From the moment that he signed with WWE at the age of 28, wrestling fans knew the company got their next big star. It’s rare in today’s pro wrestling world for somebody to come to WWE so young, yet still be as popular as Cole.
A.J. Styles didn’t get to WWE until late in his career. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were in a similar boat, but probably weren’t as popular as Cole was when he made the jump to WWE/NXT.
It wasn’t long before Cole was making an impact and showing how big of a star he is. His debut, at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, immediately thrust him into the main event scene. It didn’t establish him as a title contender; just as somebody that was making their mark in the company.
Cole, alongside the Undisputed Era, became one of the hotter acts in NXT. Everywhere they went, attention followed.
Fast forward to NXT TakeOver: WarGames. In the WarGames match, the major player in the entire match was Cole. The match itself was a battle between three teams that couldn’t control themselves and were ruining NXT shows week in and week out. When the crowd left Houston, Cole was pushed even more as NXT’s top guy.
Then there was last Saturday. During the biggest weekend in all of wrestling, Cole spent his time achieving a lot in one night. The opening to his night saw the leader of the Undisputed Era outlast and outsmart five other opponents in a ladder match to become the first NXT North American Champion. He wouldn’t be done there. Before the night was over, Cole also kept the NXT Tag Team Championships and won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (yeah, perhaps Roderick Strong helped a bit).
Once again, Cole was the man in NXT. All of that and Cole hasn’t even been NXT Champion yet. He’s never been in the main event at TakeOver for a championship. That’s a recipe the main roster should be following to establish new stars.
Cole has been made into a big deal and into the biggest star on NXT, without actually getting the attention and spotlight that gets associated with that spot.
They did the same thing with Johnny Gargano, and it gave them a potential match of the year candidate against Andrade ‘Cien’ Alamas. This is a plan that NXT has enacted before.
There isn’t a need to remind everybody of the booking of Roman Reigns, but does Reigns’ booking come anywhere close to the booking of Cole? Reigns, from the moment he got to the main roster as part of the Shield, was billed as a future champion and main eventer. Once the Shield broke up, it became the Roman Reigns show.
Reigns didn’t get the slow build that Cole is getting now, slowly working his way up the card while still being billed as important. The Big Dog has been shoved down the throats of the WWE Universe.
Cole was (and still is) universally loved by the fans. That plays a large role in the reception that he is getting from the crowd.
If anyone says that the reason that Reigns, or other babyfaces (like Seth Rollins or Finn Balor) aren’t over because the WWE can’t book babyfaces just have them look at NXT.
WWE’s “developmental brand” is booking babyfaces better than the main roster could ever imagine. It’s been happening right in front of us.
The difference? NXT is opting for the slow build. So far, that build has been working for Adam Cole. BAY BAY.