A lot can happen in 10 years. Just ask Adam Copeland, better known as WWE superstar ‘Edge’.
In a decade, he’s retired and relinquished the world heavyweight championship due to neck injuries, ventured into acting, became a dad on two occasions and made an emotional return to the ring after getting the all-clear.
This coming Sunday, at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, the two-time Royal Rumble winner looks to recapture gold when he takes on Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan in a main event triple-threat match for the WWE Universal championship at WrestleMania.
But don’t get it twisted. As happy as he is to be back, Edge is still dastardly, manic and vicious as ever and will do whatever it takes for the title to be in his clutches.
“I realised I had to flip the switch and bring ‘Rated-R’ back,” Edge tells SPORTbible.
“That guy is a threat to Roman Reigns. That incarnation of the character is much more compelling in this story and that’s where I feel we’ve finally got to.
“Edge has got be dangerous again. He can’t just be the veteran who’s doubting himself and happy to be here.
“This has to be the guy who wants nothing but the championship and no matter who gets in his way, he’s gonna tear their head off with a chair.
“If I’m Adam and looking at the arc of Edge, all Edge wants is the championship. That’s all that’s driven that character and it’s as simple as it needs to be.
“Anytime that I’ve found something that works in wrestling, it’s when there’s an element of truth to it. When you can have those nuggets of truth, as a performer you can bite into them.
“In terms of a desperation, that’s where that comes from. I’ve got a chance here as a performer here to try and tell some compelling stories in this last grasp at the top.
“That’s actually true because I don’t know how long I’ve got here and I don’t want to just do the ‘greatest hits’ and recycle things I’ve done before. That’s not exciting or fun as a performer and I would think also for the audience.”
After nine long years without competing and forced to undergo triple-fusion neck surgery, the Rated-R Superstar was a shock entrant into the 2020 Royal Rumble in Houston, Texas.
But it was at SummerSlam 2019, in his hometown of Toronto, where the seeds were really sewn for his comeback as the WWE Hall of Famer got physical for the first time in years with an impromptu and unplanned spear to Elias.
“I was feeling good and I was starting to put the work in to where it needed to be put into. It was just for everyday life. I wanted to be healthy for my girls.
“There was a point where after we lost my mum and Beth’s dad in a two-month timeframe where we were just in a funk. I wasn’t taking care of myself. There’s no real way to explain it but I guess it’s depression.
“I finally looked at the girls one day – who are now four and seven – and thought, ‘I gotta be around for them’ and get myself into gear just to be a proper dad and be around for a long time for them.
“That was really the kickstart and the catalyst for everything.
“But then as I started to feel good and get ‘me’ back, that’s when the rusty gears started moving again.
“In Toronto I just felt good and luckily I had a performer in Elias who could call an audible with me and read the room. That’s really what we did. To me, that room wanted to see that and I had faith in myself and faith in him that we could pull it off.
“But all of that being said, it’s done with the look of an eye, which is kind of crazy looking back now ’cause it’s a tightrope.
“As soon as I did it, I was like, ‘Alright, that’s gonna get people talking’. It was a gut instinct to go, ‘This is my hometown, they don’t want to see me defend the honour of Toronto and get in this back and forth promo battle’.
“After doing this enough I could feel what they want and it felt like that’s what they wanted.”
Just prior to blowing the roof off the Scotiabank Arena, Edge took a “pretty gnarly wipe-out” while out mountain-biking with WWE superstar Sheamus.
There were scabs and road rash but to his surprise, there was no neck pain. Significant progress had been made from the time when doctors feared one bad bump could see him paralysed.
“I had the second neck surgery in 2012 but I never had a check-up since then so I started seeing spine specialists. Each one kind of led me up almost like boss levels on a video game – each one knew more and more about our industry.
“Lo and behold, I found out I could do this again and that was mind-blowing. Obviously not to the extent of the old schedule but that’s when it started to become this reality.
“There was no set plan because it has never happened like this before. It was one step led to the next until then I’m talking about actually coming back and where we’re gonna do this.”
There was only one event Edge was interested in making his return at. And that brings us to Minute Maid Park on 27 January.
When that buzzer sounded for the 21st entrance and Alter Bridge – ‘Metalingus’ hit, 42,000 fans in attendance erupted into pandemonium.
The ovation prompted a visibly emotional and passionate reaction from the 47-year-old, who likened it to being “a musician going to Brazil in a foreign tongue yet they’re singing back your entire song to you”.
“I said, ‘I think the Royal Rumble needs to be where it happens, if we try and keep it under wraps as much as we can to keep it as a surprise, that to me as a performer is the best kind of reaction you can get’.
“As an audience member, because I’ve been in that audience, I know that when those things happen, those are the best feelings when you’re like, ‘I had no idea that was coming!’.
“It was pretty overwhelming but I didn’t fully hit me until after when I started seeing reaction videos because that wasn’t the case the last time I did this. That wasn’t a thing.
“To come back and start to see those things, places in South America and in the UK just losing it, that just blew my mind.
“It was an experience as a performer I had never had before. That was pretty cool.”
Following a brutal series with former tag team partner Randy Orton and a triceps injury that forced him on the sidelines for months, Edge was back on the scene in the 2021 Royal Rumble and made history when he became the eighth superstar to win the historic match twice – and the first to do it after being inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame.
It came eleven years to the day of his first ‘rumble’ triumph. The stars keep aligning for ‘The Ultimate Opportunist’ as night two of WrestleMania 37 just so happens to fall on the 10-year anniversary of Edge’s retirement.
Extra sentiment comes in the fact that like him, his two opponents have beat the odds to get to this point.
Champion Reigns, real name Joe Anoa’i defeated leukemia for the second time and made a full recovery, while Bryan’s story of having to retire due to concussion problems before coming back, is on par with Edge’s resurgence.
“I don’t know if it’s fully dawned on me that I’m in the main event of WrestleMania next week. I don’t think that’s fully landed on me yet.
“I don’t know if it will until I get to the stadium and I hear a crowd again because I think our audience is going to make that real.
“That’s when it’s gonna finally dawn on me like, ‘Oh Sh*t! Here we are, this is a thing!’.
“I think there’s an element of this, though, where you will look at the performers outside of the characters.
“This doesn’t really further the narrative of the wrestling storyline or heroes and villains but if you’re looking at this from Adam, Joe and Bryan – they have all been told at some point that ‘You either gotta go home or you’re done’.
“I would hope there’s at least some moment where we go, ‘We’re not supposed to be doing this!’.
“The three of us are here in the main event of WrestleMania. How the hell did we get here? I don’t think that’s lost on our audience.
“Will it be the classic, ‘Yay-Boo’? I don’t know, honestly, I just hope it’s a cathartic release and some small step towards normalcy again.
“As a planet we’re stumbling through trying to get our life back and events like WrestleMania can be small parts of the path to that.”
On Sunday, with 25,000 fans back in for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Edge will see clearly that everything has come to life.