Kyle O’Reilly is alone, with an old friend on his way.
O’Reilly, 34, is making a name for himself as a singles wrestler in NXT after four years as a team specialist. He was part of the Undisputed Era faction along with Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Roderick Strong, who broke up onscreen in February.
O’Reilly will now face Cole for the second time when they meet in the Great American Bash Main Event Tuesday (8 p.m. USA Network) with O’Reilly’s next NXT Championship shot in play.
“He’s been the subject of a lot of important moments for me,” O’Reilly said of Cole in a phone interview with The Post. “He’s a stallion, he’s a star, he’s a top artist. I was able to get opportunities thanks to him. Six months ago he was responsible for my success. Now he is the bane of my existence.
Cole, who had the longest NXT title reign in history, turned on O’Reilly in the storyline in February with a superkick that ultimately spelled the end of Undisputed Era. Then the two faced off in an unauthorized violent match, won by O’Reilly at NXT TakerOver: Stand and Deliver in April. They will meet this time in a traditional wrestling match.
While the real friends – Cole was at O’Reilly’s wedding party – have argued in other promotions during their careers, this is the first time in NXT.
“That’s what’s interesting about this art form,” O’Reilly said. “We met in 2009. Two guys, whom no one had ever heard of, had the opportunity to fight. We’ve had so many life changing moments with each other across the hip. You drive for 16 hours to beat up your friend. It’s a unique way to bond with someone.
They’ve already combined for some iconic NXT moments. Their on-screen feud became so intense that there was speculation in the storyline that O’Reilly, a Type 1 diabetic, was really hurt.
Cole attacked his opponent to shut down a show in mid-February and O’Reilly was taken on a stretcher as part of the story. This sparked a lot of concern on social media and even within his own family.
“The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming and certainly humbling,” O’Reilly said. “It really took a life of its own. It was cool, but it was also upsetting. My sister called me because she thinks I am seriously injured. She was hysterical. But that rarely happens in wrestling. And I was proud of my performance.
It was all part of O’Reilly’s character change. Originally a villain over the past half decade, the Delta, Canada native now works as a babyface during his singles run and is happy to show off his lineup.
“The top performers in this industry can do both,” he said. “As a single artist, I have always had more success as a babyface. In tag team, I have always had more success in heels. I want to show that I am a top team wrestler and that I can change my hat. “
The self-proclaimed conductor, bassist, jujitsu enthusiast, player and writer – he called the storytelling “compelling” – continues to reinvent his character as he attempts to become an NXT star on his own.
“I just want my character to be seen as someone who taps into this eccentric self,” O’Reilly said. “It’s like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks.”
Last week, the evolving character of O’Reilly shone in the final show ahead of this match with Cole. They exchanged verbal blows, brooding over old scruples from the undisputed era. But when Cole said he’s the only star to come out and the locker room knows it and even O’Reilly’s wife knows, O’Reilly lost his temper.
He took down Cole with a hook in the heel, as Samoa Joe, who is back in NXT as the executor of Commissioner William Regal, closed his eyes and let O’Reilly continue to apply the grip. It showed how much the characters of O’Reilly and Cole hated each other.
“When you’re a team wrestler, you do it with your friends and do it together,” O’Reilly said. “I no longer have my friends to support me. It’s a little more anxious. But that’s what is fascinating. This sport is all about growing and evolving and never stagnating. I’m still working on it and I’m far from being a finished product. You try to achieve perfection but you will never get there. It’s a constant pursuit of that.
O’Reilly and Cole – as well as Strong and Fish – have all been on new things since the breakup of the Undisputed Era. Strong just made his debut as the leader of the Diamond Mine Faction. Fish, who worked with O’Reilly for nine years, recently started a program with English wrestler and promoter Pete Dunne. As they all embark on different adventures, O’Reilly is open to them crossing paths again.
“Whatever the powers that be thinks it’s best for business, and if they want us to come together and fight, I’m happy to do it,” O’Reilly said. “This trip is to test myself against the best competitors. And Fish and Strong are two of the absolute best competitors. I know they will bring out the best in me and I will bring out the best in them. I will not back down from any fight.