From Prophecy to Perfection: How Undisputed ERA Became NXT’s Top Act of 2019

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Credit: WWE

On December 13th, 2018, Adam Cole, who may well now be called NostrADAMus, made the world a promise with a simple statement. “This is a threat…its a promise…and its certainly #Undisputed,” Cole tweeted as he shared a graphic showing himself, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly all wearing the respective NXT men’s titles. While perhaps not the boldest statement ever made given the rise of Undisputed ERA over the prior year, it was a dominant one nonetheless.

“In 2019, the four of us will be draped in championship gold.”

It would have been easy to dismiss Cole’s statement as something wrestlers say all the time, but for some reason this felt different. Undisputed ERA was on the rise and well on its way to becoming the best faction in NXT history and frankly, one of, if not the best in WWE since the Shield. In firm possession of that elusive “It Factor,” Adam Cole had future star written all over him. He looked the part, he acted the part, and fit the mold of what NXT was looking for. Not to mention, he had the perfect cast of characters at his side as NXT’s Ring of Honor inspired stable was a huge hit from the start. The second Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish arrived on the scene, it was clear that NXT had found something special. Adding Roderick Strong to the mix, was simply icing on an already tremendously impressive cake.

Now, over three years later, the faction continues to stand as strong as its ever been. Undisputed ERA promised to “shock the system” in 2017 and the quartet has done just that. Because not only were they NXT’s top act in 2019, but overall, he ERA is the best faction to have ever been part of NXT. The group is the first to hold all of the black-and-yellow brand’s men’s championships as well as the first to hold them all simultaneously. With three titles currently in their possession, Undisputed ERA ends 2019 as not just the best of the best in NXT but arguably, as one of the best in WWE period. And it all started with a simple prophecy. To paraphrase Paul Heyman, Undisputed ERA’s rise to the top of the industry in 2019, “wasn’t a prediction, it was a spoiler.”

Undisputed Origins. Undisputed Successes.

On August 19th, 2017 at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, Adam Cole made his NXT debut and was immediately aligned with his longtime ROH rival, Kyle O’Reilly and O’Reilly’s ReDRagon tag team partner, Bobby Fish, both of whom who had debuted as a unit earlier that night. By September of that year, the group, which had come to NXT to cause a little bit of chaos and have a lot of bit of fun, had been given a name. The trio was dubbed Undisputed ERA and they had arrived to shock the system in NXT while ushering in a new chapter of the black-and-yellow brand. And as it turns out, this new chapter, this new era, was and continues to be, arguably, NXT’s best one yet.

Since their debut, Undisputed ERA’s members have combined for three tag team championship reigns, two North American championship reigns (of which Cole was the inaugural champion) and one NXT title reign. Their members have won the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, competed in and won NXT’s first-ever WarGames match and have competed at several WWE PPVs including Survivor Series, Greatest Royal Rumble and Royal Rumble. Among their ranks are Kyle O’Reilly, NXT’s only three-time tag team champion, and Adam Cole, just the second triple crown champion in NXT history. And at 212 days and counting with the NXT Championship, Cole is just 81 days away from passing Finn Balor‘s record mark of a 292 day title reign, the longest such reign in NXT history.

Undisputed Prophecy. Undisputed Perfection.

While the faction has been around for over three years, much of Undisputed ERA’s dominance is recent. Originally a trio, Undisputed ERA added its fourth member during TakeOver: New Orleans in April 2018. After months of being recruited and subsequently turning down every offer, Roderick Strong finally relented and joined his fellow former ROH wrestlers in what has since become NXT’s greatest stable of all-time. With four members in their ranks, there was nothing the group couldn’t do. So, in December 2019, Adam Cole made the promise that there was nothing they wouldn’t do.

Cole’s words rang true as over the course of this past year, Undisputed ERA worked their way to the top, one championship at a time. But the prophecy didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start. Already holding the tag team championships, Undisputed ERA only needed to capture the two men’s singles titles, which at the time Adam Cole earmarked for himself and Bobby Fish. But on January 26th at TakeOver: Phoenix, the team of Fish and Strong lost the tag titles to the War Raiders. Perhaps as a result, tension began to build within the faction as losing titles wasn’t part of the plan. Cole however, didn’t let it affect his own chase as by March, he was well on his way to earning the world title shot, having won a fatal five-way #1 contender’s match. But in his first opportunity to capture the belt against Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: New York, Adam Cole felt short and proceeded to blame his Undisputed ERA teammates, specifically Strong, for the loss.

WWE was planting seeds and teasing a breakup of the super popular group, which seemingly put the prophecy in the rear view mirror. For the next several weeks, tension mounted as Adam Cole and Roderick Strong could not get on the same page with the former blaming the latter for costing him yet another match. At this point, Strong took off his Undisputed ERA shirt and armband in a profanity-filled rant that ended with Cole telling his friend that maybe he didn’t deserve to be in the group after all.

With uncertainty looming and immense friction within the group, Cole went into his rematch with Gargano without knowing if Strong would have his back or not, especially after Strong lost his own TakeOver match earlier that night. Sure enough, when Adam Cole summoned his faction mates during the match, none came and he was left on his own to defeat Gargano in an incredible, match of the year caliber contest. As Cole stood victorious, all three remaining members of Undisputed ERA came out to celebrate with him and lift him up in victory. The prophecy had begun and fittingly, it was the man behind it, who struck first.

Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, much like Roderick Strong, failed in their match at TakeOver: XXV, only theirs was for the tag titles. The duo redeemed themselves when they defeated the Street Profits in August, re-capturing the tag titles for the prophecy and leaving Strong as the only member of the group without gold around his waist. Refusing to be the weak link, Strong spent weeks campaigning for a title shot against then-North American Champion, Velveteen Dream. And instead of wait for the opportunity to come to him, he did it the undisputed way, setting Dream’s signature purple couch ablaze goading the champion into a match, which happened on September 18th. Strong defeated Dream on an episode of NXT fulfilling the prophecy. But the ERA wasn’t done. Far from it.

From September onward, in possession of all the gold they could possibly hold, the Undisputed ERA ran roughshod over NXT and soon, Raw and SmackDown as well. Debuting as a unit for the first time on the blue brand, the ERA were front-and-center for the NXT invasion leading up to Survivor Series. Week in and week out, Cole and company wrecked havoc on the blue and red brands, showing the WWE Universe what fans of NXT have long already known. During their time on the main roster, Adam Cole picked up a victory over Daniel Bryan, the whole group picked up a win over Heavy Machinery and New Day, and Roderick Strong got the biggest win of them all when he defeated AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura at Survivor Series.

Undisputed Future.

On December 13th, 2018, Adam Cole made a promise, and on September 18th, 2019, that promise was fulfilled. Entering into 2020, who knows what might be next for the Undisputed ERA. As pointed out, Cole is just 81 days away from surpassing Balor’s record 292-day reign with the NXT Championship. If Cole holds the title until TakeOver: Tampa Bay (BAY) during WrestleMania Weekend, that record will be his. It’s also very possible that 2020 sees the ERA come to SmackDown or Raw full time, hopefully as a united foursome, ready to dominate one of those brands as they have in NXT.

Either way, one thing is certain, 2019 was the year of undisputed successes, undisputed championship glory and undisputed dominance. 2019 was the year of the Undisputed ERA and as they usher in a new year and new decade of NXT firmly on top, 2020 could hold much of the same for one of WWE’s all-time best stables, past or present.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.

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