once you have their respect, you have it forever. It’s a fun challenge when you start off in a company like CZW. A lot of different guys I learned from there too, whether it be Sabin, Drew Gulak, Sami Callihan. I got to work with a lot of really talented guys and that was kind of the catalyst for me, again, for not only learning training-wise how to be a quote-unquote “worker” but actually living it.
With the crowd being so challenging, the biggest thing that guys fall into is, failing in front of a CZW or a Philadelphia crowd (can cause) a lack of internal confidence. And what you bring to the table, many times guys will be doing something completely on the right path (but if) the CZW crowd don’t buy it, immediately they change it. CZW fans are very smart and realize when a wrestler is changing who they are or what they feel they bring to the table strictly based on the reaction that the fan base is giving them. So then the fan base knows that they have control of that wrestler, and that wrestler is no longer controlling them. So for me and my character direction, in my very early stages (I was) a heel in CZW, and the people could have cared less. But as I stayed true to my character and what I felt was working and what I felt didn’t, based strictly on the people I was working with and not based on the. Over time, CZW fans actually embraced who I was as a character because I stood tall as to who I was and who Adam Cole was going to be, and therefore they respected me in the long run.”
Prior to coming to Ring of Honor in 2009, it was reported that you took part in a tryout with the WWE. Describe the experience & any feedback they left you with.
“That particular tryout, I went down to Afa the Wild Samoan’s training school, which at the time was located in, I believe, may be Tampa, Florida. I may be incorrect on that, but somewhere in Florida. We actually got to train for a week with Haku and Afa himself, and it was awesome. It was such a good experience. I got my ring conditioning up and I learned little tricks of the trade. I learned how to be more intense in the ring because the Samoans are so intense. Then going into that tryout, the harsh reality of that, now looking back as to where I was in wrestling at that time, is I was in just way over my head. I was a 19-year-old kid, I was 170 lbs soaking wet. I didn’t have an identity. I didn’t have a look. I didn’t have the proper gear. I was just a young guy trying to be a wrestler. So to be honest, WWE didn’t even give me a second look. I don’t even know if they looked me in the eyes based on my size, based on my experience. I literally looked like a child there.
For me, it was more motivating, as going forward until now I kind of have an idea of what I need to do. A lot of that just comes with just time. When you’re an independent wrestler, committing a lot of time and effort into honing your craft as much as possible in as many different places as possible, will catch the WWE’s interest. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.”
Kyle O’Reilly is someone whose paths you’ve crossed both as an ally and adversary. How can you describe your interaction within the ring both against one another and as a team?
“It’s very interesting. Kyle and I have become best friends outside of the ring, just strictly based on the way that our paths have crossed. The first time I ever met Kyle was 20 minutes before I ever stepped into the ring with him. It was at a Dragon Gate USA preshow for Gabe Sapolsky, in the ECW arena in Philadelphia. Kyle and I had instant chemistry. I knew when I wrestled Kyle at that point, this was a guy I clicked with more so than anyone else that I’ve ever clicked with before and then I thought ah, this is really cool. Then when we fast forward a little bit and then we both signed to Ring of Honor contracts virtually at the same time and the truth of the matter is this Ring of Honor signed us and they knew they wanted to use us but they had no idea what they wanted to do with Kyle and I. So they decided to put Kyle and I together as a team and that was such a cool thing because Kyle and I’s big goals in wrestling was to wrestle for Ring of Honor so we kind of got to share that experience together the excitement together and the nervousness together. So we not only grew together as wrestlers we taught each other different valuable things such as; helping Kyle with promos and he would help me with in-ring stuff. We really balanced each other out.
Then I went on to have what I thought was myself and Kyle’s breakout performance, not only in Ring of Honor but in pro wrestling. We had a hybrid fighting rules match in New York City where I think Kyle punched me in the face and my face exploded. There was blood everywhere. It was a total battle for the ages. In many ways, Kyle and I compare it, to a lesser extent, to a Stone Cold vs Bret Hart, with the blood being so vital to that match. Ever since then our careers have just skyrocketed. So Kyle O’Reilly and I have shared a lot of memories in the past and I’m sure we will for many years to come.”
Where did the idea for the ‘Mount Rushmore of Wrestling’ faction come from? Was there any idea of making it a cross-promotional faction?
“There was never a notion whatsoever of Mount Rushmore becoming a cross-promotional thing. As far as how Mount Rushmore really began, PWG is notoriously known for being, for anyone who works there, the most fun wrestling organization that we’ve ever worked for. At the time, myself and the Young Bucks, we had become good friends, and myself and Kevin Steen we had become good friends. All of us, all four of us had become good friends and really tight. The Young Bucks and I started having some really fun and exciting six-man tag matches together.
We saw and felt the chemistry that we had and the four of us kind of came up with this idea of how crazy would it be if the ultimate hero, Kevin Steen, turned evil and joined Adam Cole and the Young Bucks, and we form this group and we call ourselves Mount Rushmore. Fortunately, PWG went for it and we went with the angle, and the fans went crazy, and it was shocking and t-shirts sold like crazy. It was just a really fun thing, and I think the big reason why Mount Rushmore succeeded as well as it did is because the partnership and the friendship that we played on screen were very real behind the scenes. The four of us will talk practically every day to this day. So Mount Rushmore is a very real thing inside and outside of the ring and that’s why I think it was probably some of the most fun and the most exciting times in my career, to work with those guys.”
In May, I had a chance to speak with Steve Corino and he was able to compare you to Tully Blanchard. What can you say about those compliments and who would you compare yourself to?
“Well first of all, as far as getting a compliment like that, that’s a double-edged sword or double whammy as far a compliment goes, because not only am I being compared to one of the all-time greats, but I’m being compared by one of the all-time greats himself, that being Steve Corino. So that’s really cool considering that Steve is one of my idols in pro wrestling and a guy that really helped me out along the way.
As far as who I would compare myself to, I mean I don’t necessarily compare myself to people, but I certainly have influences like for example I’ve studied a lot of Shawn Michaels. He is a guy that just every time I watch him, there is something new that I pick up and something new that I see that just fascinates me, and as far as someone who I try to pattern myself after in some way shape or form, I would think just subconsciously is a Ring of Honor CM Punk. CM Punk was a guy who not only really got me into Ring of Honor, but got me into independent wrestling just with his promo ability. So I think that, because of how it impacted who I was as a fan, I have focused so much on character development and having articulate and interesting promos and creating really exciting angles. Like the angle I did with Jay Briscoe, I watched a lot of CM Punk’s Ring of Honor stuff and come up with different things to say, and add cadence in your promos, and kind of like a general attitude to have. So he is guy I definitely try to pattern myself after as well.”
After defeating Micheal Elgin at Death Before Dishonor XI, you cemented a heel turn. Where did this idea come from and how have you been able to navigate it to maintain your character’s ability to captivate?
“The idea was being entertained or being thrown around I think 3 or 4 months prior. We knew that the idea of a heel turn may be coming. Something just to be different, something to be a little shocking. The reality was, I was working as a heel virtually everywhere else but Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor still claims that their decision to turn me heel had nothing to do with the fact that I was working as a heel everywhere else. To say the least, I was ecstatic at the idea of finally getting to turn heel. When I knew that time was coming, knowing that I was going to win the Ring of Honor World championship in Philadelphia, in the National Guard Armory which is the very same building that I went to my first Ring of Honor show as a fan, was just so cool. I knew this was going to be a really big moment for me.
But as far as turning heel and, like you said, committing to the actual character, it was really important for me to emphasize the word heel, because previously when I was in CZW or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, for example, I put so much effort into being as entertaining as possible to get the Adam Cole character talked about, whether that being me being funny, whether that be me being crazy or doing different moves in the ring, whether that be anything of the nature to get people to talk about who Adam Cole was. Generally speaking, I didn’t care if I was getting a boo or a cheer, I just wanted to get noticed.
In Ring of Honor, I wanted to have the platform of being noticed. So I was really committed to the idea of being a heel, so that each and every time I defended the championship against the babyface I genuinely wanted the audience to go, ‘I really hope Adam Cole loses the Ring of Honor World Championship title tonight.’ I do think I accomplished that. There was certainly a point where, as my title reign went on, that people were really hoping that I was going to lose the title. So I was excited and that was fun. Again, that takes a lot of confidence in who you are, to be able to accept the fact of people saying ‘Oh God, I hope he loses the belt and I’m sick of him being champion!’ You just have to believe and understand that is your role at that time, when you’re a villain on top.”
Discuss your time working with Matt Hardy in ROH and what you’ve gained from your time working alongside one another.
“Matt was great. Considering the fact that Matt has worked on national television for years and years, and was a guy that I grew up watching. Matt had a very good understanding of the value of being a real heel. When Matt Hardy worked in Ring of Honor, I think it was safe to say that he was the most hated guy in ROH. It was great, it was perfect, and it was by design that Matt Hardy was associated with me trying to get my villainous act sent even more so through the roof. Just because I was associated with Matt Hardy, he tremendously helped me with as far as getting the fans to further hate my guts.
Also working with Matt and understanding less is more sometimes, and the importance of facial expressions and the importance of building matches a certain way. Each and every time I step into the ring with Matt, whether it was wrestling him which was early on when he first came in Ring of Honor, or when it was as champion and he was alongside me, there was always a new thing that I picked up from him and that I learned from him, and I’m so glad to work with him.”
The chemistry within the Kingdom is unmistakable. To what do you owe the success of the faction and what can you foresee for them in the future?
“Again, this is a classic scenario for why I think the Kingdom has worked so well: myself, Maria Kanellis, Mike Bennett and Matt Taven are all very close friends. I think the initial idea again, I, Michael Bennett, Maria and Matt Hardy were all together as the Kingdom, and then when Matt Hardy left we got Matt Taven and that’s just made the group even more exciting.
The matches that we’ve gotten to have, and more importantly when I sat on the shelf for 5 months and watched how Mike Bennett and Matt Taven developed as a team, becoming the IWGP Heavyweight tag team champions and having the matches they’ve had with the Briscoes and with the others in Ring of Honor, it was really cool to see them do their own thing. Now that I’m back, it’s great and we get to have a lot of really exciting trios matches, and I see nothing but success with us in the future. I think it’s going to work because we want it to work. It’s something that I really believe in and something that I know they do too.”
With a number of ROH talent departing for either TNA or WWE, what does that say about the promotion and its influence on the industry as a whole?
“I think it’s just (been) a testament over the years. People really started to take notice when guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk left for WWE, and the success that they had within WWE. I think at that point the casual fan kind of realized what wrestler they prefer, what kind of wrestler they enjoy, and what kind of match they enjoy watching. A lot of those guys, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, a lot of these guys can be found coming from Ring of Honor.
So really it’s just cool that from the casual fan’s standpoint, these fans being able to see what Ring of Honor has been doing for years, and that’s producing the best in ring wrestling that you can find anywhere in the world. That’s what we really pride ourselves on. I think it’s cool that just finally some of these Ring of Honor guys that are getting the chance to go to WWE are really exposing, and really showing, a lot of the fans to what a true pro wrestler really is. So it’s really cool the influence that we’ve had, and I only think it’s going to continue to grow for us.”
I had that chance to speak with Moose and Roderick Strong and they attributed their early success with the help of Gabe Sapolsky. Would the same apply to yourself?
“I never got to work for Gabe in Ring of Honor, however, for a little bit of time I worked for Gabe Sapolsky in Dragon Gate USA, it was only a very brief period. I credit a lot to him for this reason: after I had my match with Kyle O’Reilly, which was my first match for Gabe, I came to the back and he was ecstatic and gave me a big hug and said ‘That was excellent, that was great we’re definitely going to working together in the future, oh my God that was awesome.’
Honest to God, at that point in my career, I never had a promoter be that excited about a match that I had just had. I remember feeling so confident in myself, and saying, from this point forward when I go out and have a match, I want to do good for Gabe. So Gabe was very good at motivating talent and making talent believe in themselves, exposing their strengths and hiding their weaknesses, very similar to Paul Heyman. So I really do owe a lot to Gabe because he really kind of channeled that confidence that I needed at the time in my career. So Gabe definitely helped me a lot.”
What does the future hold for Adam Cole in Ring of Honor?
“As far as my goals for Ring of Honor, again this may be a cliche answer but it’s the truth: it’s the Ring of Honor World Championship. The coolest time in my life was being the Ring of Honor World Champion. And now Ring of Honor is on TV and not doing just traditional pay per view, we’re on national cable television. The company has continued to grow and grow, and the people have continued to come out more and more to these events.
I could not be more proud of our company and I want to lead the charge. I want to be the flag-bearer. So now that I’m back from injury, I’m doing all that I can to once again to try and get in the best shape that I can in my career. I’m continuing to rehab this arm and make sure that an injury like this never happens again. Once I feel ready to go, certainly, like I said, going out and getting the Ring of Honor World Championship is a goal.”
Was there anything you would like to share, encourage or promote?
If anyone wants to follow me on Twitter my Twitter is @AdamColePro that’s probably where I’m the most active as far as social media goes. Other than that, I have a website run by a guy named Dan Mitchell over in England, he does a tremendous job and he’s up to date with all of my scheduling as far as where you can see me next, updated pictures from live events and things like that. There’s a store with t-shirts and DVDs and things like that, it’s adamcolepro.com. Those are the two main things you can check out.