Sports

Pat McAfee NXT feud ‘unlike anything I’ve dealt with’

Pat McAfee NXT feud 'unlike anything I’ve dealt with'

Adam Cole is in the middle of one of the most unique feuds of his career, set to take on former Indianapolis Colts punter and sports personality Pat McAfee at NXT TakerOver XXX (Aug. 22, 7 p.m., WWE Network). The two got into a heated argument on “The Pat McAfee Show” podcast and the former NFL star punt-kicked Cole last week on NXT (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., USA Network). With the match drawing near, Cole took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski.

(Edited for clarity and length)

Q: After being the longest reigning NXT champion, how different does the feud feel when it’s based on a personal issue and with something from outside the wrestling world?

A: This one is so different. It’s unlike anything I’ve dealt with in my entire career, strictly because so much of it is based on personal animosity. I’ve never liked Pat or gotten along with Pat. He’s never liked me, gotten along with me and obviously this went a lot further than even me or him possibly imagined. We’re at a phase now where I get to kick the crap out of him at TakeOver, which is wild considering this is a world he does not come from. I’ve said this before publicly as well, it’s a world he’s not welcome in. So it’s a lot different.

Q: You talked about how there’s been animosity between you and Pat for a while. Why have you guys not been able to get along?

A: Here’s the best way I could possibly put it. I would never — again as Adam Cole, the longest-reigning NXT champion of all time — I would never walk into an NFL locker room and act like I own the place. I would never act like I’m buddy-buddy with everybody, like I belong there, like this is my house and I’m hanging out with everybody. He has always, from day one, like put on this facade that he belongs there and he’s just as cool as everybody is there, that he’s just as welcome, that he deserves the same respect that all the other guys in the locker room who have been wrestling for 8, 10, 12, 15 years.

He’s always been someone that’s just said whatever’s on his mind regardless of who it offends, who it doesn’t offend. It doesn’t matter. Pat McAfee only cares about Pat McAfee. And it is so frustrating that for so long he’s gotten away with it. I think this little issue that we’ve had has kind of sparked a lot of interest in who he is as a man and what he stands for. People are learning now, day by day, the kind of person he is. I’ve just really known that for a really, really long time.

Q: Do you consider yourself the babyface in this feud?

A: I don’t see how anyone can see me as the bad guy in this situation. He’s the guy that doesn’t belong. He’s the guy who shouldn’t be here. He’s the guy who disrespected me. So I’ve been looked at as a bad guy for the majority of my career, but again this one — it’s a very hard argument to make.

Q: Would you like a chance for a babyface run when the right time came?

A: When I first started in my wrestling career, I was a babyface like a lot of people start, and I remember feeling so uncomfortable in that role. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to act. Then I became comfortable when I got to play the part and the role of being the heel. When I really developed the Adam Cole character, that really helped me.

Now I do. I think back on that time when I had no idea what I was doing. It was like a year or two into wrestling and still figuring everything out. I’m still figuring stuff out now, but I just have a much better grasp of who I am at least. Yeah, I think I would. I think I would love the chance to be in that babyface role. By no means would that babyface role mean the Adam Cole that you see now would change very much, but I do think it would be a cool challenge and something interesting for me to do to kind of be put in that role. I think it would be really fun.

Q: Pat’s made a number of jokes about your height (6-foot), why have those struck such a chord with you?

A: There was a point very early on in my career where that used to bother me when I was kind of finding out who I was as a performer.

Generally, someone can make a comment about my height and that’s gonna blow right over me and not gonna be an issue. But for someone like Pat, who I genuinely don’t like as much as I do, it drives me nuts. I think why it makes me so angry is I think he thinks on the inside that is such a great dig and that’s such a perfect thing to say. When he knows in his heart that is the only thing he can say.

The one thing he goes to is because he was born with the gift of being taller than me — that’s what he goes to like he’s a 10-year-old boy. It’s absurd. It’s embarrassing on his part. It should be incredibly embarrassing on his part. My credentials, they speak for themselves. I’ve proven time and time again I’m one of the best pro wrestlers in the entire world and Pat McAfee decides to go after my height. To me it’s childish, it’s foolish.

Q: How much do you think that stigma of size still exists in wrestling today and how did you deal with it on your way up?

A: Looking at where we are now in 2020, it’s drastically improved. If I decided I wanted to be a pro wrestler in the 80s, it would have been a whole different ball game. So without question, the “stigma” has drastically improved. There are guys of smaller size that have gotten the chance to be main-event guys or hold championships for a really long time. That part has changed.

I think it does still exist because I think wrestling goes through cycles, so there will be times where maybe some people will say, ‘Hey, we want the really, really big guys’ or ‘We really miss the really huge dudes’ and 10 years from now, they will be, ‘Where are all the small guys who can do all the cool stuff and move around the ring really fast’?

It’s been something I heard since before I started wrestling. I remember being in high school and saying, ‘Oh yeah I really, really want to be a pro wrestler’. And again, people who weren’t in wrestling, just people that I knew, were like, ‘How are you gonna do that. There’s no way you’re gonna be able to do that. Those guys are humongous. They’re 6-foot-5, 265 pounds.’ But me and so many other of my colleagues had the same mentality of like, ‘Hey, no, we’re gonna do it’.

So is there a stigma? I think to a small extent, but is there a stigma the way that it used to be, no. I think a big thing that helps us is you see rock stars in other sports like Conor McGregor, just absolute rock star, and he’s not a huge dude. He’s incredible at his job, He’s in amazing shape. He’s a big-money fighter. He’s so charismatic and captivating. And again, he’s not 6-foot-5.

NXT
Bobby Fish (l. to. r.), Rodrick Strong, Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly walk to the ring.WWE

Q: Why do you think Undisputed Era has had the longevity it has that there hasn’t been this reason or push to have the breakup feud or this internal issue. It’s been pretty steady.

A: The reason that we’ve been together for so long is because of the success of the group as far as people have not lost interest in the four of us together. Looking at it deeper, I think the reason that people have stayed invested in the group is because of the genuine camaraderie and friendship that the four of us have. I think people can really tell regardless of us being pals on screen we are very much pals off-screen as well.

I’d known Kyle O’Reilly literally since I started wrestling. I first met him in 2009. Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish I met in 2010. Before we were even a group, we all texted each other every single day and we still do.

Q: How well do you expect Pat to be able to handle himself in the ring?

A: He is an amazing athlete, for sure. He’s not lying when he said he was the punter of the decade and that’s really, really impressive. But pro wrestling and the NFL are two very different things. If I had to go onto a football field and play in the NFL, I’m very aware that is not my world and I would be eaten alive, absolutely eaten alive.

I think why Pat’s in trouble is he’s tricking himself into thinking that he’s somehow gonna do well against a guy like me, who has been doing this for over 12 years, again I just came off the most impressive longest-reigning NXT championship run of all time. NXT is still the best pure pro wrestling on the entire planet and Pat is coming in to try to have, if you even want to call it, a first match against a guy like me. He’s gonna get eaten alive. He has no clue what he’s in for.

Q: How important are the potential mainstream eyes when you have someone as well-known as Pat is in the regular sports world now interacting in NXT?

A: It’s massive, potentially massive. Pat has much different fans than I do. There are people for sure who have not watched NXT before who have talked about wanting to check out the show because Pat’s on it.

Especially on social media, I’ve interacted quite a bit with people who I’ve never heard from before, who are definitely pro Pat McAfee and on his side. Without question, we’re definitely getting more people checking out what’s going on with me and Pat over on NXT and that’s a good thing.

Q: We’ve started to see new faces emerge in NXT, from Dexter Lumis, Karrion Kross, El Hijo del Fantasma? Has there been someone who’s caught your eye?

A: Isaiah (Swerve) Scott, he was Shane Strickland on the independents. He also comes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I’m also a Lancaster, Pa., boy. I remember at the time I was like the only guy from Lancaster, Pa., who had kind of broken out. I remember meeting him when he was training and like instantly knowing. And I’m like, ‘Oh wow, he really has something special.’

I do think the NXT fans have just scratched the surface on seeing what he can bring to the table. He is an unbelievably gifted athlete, very talented pro wrestler. He’s a guy I’d like to get in the ring with for sure.

Q: What’s been the best part of watching your girlfriend Britt Baker excel as a heel even while dealing with an injury?

A: Finding who she is as a performer has been such a joy, because, in the beginning, she has always been a babyface. That’s always been her character. So when she had the opportunity to kind of be this heel character and have all these different ways that she can approach promos, different things that she can say, find different angles for her own character, she got so excited.

And then when she did it, and she knocked it out of the park and just seeing the reception that it got and all these people taking notice of her and her just being happy that she found something that worked. That’s the awesome thing about pro wrestling. Stuff works differently for different people. But she’s done such an amazing job of finding who Britt Baker the wrestling character is and just turn that up to 10 and just doing amazing. I’m so excited to see where it all goes for her from here, but God, she’s just done an incredible job.

About the author

Erin Clark

Erin Clark

Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.

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