Before Adam Cole jumped ship to AEW, WWE reportedly had a plan where he would be the heel manager for Keith Lee on the main roster, according to Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio.
Meltzer described it as a Lio Rush and Bobby Lashley dynamic, “where you have this little guy who’s a big talker, and he hides behind this big massive guy.”
The idea reportedly either came from Vince McMahon or Bruce Prichard, but it’s not clear if Cole fully knew about the plan when making his decision to go to AEW.
Cole would have also likely had to drop or change his last name, since they have Michael Cole on the main roster and WWE doesn’t like having two people with the same last name.
Here’s how Meltzer explained it:
They were going to bring him up. The idea was to turn Keith Lee heel, have Adam Cole be his manager. Probably with a different name because of the last name Cole. It’s main roster and Michael Cole. You know how that goes. With the idea of kind of like a Lio Rush, Bobby Lashley thing, where you have this little guy who’s a big talker, and he hides behind this big massive guy. So that was kind of the dynamic that they were looking for for him, more as a manager than as a wrestler. I’m sure he would have done wrestling because he can wrestle, but that would be kind of the role.
I’ve heard that it was Vince and I’ve heard that it was Bruce [Prichard]. I’ve not heard that that was from creative. One person told me that it was Bruce’s idea and another person told me it was Vince’s. It doesn’t matter whose it was. It does fit into Vince’s line of thinking and Bruce understands what Vince’s line of thinking is.
I don’t even know how much [Cole] knew of this. He may have even made the decision [to go to AEW] without [knowing]. They may not have even told him this, but there’s a chance that they did. But that was the idea.