In the words of famed crooner Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) in Irv Berlin’s Christmas-time classic White Christmas, “What do you do with a General, when he stops being a General?” Sitting in the studio last night talking about Edge with my IN THE ROOM cohost (and fellow Pro Wrestling Illustrated contributing writer) Kevin McElvaney, I couldn’t help but wonder that very question out loud.
What DO you do with a wrestler when he stops being a wrestler?
Let me preface all of this by saying I don’t know Edge, or Adam Copeland, personally. While I am blessed to have gotten to know quite a few of his close friends over the years, I’ve never actually had the pleasure of interacting directly with him.
In spite of this, I can’t help but feel very nostalgic about the guy. If Edge really is done with wrestling (and, given he had already been announced for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view against Alberto Del Rio a week earlier, I have every reason to believe this is true) he leaves a tremendous hole in WWE. I really think that, looking back, this loss of Edge might hurt WWE more any loss or potential loss of Batista, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, or just about any other man. Since 1997, Edge has been a staple of WWE programming. Since about 1998, he has been an absolute MVP for the product. Whether competing in the tag team ranks, at the Intercontinental level, or in the main-events against WWE’s top stars, Edge has continually been a reason for people to keep tuning in, even when they’re not very happy or very enthralled with the product they’re watching.
Looking into his eyes while watching Raw late last night, it hit me he probably has really thrown in the towel. I have no doubt that Edge is walking away from his career, a career in which he has held more championships than any other wrestler in the company, ever. I just question if he’s really mentally ready to do so of his own volition, without having to be physically carried from the ring.
“I haven’t had the chance to talk to him yet, but I know he has to be disappointed by the doctor’s diagosis,” said Ron Hutchison, the man who helped train Edge (as well as Christian, Gail Kim, Trish Stratus, and a number of other Toronto area wrestlers) to step in the ring. “Knowing him like I do, it has to be eating him up inside that he’s only in his 30’s and his body just won’t cooperate any more. Edge is a man who has sacrificed his personal life … marriages, family, friendships … all in the name of being a top guy with WWE. And here he is at 37 ready to slip away into quiet nothing.”
I suppose, as a “knowledgeable” wrestling fan, I should have seen it coming. In a lot of his interviews in recent months (in fact, most interviews since returning from his Achilles tendon tear about a year ago), Edge keeps making these references to his love of living in seclusion in the mountains of the Carolinas and taking long hikes. While I love a long walk as much as the next guy, I have to wonder how much of it a 37-year-old man can do before he becomes bored with the experience.
The natural thing to do would be to compare Edge to his older peer, Shawn Michaels. When I look at Edge, though, I see a lot of discontent with all that has gone down. In Michaels’ case, his retirement was actually a bookend to one of the happiest and most fulfilling parts of his life. As Michaels once told me, “I had it all, and I had it all taken away. That meant that when I came back I was able to appreciate it all the more.” He had found true love: true love outside of the ring with his wife Rebecca and young children, and true love in his own contentment with just getting to go out to the ring and wrestle one more time. In Michaels’ case, one more time turned into eight more years.
Edge’s case, unfortunately, is probably a lot more like when Michaels was first forced out of the ring due to injury in 1998.
In Edge’s case, there has to be a huge degree of regret that – despite all of the success he has achieved in his time wrestling – he never really got to achieve the level of mainstream recognition as the peers he once idolized such as Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or The Rock. In 1990, Edge was one of more than 65,000 fans packed into the Skydome in Toronto to witness Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior clash at WrestleMania VI. To see the glimmer in his eye every time he talked about that very experience on TV as being the moment he knew he wanted to be a wrestler, it’s not very tough to see why he might be disappointed.
Like so many other people, I don’t know what you do with a main-eventer when his body can no longer hold up. I think so many people in the industry are still searching for answers as to what level of involvement in the product can keep them happy without exposing just how much they have lost. Maybe it’s a case-by-case basis.
In Edge’s case, I can’t see him content with just hiking on his own from this point forward. I really hope he is able to find his place, whatever that may be.