As much of a wrestling smark as I can sometimes be, I’m not going to pretend like I knew much about Adam Cole prior to his arrival in NXT. I knew of his name, and that he was a guy that was pretty big in Ring of Honor, but frankly I didn’t even know what he looked like. When he showed up in NXT and superkicked Drew McIntyre, my knee-jerk reactions was that he was kind of a Shawn Michaels clone, in look, ring presence and the fact that he whipped out a superkick as the very first thing on screen.
Over the following weeks, I watched Cole with interest and naturally read up on his career up to date on Wikipedia, but I had this suspicion that he was probably going to be an entertaining guy to watch. Between all the matches he had jobbing to Aleister Black, War Games and his other sporadic appearances, it’s safe to say that I felt that he was a really good talent, and was among the guys I looked forward to seeing the most on episodes of NXT.
When NXT announced the creation of the NXT North American Championship, and that the inaugural champion would be crowned during a six-man ladder match, I kind of cringed when I saw that Adam Cole was tabbed as one of the contenders for the new belt. But at the same time, I had a sinking suspicion that he was the one most likely to win the belt, because the whole Undisputed Era stable seemed like one of the things going to be relied upon to carry the brand over the next calendar year, and there would be no more serious way to bolster them than to have Adam Cole himself getting his hands on some hardware.
And true to prophecy, Adam Cole did win the North American Championship, and I was a combination of happy to see a guy I enjoyed watching win a title, unsurprised because I kind of figured this was going to happen, but at the same time a little bit disappointed that Cole won it.
The latter feeling is pretty simple, and that’s because I think Adam Cole is frankly better than what’s basically the NXT’s version of the Intercontinental Championship, and should definitely be more in line for the NXT Championship picture instead. But by giving Adam Cole a glorified mid-card title, it kind of gives off the impression that he is being solidified in a mid-card position on the roster, until the day comes when he drops the belt, presuming that he is ready for a promotion; to the NXT Championship, but not the unruly main roster promotion-demotion.
Plus, the North American Championship kind of looks lame. It looks like a recycled NWA regional title belt with its gaudy size and too literal silhouettes of North America. It’s going to be amusing when the Scottish Killian Dain or German Alexander Wolfe wins the belt, much like when an American wrestler eventually holds the UK Championship.
Ultimately, the feeling I got from all this was similar to when New Japan introduced the IWGP United States Championship and then immediately slapped it onto Kenny Omega. It’s almost like a metaphorical nail being pounded into Omega to keep him tethered to a particular tier in holding, so that he can stay out of the World Title picture. And as much as people laud New Japan as being something of an alternative to the WWE monopoly, they’re basically ruining Kenny Omega’s eventual world title reign, and when he finally does win it, fewer people are going to care than when he was at his peak popularity after his two ridiculous matches with Kazuchika Okada.
That’s how Adam Cole with the North American Championship feels exactly like. With a shiny new secondary title in place, Cole will undoubtedly be kept away from Aleister Black for a little while, and fans of Cole will have to count down the days for someone to free him from the bounds of the NA Championship, so that he can make a push to the prize most worthy of him. The NA Championship should be for more guys like Velveteen Dream, Eric Young and Roderick Strong; either WWE homegrowns as a reward for a string of good work, or TNA/ROH has-beens to have some name value to keep the title warm and meaningful for up-and-comers.
I’m hoping Cole’s reign will be short, and that he was given the belt more for the legacy of the title to have one notable guy to be the first one to hold it. But for the sake of keeping Cole’s path on the right track, I hope he drops it sooner rather than later, and then is put into a program for the NXT Championship instead, because he’s Adam Cole Bay Bay, and is simply better than the North American Championship.