Monday, April 18, 2011

Rasslin' Ramblings: Thank You Edge

There is of course no bigger news in wrestling this week than the retirement of Edge, aka Adam Copeland, at age 37 due to complications from a broken neck suffered nearly nine years ago. An 11-time World champion, Edge notched up a grand total of 31 championships during his 13 years in WWE, more than anybody else in his history, also winning a King of the Ring, a Money in the Bank Ladder match and a Royal Rumble along the way. In short, he’s arguably the most decorated wrestler of all-time, so he certainly leaves the sport not only as the reigning World champion, but also as a guy with really nothing left to prove and a sure bet for the Hall of Fame.

Edge also suffered no shortage of major injuries over his relatively short career, including the aforementioned neck trauma, two torn pectorals, multiple knee problems and most recently a nearly-career ending torn Achilles tendon that he incredibly managed to come back from. He’s spoken in multiple interviews about a desire to hang up his boots before his 40th birthday and has invested his earnings wisely enough to be able to do so. When you couple that desire with all he has already accomplished and the accumulated wear and tear he has put on his body, really Edge’s retirement is more a cause for celebrating a man who gave so much to the business and the fans and managed to somewhat miraculously get out on top with his health intact.

On a personal level, I got to interview Edge/Adam (my first question was what to call him, which he genuinely chuckled at as apparently nobody ever asks him that and he appreciated the gesture) over the phone during my first month at Marvel.com for one of our very first Fightin’ Fanboy pieces (I can’t say he was the first Fightin’ Fanboy as I believe Ryan Penagos had done something with Christopher Daniels before I got there and Arune Singh may also have already talked to Alex Shelley at that point). It remains one of my absolute favorite interviews I have ever conducted of the probably hundreds I have had the pleasure of doing over the past seven years. We probably talked for about an hour and a half despite the allotted time being far shorter than that about wrestling, comics (Edge is a huge geek, and has legitimate credibility as far as knowing his trivia) and other stuff; I genuinely felt like I was just chatting with a buddy as opposed to interviewing a celebrity. He was funny and friendly as well as very courteous and I felt great coming out of the call; without going too over the top, it really helped set a positive tone for my start at Marvel and certainly gave me a shot in the arm as an interviewer that I’ve always been a guy who gets nervous doing stuff over the phone.

Actually though, my first interaction with Edge proceeded that one by almost a decade and I had practically forgotten about it until just this week. When I attended WrestleMania XIV live in Boston, during one of the matches, two big guys with long hair came out and started watching the show from the aisle entrance right next to our seats; one was The Jackyl (who was an absolute jerk to a bunch of kids who asked for his autograph, refusing and then yelling at them to watch the match) and the other guy I sort of recognized from a WWF Magazine piece on the developmental system, but couldn’t quite place. Needless to say, in the next few weeks as promos began airing on Monday Night Raw, I realized I had watched part of WrestleMania sitting next to Edge.

Edge will certainly be missed as a performer, but like I said, it’s certainly far more important he retains his health and gets out go out so strong (WWE put a tremendous career retrospective video package together that Dave Lagana talked about over at his blog).

As my little tribute, here are my five favorite—not “my favorite,” not necessarily “the best”—Edge matches in chronological order.

TLC II: The Dudley Boyz vs Edge & Christian vs The Hardy Boyz (WrestleMania XVII)
I have a personal fondness for the three way Ladder match from WrestleMania XVI over either of the TLC matches, truth be told, as I watched it with my high school buddies and it was so blow away innovative, but from an Edge-centric perspective, this was the best of the trilogy. He and Christian were at the height of their run as a dominant heel tag team, really getting to infuse their characters into the story here, and of course he hit the mid-air spear on Jeff Hardy that still makes highlight reels today.

Hulk Hogan & Edge vs Billy Gunn & Chuck Palumbo (SmackDown, 2002)
Not the best match from a pure wrestling standpoint, but the energy in this one elevated it tremendously and as viewing experience it holds up to this day (I just re-watched it recently on the Decade of Decadence DVD). You can see in Edge’s every smile and action how much teaming with his childhood idol to win the World Tag Team titles meant to him and you see the passion in great little spots like the stereo leg drops; great post-match celebration of course, also.

Edge vs Eddie Guerrero (SummerSlam 2002)
For my money Edge’s best match from his initial babyface singles run during 2001-2004. These two had awesome chemistry in the ring and could tell a great story on so many levels; they could tie it up on the mat, take to the air or brawl and there was never a lull or down moment. Eddie Guerrero could have a good match with just about anybody, but you could tell when his opponents rose to his level rather than needing to be led, with great results, and that’s what happened here.

Edge, Mick Foley & Lita vs Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer & Beulah McGillicutty (One Night Stand 2006)
No image for me better epitomizes Edge’s peerless run as a sleaze ball heel than his spear and subsequent lewd, utterly offensive cover of Beulah McGillicutty, the beloved poster girl of ECW out of retirement for one night only. Edge showed in his WrestleMania XXII match with Mick Foley that he could work the hardcore style with fearlessness, but I’ve got a personal soft spot for this match with its train wreck pacing and that great finish; Edge came out looking like the ultimate villain and a true star.

Edge vs The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXIV)
The biggest match of Edge’s career as he got to main event at the biggest show of the year against arguably the biggest star in the company, The Undertaker. That’s a lot of pressure to put on anybody, but you wouldn’t have known from watching as this was a great one that absolutely deserved to close WrestleMania. Excitement bell-to-bell and I honestly feel Edge played a major role in kicking off Undertaker’s incredible in-ring resurgence over the past few years, which perhaps more than any of those 31 championships is certainly something to hang his hat on.

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