Adam Cole was defeated by former Undisputed ERA teammate Kyle O’Reilly at NXT TakeOver 36. The event took place on August 22. It marked the third time the two squared off since Cole betrayed O’Reilly at Vengeance Day on February 14.

So now the feud is over and perhaps so is Cole’s NXT career. Per Figure Four Online, Cole’s WWE contact is reportedly up and many fans are speculating on what his next move will be. Is Adam Cole on his way to AEW?

O’Reilly and Cole write the final chapter: NXT TakeOver: 36 (WWE Network Exclusive)

AEW’s Growing Locker Room

It’s quite possibly the single most asked question of exiting WWE stars of the past two years. Since AEW’s birth and growth in the industry, Tony Khan’s company has become a landing spot for several ex-WWE talents. It’s a situation that has played out many times and it’s likely not going to end anytime soon.

Critics of AEW cite the company’s penchant for signing former WWE stars as the reason for Khan’s success. After all, WWE stars have had the benefit of working for a much larger pro wrestling company. This means they already have more mainstream exposure. But does that really make a difference anymore?

More importantly does it make a difference for Adam Cole? Cole made his name in the business before arriving in WWE. He was an independent wrestling standout and he was well respected by fans around the world. Cole then brought that reputation to the NXT audience, many of whom were already familiar with his work. 

Adam Cole’s greatest NXT Title victories: NXT Top 5, May 31, 2020

That audience has a lot in common with the AEW audience, which is filled with indie pro wrestling fans. This is not the casual WWE viewing crowd, who only follow Vince McMahon’s company. That should be taken into account when viewing AEW’s current roster building.

Then there’s the fact that for guys like Adam Cole, who is indeed accustomed to working on national television, AEW is the ideal next stop in the United States. Impact Wrestling has a loyal fanbase and is still pushing ahead. The same is true for Ring of Honor. But if Adam Cole wants to keep his exposure to a maximum, then AEW is the obvious way to go.

The fact is that any former WWE talent would want the best opportunity, with the most money possible, from the next pro wrestling company. AEW is in the best shape to offer the most right now and that’s just the way it is. So does that mean that signing with AEW is a layup for Adam Cole?


Timing Is Everything 

The biggest factor for Cole’s next move could be the timing. This is not the same AEW that it was before August 20. That AEW was doing just fine and keeping forward momentum it had built over the past few months. But AEW now has CM Punk, which means it’s a much different landscape than it was before.

Punk’s return to pro wrestling after seven years is a dream come true for many fans. Those fans couldn’t wait to see The Second City Saint back in a ring and now they have their wish. Punk is only just starting in AEW and it’s impossible to know what will happen next. But it’s safe to say that he is bringing even more spotlight to the company. 

CM Punk Has Arrived in AEW! | AEW Rampage: The First Dance, 8/20/21

That spotlight may also shine on Bryan Danielson as well. Punk’s longtime friend and former WWE star, is perhaps also on his way to AEW. If that’s the case, then he will surely bring his fans to the table as well. Like Cole, Danielson is a respected pro wrestler with a championship pedigree. He’s a major “get” for any company he signs with, including AEW.

But then there’s Windham Rotunda. The man formerly known as Bray Wyatt is reportedly also coming to AEW. Like Danielson, Rotunda is an important acquisition. But it’s for different reasons. Rotunda is perhaps not the ring technician that Bryan is, but his creativity and charisma cannot be denied. AEW would surely encourage and highlight those qualities from the jump.


Lost In The Shuffle?

CM Punk. Bryan Danielson. Windham Rotunda. Then of course there’s Jon Moxley, Malakai Black and Christian Cage, as well. Why wouldn’t Adam Cole want to sign with this company? AEW is growing. Day one fans are onboard and new fans are coming along as well. The future is bright for All Elite Wrestling and Adam Cole can be part of that. What’s not to like? But how much spotlight is actually available?

In addition to Punk, AEW features Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, Darby Allin, MJF, Cody Rhodes, Sting, The Young Bucks and a roster stacked with even more stars. The past, present and future are all represented in AEW. While Cole would certainly fit in and likely have his choice of opponents, would he get lost in the shuffle?

Cole nails O’Reilly with Panama Sunrise inside a Steel Cage: NXT TakeOver 36 (WWE Network Exclusive)

Would he be in the same situation he knew in NXT? When it became clear that a main roster run was perhaps not in the cards, Cole appeared to be spinning his wheels. He couldn’t go any further and fans knew it. Would he remain in place in AEW as well, by virtue of the fact that he can’t stand out from such an ample locker room?

The fact is that Adam Cole would surely succeed in AEW. But the same is true of New Japan Pro Wrestling as well. If he wants to revisit ROH, then he would excel also. Despite where he goes or what he wants to do, Adam Cole will make it work. He’s too good and has too much experience to not be in any company’s plans. Adam Cole is a must-sign talent and it’s only a matter of time until he puts pen to paper. Only time will tell what the logo on top of that paper actually is.


Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live


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