What DO You Do With a Wrestler?

Photo by WWE

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.

8 Responses to What DO You Do With a Wrestler?

  1. Avatar VinceGillett
    VinceGillett says:

    It’s really sad that he has to go out like that and that some think it’s just a work. It is kind of funny how we keep talking about HBK,Undertaker,HHH,Rock who were around before Edge and now after Edge has gone and how really they have pretty much gone out how they would have wanted to some degree.

    I agree that this losss will be huge. SD is in a bad enough spot as it is but now with Edge gone they really have no reliable big name at the top. I’m glad he won his final match at Mania but I wish it hadn’t been on first and that him and Christan could have gone at it one last time.

    To me Edge will be in the same mold as guys like Owen or Eddie and other guys that went about their business up and down the card without much fuss and when they go those that liked them will miss them and those that didn’t will realise what they lost.

    I just hope certain other wrestlers don’t get drunk and start posting crap online about him.

  2. Avatar mrakbaz
    mrakbaz says:

    um can someone throw christian a bone now, man oh man , why did he even come back to wwe to do nothing,

  3. Avatar bill
    bill says:

    edge was great

  4. Avatar Paul Elvin
    Paul Elvin says:

    I’d expect Edge to have a bit of rest from any wrestling initially. On the other hand, he did have a long injury lay-off fairly recently, so maybe he doesn’t need that long away from the business to clear his mind, and decide what HE wants to do with his post in-ring life.
    I’m not sure if Edge has a creative bent , but how about getting the most successful wwe wrestler ( certainly in title reigns) to be involved in plot-lines and possibly helping younger,or more inexperienced performers to polish their in-ring skills. Something must have rubbed off over what was a pretty action-packed 13 years of being with the company.
    I guess an easy short-term fix would be as a full or part-time tv commentator, maybe on Raw, now that Smackdown has the hilarious Booker T on the table? I think Jerry Lawler does a decent job, but how long will he be there in an increasingly youthful tv product.

    • Avatar VinceGillett
      VinceGillett says:

      I would love to see Edge on commentary or as a manager. Hopefully he will take time off and come back in some capacity but I wouldn’t be suprised if coming back and still having the desire to perform might be too much for him.

      I think Del Rio should win the title ASAP and Edge help Christian win it at Summerslam 11 years after TLC.

  5. Avatar Jason
    Jason says:

    Id imagine that Edges future will depend on if he ever thinks there will be a time when he can come back or if he figures he is really done for good. Edge could be an excellent commentator I think. He speaks very well. I remember the first time I really ever heard him talk was back when Owen Hart has passed away. I think he was a member of the Brood at the time and Gangrel did all the talking, but they allowed everyone out of character and Edge was one of those guys. Id imagine everyone watching at home had to be surprised as how eloquent he was. The more chances they gave him the better he got. This keeps him involved with the shows and allows him a chance to do a match down the line if he ever feels up to it.

    Im not really sure in what other manner he could be used. I dont think he was a big enough star to where you could bring him back every now and then to ref a match or be involved in something the way they do with Austin or have done in the past with Michaels and have it mean anything. I think he, like many others, wont have much of a place if he cant work at a high level.

    Whats too bad is that the guys from this past generation, of which Edge looks like the first real retirement, worked a style so different than the older group that there wont be much left for them when they go. Even as a big star I dont think someone like Edge ever got the character treatment as a Hacksaw Duggan or Superfly Snuka. Duggan for 10 years went out there with a 2×4, yelled ho, gave a thumbs up, and did about 5 moves a night, and everyone remembers the character. He can come back whenever he wants and get a huge pop and do almost the same things he did years ago whether on a small indy card or as a novelty act in the WWE. I have a hard time seeing Edge and the others from his generation doing the same.

    • Good point, Jason. For so long Edge’s thing was finding a way to win crazy daredevil matches, then it was being “Rated-R” and doing controversial stuff, and, more recently just being good ol’ reliable. With that said, I think most of what you said can be applied to just about everybody except like Santino. Given Edge came to prominence in the Attitude Era I think there will always be a nostalgia kick for him, especially if this is really it.

    • Thanks for the feedback! This one made it on 1wrestling.com too!