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WWE proposed changing Adam Cole’s name on the main roster

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He tells Chris Jericho it was ‘a red flag’ that helped him decide to move to AEW. They also talked the much discussed pitch to become Keith Lee’s manager.

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It’s a rite of passage for those who sign with AEW. Get your “So-and-so is All Elite” graphic tweeted out, go on Talk Is Jericho.

The latest episode of Chris Jericho’s long-running podcast features Adam Cole taking his turn. Cole recaps his career, and talks about why he’s excited to join AEW. He & Jericho also get into something that’s been a frequent topic of conversation among wrestling fans and industry observers over the last couple months: WWE’s pitch to keep the former NXT champion after learning his contract was unexpectedly expiring.

Cole confirms much of what had been reported. He met with WWE CEO Vince McMahon, and all of his talks were about moving him to the main roster:

“That was the pitch from the gate, where they - I did have a meeting with Vince that went really well. It was a 30-minute convo, which was cool... I’ve only talked to him for maybe like two or three minutes prior to that. It was after I got to work the Survivor Series [2019] event, and he wanted to talk afterwards, he was really happy with the match, but no real conversation with him before. So that was the first time. It was really cool. Again, he was very complimentary, very nice. But yeah, the idea was for me to go to Raw or SmackDown and not stay within NXT just because I had been there for so long and I think they knew, as much as I do love NXT, I was ready - if I stayed in WWE - to take that step... That was the gist of the conversation, it was definitely to move me up to Raw or SmackDown.”

He doesn’t specifically mention the rumored proposal about managing Keith Lee (which Cole said in a previous interview that he never heard directly), but there were things pitched that concerned him:

“Apparently, there were a lot of ideas, but they were very vague on what exactly they wanted to do. There was discussion again, this is interesting too, because I remember when I first had the conversation, they had mentioned something about, ‘Maybe we’ll do a name change,’ or ‘Maybe we’ll change your look a little bit.’ So that scared me a little bit, just because I spent nearly 14 years as Adam Cole. And then our latest conversation, they were definitely more open to me being me, and being myself and stuff like that... they could tell I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea.

“It was definitely something that made me a little more timid about maybe pulling the trigger on that one. And again, of course, they could not have been nicer, but when I think about me and my career and what is best for me, the idea of that being an option did scare me a little bit. Where I was like, ‘Okay so what if I do go, and then something happens anyway?’ Because at that point, I can’t really say or do anything... Red flag is the perfect way to put it.”

Changing a name he routinely gets audiences of thousands to scream is certainly one way to go...

After that revelation, Jericho does address the reported managerial pitch, saying that when you hear those things “where there’s smoke there’s fire” and someone backstage must be suggesting similar ideas. Cole doesn’t refute it as strongly, and even says he gets the thinking behind that idea. But it mostly just reminds him why the name change idea was very, very bad:

“I understand where they’re coming from, to some extent, but I feel like a big part of what has made me work is - you know, I’m not 6’ 3’’ and I’m not 285 pounds. So the ‘Adam Cole BAY BAY’ and the ‘Boom’ and all that stuff is a such a big part of what I do and how I connect with the audience, aside from the wrestling and promos and stuff like that. I feel like it would have been quite the challenge if that would have happened, as far as the name change goes and stuff like that, to build myself back up.”

The Panama City Playboy remains very gracious about his time and negotiations with WWE, but this interview does give credence to the idea the company - and specifically the management behind Raw and SmackDown - will tinker with any concept they themselves didn’t come up with.

Overall, it reinforces the idea Cole made the right call to jump ship.

In theory, with McMahon’s team paying more attention to NXT 2.0 than they did the previous version, this should be less of an issue moving forward. We’ll see if that’s true for the Bron Breakkers and Von Wagners and others who are now working Vince-approved gimmicks before their call-ups are even being discussed.

Give Cole’s entire chat with Jericho a listen here.