It’s been about one full week since Edge (also known as Adam Copeland) dropped the bombshell, announcing that he’s retiring from professional wrestling. I wanted to watch Raw and SmackDown and let each one sink in a little bit before offering my thoughts on his career, retirement and legacy.
Edge, just 37 years old, officially wrestled his last match on April 3–WrestleMania 27–as World Heavyweight Champion. And won. Let that sink in for a second–how much better of a sendoff could you possibly ask for? Entering the biggest show of them all as champion, and walking out on top? That’s rare.
The retirement caught everyone off guard, as Edge was quoted as saying that he could wrestle anywhere from three-to-five more years. There was also talk about him slowly shutting himself down over the next year or two. Nonetheless, the announcement came as a complete and utter shock. He said on Raw,
“In the last little while I’ve been in a lot of pain. I’ve been losing feeling in my arms. So I passed a strength test and all of those things. I made it through WrestleMania. But the WWE wanted me to get more tests. And thankfully I did because the MRI’s showed that I have to retire. Trust me it’s not my choice. The doctors have told me that I got no choice. And thankfully they found out because I’m not going to end up in a wheelchair now.”
While I was watching the show, we went from the watered-down product that WWE airs several times a week, to a very real, emotional moment. He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he begin to tear up in the ring. I’m going to point out the obvious and say that both speeches were extremely emotional. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Edge loved his career, and that he worked hard to give it 100% each and every show.
Edge’s neck injury (2003), Achilles tear (2009) and torn pectoral (2007) are just a testament to how tough this man was. And these three are just his major surgeries. Hell, a torn Achilles often ends athletes’ careers, and if it doesn’t, they’re merely the shell of their former self. The fact that he came back and returned to his job, which sees his body take physical abuse for 300+ days a year, shows just how special Edge was as a performer.
Sure, it’s sucks that he’s retiring. It sucks big time. He was a solid in-ring performer, a terrific promo-cutter, he could sell moves, and he was equally great as both a heel and a face. Finding someone who has a good combination of these skills is rare. Not to mention, his tag team of Edge & Christian was arguably the last real, legitimate tag team in the WWE before that division went down the crapper. What many fans, including myself, often tend to overlook in situations like these (see: Shawn Michaels) is that these performers have lives outside of the ring. They’re real people, just like you and me. Adam Copeland, the person, still has a family, still has hopes and aspirations outside of wrestling.
If his new neck injury is real–and I very much believe it is–there’s no reason to jeopardize his long-term health and physical stability in order to continue building what is already a Hall of Fame career. The same goes for athletes in professional sports. Often, athletes put their careers, sometimes their lives, on stake in order to return to games earlier than they should. They avoid doctors’ advice, the short and long-term consequences of their actions, just to get back into the game when it’s not necessary–especially when there’s real danger in the grander scheme of things. At no point–ever, for anyone–should your career take precedent over your health. I don’t know about you guys, when he said he’d just avoided living in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, that hit me very hard. My worst injury in sports was a broken finger (multiple times), and there were times when I grew frustrated with how slow the process was to get out of a splint, regain full mobility and strength, letting the swelling subside, etc. And that’s just a finger. I have nine more. Can you imagine being paralyzed from the neck down?
At some point, you just need to fold your hand and walk away from the table because the gamble is no longer worth it. It’s much better that he goes out now, capable of surfing and doing all the other activities he wants to still be able to do, rather than, as he put it, ‘falling down in the ring and not being able to get back up.’ For anyone who watched wrestling in the late-1990′s, you should remember Darren Drozdov (aka Darren Droz, aka Droz). Drozdov became a quadriplegic after a botched powerbomb in a match against D’Lo Brown on October 5, 1999. Droz landed on his head, fracturing two discs in his neck, and was immediately stretchered out of the building. He has since regained movement in his upper body and arms, but is still numb from the waist-down. Droz will never be able to go for a jog, mountain bike or surf because of a freak accident in the ring.
Which brings me to my next point: wrestling isn’t “real” or “fake.” It’s scripted. It’s an entertainment show because the results are predetermined. It’s not to be compared to UFC, NHL, MLB, etc. because those are legitimate sports. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say “wrestling is fake.” We know it is, but so is every TV show and movie you’ve ever seen in your life. All of that is fake and scripted, so liking an actor/actress and chirping wrestlers accomplishes nothing except showing how narrow-minded you are. I’m trailing off, but this is the point I’m trying to make: wrestling may be scripted, but the pounding these athletes take in the ring is very real. The injuries are real. I have a friend who’s an indy wrestler (ranked in the top-250 of the PWI’s Top 500, in fact), and I’ve seen and heard about the injuries he’s suffered over the years. They’re insane. When you fall off a 20-foot ladder, you’re still falling off a 20-foot ladder, regardless of whether you’re landing on plywood or canvas. It still hurts. I distinctly remember, during the various TLC matches, when Jim Ross said that these bumps and spills would shorten their careers, and eerily enough, about a decade later, he may have been right.
As he stated on Raw, we the fans have seen Edge grow from an indy wrestler named Sexton Hardcastle, to becoming a pseudo-vampire in The Brood, to teaming with Christian (his best friend for 27 years), to becoming the most decorated WWE superstar of all-time. From being voted “Most likely to win the WWF Championship” by his graduating class, to his big break at No Mercy 1999 in a ladder match with The Hardy Boyz, to his epic TLC matches with the Hardyz and Dudleyz, to his five-second flash photography with kazoos and novelty sunglasses and “totally reeking of awesomeness”, to spearing Mick Foley through a flaming table, to his WrestleMania 24 match against The Undertaker, Edge has literally seen and done everything there is to do in pro wrestling. Literally. Let’s take a look at his accomplishments in the WWE:
World Heavyweight Championship – 7 times
WWE Championship – 4 times (WHC + WWE = 11-time World Champion)
World/WWE Tag Team Championships – 14 times (Christian, 7; Chris Benoit; 2, Chris Jericho, 1; Randy Orton, 1; Hulk Hogan, 1)
Intercontinental Championship – 5 times
United States Championship – 1 time
Royal Rumble – 1 time
Money in the Bank – 2 times
King of the Ring – 1 time
Total: 31 titles reigns, the most in WWE history
Essentially, the last thing for him to do is be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame–which isn’t a matter of if, but when. And according to rumours, WrestleMania 29 will be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada–his hometown–with him and fellow Canadian Trish Stratus being inducted. That would be one hell of an introduction, and you can be sure Christian will be the one to send him in. I’ve had the pleasure of watching a Edge a few times in Toronto, both on Raw and during Pay-Per-Views.
“I would hope that through it all I’ve earned the respect of everybody in that locker room. And I hope that I’ve earned all of your respect. Because no matter what I came out here and I tried to give you guys as much as I had every single night. And in turn you guys gave it right back to me. So I’m going to miss all of this…all of it. I’m going to miss that reaction when I hear my music and I come out on the ramp – it’s like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart from you guys and it’s amazing. I can’t describe it.”
I sincerely hope that Edge returns to the WWE in some capacity, as a talent as special as him needs to be used. He’s accomplished everything there is to accomplish in the biggest landscape in professional wrestling over the course of 19 bone-grinding years. But for now, though, he’s earned his time away from the ring, and his body obviously needs the time off. Unlikely the vast majority of us, he’s been able to live his dream, what he was put on this Earth to do, and has been able to be one of the best all-time at it, too.
Happy retirement, Edge.