Adam Cole is the longest-running NXT Champion in the history of the popular WWE-run wrestling brand. While he’s king of the mountain ahead of his Sunday pay-per-view title defense against Velveteen Dream, it sure wasn’t always that way.
Cole’s first cup of coffee — er, ginger ale — with WWE is the stuff of legends. It was also all a gigantic mistake.
“I had been wrestling for like six to nine months at this point. I mean, brand-spanking new on the independents. I had, like, three months before, graduated high school. Just brand new. And I know I’m not a big guy, but I was even smaller then. Even smaller, no facial hair, just looked like a high school kid,” Cole, who will main-event “NXT Takeover: In Your House” this weekend in his latest title defense, told TheWrap.
“And I got an email saying, ‘Hey, we’ve seen some footage of you. We’re really, really impressed. We wanna bring you down to FCW (the predecessor to NXT) for a week to try out.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m telling my brother, I’m telling my friends. And [WWE] ended up calling me and talking to me on the phone for 30 minutes — 30 minutes, explaining, going, ‘This is who you’re going to be rooming with. This is when you’re gonna fly down. This is what you’re gonna do.’ And at the end of the conversation he goes, ‘And listen, I just want you to know, if you just show up, you work hard, it’s pretty much a done deal. Like, you just gotta not screw up. We’re that level of interested.’ I’m like, I’m getting hired, I can’t believe it.”
“Then I get the email with the flight itinerary. Long story short, it’s the wrong name and I’m very confused and like, wait, what?” he continued. “I Google the name and up pops Xavier Woods. And I sent a picture of myself, I said, ‘Hey, this is me.’ And they went, ‘Oh my God, we’re so sorry. We’re gonna book you as an extra for ‘RAW’ and ‘SmackDown.’”
How the hell did this happen? Apparently confusion is what’s in a name — or at least, in the name Austin.
“OK, so we both share the name Austin. So my guess is they just screwed up the last names by mistake,” Cole, real name Austin Jenkins, said. “Funny enough though, the best part is myself and Xavier Woods (real name Austin Xavier Watson) become buddies at that point because a few years later, I actually did go down to FCW for a week to try out and he was there and he had known the story and I told him the story, and we laughed and kind of became buddies because of it. And now he’s one of my very good friends.”
Cole’s consolation prize is known to some fans.
“I ended up being the person who was sitting at a bar, pretending to drink with (WWE wrestler) Serena Deeb. And then the Straight Edge Society came in and kicked us out of the bar and I ran away,” he said. “So I was very excited, 19-year-old me, I was very, very excited to get to do a backstage vignette on ‘SmackDown,’ drinking ginger ale with Serena.”
Watch Cole’s very inauspicious WWE debut via the video below.
“NXT Takeover: In Your House” begins streaming live Sunday at 7/6c on WWE Network. Cole’s “Backlot Brawl” match vs. Velveteen Dream was pre-taped.