5. Adam Cole
Adam Cole has undoubtedly defined an era of WWE NXT, as he became the longest-reigning champion in the brand’s history at a time when NXT was shifting to a wider audience on the USA Network. When Cole debuted at TakeOver: Brooklyn III by beating up Drew McIntyre after his NXT Title victory over Bobby Roode, we knew something special was brewing,
The leader of the Undisputed Era faction, Cole is one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the entire world. Playin the “cool” heel trope to a “T”, Cole took the ball and ran with it, and while his title reign eventually started to feel stale because of a lack of opponents, he never stopped making things interesting whenever he was on the screen.
With Cole, the initial concern was match quality. Could he keep up with the likes of Johnny Gargano and Ricochet on the star-studded NXT roster? The answer was “Yes”. Cole stepped up his game from a “B” inside the ring to a surefire “A”.
He had standout matches with wrestlers like Aleister Black and Ricochet to start off his singles bouts, but his best work came with Johnny Gargano. That’s when it became clear that Cole was ready to be the face of the brand. He had more charisma than anyone else, and he proved that his brand of slow-burn storytelling could produce world-class matches with the brand’s best pure wrestler.
Since then, he’s had great matches with Finn Balor, Pete Dunne, and, finally, Keith Lee when he lost the NXT Title to the right man. It’s even more telling that WWE trusted Cole to have Pat McAfee’s first match – on TakeOver, no less. The two men overdelivered expectations, producing a damn fine match. And a lot of that credit goes to McAfee for the work he’s put in behind the scenes to become a wrestler, but some of that credit goes to Cole.
One of the best promos in the company and a man who carries himself like a star, Cole has definitely changed WWE NXT for the better.