Three weeks ago to the day, “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” on Fox needed a savior. What it got was NXT Champion Adam Cole. Close enough.
With the vast majority of the “SmackDown” roster stuck on a tarmac in Saudi Arabia following the pro-wrestling company’s “Crown Jewel” pay-per-view, Cole and other close-enough stars from USA Network program “NXT” were rushed to the live Fox show.
“That ended up being one of the most wild days of my entire career,” the 30-year-old Cole, whose real name is Austin Jenkins, recalled to TheWrap. “I think that’s part of why it was so special and stuck out to so many people, because pretty much everyone was aware of how crazy that day was. But yeah, absolute blast of a night — really cool.”
Walk us through it, champ.
“I got to the building at 8:20, and I think me and [Daniel Bryan] ended up walking to the ring at 9:30,” he said. “There was very little time to prepare.”
That lack of preparation did not show inside the ring or outside of it.
Below are a few minutes of the main-event match between “SmackDown” Superstar Daniel Bryan and Cole, who put his title on the line that night.
Between his 8:20 p.m. ET arrival and that previously unplanned 9:30 main event, Cole, Bryan, and WWE Legends/NXT mentors Triple H and Shawn Michaels performed what will go down as one of the best live promos of 2019, setting up the dream match. It was all out of necessity, but the real-life mad scramble only heightened the fictional drama. (Note: This writer doesn’t like calling professional wrestling “fake,” but this is one special case where we really can’t call the events “preplanned” or “scripted” either.)
The scene with the two WWE Hall of Famers and two future ones had suspense, comedy, and timing that was remarkable considering Cole told us they didn’t get to practice or mark it out at all.
“I didn’t know [the promo] was needed until it was like 30 seconds before we shot it, just because everything that day was so hectic and so crazy,” Cole recalled. “And you’re preparing for a match, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’m probably gonna go out around then’ — and then I find out 10 minutes earlier I’m needed for this segment that’s about to happen.”
See the result play out via the video below.
“Honest to God — and normally it’s a scenario where everyone kinda gets together and figures out…[camera-] blocking and things like that — I walked in based on instinct,” he continued. “I knew I was gonna walk in at a certain point, but as far as the pace at which I had walked in and where I stood, that was all– they had trusted me that I’m gonna know where to walk and I’m gonna know when to walk in, which is, again, just another really cool thing.”
“One of the coolest things of that night is… you had no chance to really overthink anything. You’re almost on autopilot,” Cole said. “And fortunately, there was magic in the air that night and everyone just clicked on all cylinders.”
Cole performed some more of that magic Wednesday night in a ladder match that led USA Network’s “NXT” to its first total-viewer victory over relative newcomer “All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite” on TNT.
We had the pleasure of breaking that news to Cole on Thursday.
This weekend, fans can catch Cole at “NXT TakeOver: WarGames,” which will stream live on the WWE Network this Saturday at 7/6c. The “Survivor Series” pay-per-view will stream live on the WWE Network 24 hours later.
Yes, he’ll be “absolutely dead” by the end of all that, Cole told us.
“I’m just gonna lay in my hotel bed and not move,” he said, “there’s a very good chance of that.”