In professional wrestling terms, a “heel” is a villain. Whether their goal is to embellish details in their promo or commit nefarious acts during a match. The heel is the Joker to the babyface’s Batman. There have been many memorable heels throughout the history of wrestling. Some more successful than others, and the archetype of the bad guy has evolved in many ways. For many wrestlers, being the best heel possible is a goal. For one wrestler it’s more important to be the biggest bastard fans have seen. This brings us to today’s All Elite Wrestling talent preview. Here, we will cover the man who made the transition from gravity-forgotten highlight heel to the diabolical monarch of his own division to one of the biggest villains in AEW. Enter, PAC.
As a long-time wrestling fan, PAC became involved in backyard wrestling during his teenage years. His love for wrestling stemmed from childhood when he watched the World Wrestling Federation and was captivated by such stars as The Undertaker. Later in life, he would receive professional training courtesy of St. Joseph’s Hall in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. It was in 3 Count Wrestling and the Independent Wrestling Federation where he got his start.
During his early independent days, PAC achieved various accolades. In 3 Count Wrestling, based out of Billingham, PAC won the North East and Triple Crown Championships. During his time in One Pro Wrestling, he won the Openweight Championship, becoming its first-ever titleholder in the process. In American Wrestling Rampage, based out of Dublin, Ireland, PAC won the No Limits Championship. His character underwent a change in Nu-Wrestling Evolution, in Italy, where he wrestled as a jungle man-like character called Jungle Pac. This character remained in Nu-Wrestling Evolution, but it showed that this highly-athletic talent could play different roles.
One of the first major promotions PAC made an impact in was Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, where he debuted in 2006. During the All-Star Weekend IV event, from November 17 to 18, he worked with AJ Styles and El Generico. In 2007, PAC returned to the promotion, defeating Kevin Steen at Holy Diver Down. From there, PAC would team with Roderick Strong in the Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title tournament. Ultimately, the team of PAC and Strong came out on top, ultimately defeating The Briscoe Brothers to win the vacant titles. PAC would go on to participate in the 2007 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament, defeating Jack Evans and Claudio Castagnoli before ultimately falling short against Cima.
In Various Promotions
PAC’s involvement in various promotions continued through the years to come, as he worked in Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Action, just to name a few. Perhaps his most notable work, during this time, occurred in New Japan Pro Wrestling. In 2012, PAC entered the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, which also featured talents including Rocky Romero, Kushida, Jushin Thunder Liger, and future fellow 205 Live Superstar Brian Kendrick. PAC finished in Block A with five wins, which allowed him to advance to the finals against Block B winner Ryusuke Taguchi. PAC would ultimately lose to Taguchi, wrapping up his time in NJPW.
It was in Dragon Gate, where PAC debuted in 2007, that he continued to build a name for himself. PAC took part in the Japanese promotion’s Dragon Storm tour. From there, he competed for the Open the Brave Gate and Open the Triangle Gate Championships early on, but was unsuccessful in these ventures. In 2010, PAC officially signed with Dragon Gate USA, the promotion’s international expansion. The following year, in January, PAC would win the Open the United Gate Championship alongside Masato Yoshino. He would also win the Open the Brave Gate Championship in August; to this day, PAC holds the record for the longest single championship reign at 447 days. PAC would remain with Dragon Gate until July of 2012 when he would make the leap to World Wrestling Entertainment.
Birth of Adrian Neville
PAC, under the ring name Adrian Neville, first appeared on WWE NXT in January of 2013. It didn’t take long for Neville to become involved in the NXT tag team scene, which was in its infancy at the time. Neville and fellow Englishman Oliver Grey, known collectively as British Ambition, would go on to become the inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions the following February. Unfortunately, this title reign was cut short when Grey suffered a torn ACL.
In response, Neville selected Bo Dallas as his new partner. The makeshift team of Neville and Bo ended up losing the titles in their first defense, which would spark a feud between the two former titleholders in the future. Neville kept his sights on the Wyatt Family, who previously defeated him and Dallas for the titles, this time teaming with current WWE announcer Corey Graves. Neville would go on to win the NXT Tag Team Championship with Graves, becoming a two-time tag team champion in the process.
Neville would go on to compete for the NXT Championship, which was held by newly-minted heel Dallas. Despite numerous valiant attempts by Neville, Dallas would hold onto the championship via controversial means. This feud would come to a head at the first-ever live event streamed on the WWE Network, NXT Arrival, in 2014. In the main event, Neville defeated Bo Dallas in a ladder match, becoming the first Superstar to hold the NXT Championship and Tag Team Championship.
From there, Neville would defend the NXT Championship against a slew of competitors, including Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze. Neville successfully defended the championship until December, at TakeOver: R Evolution, where he lost it to Sami Zayn. His final NXT match took place the TakeOver: Rival, in February of 2015, where he lost to Finn Balor in an NXT Championship number one contender’s match.
Main Roster Debut
In March, Neville made his main roster debut, subtracting his first name and adding a ring entrance cape. He defeated the likes of Curtis Axel, Bad News Barrett, and former NXT rival Dallas. His first big storyline took place that summer, when he joined forces with Stephen Amell, the lead actor for the TV series “Arrow,” to challenge Stardust and Barrett. Neville and Amell would win this tag team encounter at SummerSlam. Neville would also win a Slammy Award, being declared 2015’s “Breakout Star of the Year.” Unfortunately, 2016 saw Neville fracture his ankle in a RAW match against Chris Jericho. According to The Independent, Neville was supposed to compete in the multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32. Due to the aforementioned injury, Neville missed the show, being replaced by Zack Ryder, and would be out of action until the summer.
Following his return in July, Neville did little of note to begin with. With various storylines unfolding at the same time, he was lost in the shuffle. That was until Roadblock, in December, where the high-flying babyface showed a more vicious side. Following a successful title defense by Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann, against TJ Perkins, Neville came out with a congratulatory demeanor. This quickly changed, though, when Neville attacked both men in a vicious fashion.
The next night, on RAW, Neville made his ambitions clear: to obliterate the cruiserweight division. After defeating various cruiserweights, Neville challenged Swann for the Cruiserweight Championship at the Royal Rumble, winning his second singles title in the company. This evil, dominating personality quickly became popular with fans, encouraging many of them to tune in 205 Live to watch what the King of the Cruiserweights would do next. In short, 2017 was a character-making year for Neville.
Neville successfully retained his championship against Austin Aries at WrestleMania, Payback, and Extreme Rules. Though he dropped the Cruiserweight Championship to Akira Tozawa on the August 14th episode of Raw, he won it back days later at SummerSlam. His next and last, notable feud in WWE was with Enzo Amore, who recently entered the cruiserweight division. In surprising fashion, at No Mercy, Amore defeated Neville for the title following a low blow and a roll-up. This storyline would eventually lead to a double turn, with Amore as a heel and Neville as a face. Though Neville’s final televised match was with Ariya Daivari on 205 Live, his final big segment involved him viciously attacking Amore, who touted a no-contact clause to keep other cruiserweights from attacking him, leaving him in a heap.
Departure from The WWE
In October, it was reported by various sources that Neville walked out of WWE. The following month, reports came out that Neville was in “positive discussions” with the company, hinting at an eventual return. One frozen contract situation later, though, Neville was out of the company by August. According to an Instagram Q&A, Neville believed that the company “killed the king and gave the crown to a wannabe rapper.” This creative frustration aided in him leaving WWE, returning to his old stomping grounds following an extended period of inactivity.
In October of 2018, the man once again known as PAC returned to Dragon Gate. He immediately cemented himself as a heel, joining forces with the nefarious stable R.E.D. He won his first championship with the company, since his return, in December by defeating former tag team partner Yoshino for the Open the Dream Gate Title. The following year saw PAC not only successfully retain his championship but join forces with R.E.D. stablemates in a number of multi-man tag team matches. The same aggressive yet athletic style that he developed as the King of the Cruiserweights took stepped up to another level in Dragon Gate, cementing him as a force to be reckoned with.
PAC is All-In
At the inaugural AEW rally this past January, it was announced that PAC signed with the up-and-coming promotion. During the rally in question, in full wrestling gear, PAC confronted Hangman Page following the latter’s declaration to become the first AEW Champion. PAC declared that he was already a titleholder in his own right and that Page couldn’t so much as lace his boots. It was then announced that the two would face one another in singles action at Double or Nothing, AEW’s first event to take place in May.
It’s been said that to be truly successful in professional wrestling, one must be just as cutthroat as they are talented. Since starting in the mid-aughts, PAC honed his wrestling abilities and became an increasingly destructive force in the process. From his early days in England to his time under the spotlight in WWE to his newest venture in AEW, Neville’s experience can’t be denied, either. As PAC approaches his upcoming match with Page, it may only be a matter of time until the proud bastard himself adds the AEW Championship to his resume.
Originally written by Robbie Sutter
Previous AEW Talent Previews: