Derek Thorn Returning to Wisconsin for Slinger Nationals
Jan 24, 2022
The recognizable song by Hans Zimmer hits, and there’s JB Cole in his signature green and yellow City Chevrolet wrestling tights driving down the ramp in a Tour Type Modified in advance of a match on All Elite Wrestling Dynamite.
It hasn’t happened yet, but that’s what Jeff Bunton is working towards, hopefully on a Wednesday night after a successful weekend flagging a short track race at Bowman Gray Stadium or with the SMART Modified Tour.
The best professional wrestling characters, or gimmicks as they are known in the vernacular of the business, are those that reflect the soul of its portrayer but with the volume turned up to 100.
JB Cole is Bunton but with the volume turned up to 100. Cole is the flagger, or starter as its known in this business’ vernacular, for Bowman Gray Stadium and the SMART Modified Tour but he has also worked as a professional wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic region since 2010.
A child of the 90s, Cole grew up watching NASCAR and World Championship Wrestling on TBS and TNT, the same networks that air AEW Dynamite and Rampage. With that said, motorsports is his first love and wrestling followed.
"My dad took me to Orange County (Speedway) when I was 14 years old and he eventually became superintendent and head of safety," Cole said. "By 15 years old, I was the youngest flagman in the history of the track. Wrestling came up with my buddy Brian Hawks. Him and a guy named Tracy Myers eventually put together what’s called Wrestlecade and asked me to come out."
The main event of that first show he attended was Carlito Colón vs. Matt Hardy in a ladder match. That inspired the then Jeff Bunton to enter the business, and he first started as a referee before getting properly trained by the venerable George South.
He spent the first couple of years working under a mask, but South and Hawks felt Cole had untapped potential without it and was ready for a more featured role by 2016. All that was missing was a name.
"We’re told to come up with a name that means something to you, and put it together with your actual name," Cole said. "CM Punk was one of my favorite wrestlers at the time and Days of Thunder is my favorite movie. Cole Trickle. Put it together and I became JB Cole."
The green and yellow tights, of course, were a tribute to the No. 46 car Trickle piloted in his debut fictional NASCAR Cup Series season.
Cole has become a permanent and popular fixture in the Carolina independent wrestling scene over the past five years. His ring entrances include checkered flags, and his street fights have occasionally featured lug nuts as a replacement for thumb tacks.
During the same time his wrestling stature grew, so has his responsibilities with the SMART Tour entering its second full season back, with Cole working with series director Chris Williams on marketing, media relations and competition communications.
He was actually at the PRI Trade Show on behalf of the SMART Tour when he got the biggest break of his professional wrestling career.
Cole had been introduced to Cody Rhodes and QT Marshall by Hawks earlier in the year and had impressed the AEW notables and been told he might get a call to work a show at some point down the road. When the email actually came, he didn’t believe it.
"I got an email from Shawn Dean," Cole recounted, "but I was at the trade show and I actually didn't think it was really him. I get a call from Hawks and he's like, 'are you going to answer those guys,' and I immediately called him back.
"I didn’t believe it was real!"
The result was a Jan. 17 appearance on AEW’s weekly YouTube show, Dark, a tag team match with The Infinite Man against the sons of WWE Hall of Famer Billy Gunn -- Austin and Colten. The match took place at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Cole hopes it’s the first of many appearances on one of the biggest stages in the world, and one step closer to driving toward the ring in a Tour Type Modified. It’s an entrance inspired by John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield driving to the ring in a limousine or the late Eddie Guerrero in a lowrider.
In the same way that Guerrero and Layfield emphasized a culture that was important to them, car tuner and finance, Cole wants to share his combined love of motorsports and professional wrestling to a broader audience.
He grew up during a period when there was a lot of crossover between the two and believes there still could be.
"These are big personalities," Cole said. "When racing is at its best, there are good guys and bad guys, big characters. Wrestling has that too – bigger than life superstars. My biggest goal with everything that I’ve done is to bring those two groups closer together. I want to connect my NASCAR fans to my wrestling fans because I think a fan of one could be a fan of the other too."