In AEW, they fly through the air, bending and twisting their bodies, achieving extraordinary heights. They slam, kick and piledrive their way to the top. We marvel at their athleticism; we’re stunned by their bravado and moved by their words. We cheer their victories and boo their losses. Whether they are best friends, sworn enemies, brothers or romantic couples; they are storytellers and fighters that weave together matches steeped in physicality, psychology and sometimes humor.
For several hours a week, their goal is to become someone else and take us on a journey of escapism: Austin Jenkins transforms into Adam Cole, Samuel Ratsch becomes Darby Allin, Tyson Smith is Kenny Omega, Melissa Cervantes is Thunder Rosa. And when the show is over, they turn off their wrestling persona, the ring and lights are taken down, and it’s time to do it again in another city.
On the road for over 200 days a year, their bodies hurt, they bleed, they nurse broken bones, they battle concussions and sometimes they’re forced to retire before their time. Their bodies are unable to push further while their spirit longs to continue.
Adam Cole is no stranger to wrestling highs and lows. The cheers of “baybays” brings him joy as he holds the audience in the palm of his hands. But every match can come with a price, as two consecutive head injuries almost put his career to an end. What would occur next would be an emotional battle of recovery that would make him question his place in the wrestling world and his future outside the squared circle.
He met with doctors multiple times a week and wondered at one point whether or not he could ever drive again, much less wrestle. Days stretched into weeks; weeks became months. Then came the panic attacks, the emotional waves of self-doubt, and the mental anguish no one knew about. What if that wrestling itch could never be scratched again despite the passion still being there? What happens to a wrestler when they can no longer pursue their lifelong dream? It’s worse than losing your smile, it breaks your heart.
Watching wrestling became too painful. Seeing his friends who became his family doing what he couldn’t almost broke him. But if there’s a will, there’s a way and Adam Cole was determined to find a way back to the ring. But this wasn’t a battle Cole was forced to face alone. Surrounded by friends, family and the love of his girlfriend, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., as he recovered, messages continued to pour in from fans, and he used that as motivation to continue pressing forward. In the months that followed, Cole passed test after test, overcoming both mental and physical hurdles to climb inside the ring and begin training again.
His original plan was to be back by Full Gear and with Dr. Baker living with him and seeing him while he was training, caused her to become incredibly protective about Cole coming back too soon, a frightful thought that kept them both awake at night.
It’s been nine difficult months since Adam Cole laced up his boots and stepped inside the squared circle. That road to recovery will come to its conclusion on March 29th, when Cole’s journey culminates in two milestone moments. He’ll first face off against Daniel Garcia in his highly anticipated return match, before a behind-the-scenes look at his long journey back airs on the debut episode of AEW All Access.
In celebration of AEW: All Access, The Koalition spoke to Adam Cole and Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. to learn more about his return to the ring, preparing for his return, Dr. Baker’s determination to build up the women’s division while securing her spotlight, their legacy and more.
“This entire process has been unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with before. Aside from the fact there were two pretty serious head injuries, I’ve never been away from the ring for nine months at a time. This is by far the longest amount of time I’ve been gone. So, the excitement level is through the roof, the nerves are through the roof, but I’m just ready to get back to work and I’m excited about getting in there.”
On May 25, 2019, AEW produced their first-ever pay-per-view Double or Nothing and since then, AEW is constantly evolving, constantly moving forward, but now they are taking it to the next level. There’s a reason why the company is called All Elite Wrestling and, for the first time in pro-wrestling, the cameras will go where they were never allowed before. Each episode will showcase AEW’s pro wrestlers (and sports entertainers) as they navigate the week-to-week challenges to remain at the top and will track the rivalries between talent as they vie for fans’ attention.
“It shows what all goes into not just putting on a live TV wrestling show every week, but what goes into being a wrestler because it’s your everything. You have to look the part, be the part. walk the walk, talk the talk, on top of trying to live a somewhat normal life. You [have] relationships, your family and everything on top of that. It’s hard, it’s really hard and I think it doesn’t get the respect it deserves sometimes,” said Dr. Baker.
The term “fake” has easily been thrown around by non-wrestling fans but for most wrestlers it’s a derogatory word that erases the importance of their craft. The injuries are real. The time away from loved ones is very real and the mental health issues it could cause are even realer. While the matches are predetermined, everything about this business is 100% authentic.
“I hate even bringing it up but just the ‘F’ word, that it’s ‘fake’, that wrestling is ‘fake’, that there’s such a misconception. Just look at what he went through with the head injuries, the almost career-ending head injury [it’s very real]. I’ve had a back injury for months now. I broke my nose, I broke my wrist, I broke my leg. There’s nothing fake about those injuries. The physicality of professional wrestling does not get the respect it deserves,” said Dr. Baker.
Adam Cole agreed, “I couldn’t have said it better. [It’s the] same thing [for me]. It’s changed a little bit now as time has gone on, but there still is this misconception that it’s not physically dangerous to be in the pro wrestling industry and you’ll see from countless members of the AEW roster this is very dangerous and very real in a lot of ways.”
The goal of All Access is to give everyone (both fans and non-fans) the ultimate behind-the-scenes fan experience, to break down the misconceptions, to allow viewers to see these people as not just athletic entertainers but career-driven individuals who strive to make the best out of a competitive environment that’s always changing. A prime example is shown in its trailer with a tearful Sammy Guevara. One-minute wrestlers are riding the wave of success and the next they’re fighting to get booked.
“For the wrestling fans, I just hope they learn things and have a new appreciation for what goes in to making an AEW show run on weekly television. A lot of us have never gotten this deep into our private lives before for the public to see, so hopefully the fans find it interesting,” said Dr. Baker.
“As far as non-wrestling fans, it’s the entire process of doing AEW Dynamite live on Wednesday. It’s a mad house, it’s chaotic, there’s hundreds of people involved, there’s stress, there’s excitement, there’s anxiety, there’s all those things on top of a super rowdy hot crowd whatever town we’re in. For non-wrestling fans, I think it will show how absolutely fascinating being an AEW wrestler really is,” said Cole.
For decades, the dirt sheets have spread rumors along with unnamed sources constantly shaping the narrative of both the wrestling world and wrestlers’ lives. All Access allows wrestlers to tell their side of the story their way.
“Right now, especially with social media, people think they know it all. They think they’re on the inside with all the hot topics and [with] the dirt sheets. But why not just let them know the real deal of what’s going on? [This is] also entertainment at our expense [and] it’s entertainment for you. It’s something we want to do. We want more eyes on AEW, more eyes on the professional wrestling fanbase. If it just means cameras following us around for a little bit, then so be it,” said Dr. Baker.
“In a lot of ways for me, this almost feels meant to be. Britt knows this, but generally speaking, I do like to stay fairly private. I wasn’t necessarily like, ‘Oh yeah, 100% I want to do this,’ but I felt really compelled to want to do it, not only because I’m so proud to be involved with AEW and, of course, it would be fun. It’d just be interesting to have cameras around and documenting certain parts of our lives. But now knowing the injury I went through, that entire journey and entire process is now all captured on film. The fans who have been so patient just wondering if I was okay, will get the chance to see that entire journey now. I’m thankful the entire recovery process was documented,” said Adam Cole.
Looking back at everything Cole and Dr. Baker have been through; they are grateful for the fans and the support they have provided each other both in and out of the ring. “The biggest thing [I learned] is how important teamwork really is in a relationship. I won’t go into too much detail because we’re going to cover this all on the show, but I had some really bad nights and some really bad car trips. Britt just every single step of the way was there because I do have a tendency to feel guilty when I’m in a situation. She went above and beyond to not only make me not feel guilty but make me feel stupid for even questioning it,” said Cole.
Adam has supported Dr. Baker her entire career. Considered one of the veterans and one of the best wrestlers, Cole offers a unique insight to the wrestling ring including – ring psychology, being a heel, and a babyface. Dr. Baker who faced many injured throughout her career, never left his side – acting as a strong support system, encouraging, and letting him know they are and will always be a team.
“It’s really a tag team. When someone’s down or battered or tired, they have to tag out and the other person has to do a little bit more of the hard work and let your partner regroup until they’re fresh and they can come help you out. Sometimes you’re in there longer, sometimes it’s a short tag, but no matter what, it’s the act of tagging in and out. That’s why you’re a team,” said Cole.
Cole is also thankful to the community he’s built. Working with others within AEW like Bryan Danielson and Christian as he navigated his recovery, managing emotions, and eventually returning to training showed him how loved he truly is both within and outside the industry. Tony Khan and the AEW medical staff came together to provide him with the best medical care, which included brain physical therapy, while fans reached out just to let him know they cared about him.
“The journey was incredibly difficult but the biggest thing I learned was the amount of love and support I have from people who mean the most to me. I’ve said it countless times, but Britt was absolutely unbelievable throughout this entire process. My mother, my brother, my friends, the fans; [there was such an] outpouring of love I got from so many different people. Even from people who didn’t really know what was going on. It was so humbling and so heartwarming. The biggest thing I learned was how freaking awesome human beings can be sometimes,” said Cole.
Cole’s return is sweeter this time around. Excitement fills his face and his heart when talking about his return match against Daniel Garcia and future matches to come. His goal has always been to be the best. The best wrestler and the best champion. A sentiment Dr. Baker shares. While she’s held goal as AEW Women’s World Championship before, she’s always keeping her eyes on the top prize, even when feuding with Sayara.
“I just want to be remembered because there’s so many fantastic wrestling legends that come and go, but I want to be somebody people remember. [I want] the name Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. [to stick] and I have somewhat of a legacy that people tip their cap to,” said Dr. Baker.
Cole added, “I want fans who have ever had any sort of experience with me to look back on it fondly; like it was a positive one. I remember being a young fan and meeting the wrestlers who were really nice and ones that weren’t so nice. It’s still burned into my mind and burned into my memory. So, whether it be with the crew, with the roster, with the fans, I want people to go, ‘Man, I really really liked it when Adam Cole was around.”
To learn more about AEW: All Access and Dr. Baker balancing building an army of wrestlers while also securing her spot at the top, check out our full interview in the video above.