For nearly 15 years, professional wrestler Adam Cole has delivered high-profile wrestling matches across many promotions.
Whether it was with Ring of Honor, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or, most recently, All Elite Wrestling (or AEW), Cole has been a champion many times over and has the titles to prove it. He has faced off against big names in that journey, including Johnny Gargano, Finn Balor, Bryan Danielson and “Hangman” Adam Page.
Tragedy struck at a pay-per-view in June 2022,as it does so often in the squared circle – Cole, 33, suffered a severe concussion during a four-way match at “AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door”that sidelined him for nine months.
For Cole, otherwise known as Lancaster County native Austin Jenkins, it marked the first time in 15 years that he was out of action for more than a single month.
Tomorrow, March 29, is a homecoming of sorts for Jenkins – not only will he return from his injury to wrestle Daniel Garcia on TBS’ “AEW Dynamite”, but Jenkins will also serve as a focal point in the premiere episode of “AEW: All Access,” an unscripted show that purports to serve as a “backstage look” at the lives of several wrestlers.
Jenkins’ road to recovery is featured heavily in the premiere as he struggles with the reality that his injury could easily end his career.
“They started the filming process pretty early, and it’s a chronicle of my ups and downs, if you will,” Jenkins says by phone. “The entire process was bizarre, in the sense that there was a lot of excitement about doing ‘AEW: All Access,’ and of course there were some nerves as well. I can’t reiterate this enough – it is the most private I’ve ever gotten publicly when it comes to my life. Generally speaking, I was always looking at it this way – the world gets to see my support system, they get to see Britt [Baker, girlfriend and fellow wrestler] in a different light, they get to see my family, and that to me was so important.”
Before he was multiple-time world champion, Jenkins was a Manheim borough kid with an insatiable love for professional wrestling.
After catching part of an episode of “WCW Monday Nitro” as a child, Jenkins says that he had a one-track mind toward wrestling. He started training when he was a senior at Manheim Central High School, first on the school’s wrestling team, but always with an eye to something bigger.
“My mom sat me down and said, ‘What are you going to do when you graduate high school?’ I said, ‘Mom, you know the answer to this, I’m going to train to be a pro wrestler,’” says Jenkins. “So she said, ‘Well, I hope you have a way figured out of how you’re going to pay for that, because I’m not paying for that.’ At that exact point, I decided to quit the wrestling team and get a job.”
Jenkins saved money he earned by teaching swimming lessons, and then started the arduous task of wrestling school, a process known to chew and spit out those without a proper level of dedication to the craft.
“I would literally go to class and then leave right from high school, drive two hours to Philadelphia, get the snot beat out of me, drive two hours home and then get home at midnight or 1 a.m., and then get up at 6 a.m. and go to school all over again,” says Jenkins.“That was my senior year of high school, and I could not have been happier. I felt like I was on top of the world.”
Before long, Jenkins got his start in a promotion called Combat Zone Wrestling, and “Adam Cole” was born. In a time-honored professional wrestling tradition, one of the first things to change was where his character hailed from. Instead of from Manheim in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Jenkins (as Adam Cole) was billed out of Panama City, Florida.
“I really wanted the ‘Adam Cole’ character to be from Hollywood, California, I was adamant about that,” says Jenkins with a laugh. “I remember my trainer looked at me and said, ‘There are so many wrestlers from Hollywood, California, no, you’re not going to pick that.’ I went home that night and was watching wrestling tapes, and I’m watching the final ‘Nitro,’ and it’s in Panama City, Florida. I had the wavy shorter hair, I looked like a beach bum in a lot of ways, I had palm trees on my tights, I was fully committed to Panama City.”
Jenkins wrestled his first match as Adam Cole on April 8, 2008, and hasn’t looked back since.
Of course, even if “Adam Cole” has seen the world several times over, Jenkins still looks back with affection on his time spent in Lancaster County. He speaks fondly of Power Train Sports in Manheim and trainer Steve Saunders’ help with weight training.
He recalled a somewhat embarrassing tale from 2001 when promotion Maryland Championship Wrestling held a show at Donegal High School in Mount Joy. Referee and fellow Lancaster native Paul Turner wrestled a rare match on the show, and Jenkins remembers reaching out to hug Turner, a man who would later raise his arm in victory countless times during their tenure in Ring of Honor, and later AEW.
“Literally a year later, I remember walking around the [Park City Mall], and I saw Paul Turner with a group of people from a distance,” Cole says. “I was just staring at him, like, ‘That’s the referee who wrestled on the Maryland Championship Wrestling show.’ He turned and looked at me, and I ran away. I was too afraid to go talk to him. I’ve told Paul that story and he can’t believe it. But it was definitely him.”
While Jenkins is nervous about his return bout with Garcia, he’s also nervous about the premiere of “All Access.” Scenes feature Jenkins on doctor’s visits, meeting with family and heavy conversations with girlfriend and fellow wrestler Britt Baker.
Jenkins hasn’t seen any of the episodes and says he’ll be watching along with everyone else for the first time.
“I will say this, there are multiple times where I am referred to as ‘Austin’ and not as ‘Adam Cole,’ which, that is something I have never done,” Jenkins says. “But again, this is real, this is reality. It will be very interesting for me, even, knowing what I went through and the challenges I went through, the fact that it is documented and I can watch it back is going to be very fascinating.”
“AEW Dynamite” airs at 8 p.m. on TBS, followed immediately by “AEW: All Access” at 10 p.m.
Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
Find out what is happening in Lancaster County every week with our Entertainment Lancaster newsletter.