In the largest wrestling show outside the United States, 26,192 fans filled the Tokyo Dome to witness Wrestle Kingdom 11. Every professional wrestler on the card left nothing on the table, trying to one up each other in order to leave a lasting legacy and cement a moment that would exalt them to the category of ‘legends.’
Adam Cole did just that.
Cole, a two-time Ring of Honor World Champion, was looking to regain the title he had lost in December’s ROH PPV “Final Battle” to Kyle O’Reilly. No one had ever achieved a third world title reign in the entire history of ROH but Cole was set to achieve the impossible at Wrestle Kingdom.
That morning, Cole slept in his Tokyo hotel room as long as he possibly could. He knew what awaited him later on that night. So, feeling anxious, he went down and interacted with the enormous amount of fans in the hotel lobby to clear his head before heading to the arena.
Once he arrived to the building, the first thing that Cole did was walk out to the empty Tokyo Dome, gazed over the venue and took in the moment, realizing he was living his dream.
Midway through the event, Cole pinned his opponent and after he heard the bell, he delivered a genuine look of shock before being handed the title and delivering a kiss to the gold. Maybe it had yet to sink in but Cole had accomplished what Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Austin Aries, Kevin Owens and other stars never did—he has now held the ROH title more than anyone in history.
With that achievement, now comes a heavy burden. Cole is the face of Ring of Honor. Despite all of the famous names that have come before him, he is now going to forever be synonymous with the ROH brand. He’s their guy and with that, Cole is no longer the one chasing records or the prestige of those who came before him. He’s the one that younger wrestlers will forever be compared to and now, he must look to the future for the next challenge.
Making history at Wrestle Kingdom 11
CraveOnline: First off, congratulations on the record title win. What does it mean for you to be given the honor of a three-time ROH World Champion?
Adam Cole: It’s really tough to put into words how it feels because this is the first time it has happened. It’s all of the typical surreal, flattered and motivated emotions all wrapped into one.
But for this to happen for the first time on a New Japan Pro Wrestling show especially at Wrestle Kingdom, the biggest show of the year and against a guy who I’ve been intertwined with career wise was wild. There’s no better way to start a year than to become the first ever three-time ROH World Champion.
CraveOnline: When you pinned him, you had this look of shock. What was your reaction when you found out this was going to take place?
Adam Cole: I couldn’t believe it. I found out a couple of days before the match that was the route we were going to go with me winning the championship back. The list of guys who have held the ROH championship, that’s an elite group of guys. I thought it was nuts that I was able to win it a second time but now I’m even in a more elite group.
CraveOnline: When you got backstage after the match at the Tokyo Dome, what was the reaction? Who called you?
Adam Cole: One of the first people who reached out was Kevin Owens. He sent me congratulations, which was really cool because we are really close. The Young Bucks were one of the first ones I talked to but as far as personal life goes, my mother is my absolute biggest supporter. She’s totally engulfed in my wrestling career. She sent me this really nice text message that got me a little choked up afterward.
For me, generally speaking, I don’t like to make a big deal out of stuff. I kind of keep to myself and enjoy the moment and found a quiet corner to relish in it a little bit before I went back into the locker room and saw everyone else but the love and support was apparent.
Cole’s No. 1 fan
CraveOnline: Did your mom stay up and watch it live?
Adam Cole: She’s so funny. She likes to watch my matches with me in the room, which I hate going back and watching myself. She worries to death if she’s watching it live. She’s afraid I’m really hurt but it makes her feel safe if we watch it together because she knows I’m okay [laughs].
Performing in Japan
CraveOnline: What was it like to actually be in the ring at the Tokyo Dome?
Adam Cole: The Tokyo Dome fans are so far away. The sound travels so much later. For example, it came across fine live but when you’re performing in the ring, you get the reaction one or two seconds later after you do something. It was different than ROH or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla where you get that immediate gratification but it was very cool.
CraveOnline: How do the Japanese fans and working in Japan differ than working in the United States?
Adam Cole: There’s 100 percent difference. The fans in America are a lot more vocal and rowdy and I don’t mean that in the sense that they make more noise because when the Japanese fans get excited, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
It’s easier for some people to gauge where the audience is at because the fans in the U.S. are constantly making noise. In Japan, it’s coming to that realization that when the audience is quiet, they’re not bored. They’re very closely paying attention to the story. It’s the same reason they react to smaller intricacies. It’s just a different environment but just as exciting and just as much of an adrenaline rush as working in the U.S.
CraveOnline: Did you read the praise and reactions from Wrestle Kingdom 11?
Adam Cole: I did. The coolest takeaway for me for the entire event, as cool as it was to win the ROH championship, it was the love and support that Kenny Omega got for his match with Kazuchika Okada. Kenny has been that good for years. I was watching it in the locker room and the building was literally shaking for 10-12 minutes for that match. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Teaming with “American Nightmare” Cody in Atlanta
CraveOnline: This Saturday in Atlanta, you’re teaming up with Cody [Rhodes] to take on Bobby Fish and Jay Lethal. What should we expect from that showdown?
Adam Cole: It’s the first time Cody and myself have teamed. For anyone who has followed Cody’s independent career, he made this list of whom he wanted to wrestle and at the top of that list was my name. I joked with Cody and said ‘Hey man, it looks like we’re not going to be able to wrestle but we’ll make a hell of a tag team and that’s exactly what we intend on doing.
Since Cody has come to ROH and NJPW and specifically Bullet Club, everyone has been thrilled. Cody is an extremely talented wrestler. By the end of this year, a lot of people are going to be talking about Cody having one of the best independent wrestling careers and we plan on starting that off in Atlanta.
It has been a long time since ROH ahs been to Center Stage, there’s a lot of history with myself and Jay Lethal and Bobby Fish and any time ROH comes to town, we want to make sure we give you your money’s worth.
Being the face of ROH
CraveOnline: You’re the face of ROH now. Is that a heavy burden? How do you feel carrying that torch for the brand at this point?
Adam Cole: It’s certainly a heavy burden. It’s really cool for me though because I’ve seen this company grow a lot since 2010. Just to think of where we started when we lost the HDNet tapings deal and were back to running independent shows, then with the Sinclair purchase and to see the point of where we are now, where we are drawing more fans and have more attention than ever before.
Ever since this transition has gone one, I’ve been one of the guys in the main event fold so I feel I have grown with ROH so even more so than burden or pressure there’s a lot of pride that I feel. I’m proud of where the company has got and I’m honored to carry the torch.
A new legacy
CraveOnline: Where do you go from here? Who do you want to face and what do you want for this new title run?
Adam Cole: For me, I want to continue facing the best pro wrestlers in the world and I believe ROH has a lot of that. But ROH has always been built on developing and showcasing younger talent so I want to face a lot of younger guys who haven’t been given a chance to wrestle for the ROH championship. I’m talking guys like Silas Young, Lio Rush, Jay White, there’s a lot of really good talent that in order to be elevated to the next level have to face the top tier guys and I think that’s a proper direction we should go in.
Aside from ROH, just getting a taste of Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome with NJPW has me really excited at the prospect of furthering and developing my career in Japan. I feel there’s a lot of stuff that I could do in NJPW. Other than continuing my legacy in ROH, there’s a whole new legacy I want to create in NJPW.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos by Ricky Havlik
RING OF HONOR RETURNS TO CENTER STAGE
ADAM COLE & CODY VS BOBBY FISH & JAY LETHAL
Saturday, Jan 14, 2017 07:00 p.m. EST
1374 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30309