Former Ring of Honor champion Adam Cole stunned pro-wrestling fans during the Global Wars pay-per-view event in May, when he joined the infamous Bullet Club.
The Bullet Club is a dominant stable of villains like the Four Horsemen in the ’80s, or WCW’s NWO in the ’90s. It started in Japan and transcends wrestling promotions internationally. The WWE has picked up on it, with former Bullet Club members billed as “the Club.”
“It’s probably the most popular thing I’ve been a part of,” says Cole, who was recovering from pneumonia in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa., earlier this week. “You see famous rappers and actors wearing Bullet Club T-shirts. Part of the reason wrestling is going through another boom is the Bullet Club.”
Cole wrestles Friday and Saturday, when Ring of Honor returns to Cabarrus Arena for the Best in the World pay-per-view event – followed by Saturday’s TV taping, which will cover the promotion’s next three or four episodes.
Cole’s jump is the kind of twist Cole thinks pro-wrestling has to incorporate in order to compete with big, unpredictable dramas like “Game of Thrones.”
“Our characters from top to bottom need to be established, and the audience has to have a connection to them,” he says. “And that shock value. If people like it or don’t like it, they’re talking about it. That’s the most important thing.”
Right now, Cole is a relatively big fish in a midsize pond. His Bullet Club affiliation will allow him to wrestle for New Japan, giving him an international profile. Former leaders Finn Balor and AJ Styles moved on to WWE, where several former Ring of Honor wrestlers have headlined. Balor had to start essentially from the bottom on the NXT roster (where he became champion). Styles, who wrestled for Total Non-Stop Action for 12 years, made his debut on WWE’s main roster in January.
“It depends on what your goal is. The goal for me is to support my family,” says Christopher Daniels, who has spent much of his career wrestling on the independent circuit or for smaller promotions like Ring of Honor, where the schedule isn’t as rigorous as WWE’s week-in, week-out grind.
“There were times when I was a smaller fish in a bigger pond,” Daniels says. “At this point, I’m sort of a big fish in a smaller pond compared to WWE, but with Ring of Honor being in markets nationally and doing pay-per-views, the amount of people that get to see me isn’t so far off from what it was when I was working for a bigger company.”
“Everyone wants to be the best, and that doesn’t mean the WWE for everybody,” Cole adds. “Everyone wants to grow and get better and be regarded as the best in their field.”
Daniels – a 23-year vet of the ring who grew up in Fayetteville watching Mid-Atlantic Wrestling on Saturday mornings and at Cumberland County Arena – will defend the tag team title with Frankie Kazarian on Friday.
He says building a reputation as a dependable, versatile worker early in his career allowed him to support his family at home in Los Angeles without a big WWE contract.
“Once you have a following and a name, a lot of people will buy tickets just to see you. You already have their respect and appreciation,” says Daniels, who is now in his mid-40s. “For me, the goal is to go out and work hard and work safe. Once you get in that experience, people understand who you are. It does dial back the crazy a little bit.”
Right now, the travel and time commitment aren’t a concern for Cole.
“I’m a 26-year-old single male with no kids and no wife,” he says. “I enjoy being on the road.”
Ring of Honor
When: 9 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Cabarrus Arena, 4751 N.C. 49, Concord.
Tickets: $25-$80 Friday; $20-$60 Saturday.